Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Joey's Story--Part 3

Joe Part 3

Here's the last part, at least until I one day sit down with Joe and pick up from here. He and I usually talk a couple of times a month. He still calls me his sister.......

Joe Part 3

While Bessie and a partial box of donuts lay calcifying across the street, Joey was spending his first 60 minutes as an orphan, and first time ever in his life, on the 8th floor of psychiatric ward in the hospital where he had worked for 35 years. He was calm as long as he had a listener, but that was not to be this Labor Day weekend. From the first moment of his admission, he ran his fingers through his thick black Italian hair, repeating what was to become a familiar lament for the next several years. “How could my mother leave me like this?”, he cried, “I’m a good guy. My mother told me not to worry about this”. And again and again, “I’m a good guy. How could this happen to me?”

That first night I asked the nursing staff to arrange for me to speak with the Psychiatrist on call. Joe and I practiced his ability to moan alone for up to five minutes. He was in full panic mode after two minutes, but he did try. I told the weekend crew that Joey would be okay as long as someone checked with him every five minutes or so. That never happened, nor did the doc call me back. I tracked him down at 7:30 am the next morning, calling three times in 30 minutes until he reluctantly came to the phone. I could tell immediately he was pretty useless, complicated further by the fact that he didn’t care a hoot. I asked him about the holiday weekend schedule—any individual therapy, any groups, any social worker, any recreation. His answers were impressively clear: no, no, no, no.

It was an eventual weekend. Joe paced and cried, cashed in dollar bills for dimes to make phone call after phonecall. He resisted when an aide told him no more calls, and he screamed for his parents when someone else told him he had to stay in his assigned room—alone. Sometime between that decision and my arrival, Joe was placed in four point restraints, and sometime inbetween the 20 minutes he was stretched out like a crucifix, his arm broke
In two pieces. For the record, broken bones are distinctly against all restraint protocols, and when followed by the news that Joe was a 35 year beloved employee of this same hospital, the direct care staff, the psychiatrist, the Orthopedic Surgeon, and the Vice President of Hospital Affairs all phoned me quickly and politely. It was at that moment in time that I officially became Joe’s Case Manager.

I can do case management. If a service is needed, a resource uncovered, or a plan developed, I’m your person. I do this across the United States for folks, and I like to say it’s about the three c’s: competence, caring and creativity. I try to bring out the best in treatment teams and family members and unsympathic employers and individuals for some reason down on their luck. So it was not much of a surprise when 45 minutes after Aunt Theresa’s bash for Bessie, she, Mary Jayne and I faced a social worker who quickly got to the point of saying that Joe would be discharged the following day and it was of course the family’s responsibility to make whatever arrangements he required. She provided no information and even less sympathy. Because I always prefer back doors, just in case, I had searched out a few psychiatric residential programs,already, and I had arranged for Joe to be evaluated by one of the better ones. It took some doing, but Joe would remain on in the psychiatric ward for another two days, until he could be transferred.

The transfer to Wild Acres took place with Joe’s arm in a thick cast and his face deepened with black potholes under both eyes. I picked him up, drove him to the residential house in Lexington, and met with the Director and all staff. I feel the need to mention, at this point, that I was able to do all this only because I was in the middle of the first time off from my own work and business in my adult life: I was giving myself three months to write the book on Happiness. I was staying at our little sanctuary in Provincetown—writing every morning and every late afternoon, and in between walking the bay and chuckling over my good fortune.

I was glad to help Joe get settled. I figured I would be needed here and there for about 3 months and my volunteer gig would come to a noble close.

That’s not the way it’s turned out. Soon after Joe began wailing and flailing at Wild Acres, his cousin Mary Jayne set up a trust for him and asked if I would serve as one of three Trustees—the other two being herself and Aunt Theresa. Bessie misled Joe = by telling him she would be around forever, and she may have checked out so suddenly that whatever coping devices he may have had went haywire, but she and Frank had saved for his welfare. There was ample money—enough to arrange for an appropriate lifestyle. The kicker from Mary Jayne was that she had selected three beneficiaries to serve as additional motivation to assure the money was well managed. One of the three was my 22 year old daughter Jessica. Mary Jayne was very clever: the potential of Jess benefiting from my good intentions was sweetly satisfying. I was in for the long haul. And long haul it is.


  1. Joey is lucky to have you. This is very interesting because I just visited a blog where the author/writer/novelist was feeling down after being told that only people with blood relations could love one another. I think you clearly demonstrated that you really care. Oh my. This is a big deal. It's an admirable quality in you.

  2. Wow.

    Will you be my Case Manager?

  3. Amazing, KJ. What commitment and strength. So how's Joe now and is he still at the same place?