It has been an emotional weekend! Holy Smokes. I need a vacation from being sensitive.
It's been months since I have been able to find my homeless friend May.
Monday, I had this overwhelming feeling that she was in trouble and it dawned on me that I should call the apartment where she was last known to be. They didn't answer. They didn't answer my call all week! Finally, yesterday (Friday) they called me back. I was afraid that they wouldn't give me any information about May since I wasn't family so I lied! I told them she was my great Aunt. The manager hummed and hawed and finally gave the phone to a man who wondered what I wanted with her. After some convincing, he told me that she had been arrested and taken to the State Mental Hospital.
I was so sad! I immediately called the State Hospital and asked if I could speak to her but of course, they can't tell me if she is there or not...and, I couldn't remember her first, legal name. She has several aliases so I was asking for Betsy or May. Finally, I just said, "She is an older lady with long grey and brown hair and we call her May. If you see a patient like that, can you give her my name and number and tell her to call me?
I tried to let it go since I had a conference to attend within the hour. Just as the meeting started, I received an Unknown call...and then another...and then another. 10 total and I was getting very anxious. Unknown calls are only ever from hospitals or police. I was sitting in the front row and didn't dare leave. As soon as there was a break, I ran out to listen to the 5 voice messages that were left. It was May!!
She was very upset and said, "Kathy! I love you! I couldn't remember your phone number to let you know where they took me. I was just praying that somehow you would find me! Please come and rescue me! I need to be rescued. I can't stay here. Please will you come now. Please call me back!" My heart was in pieces.
I was able to reach her by phone and she was nearly in a panic when she heard my voice. I calmed her down and promised that I would see her Saturday morning as soon as visiting hours started. I asked her if she wanted me to bring her anything, like a treat! "Oh, you are an Angel. Yes, I would like for you to bring me a treat!"
"Okay. What kind of a treat would you like?" I asked.
"A car! I need a car so I can escape from here. They are holding me for a ransom. Please bring a car and money to get me back." She said.
"I'll see what I can do May but I can't make any promises. Maybe we should check with your doctor to make sure they will let you have a car."
That seemed to make sense to her and she agreed.
I had all sorts of anxiety driving down to the mental hospital an hour away. I didn't think I could handle that adventure today and I was right! It was tough. Every door locked behind me. I was escorted through the halls. I had to leave my purse, phone, keys locked up at the front desk. Before they opened the door, the staff member escorting me said, "You know about her skin condition right? Just don't be alarmed, we are treating it. She has Scabies."
As soon as I walked through the final locked doors, she saw me and ran down the long corridor and gave me a big hug. She was covered in sores. Big painful looking, inflamed sores from her face to her feet. I was surprised that I wasn't feeling germaphobic. Scabies are a bad deal. I came to find out she had lice too.
We sat and talked for well over an hour while she ate her lunch. She was arrested on her way to my house three weeks ago. I had told her many times that I didn't want her sleeping on the streets or in a secluded area and if she needed a safe place to rest, she could do so in my driveway. She told the officer she was going to her friend's house to spend the night but she has several warrants out for her arrest. They took her to the jail and booked her. She was there for over a week and then the Judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation and she was transported to the State Mental Hospital. She is being treated for her Schizophrenia. She was booked in there...Monday! The day I knew she needed me.
"Why did you come all the way down here to see me?" She asked.
"That's what friends do. They stay close by in the good times and the bad. I won't forget you."
"Oh please don't. I feel forgotten." Probably one of the most lucid things I've heard her say...and then she asked about the kids, calling them each by name.
The State Mental Hospital is a very difficult place to be. So many people who are just shells of what once was. They shuffle the halls with blank and empty stares and break up the monotony with screams directed at the air they breathe. When May arrived this week, they gave her a pedometer because all she does is walk. She has walked over 15 miles on just two corridors.
As I left, I was escorted out again, through the locked doors, back to the front desk. I was asked to fill out a form about how I thought she was doing. The man at the desk asked if it was my first time to the hospital and I said 'Yes.'
"It can be a scary place. This is the forgotten place. The place of the unknown souls. Last week the BYU-I University choir came to sing for Easter. Music filled these halls and it was a beautiful sound. No one remembers to help the mentally ill. The government doesn't care that these are real people who have needs. People take donations to the homeless shelters, women shelters, sick children, poor and needy but no one ever helps these people out."
I was already on the verge of tears after seeing the condition of May and his candid talk shattered my heart. I wanted to hug all those people I saw today.
As I drove home, May called me three times to thank me for coming to see her and asked if I would come back because she felt so alone.
I think we are all Unknown at times. We feel forgotten, alone and often we face problems and struggles that are Unknown to anyone but you and God. Witness someone's life this week. Let them see you, seeing them. That was my lesson learned this weekend.
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