Saturday, December 13, 2008

5 Years

Here is an entry I did for a contest over at Scrawlers:

Five years ago, the infant puddled in the bottom of the car seat did not yet weigh 4 lbs. The drive home from the hospital, a 20 minute ride, took one and a half hours, due to one of the worst ice storms in Fort Worth's history.

Tonight, the wind howls through the blue grass, and the temperature chills the bone. But my gangly young daughter lies face down across the arms of the recliner next to the computer. She is warm, sated and comfortable, drawing her feet beneath her Cars fleece cover.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Must Have Been Rotten in My Former Life...

... to deserve a day like today. Granted it was my "Friday" at work, as I have Wednesday and Thursday off. I work in a residential/training facility for adults with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

Every once in a while we get pulled out of our regular homes to work in another home that is short staff for whatever reason on a shift. Therein lies a big part of the problem. "They" have been saying that we don't need as many staff to run the facility. (I'm not quite sure who "they" are at this point, but suffice it to say that "they" have all of the dollars and none of the cents/sense - yes, a play on words - at the facility.

Add to that a large number of both residents and staff going to a Christmas season dinner at a convention center across the street from our "front door", and leaving me (unfamiliar staff) and a woman who had been working there since September (but not always in the same house) with two residents. Now, obviously I cannot use names here, but perhaps I can give you an idea of what we were up against.

Both women residents are non-verbal. The one my co-worker was watching engages in SIB (self-injurious behavior), such as banging her head against things, aggression and digging for and/or slinging and/or eating her own waste. (Sorry for the TMI if you've just eaten.) My resident likes to change her clothes, come out of her room naked and go into other residents' bedrooms to take all of their clothes out of their closets. Both of them would just LOVE to get into the kitchen and gorge themselves.

When I got back from my lunch break, the resident I had was not in her bedroom (where she was asleep when I left). She had actually gotten up to eat her supper (which is unusual, so the regular staff says). I looked in every open doorway and could not see her. So I went and asked the staff and most of them couldn't tell me where she was either. (As it turns out, she was perched on a toilet in someone else's bathroom.

Not 10 minutes after most of the other residents and staff left, she began trying to exit her room into the common living areas without any clothes on. I attempted (and finally succeeded) in getting her to don a minimum of clothing. Then she began to try to get into the kitchen. As she had just finished her supper less than 1/2 hour before, I tried to "redirect" her to getting her snack with the nurse did the med pass. *WRONG* In the ensuing 30 minutes, she slapped the you-know-what out of my forearms, raising a welt with discoloration on my right arm. I'd have to look at the tape to know, but would estimate between 30-50 hits. (It is a little embarrassing to reveal that she is 5-foot-NOTHING, but in defense of my ego, she has large "man-hands" and they have apparently started giving her steroids ... but I'm not medical staff, so I have no idea why and do not care to guess as to why "they" say she needs them - you remember "they", right?)

At one point, the resident kept licking her fingers/hand before each slap. I guess she thought (or had been taught) that that would make the hurt worse. I also suspect that this is how she was treated at some point in her past.

I called for a supervisor to come assist. To do this, I had to call the front desk and have her paged. When she called back, I could not take the call because I was in the dining area fighting WWII (no disrespect meant to my country's soldiers by pretending that my experience in any way compares to what they went through or what they are going through now in armed combat). My co-worker took the call, and relayed the information that the supervisor had been "pulled to the floor" (which can happen in extreme cases when there is not other floor staff available). So, in my mind, that meant that I probably wasn't going to get any help.

They do have an option available for situations that really get out of hand, which is termed "calling a code green". But I was like, I can't do that for one person, and a petite resident at that. And, seeing that she is not in complete possession of her mental faculties, I could not defend myself, but only attempt to block her blows and redirect her behavior. I understand that it would not be right to assault someone like that; having worked with the county's MR population for over 2.5 years now, the way people with MR get treated and taken advantage of ranks right up there for me with child or animal abuse. And NO, I'm not comparing the three in any way. I know these are adults and individuals and worth of respect.

But the beating I took tonight ... and that is the only appropriate term for it, would have landed a perpetrator without MR in the local jail. It took place in 4-6 episodes over a period of about two hours. After the first episode, I did get her an Ensure pudding out of the kitchen. There was nothing in the log about how much she had eaten. She ate all of it, although I did set it aside once or twice, after she hit my arm again. Once that was gone, I opened up some pureed chicken and bread crumbs (aka chicken sandwich if your food consistency for intake is "normal") and she tasted it once and then went back to her room. (For a mind-visual of pureed chicken, think Stage 1 Baby Food. Yeah, not exactly appetizing.)

A few minutes after, she got up out of bed and another round took place.

When the supervisor came in to give us breaks, it got even worse. Not the resident's behavior, but my feeling of being kicked when I was down. She seemed more concerned that I was reporting 2.5 hours after the onset of the "incident" (their word...mine remains "assault" ... "beating" works for me too). She said something to the effect "doesn't matter", although I cannot recall now exactly what it was that didn't matter, but I was not having a good evening, so my eyes flared up and I said, "Oh, so it doesn't matter like I felt I would NOT be getting any assistance?"

I have actually worked with this supervisor before, when she was "just" floor staff like I am now, and have not had problems with her in the past ... and it took a little time, but the misunderstanding was eventually hammered out.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, my husband called. Until payday, we're working with Skype as our phone service, which is great for making calls out from home, but you can't call in...or at least I don't know how. On any other day, his question of "how are you" would have brought an "eh" or "ok" from me. I started bawling on the phone. I know when they review the tapes from the time frame ... some of "their" ears are going to be BURNING!!!

So, obviously, I am at home now. The "incident report" was filled out, the IA1 (on the job injury report) was filled out and I've had to tell my children that I couldn't pick them up to hug them because Mommy's arms were hurt at work.

I'm tired; I'm signing off. Is it any wonder I started smoking after 6 months at this job? *sigh* And everything in the last two paragraphs may appear in BOLD, but t is not meant to be so. *more sighs*