Terror gripped my body as the female, elderly, psychiatric patient stepped around the linen cart and grabbed both of my wrists in her hands. She pulled me close and peered deep into my eyes. She was nonverbal because her swollen tongue protruded out of mouth and rolled around much like a cow’s tongue. I tugged to free my arms but she only gripped tighter and my hands grew numb.
The 14 years of experience as an RN and the intense orientation for Unit Director on a long term psychiatric unit still had not prepared me for such a situation. This was my first day orientation on the unit where I would be working. I was making my first rounds to put faces with the 38 patients that I had learned about by reading archived medical files for days.
As, I stood there starring into the face of the worst manic episode a patient can have, I wondered what have I done, taking such a job!! I did not know but she was my divine appointment and the reason I was there!!!
It seemed like I would never free myself from her grip, but a kind, black orderly stepped to my side. I will call him Cory. Cory began to pry the lady’s fingers from my wrist. He gently said to me, “You will learn to love Lola, I love her!” I kind of miffed at him, as I walked to the Nurse’s station and closed the gate beyond where no patient was allowed. I thought to myself, I seriously doubt, I will love Lola!!! She scared me half to death!!!
My wrists still had red finger marks as I followed the LPN around listening to our duties. I don’t think I heard much because my mind kept wondering how I got here!!
Many times we think we are totally in control or our lives!! Well, I am here to assure you I learned differently. Yes, I know our thoughts directly relate to what we create!! Yes, I believe we create our own lives. But, there are really no coincidences in where we go and who we meet.
Let’s start back a bit in my life!! I guess my life has always been a roller coaster with blocks, twists and turns. We will only venture back 32 years!!
I had this friend who never went out to a bar! She called to ask if I would accompany her to see her nephew play in a band. It turned out it was in a dive bar, that I would never enter at night, but we went anyway. We kept our gaze on the stage because we stuck out in the crowd. This young gentlemen approached our table and began to talk.
I can’t explain exactly how. but he pursued me heavily after that and I guess we fell in Love. I tell you this because he became a key player in getting me to meet Lola.
I was dealing with dysplasia at the time and needed treatment but I lived alone, worked two jobs. How could I afford to be off work and take care of myself. My daughter had moved to my Mom’s after my Father died. Our life had been one of turmoil after his death.
At any rate, I ended up marrying that guy under the pressure that he would take care of me through treatments for my illness. Whew, what a ride that turned out to be!!!
I worked at a clinic and a kind elderly doctor filled in for our full time docs when they vacationed. Dr. A became a close friend and I learned so much from him. He was 50 years my senior and taught me all the old ways to examine patient’s. It was a spiritual connection between us. In fact, we kept in touch, until his passing when he was around 85. He too, became an instrument in my meeting with Lola.
Dr. A, made a recommendation to an adminstrator 4 hours from where I lived, that I would I be great for his new Director of Nursing for a huge multispeciality clinic being built. In July, that year, I received a lovely letter from Mr. P inviting me to take the job. Now, why would I take a job 4 ours away? I filed it away and forgot about it.
But, out of the blue, my new husband said one day, I want to go back to my home. It was not real far from where I had been offered that job. He was pretty determined to go with or without me!
So, yes, I took the job, helped build a multispecialty clinic, learned Occupational Health and recruited many doctors to that clinic. My career took off there!!! I met many great people and experienced some amazing things while there.
As good as that was, there was trouble brewing in my home. My husband began to exhibit episodes that turned into abuse!! I took on more jobs to make ends meet. Even one with a children’s psychiatric hospital.
Then, Mr. P, retired, not good for me. The new administrator and old medical director changed my job and I not longer was happy. I had two part time jobs but talked my office manager into driving me over to the Psychiatric Hospital to pick up and application.
Now, I had not done well in Psychiatric training as a student. I trained in that same facility and my instuctor always made fun that I turned as white as my uniform everytime I was in group with the male patients. But, I thought I was mature enough with my 14 years experience. After all they were offering more pay and less hours.
My husband had begun to complain that my clinic job did not pay well and kept me away from home too much.
Our first attempt in getting an application, was hilarious. I got out of the car, but on the way to the front door of the Psychiatric hospital and patient was walking on the lawn. He started to follow me, scared out of my wits, I ran got back the car and we raced away.
Weeks later, my irritating boss pushed me a bit too far. Again my office manager, drove me to get an application at the Psychiatric Hospital. I was hired around 3 weeks later.
These are only a few of the twists that made me end up on a unit of a long term psychiatric facility with Lola. Over the next 4 months, I saw Lola go through many cycles of manic-depressive disorder or some call it Bi-polar Disease. Yes, I learned to love her!! Her Manic phases were severe, with the swollen rolling tougue and prolapsed rectum. But, she learned to come to me when they started so I could give her an injection the doctor had granted for me to calm her down.
The depressed states were severe too!!! One day, I came in to a totally catatonic Lola. I had never seen it. She sat perfectly still and you could move her arm up, it would just stay there. Much like a doll when you move her arms. She didn’t walk, eat, make sounds or move. She just starred into space!! The position you put her in, that is where she stayed.
Her general personality, was she didn’t want to be touched, hugged or any kind of affection. She could talk but nothing coherent except when she ask for coffee. She would follow commands but all around just not super interactive.
Well, on catatonic day, I decided, I would teach Lola about hugging. She couldn’t push me away so I hugged her everytime I went by her. Usually, she would growl and shove me but that day, I hugged her all I wanted. Magically, after the catatonic phase passed. She would allow me to hug her.
The doctors liked my inquisitive mind, they allowed me to test supplements and alternative ways on Lola to see if we could help her to be better. I don’t know if you ever saw the movie “Awakenings” with Robin Williams, but the results were the same. After,3 weeks she would go right back to cycling through her Manic/Depressive states.
Things were rough at home, individual counseling, marriage counseling and for a bit some better. I became anorexic trying to deal with this home situation. Then, the diagnosis for my husband, Borderline Personality Disorder. Counselor said, “There is not treatment and the best advice for me was to get away from him.” Well, with the counseling there were some good months, then late November. He had an episode. I ran that night but 25 minutes into my drive, said, “This is it! Went back calmly, we made the decision we would divorce. In early Dec. he left. I didn’t tell anyone, just rested, prayed and worked. That player’s part in this scenario was over!! In his defense, he was adopted and didn’t know he had a mental illness. I just think he was the guide to get me to Lola.
One Sunday, just before Christmas, I was the only nurse on the Unit. I was in the charting room back of the Nurse’s station. Lola came to the gate and asked, “Can I come in and have a cup of coffee with you? Against the rules, but I loved her and let her in to sit with me in the back room. From here, you will need to read the next segment. All About Lola, My Divine Appointment!!!!
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