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IV. "Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light"

This is the last chapter in Katrina’s case.  If you haven’t read the previous ones, it’s definitely advised you do so- each one builds upon the previous.  Thanks for all of the support!  New client case arriving next Monday.

Katrina was in the ICU.  It had been a week since I heard about her fainting, and according to the nurses and doctors, she showed no signs of improvement.  My services, at this point, were not needed, for obvious reasons.  Still, I was stopping by every day to check on her.  Each time I’d walk in hoping she’d made a miraculous recovery.  Each time reality hit me:  she was brain dead.  I noticed I hadn’t seen anyone else visit her.  I only knew of her sister, but I assumed she had other family or friends that would want to stop by. 

The second week, her room remained bare; no balloons or flowers.  I was going by because I felt she deserved someone to check on her.  So, each day I stopped in, and spoke with a nurse. 

“We haven’t seen any sign of improvement” she said, “her family seems to be wanting us to keep treating her and trying as much as we can.”

“So, there have been visitors?”

“I haven’t seen any so far, no.”

These were our conversations, it seemed.

I was growing frustrated.  How could her sister not come see her?  She put a roof over her head! 

Still, I continued my visits.  Each day, I’d make it a point to stop on my way home.  I’d walk in.  I’d awkwardly sit down in her room, not knowing what to say or do.  Nurses would come in and out.  No changes ever took place.

One Saturday, almost a month into her admission, I was meeting some friends in the area for dinner.  I asked them to stop by the hospital, I just wanted to check on her and get a quick update.  The Thursday and Friday before I couldn’t visit, and felt a tinge of guilt and obligation to her.  I asked them to wait in the parking lot.  I assumed there hadn’t been any changes.  When I got up to the ICU, I headed directly to her room.  It was empty.  I must admit, I had only two thoughts when I saw this: either she was moved, or she made that miraculous recovery, and changed floors.  I saw a nurse I recognized and asked to speak to her. 

I was told Katrina died early Friday morning.  The family decided to take her off life support.  I found out her sister was the only one fighting for her to stay on the machines.  I wasn’t sure if her sister fought for her because she truly wanted to, or she feared losing her home again. 

I have a difficult time faulting her sister for either choice.  She was 17 and was about to be homeless again.

I walked back to the car in the rain.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea that she passed alone. 

Who had cried for her? 

She was 25.

-RMV

 

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III. Undeserved Curse

This is the third chapter in Katrina’s story.  The previous two are down below.  As always thank you!

Katrina and her sister moved into their new apartment.  After several weeks, they were settled in.  Katrina seemed more alive.  She and her sister were no longer homeless.  And more importantly, they were reunited and working towards a brighter future.  Katrina was making progress.  She was attending counseling regularly, getting dialysis treatment weekly, and participating in services consistently.  Finally, things were turning around.    

Part of a mental health clinician’s job is helping the client - if they have medical issues - with making and maintaining appointments, reinforcing doctors’ orders, going to the pharmacy.  The purpose of mental health support services is to promote growth and progress.  Of course, it would be easier to do the work for the client, but it’d be a disservice.  We want them to not have to use our services.  To be independent and manage their illness.  They long to be regular, functioning individuals.  We aim to help them achieve this goal. 

Katrina was too proud to be open about her recent spells.  I would ask how she was feeling, discuss proper diet, etc.  She would pretend everything was okay.  I found out through her sister she was passing out.  That Friday, our focus was calling her doctors and scheduling appointments.  First thing Monday, we saw her endocrinologist.  He explained her kidneys were becoming worse, and suggested increased dialysis.  With her being on the donor’s list, there weren’t any options unless she became so severe that she had to go to the hospital.  She was not bad enough to be hospitalized yet.   The plan of action was increased dialysis, better diet, and hanging on with the hope a donor comes through. 

That Friday, I went to her apartment for a pre-scheduled appointment.  I knocked.  No answer.  I knocked again, and again, no answer.  Never in my life had I wanted a client to be non-compliant so badly.  I called her and her sister’s phone several times to no avail.  I had a bad feeling. 

Sunday, I received a call back from her sister. The previous Thursday, Katrina had become dizzy in the bathroom.  She passed out.  Hit her head on the toilet.  She found her when she came home from school.  Katrina was in the hospital.  She was in a coma. 

-RMV

 

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II. Home

This is a continuation of Katrina’s story.  If you haven’t read the first post, it’s down below!  If you’re interested in Peter’s case, it’s under stories (upper right corner).  Thanks!

Several weeks of working together had gone by.  We were focused on finding housing, and helping her meet her medical needs- her dialysis was performed at least weekly.  One Wednesday, she called, wanting to meet.   We did.

“Do you think you could take me to get my sister?”

I’d heard about her sister on several occasions, but hadn’t met her.  I knew she was the main motivation for her pursuit of a two-bedroom apartment.  “Sure.  We can go see her.”  We drove across town.  They spoke about the apartment (the applications had been turned in several weeks before) and Katrina reassured her that they would be living together soon.  Her sister was homeless too, I learned, and was finishing high school.  I couldn’t help but feel a sense of urgency.  Katrina continued to see her every week.  Each time they cried together.  Each time Katrina, being the proverbial older sister, reassured her it would be okay.  I saw the toll this burden was taking.  Katrina was worn out because on top of her own problems, she felt a responsibility for her sister.  She was the key for her sister to have a chance in life.  Finishing school, stay off the streets, college.  Normal things every individual deserves.  Katrina and her sister- along with thousands of people- didn’t have these opportunities.  They were kicked down the mountain, without rope, without water.   They were trying to climb.  I hoped we could help her along the way.

Finally, she got the call.  She had been approved for a 2 bedroom apartment; Section 8.  We went to look at it, to make a list of the items she needed, where they’d go, etc.  I was impressed.  While the neighborhood was not the best, the complex itself had been renovated- the apartment looked brand new.  Katrina was beyond ecstatic- it was the most alive I had ever seen her.  

“Alright” I said, “we need to get you some furniture.” 

We worked for two weeks, looking for donations, shopping at thrift stores and Goodwill.  Her money was tight, but the idea of finally being reunited with her sister made that a moot point.  We got her moved in.  A home.

Finally, she got some much deserved good luck.  Things were turning around for her.  But, it seems that it was only a small amount of good fortune.  Life, has a way of choosing some to be eternally cursed.  Katrina was due for a reminder.   

-RMV

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I. Light at the End of the Tunnel

This is a new case!  If you haven’t read the previous case, you can do so here: http://www.confessionsinmentalhealth.com/peter/

This story follows my brief time working with a young woman, who struggled with Bipolar I Disorder.  You can read more about that diagnosis here: https://tinyurl.com/lkltaga

Her experience involved mostly lows, with some highs peppered in.  Her arms bared the evidence of the use of razors.  When she became a client, she was also having serious complications with her diabetes, and required a lot of support in that regard. 

Enjoy!

 

Katrina became a client because her doctor recommended she get support during this difficult time- he knew she was homeless, and had some emotional difficulties as well.  I was nervous to become involved; she had as many medical needs as she did emotional.  I felt in over my head.  She was very quiet, struggling to discuss her real issues and seemed to carry an unbearable burden.  Katrina was younger than 30, but seemed to be worn out way beyond those years.  She looked weary. 

Her life was comprised of doctor visit after doctor visit.  Her diabetes had damaged her kidneys beyond repair, and she needed dialysis multiple times a week; she was on the organ donor waiting list.  She wasn’t very optimistic about her chances, but continued to press forward, head down, never giving up. 

I met her at the homeless shelter.  Our first session involved maintaining her much needed routine:  dialysis, seeing her counselor.  She didn’t say a word in the therapy session, her counselor seemed exasperated, but did a commendable job with being positive and supportive nonetheless.  She was seriously depressed and honestly, I struggled to be optimistic myself.  She had no one in her life.  She was homeless.  She was dying.  So yes, she was understandably depressed, but in a situation where most would give up, she wouldn’t allow herself to do so.

 After the counseling session, we went to grab a cheap lunch.  While we ate, I presented the question: “What do you want to gain out of this?”

She thought for a moment, and responded, “I need to get an apartment.  My sister is homeless too, and if I get a two bedroom apartment, she could live with me.” 

“Okay.” I said.  “Let’s get some applications on the way home.” 

She smiled slightly, “‘Kay.”

We made several stops. Got applications.  When we got back, I walked her to the front door of the shelter.  She stopped before going in.

“I’ll see you tomorrow?” she asked.

I couldn’t help but smile.  “Yes ma’am, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 Maybe there was some hope after all.   

-RMV

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