Thursday, August 18, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

A new kid came onto the unit yesterday.  I was there when they walked him in.

All the Clinical Assistants stood up and starting banging their metal cups on trays, screaming "Fresh meat, fresh meat, fresh meat" as he walked by.

Nah, just foolin' with ya.

It's funny, you know.  Conor's been on the unit since June 28th.  That's, what, 51 days now? (I was an English major; check my math.)

It suddenly struck me as I watched Jimmy P. walk with his C/A. Conor's an old timer.  He's been in the pokey for awhile now, and we're used to the things that were so shocking at first.

I'm not sure I'll ever be truly comfortable with Conor being on the unit.  I like to have him under my own roof so I can keep an eye on him, make sure that he's comfortable and well tended. I make sure his nails are cut, his teeth are brushed and flossed, the retainer is scrubbed, and his underwear is clean.  Ok, I'm just a little neurotic. In the land of helicopter Moms, I'm an AH-64A Apache. (Dork alert.)

Let's just say that placing Conor on the unit required a lot of trust from me.  And I've got issues with trust.  My therapist will confirm this.

But this is where he needs to be right now and, finally, we're settling into a routine. My husband and I know what to expect, and most of the employees on the unit know our faces and who we are searching for as we come onto the unit.

I know where all the patient bathrooms are, and sometimes the Clinical Assistants yell down the hall to me as I walk... "Is Bathroom 3 open?  I've got Big Ricky coming out."  Yeah, I holler back, Bathroom 3 is open, and then I promptly get the hell out of Big Ricky's way.  He's got at least two people on him at all times, and often a third.  (They don't call him Big Ricky for no reason.)

If Conor requests another cranberry juice, I dash to the patient refrigerator to grab a spare.  If the kitchen neglects to put the salt and pepper packet on the tray, I grab a couple from the stash. I know which comfy sofa is Maureen's, which big room is Juan's, and exactly what to say to Tristan if he hits himself in the neck.  ("That's awful, Tristan, don't hurt yourself."  We hear this all the time when Conor eats dinner because they eat in the same room.)

I know some of the staff call Miss Patrice "Sugar" and that most of the Clinical Assistants jump a little when she speaks to them.  Miss Patrice is a supervisor, and she calls me "Mom." (To be honest, she intimidates me a little too.  Ok, a lot. I find I say "Yes ma'am" when she speaks to me.)

I'm not sure where Jimmy P. lives when he's not in the pokey at KKI.  My husband and I are fortunate that the unit is ten minutes from our home.  We can visit our son whenever we want and he comes home for visits every Sunday.  Some patients are from as far away as Florida and Boston, while others are here in Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Maybe we'll meet Jimmy P.'s parents, but maybe we won't.

In the meantime, I'd like to welcome Jimmy P. to the unit, and I hope for the best for him. The transition can be tough for the kids; it was for my little man.  And I'm sure his parents have had a really rough time lately.

Here's to the new kid on the cell block...

(I'm totally bummed I can't embed the video, but click on YouTube for a flashback. It's sooooo worth it to see Axl Rose with that hair and those skinny leather pants, awesome.)

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