Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Tale of Two - Part 1

Just two blocks from the house in which I grew up was a facility with ‘hospital’ in its name. But even as a teenager, I knew this place was different than the types of hospitals where kids visited emergency rooms and women had babies.

It was a frightening, dark place, the kind of place where neighborhood children would double dog dare their friends to run up and peak in the windows. And, there was a square cinder block building in the back that we kids convinced each other was a morgue. Long black cars that weren’t limousines could be seen leaving this ‘hospital’ at all hours of the day and night.

And I knew instinctively it was a place I never wanted to be.

The facility is still there today, over thirty years later, and I now know exactly what kind of place it is. It’s an institution. A place where both adults and children with the most severe disabilities reside. These are people, many of them children, with trachs and on vents. Children who receive school services as they lay in bed, children who never leave their beds for months on end. Some are placed there by the state or locality in whose custody they belong, and some are placed by parents, parents who have no other choice and no ability to care for their loved ones at home. I in no way blame the parents for the choices they were forced to make, but I do blame the operators of the facility for the horrible care, and I use that word loosely, that they provide.

Here is an example:

At 3am last Monday morning, a child who resided at this facility died. Of course the staff didn’t use that term. The term used by the staff is ‘expired’ – expired like a bad carton of milk, expired like a moldy loaf of bread. And then it gets worse.

The child’s body was removed and by 9am that morning, her bed had been stripped and all her possessions had been tossed into a pile in the middle of that bed.

While this might not seem like a significant action, to me it speaks volumes about the child’s treatment when she was alive, and the overall lack of respect the staff and the management of the facility have for the people who have been placed in their care.

This is one reason that I fight so hard to keep new institutions from being built and from existing institutions from remaining open. From my travels around my state and my knowledge of most of the facilities that exist, the situation I described is not unique. Rather, it is commonplace.

There is one place though that is different. Tomorrow I will contrast that place with the facility I described today. I know today’s story has not been pleasant to read, but come back tomorrow and things will be better. I promise.

No comments: