I needed a break after the meeting with Dr. Duncan and Abby and before I spent time visiting Gabriela … a breath of fresh air to clear my head of the conversation that had brought up the term “schizo”. I asked the Doctor to inform the nurses that I would be back to visit Gabriela shortly.
Abby walked with me to the waiting room and in her hard way she told me to get counseling for myself. “Bobbie, help yourself. Your daughter needs you to help yourself.”
I nodded in agreement but I it was just to pacify her. The last thing I could imagine doing would be spending time sitting with a therapist and chatting about how tough my life was, about how difficult all this was for me. I was absolutely sure there would be time for me but not now.
Cody, my ex-husband, had told me that I shouldn’t visit Gabriela every day. He thought I should only go when it was convenient for me and when it fit into my schedule. That was how he parented and that was exactly why he and Gabriela had no relationship. His opinion was useless to me.
I knew I would continue to visit Gabriela every day and for every minute of every visiting hour. Gabriela, my only child, had lived with me her entire life. There was no other family that she was close to. Of course I would be there!
I stopped at a little shop just around the corner from the hospital and bought a pair of slippers for Gabriela. I was trying to refocus and keep in mind that it wasn’t about the big picture right now, it was about small steps. So, I was going to try get Gabriela into the shower today.
On my walk back to the ward the cool fall breeze helped me blow the conversation I had with Dr. Duncan and Abby so far to the back of my brain that I was sure it could not work its way back until visiting hours ended in the evening.
By the time I got back to the ward Gabriela had eaten her lunch and took two chairs from the day room into the hallway for our visit. She was much more alert so we could now have short uncomplicated conversations.
As we chatted, an older woman introduced herself to me. She explained the circumstances that brought her to the ward; apparently she had too much to drink one evening and had fallen and bruised her chin and had needed several stitches to the back of her head. She was staying on Ward 400 while waiting for an available bed on the rehab Ward.
This woman had taken a liking to Gabriela and had talked with my daughter despite the fact that Gabriela never responded. She had told Gabriela how beautiful she was and invited her to join everyone in the day room. She had aslo asked Gabriela’s opinion on a variety of topics even though Gabriela just stood facing the wall, completely unaware of her presence.
This gentle woman typified the patients on the ward; they all seemed to be so tolerant of each other. Everyone came and went within the confines of the ward without so much as a sideways glance. Each person’s quirks were not judged, they were just accepted as they were by their ward mates.
I placed the new slippers on the floor for Gabriela and asked her to slip them on. Slowly she eased a foot into one as though it was either too small or caused her great pain. She leaned against me as she balanced and then slid her other foot into the other slipper but she stopped when both feet were only about halfway in. I looked at her quizzically wondering what the issue might be. Apparently there was no issue and, with her feet not completely in the slippers and with a contented air, Gabriela smiled and took a seat next to me.
Again I started a conversation with her again about taking a shower. It had been a full week without her showering and Gabriela smelled every minute of it. The client assistant, Violet, and another nurse, Lillie, as well as the older lady who had befriended Gabriela all encouraged her to jump into the shower. Finally, with some reservations, Gabriela had agreed.
Before she would get into the shower Gabriela asked for an explanation for the two pieces of old adhesive on the tile walls; what were they and why were they there? She felt the water with her hand and backed away from the shower. The hospital staff had agreed to allow me into the bathroom to help so I asked for a small basin to fill with water because it was clear to me this was going to be a sponge bath and I was going to do my darnedest to get her as clean as I could.
Gabriela took her shirt off with little issue and then the sweatpants. As soon as I saw the calves of her legs I called for help from the nurse; her legs had a splotchy pattern from lack of circulation.
I remembered that last evening Gabriela had called me in a panic because she thought she had a Steven Johnston rash. Her ankles were swollen like a homeless person all the way to her toes. I was horrified but I sat Gabriela down on the toilet in her underwear and started to take off one sock. The elasticized top had sunk so deeply into her skin that she screamed in pain as I pulled it out and off her foot.
She cried and begged me not to touch the other sock but I pulled it off quickly despite her struggles then I put both her feet into the basin of water to soak and cleaned her as quickly as I could. The shower was still on and had flooded the bathroom floor so I threw towels around to soak up as much water as they could.
I helped Gabriela into a long nightgown and her slippers and combed her hair, then we headed to the day room for dinner. As soon as Gabriela entered the room the patients all stood and applauded. Gabriela smiled and Lowered her head in embarrassment. Each person told her how wonderful she looked.
Gabriela sat next to me while she ate dinner. I asked her to put her feet on my lap so I could massage them. I wanted her to keep her feet elevated until the swelling went down. I explained to her that her legs looked this bad because she hadn’t sat or laid down since she entered the ward and that now she needed to keep her feet up. Even though she didn’t answer me I knew she would follow my directions.
She was very quiet for the rest of that evening; I think she was observing her surroundings for the first time.
I picked her breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices for the next day off the menu and added a cup of coffee and cream for me. I asked Gabriela to stay seated, keep her feet up, take all her medications, and to get some sleep tonight. Then I kissed her forehead and went home.
The day had started out rough but ended successfully with a sponge bath.
I called Gabriela later that evening. I told her I wanted to wish her “sweet dreams” and tell her I love her; every day of my daughter’s life I have told her that I loved her … I wanted her to grow up knowing she was loved.
Throughout the call Gabriela was quiet but finally said “I love you too, Mom”; then we hung up.
Gabriela’s improvements that day made me feel lighter. I knew there was a lot of work ahead but I now knew she was up to it and that she was a much stronger person than anyone I had ever known.
Dr. Duncan was taking good care of her mental health issues although I didn’t agree with his diagnosis but first things first, Gabriela needed to be mentally stable or she would never be able to clear the next hurdle addressing the anti-epilepsy drugs and the impact they were having on Gabriela’s mental health.