9 PM. The cell phone rings on my way home from teaching a class.
“Randye? It’s Desmond from Harrison House.”
Ben’s group home. My heart skips a beat, a conditioned response. What has Ben done? Did he stop taking meds? But he’s been doing so well!
Desmond senses my approaching panic. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing major. It’s just that we’re taking Ben to the Emergency Room. He cut his hand cleaning up the kitchen and he may need stiches.”
It’s ridiculous but true: I am relieved that Ben needs stitches. Oh, is that all? I think.
I rush to the hospital to meet Ben and Desmond, and can see that this is manageable. The cut is deep but easily fixed with a few stitches. Ben has cut his hand between the thumb and forefinger while washing a chipped ceramic cup. Ben does not seem to be in a panic, either; he’s just worried about the pain, same as when he was seven years old at vaccination time. This I can deal with.
Desmond goes back to Harrison House and I stay with Ben. At the admissions desk, the nurse asks, “What medications are you currently taking?”
“Prilosec,” says Ben.
That’s an over-the-counter fix for acid reflux. Easy. OK. Will he mention his real meds?, I wonder.
And he does. He says the brand names of the two meds that, combined, have kept him out of the hospital and in the world of real life for the past 5 years.
The nurse doesn’t recognize the names of the meds, as they are the liquid and dissolvable forms of the more recognizable brands. “What are they for?” she asks.
I have no idea what Ben will say. But he answers. “They’re for schizophrenia,” he says.
A victory? I don’t know. But I’ll take it. This doesn’t mean he accepts his illness; it just means he knows what the meds are for, in general. I don’t press the issue. This is fine, just fine.
We’re called into the medical area and Ben spots the treatment table where he is to wait.
“Wow,” he says. “This is way better than the last time I was here. They used a straight jacket that time.”
I cannot believe he just said that. He almost never talks about the times he was admitted to the hospital for psychiatric reasons. “Well, not exactly a straight jacket,” I reply.
“Well, they used restraints or something. Anyway, this is way better,” he says, and smiles.
“Yes, it certainly is.” My thoughts exactly, but I hadn’t dared mention it. The fact that Ben did – well, it’s another small miracle. I allow myself a prayer that he may never have to be admitted as a psych patient again. I know I can’t control that, but I can hope. And be glad that he’s glad.
A few nerves, one shot of novacaine and a few stitches later, we are out of there. Just like any other, normal, mother and son.
Yes, this is much better.