Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Handcuffed and Shackled

This afternoon, when I returned to Parrish’s hospital room after fetching some clothes and shoes for him, the nurse told me that he was to be transferred to a psychiatric facility shortly, but she said she didn’t know exactly where he was going.

“Don’t be ridiculous!  Of course you do.  You can’t transfer him out of here without knowing where he is going.  You know that and I know that.”

In a whisper, “He’s going to Georgia Regional in Savannah, but we don’t want him to know.  He says he doesn’t want to go there.”

Her eyes were wide and she was visibly perspiring.

“So you lied to him?  He may be mentally ill, Ma’am, but I won’t lie to him, and you are wrong to withhold the truth from him.  I will tell him the what is going on; he deserves that much respect.  Why are you so afraid of him?  He has been nothing but a perfect gentleman since he was admitted.”

I pushed past her and hauled his bag into the room and quietly explained to P that he was going to Georgia Regional, that there were no other beds available, that it would be okay, that he should not worry.

His mania had escalated in the hour that I was gone.  He was unable to sit still, clearly fearful.  Who in the hell tells a psychiatric patient who attempted suicide that  he is going to be transferred to an unknown facility?

"I don't want to go, but if it's the only choice, I will cooperate," Parrish said.

I hugged him tight.

Lawrence arrived in 15 minutes.  A few minutes after his departure for work, I heard the clanging.  Peering through the window of the room, I saw The Deputy walking onto the unit, jingling the shackles like Christmas bells.  He stopped at the desk, then came to the door.

“Mr. Gray?”

“Yes, sir.”

Parrish stood and offered his hand, but the The Deputy did not shake it.

“You are not under arrest, Mr. Gray, but I have to do this.  Please face the wall and put your hands on it.”

“Don’t panic, P.  This Draconian procedure is standard, so try not to panic,” I said.  

He turned and placed his palms on the wall of the hospital room, and I watched as the The Deputy frisked him thoroughly.  He wrapped a thick leather belt around P’s waist and buckled it and slid the buckle around to the front.  He locked it in place and then stooped down and shackled both of my son’s ankles. 

“Try to stay relaxed, Buddy.  He’s not going to hurt you.”

“Turn around, sir.  Take off your hat and hand it to me.”

The Deputy took the hat and crumpled it into a wad, handed it back and ordered P to replace it on his head.

Parrish did as instructed.

“Raise your arms out in front of you, palms down.  Now turn your palms inward.”

Again, P complied.

“Now bring your hands to your waist.”

He applied the cuffs quickly and locked them to the belt.

The contents of my stomach leapt into my throat and I swallowed hard.

“Don’t worry, son.  Try not to worry.”

“Is this his bag?”


The Deputy started walking P toward the door.

“Wait just one minute!  He will not walk out of here like that.  Put him in a wheelchair and cover him with a blanket.  You will not walk him through the hospital looking like a prisoner.” 

The wheelchair and blanket arrived and The Deputy picked up P’s bag and dropped it into his lap.

I took his face in my hands and kissed his cheek.

“Lipstick tattoo!”

He smiled wanly as I looked into his eyes, dancing with mania and fear.  I wanted to stuff him back into my womb, give him a do-over.  I wanted to wash away his psychosis with amniotic fluid, protect him from the world that does not understand that his brain is broken, that crazy is not a choice.

As they left, I fell into Melvina’s arms and sobbed.  Sweet Melvina was with him both days he was in the step-down unit, and I can now count her among the angels who walk in this world and look after me.  She is the reason I could come home and sleep in my bed at night, the reason I didn’t have to worry about him.  She gave me her phone number in case we need her when P gets home, saying she will sit with him if we need her. 

The days between the time P came off the ventilator and his transfer to Georgia Regional were uneventful except for his confusion and disorientation.  During that time, I wondered if he had damaged brain irreparably, but today he could tell me the day of the week and the date, so I am encouraged.  He was not medicated for his psychosis, and as time passed, he became more manic and afraid.  I wish he were not in Savannah, wish he were closer to me, but I am glad he is finally in a place where his demons can be faced down and he can get the medicine he so desperately needs.

Thank God it's music night!  I have a new Cabasa!


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