This week I drove past the location where Delcrest was located 40 years ago. Today it’s a strip-mall, with a tribal smoke shop as its centerpiece. When I was the director of nursing, Delcrest …
This week I drove past the location where Delcrest was located 40 years ago. Today it’s a strip-mall, with a tribal smoke shop as its centerpiece. When I was the director of nursing, Delcrest was a 50-bed state-funded psychiatric facility. Most of our patients came from Western State Hospital, one of Washington’s two mental health hospitals.
Our residents were too disabled to discharge to custodial nursing homes. Then there was Bob.
We included every diagnosis: schizophrenia, dementia, depression, drug-induced psychosis. Before most care facilities “allowed” residents to have rights, we did. They had the right to behave any way they wanted as long as it didn’t harm them, property or each other. Our residents managed to live together in a misshapen hodge-podge of idiosyncrasies.
Most of their personal stories were tragic. Bob’s is one I’ve never forgotten.
Bob was poor and uneducated. He grew up “east of the mountains.” No one remembered exactly where. He was accused of raping the mayor’s daughter. His trial was short. Bob was declared guilty. His humiliated family moved with no forwarding address.
Bob was transferred to Western State in the late 1930s. To prevent future perversion, he was surgically castrated. Shortly thereafter, he quit speaking. Forty years later, he was released to Delcrest.
Bob’s cataract-covered eyes stared without seeing. His slow, plodding gait and gentle spirit ambled up and down the halls day and night. We provided all his care: bathing, dressing, feeding, changing his cloth diapers. His silence was accepted as normal — for Bob.
Until, one day when I was walking behind Bob. An orderly upset a cart of food trays. The unexpected crash startled me. I flinched, but I noticed something odd. Bob didn’t move. He just kept plodding on. I followed him and shouted as loud as I could. Nothing. I borrowed two pans from the kitchen and pounded them together. Nothing.
Until that day, no one noticed that Bob was deaf.
Delcrest kicked into high speed. We argued funding with state case workers and begged University of Washington physicians to provide “pro bono” care. Because he was deaf, they couldn’t test his eyesight. Because he was blind, they couldn’t test his hearing. Eventually an elderly doctor removed Bob’s cataracts without pay, and an audiologist let me pour through his box of throw-away hearing aids.
The change was miraculous. Bob began feeding himself. Some days he changed his clothes over and over just because he could see them. Bob began to smile.
One morning a nurse from an expensive rehabilitation center came to see him. She poured over Bob’s medical records and listened to his heart and lungs. He left with her that very day.
A few weeks later I visited to see how he was adapting. I found Bob with neatly trimmed hair and new clothes. He was with a therapist who was teaching him sign language to compensate for his remaining hearing deficit. They were laughing at some inside joke.
I stood there and wept, grateful to watch the pieces of Bob’s remarkable story.
Then, I became curious. Who was paying for Bob’s very expensive care, new clothes and therapist? I located the bookkeeper. She didn’t know. The checks came promptly each month. All they knew was that Bob’s costs were paid by a successful University of Washington physician, a woman who grew up “east of the mountains.”
We never knew who.
Delcrest taught me that each person, regardless of their disabilities, diagnoses, and mental capacity, has worth in God’s all-seeing eyes. Their cries are heard by His all-hearing ears. Each one is woven into His beautiful tapestry of grace.
Sylvia Peterson is former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here