Don’s acid test

A few weeks before the end of a year of on-the-job training, the nursing home operator called and said that Don’s progress had been outstanding.  She indicated that he should have little trouble performing all the usual tasks of most nursing home attendants.  His patient care skills and attentiveness to detail were described as really good.  She said that no further training should be necessary.  With this information Don needed to prepare to enter the real world.  As his new father figure, I was almost as anxious as Don.  During his year of training and through his two love affairs it was clear Don had acquired a taste for haste.  This converted welfare client needed to leave behind those who have retired on the government, and join the masses who must hustle.

Within days I received a call from the manager of the High-Rise assisted living and nursing home facility in Columbia.  He wanted to discuss a job application he had received from Don.  Meeting later the same day, he indicated they were looking for a person who could take care of their more severely involved patients.  As Don had already spent a year training in a local nursing home it was convenient to refer the manager to the former trainer for job performance information.  While the seizure disorder had not been a problem for a year, the hope was that such success would continue.  Don was on regular medication which he took religiously.

I said that if any difficulties should arise with Don’s employment, he should feel fee to contact me at the medical center.  I also encouraged him to keep me posted on Don’s progress during his first few months on the job.  There was no doubt that Don would also contact me if the need should arise.

In just over a year, Don had progressed from being a welfare dependent and a patient in a nursing home to employment as an attendant/orderly.  His first two love affairs were granted full credit for starting him down this path to earning his own way.  His newly acquired haste was now going to be tested for adaptability in the real world.

Progress reports of Don’s work at the High-Rise were glowing and positive.  His attentiveness to detail and openness to instruction were outstanding.  After several weeks of employment all was progressing in unbelievable fashion.

After many weeks I was beginning to relax as Don’s adopted father figure.  Out of the blue I received a phone call from the High-Rise manager.  He wanted to talk to me in person about a recent incident he had observed at his facility.  I said I would meet with him at his earliest opportunity, which was any time today.

Arriving at the High-Rise I went straight to the manager’s office.  His story was short and sweet.  As he was driving by the facility on the nearby interstate he saw Don urinating on the grounds.  Such behavior, he said, was totally unacceptable.  With many dozen patients, staff and visitors, plus folks driving along the interstate seeing the facility every day, he would appreciate my assessment of what was going on.  He also indicated that if such behavior continued, Don’s employment would be in jeopardy.  He asked me to get back to him with my appraisal of the situation.  With this information my next meeting was with Don, who was assigned to the night shift.

As Don’s adopted father, I presented the operator’s observation as he had presented them to me, and asked Don to fill me in on any details.  Don was completely dumb-struck.  He said he had no recollection of such behavior at all.  I had no reason to doubt Don’s story, as he had always been both open and scrupulously honest with me in our dealings.

Following this denial, I told Don that from this point forward he should be extremely cautious to perform his personal needs in the employee bathrooms of the High-Rise.  I also told him that if this behavior was witnessed again that he would be looking for another job.  Don heard this clearly, and assured me that he would be very careful.

Several different scenes came immediately to mind.  The first was Don’s spending the last 20 years on the farm with his father.  When the urge strikes on the farm special facilities are often neither available nor necessary.  What may be customary on the farm may be viewed with a jaundiced eye in the city.

The second scene was Don’s working the night shift and having nothing in particular to do during the day.  He was living in the facility which was now his home.  Making himself at home during daylight hours on the grounds must be maintained within more careful social limits.

Given Don’s seizure disorder, particularly the petit mal and Jacksonian varieties, a possibility exists that the event occurred as part of a seizure disorder.  Individuals with certain petit mal seizures, while walking or standing, may suddenly stand motionless and drop their hands to their sides as though they were urinating.   I have personally observed such behavior on several occasions, although such a seizure was never witnessed with Don.  The behavior observed from some distance while driving along the interstate could easily have been misinterpreted.   Such an explanation may lend credence to Don’s denial, but offers little confidence that conscious control is possible.

Returning to the High-Rise manager, I said I had discussed the event with Don at length, and that he had no memory of such an incident.  I assured the manager that Don had been advised of the seriousness of the observation, and that he said he would exercise the utmost of care at all times around the facility.  I did not suggest the possibility that the manager was mistaken in his interpretation, or indicate in any way that Don might not be in complete control of his bladder when in public.

The manager accepted this explanation as sufficient, and praised Don for the quality of his care of the patients.  Had Don been watering the plants after dark this crisis would likely never have arisen.  During the next several months this gremlin faded into background, and his counselor decided Don no longer needed an underage father figure.

Most of the credit for this amazing story belongs with Sister Theresa and Don’s second love, whatever her name was.  I never learned.

Comments are closed.