One of my favorite patients at Aurora was Frank. He was my patient so many times I kind of adopted him after awhile. He was an Hispanic guy in his fifties. He was about my size, so he was essentially a Latino hobbit junkie.
Frankie Baby was a heroin addict. I detoxed him at least five times in three and a half years, but it was probably more like seven. And that’s not counting all the times he was admitted to other units. On the odd occasion that happened, Frank always dropped by the Canyon Unit nursing station to say hi.
Now that I think about it, I had a lots of guys like Frankie Baby during my time at Aurora. There was Kevin. And Justin. And Thomas. And Robert. And Bob. And other Robert. We’d detox them all, give them a little sober time, then DC them. And, they’d be back in a week or two. It’s a testament to the nefariousness of the disease, the tenacious grip of the addiction and the high probability of an addict making yet one more really bad decision.
After years of struggling with this myself, I’ve come to believe that addicts are more addicted to making bad decisions than they are to their actual drug of choice. I’m sure there are plenty of people that would disagree with this, but, yeah well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
I’ve had many discussions with my unrepentant drug buddies over the years. None of them had any major objections to my theory. In fact, most of them supported it. It didn’t make them any less susceptible to their foibles, but it did give them something new to think about. Sometimes you look at a thing from the same perspective for so long you don’t think there’s any other way to see it…
Opiate addiction has become something of an epidemic in the United States of late, kind of like the obesity epidemic, only not as tasty. Like obese people, opiate addicts leave a distinct carbon footprint in their wake. Frankie Baby used to come to the nursing station and verbalize multiple multitudinous somatic complaints in the hopes that I would transfer him to the nearest ED. The only symptom Frank didn’t endorse was already being dead, otherwise he had everything. Twice. And a bag of chips.
When I refused to give in, Frank would request any and all PRN comfort meds that were available. Opiate addicts were some of the most med seeking people I ever cared for. One of my opiate detox guys received thirty PRN’s in eight hours. Thats an average of five pills an hour. They can be exhausting people to manage, physically, because you’re in and out of the med room a hundred times a shift. And they’re emotionally exhausting, too. You give them everything you’ve got, and they’ll still want more.
“Hey, I just want to thank you.” Frank told me after a particularly exhausting day for both of us. “I just wanted to get high, and you knew that. That’s why you didn’t listen to any of my bullshit. I know I’m a pain in the ass sometimes, but I just wanted to thank you. You really care, man. And that’s not an easy thing to do with me.”
I had a hard time seeing when I drove home after that shift.
I was assaulted in February of this year, and my jaw was fractured as a result. Frankie Baby wasn’t in the hospital when it happened, but he was admitted shortly afterwards.
“Hey brother, I heard what happened to you.” Frank said when he swung by my unit to visit. He had been admitted to one of the units on the second floor. “I just want you to know, if I had been here, I would’ve fuckin’ killed that guy.”
I have to admit, I have always been in awe of the way psych patients know everything that happens in the hospital. Seriously, if you want to know what’s really going on in a psychiatric facility, don’t ask the staff. Ask one of the patients.
I don’t know if Frank would’ve actually killed the guy that broke my jaw, but I do know this: he very likely would have died trying if he ever made the attempt.
Hey, Frankie Baby. I want to publicly thank you for that. That came from your heart, brother. I love you for that, amigo. And caring for me hasn’t always been an easy thing to do.