The Jawbone of an Ass

My jaw has been bothering me quite a bit lately. It’s been a little over eight months since I was assaulted, resulting in the nondisplaced mandibular fracture that certainly doesn’t feel all that nondisplaced to me.

My dentist at Surprise Smiles 😆 told me it could take up to a year for my jaw muscles to realign to the new profile of my bite. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear back then, but if it will truly take that long, the good news is I have a mere four months to go.

I have sustained several physical injuries during my career as a psychiatric nurse. I also sustained several more injuries during my career as a drunken moron. These two careers overlapped each other for at least ten years, so it’s hard for me to separate them sometimes. The net result is pain, and for anyone that lives with daily chronic pain, it really doesn’t matter where or how it originated. You simply have to learn to live with it.

I was physically assaulted on three separate occasions during my nursing career. That averages out to one assault roughly every ten years. Somewhat oddly, I was struck in the face each time.

The first time, I never saw the punch coming. I was working at the MVAMC. My back was turned to the guy that hit me. Merrill came up behind me and suckerpunched the right side of my face because he wanted to go smoke, but I had taken away his smoking privileges because he was being an asshole.

It took me a moment to figure out what the hell got happened, and then it hit me, so to speak. That sonuvabitch punched me! My first response was to immediately punch him back. Yeah, guy logic, if there is such a thing.

My co-workers intervened. Merrill was quickly whisked into a seclusion room. I was sent to Employee Health be evaluated. I sustained no serious injury, but the doctor gave me the rest of the day off, just because.

The second assault occurred at Aurora. It was my second year there. I remember it as The Year of the Borderlines. My unit was generally designated as the  Marginally Functional Psychotic Unit, but that year we got hit with a tsunami of patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.

One Borderline can be enough to stand your unit on its head. A gaggle of Borderlines (?) A gossip of Borderlines…  I like that! A lots of Borderlines gathered together is rarely a good thing, particularly if you’re a psych nurse. And especially if the gossip is gaggling on your unit.

It takes an awesome skill set to effectively manage that.

The patient in question was Melissa, maybe. I used to remember everything about every one of my patients, but they eventually melded into one multi-headed mutant patient. Mel was having a difficult day obtaining the level of attention she desired, so she decided to go full on Drama Llama and had a VPM–Very Public Meltdown. Mel was good for usually one of these a day. She would set off a chain reaction with the rest of her Borderline buddies, and chaos would ensue.

On this particular day, I didn’t respond the way she wanted me to (I didn’t call the doctor to get injectable meds), so she stormed off to her room to slam the door and scream.

Karen Rae Goff, social worker extraordinaire, happened to be on the unit at the time. Karen also happened to be Melissa’s social worker, so we went to her room to see what Mel had planned for her next move.

“Get out of here!” Mel screamed at us as I opened the door.

“I need to know that you’re going to be safe.” I said, from the doorway.

“Leave me alone, or I’ll kick your fucking ass!” she screamed. And then I did something stupid:

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Melissa launched herself at me and started swinging. I blocked her first punch or two, but then she caught me with a left jab that knocked my glasses askew on my face.

That stirred something inside Karen, and she let loose on Melissa with her Mom Voice, and Mel was so stunned she stopped acting like a temper tantrum toddler.

“I can’t fucking believe you did that.” I said, and calmly readjusted my glasses.

“You asked for it.” Melissa replied.

“Are you going to press charges?” Karen asked me. It’s a felony to physically assault a healthcare worker in Arizona. Melissa let a momentary look of panic escape, and that’s when I fell in love with Karen. We never had another problem with Melissa. She was a little angel for the remainder of her stay.

And that brings us to Assault #3, which also happened at Aurora.

That day started out like any other day. Dr Sbiliris, the psychiatrist assigned to the Canyon Unit, came onto the unit to meet with his patients. One of them, a young kid named Desean asked to be discharged. Dr Sbiliris kind of laughed and said, “No, probably Friday. Maybe Wednesday.”

Desean seemed to accept that, even if it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear.

And then something happened that should’ve sent my Spidey senses tingling. A patient on the Canyon Unit started loudly acting out, and when the staff from other units rushed over to aid and assist, Desean bolted out the unit doors and made a break for freedom.

We took care of the Yelling Guy. Desean fell short in his sprint to escape. He returned to the unit with an escort, and went to his room. And there was peace in the Canyon once more. Until 2:00 PM.

That’s when Desean entered the dayroom and started yelling and throwing stuff.

My boss of bosses, Lori Milus, must’ve been having a rare quiet day because she had come down to chat. I went into the day room. One of the BHT’s was trying to verbally redirect Desean, and I provided back up. But Desean wasn’t having any of that shit.

“Come on, man.” I said. “You know how this works. Sbiliris says that to everyone. He wants to see how you’ll respond. You know acting like this isn’t going to get you out of here. If anything, it’ll extend your stay, and you clearly don’t want that. Use your head, think about this!”

Desean and I were standing in the doorway of the dayroom. The nursing station and the unit doors were behind me. The hallway leading to the patient rooms was behind Desean.

He didn’t say anything, as if he were contemplating the veracity of my words. He appeared to me to start turning to his right, and I thought he would keep on going and go back to his room. I also started turning to my right, thinking my work was done. But Desean was merely loading up. He stopped turning to his right and reversed direction. His right fist came flying at me at about the speed of light, catching me squarely on the jaw.

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I was launched into space, much like that. I landed by the unit doors, seven or eight feet away. Desean may have howled in triumph. He ripped off his shirt, daring me to get up and fight him.

Like that was going to happen.

I didn’t lose consciousness. I even kept my head elevated so it wouldn’t hit the floor. But I don’t think I could’ve gotten off the floor just then if my life had depended on it.

One of the darling nurses I worked with, Lindsey Stirling, picked up my glasses and protectively leaned over me as I lay on the floor, trying to out figure out what I should do next. Another nurse, Brea Bils, one of my darlingpreshadorbs work daughters, tried to check my blood pressure. She later told me she no idea what she was doing. She thought I had gotten dead.

I knew I didn’t got dead, so I think I even said that.

“I’m not dead. I didn’t lose consciousness. My jaw…is really sore, but other than that, I’m okay.”

A group of BHT’s had escorted Desean into one of the Overflow rooms. Aurora was the only psychiatric facility I worked at that didn’t allow the use of seclusion and/or restraints to manage a behavioral crisis. Desean got several injections. And he was kept under close observation by several large men.

Once Desean was medicated and no longer actively assaultive, my boss asked me if I wanted to press charges. I did.

If Desean had been psychotic and responding to internal stimuli, that might’ve changed my decision. But Desean wasn’t psychotic. He didn’t get what he wanted, and he decided to act like a thug. That definitely was a factor in determining my decision.

The police took my statement. They took Desean into custody. Thankfully, Frankie Baby wasn’t there, or the police would’ve had to arrest him for murder. And there was peace in the Canyon once more.

I didn’t find out my jaw was broken until the following day when I had a CT scan. Because my fracture was nondisplaced, there wasn’t much of a treatment. I was on a soft diet for six to eight weeks; nothing but soups, smoothies and ice cream.

I bought the world’s most expensive smoothie. I lost ten pounds. I gained all of them back once I could eat real food again. And now I’m learning to live with my new occlusion pattern. It’s a process. Some days are better than others. Today, it hasn’t been too bad. Yesterday fucking sucked.

And as Forrest Gump said, That’s all I have to say about that.

Get out and vote.

Back When I Was in Oklahoma

Looks like a twofer kind of day. I just finished going through all the boxes of stuff we had shipped to Mexico. And I’m on Day Two of my No Fumar Permitido program. I haven’t killed anyone or anything yet, but I’ve been damn close. I need this to preserve my sanity.

Unlike Captain Ken, when I was in the Army I wasn’t stationed outside the US, and I didn’t really spend a whole lot of time with my commanding officer.

I was called into my CO’s office several times so he could scream at me. You may find this hard to believe, but I wasn’t the best soldier to ever serve this country. I didn’t like being in the Army all that much.

I joined the Army because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after I graduated from high school. I had a vague idea of becoming a dentist, maybe, someday. So I enlisted in the Army to become a dental technician.

In retrospect, I should’ve given a bit more thought to becoming a dentist, and I sure as hell should’ve given a whole lot more thought about joining the Army as a means to an end. But I didn’t, and this would be my first serious journey down a road less traveled.

When I arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, which was my permanent duty station, the last thing they needed was another goddamn dental tech, so I became whatever the Army needed me to become, unless you count that whole good soldier thing…

I drove a truck. I took x-rays. I drove a different truck. I worked in the Ortho lab. I worked in the Dental lab. I took more x-rays. I drove yet another truck. I was a company clerk. And, I took even more x-rays. The Army loved me, except my attitude–but they were never able to rehab it the way Barb Hansmeier would.

I had been in the Army for roughly two and a half years, and I was on CQ duty at Dental Clinic #2, which was attached to the front of Reynolds Army Hospital. The Army takes care of its own, and the Army required a 24 hour clinic for dental emergencies. And the person that handled these emergencies was called the CQ, Charge of Quarters.

Most of the time there were no emergencies, and CQ duty was a piece of cake. Most of the dentists I worked with weren’t all that thrilled about having to come into the clinic in the middle of the night. Many of them would pre-write prescriptions for 3-5 Percocets or something like that, and have the person follow up with them the next day during regular clinic hours.

It was close to a perfect system. I rarely had to call the docs and disturb them. If anyone came in with a toothache, I’d offer them a prescription, and nine times out of ten they’d take it and make a follow up appointment. It was an incredible rarity that one of the doctors would ever have to actually come in to the clinic to handle an emergency. That more than one doctor would have to come in was unheard of.

It was Christmas Eve, 1976. While everyone else was snuggled in bed with visions of dancing sugar plums in their heads, I was listening to Christmas carols at the clinic and randomly waking friends and family members up by calling them to wish them a Merry Christmas at three or four or five in the morning.

My CQ shift was drawing to a close. The sun was starting to lighten the eastern horizon, when a guy walked into the clinic with his wife and two small children. He was a young officer, first lieutenant or a captain. Good looking guy, his wife was some kind of supermodel or something. She was entertaining one of their children, the youngest was asleep in her arms. The guy didn’t have a toothache. He wanted me to look at a sore in his mouth.

“Do you know what it is?” he asked. I did not, I only knew what I’d seen did not look good.

I called the Dentist on Duty. He came into the clinic, took a look in the guy’s mouth, and called the Oral Surgeon on Duty. He came in, took a look in the guy’s mouth and called his boss, the Chief of Oral Surgery. Colonel Kleehammer came in. I had worked with him a lot over my time at Fort Sill. He was probably the only high ranking officer on base that wasn’t concerned about my indifference toward being a good soldier. I took really good x-rays, and that was all he cared about.

I had pulled a lots of CQ duties during the time I’d been in the Army and I had never seen anything like this in my life. I was talking to the guy that was going to relieve me on CQ duty, the dentist that I’d called in, and the oral surgeon that the dentist had called in. The two doctors were tense, and they didn’t want to say what they’d seen, and that’s when I knew they’d seen the same thing I had.

Colonel Kleehammer joined us after he completed his exam. If there had been any snow on the ground that Christmas morning in Oklahoma, his visage would’ve been whiter than that.

“Thank you for coming in, all of you. You can go home now. But I have to figure out how I’m going to tell this young man and his family that he has cancer.”

I’ve had to have some tough talks with family members over the years. It’s incredibly difficult to deliver bad news to someone, and to have to do it on Christmas Day…