There were at least twenty people in the reception area. They were all people that our society would or could not accommodate. Most successful and prosperous people would never encounter them and would only know about them on an intellectual level probably by reading about the poor and needy people via the media.
Only the truly marginalized would end up in a welfare office. Nobody could really understand this mass of unfortunates except the unfortunates themselves. Some of the most dedicated social agency workers would do some research and attempt to educate themselves about the plight of their clients. However, very few of them had personal experience with poverty, chronic disability and illness, addiction issues and homelessness.
People with some or all of there issues helped create a billion- dollar industry. The irony was that the most marginalized persons in society were responsible for creating and maintaining full time profitable employment for a substantial number of professional workers. Those in administrative positions made the big money. The front- line workers didn’t make a living wage unless they had a strong union. The needy people in the province were responsible for generating significant employment but the tax payers picked up the bill.
“Yeah, I heard something about that,” Rick answered.
“Well, it’s true, but the story has been greatly exaggerated. I spent about two weeks in a psychiatric rehabilitation facility in San Francisco. I was there basically for observation so that the doctors could make a diagnosis,” Misty explained.
“So, what did the doctors come up with?” Rick asked.
“At that time they told me it was manic depression. My psychiatrist in Winnipeg changed the diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder.”
“Yeah, I remember you telling me about that. Do you need to take medication?’
“Yes, lithium. For a long time, I wasn’t really taking it. I just lied to my doctor and my parents telling them that I was taking the lithium regularly. I got busted when they eventually took a blood test. The test showed that there was no trace of lithium in my body.”
“Why didn’t you take your medication?”
“Because it made me feel worse. To be more precise I didn’t feel any emotions at all when I first started taking it. Plus, it was making me gain weight.”
“So, do you take lithium now?” Rick asked.
“No. My new psychiatrist in Winnipeg put me on chlorpromazine after he changed my diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder,” Misty answered.
The restaurant was starting to get very smoky. It appeared that most of the customers were puffing hard on their cigarettes while they sucked back the strong Salisbury House coffee. The smoke in the air was starting to make Rick’s eyes water.”
“Let’s go back to Memorial Park. It’s getting too smoky in here for me,” said Rick.
Rick and Misty started walking back across the Osborne bridge. Misty thought she saw the shadowy figure of a man trying to climb up on the railings of the bridge.
Rick said, “It looks like that guy is going to try to jump over the bridge.”
Both Rick and Misty started yelling, “Hey man, stop! What are you trying to do?”
“Leave me alone. I’m going to jump,” the man answered.
“Let’s talk a bit first,” Misty said.
“Talk about what?” the man asked.
“About anything. Misty and I have been looking for someone interesting to talk to.” Rick answered.
“I’m not an interesting person and anyway you’ve got each other to talk to,” the man said.
“Let me be the judge of that. How about the three of us go to the Sals and get a cup of coffee? It’s starting to get chilly out here.” Rick said.
“I don’t even have enough money for a coffee, man, and I just smoked my last cigarette,”
“What’s your name?” Misty asked.
“Norman or just Norm.”
“Hi, I’m Misty and this is my boyfriend, Rick.”
“Like I said, I haven’t got enough money to go to the Sals and I’m kind of busy here.”
“Okay. I’ll tell you what. You come down from the railing and I’ll pay for your coffee and anything else you want to eat. Don’t worry about cigarettes. I just opened a new pack. How about it?” Rick asked.
“Well, I guess I could have my last coffee and cigarette before I leave this world.” Norm answered.
“That’s great. I’ll give you a smoke right now,” Rick said.
When they got back the Salisbury House, Norm ordered a Big Nip, and an order of fries and a coffee.
“Thanks guys. I haven’t had anything to eat yet today. My dad kicked me out at around ten this morning,” Norm said.
“So what have you been doing all day to keep warm?” Misty asked.
“I’ve been riding the bus. My dad bought me a monthly bus pass before I got the boot,” Norm said. “I don’t know what to do or where to go. Two months ago my mom kicked me out of her place.”
“Don’t worry we’ll figure something out,” Misty said.
Norman Robinson was only nineteen years old, but he was already starting to take on the appearance of a homeless person. He was tall and very thin. Misty noticed that Norman had a missing front tooth. He had a large hole in the front of his navy blue parka that made it look like he had vomited on his coat. The hole was actually a result of Norman helping his dad remove a defective battery from his car. In the process of completing this task, Norman had gotten some battery acid on his jacket. The acid had burned the hole in it.
Misty turned to Rick and said, “Let’s take Norm over to my place. I think my dad might like to talk to Norman.”
“What makes you say that?” Rick asked, looking somewhat befuddled.
“My dad has changed a lot since the summer. I’ll tell you about it later, but he now has a job working at a homeless center,” Misty answered.
“Wow. Lloyd has a steady job now,” Rick said.
“Look you guys have done enough for me already. After I finish my coffee and smoke I’ll just walk back to the bridge,” Norman said.
“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Rick said. “You don’t have a place to go tonight, do you?”
“That settles it. You’re coming with us,” Rick said firmly.
Rick, Misty and their new friend walked back to Rick’s car that was parked on a street next to Memorial Park. When Rick tried to start his car the engine wouldn’t turn over.
“Damn,” Rick said. “I just put a new battery in two weeks ago,”
“Open the hood Rick and let me have a look,” Norman said.
“In less than a minute Norman asked Rick to try starting the car again. This time the engine turned over immediately.
“How did you do that?” Rick asked.
“It was just a loose cable. I was training to be an auto technician so I knew what to check first.”
“Wow, thanks a lot man,” Rick said, feeling both surprised and grateful.
One morning, Misty’s mother, Sheila Roberts was doing her morning devotions. As a devout Christian, Sheila had long established a habit of having a quiet time with the Lord before she started her day. Her devotional time included reading from her Bible, praying for herself and others as well as remaining quiet and waiting for God to speak to her. Today, Sheila heard the Lord speak to her spirit, “Sheila, I’m going to do a great work in your husband, Lloyd, because I love him very much. I am asking you to include Lloyd in your prayers every day.”
Sheila did not hear an audible voice, but she knew in her heart that she had heard from God. After the incident at the rock concert during the summer, Sheila had been thinking about Lloyd. By this time, she had forgiven Lloyd for allowing his daughters to get involved in a dangerous situation. She had loved Lloyd at one time, but since she became a Christian and Lloyd didn’t, Sheila felt that her husband would have a negative influence on their children. She could not say that Rick was a bad person. In many ways he was a good man, but she could no longer tolerate his immaturity and his harmful addictions. What she really wanted was a godly husband and Lloyd certainly was not. Sheila decided to call her pastor Randy Neufeld to discuss with him what the Lord had told her.
Lloyd Roberts was just waking up from a short nap he had after supper. As be reached for his pack of cigarettes, Lloyd could still remember the dream he had. He was in that zone where he was just coming out of the dream state, but was not yet fully awake. Lloyd was used to having many dreams while he slept, but there was something different about the ones that he had been having lately. His most recent dreams all seemed to have some spiritual or religious theme to them.
A few minutes ago, Lloyd had seen Jesus in his dream holding a little lamb in his arms. The other night he dreamed that he was sitting in a quiet, peaceful location by a stream. When he turned his head he could see a man who looked like Jesus waving for him to walk over to where he was standing. Lloyd scratched hic head before putting on his baseball cap with the Ford logo on it. He had started to notice a bald spot near the top of his head and thought that if he covered it up he wouldn’t have to think about it. What he was now thinking about was the significance of his dreams. His daughter, Sasha had been a Christian for awhile now, but Lloyd was wondering what kind of influence her new boyfriend was having on her beliefs. Lloyd expected Sasha would be home in a little while. He would ask her what she made of his dreams.
Lloyd had recently attained employment as a residential care worker at The Main Street Mission. He found that of the many jobs that he had worked over the years this was probably one of the few that he actually enjoyed. Lloyd liked the street people that he got to know and was starting to feel that his life was finally starting to have some meaning.
Lloyd was beginning to mature as he entered his mid forties. The incident that happened at the rock festival had shaken Lloyd up. It now occurred to him that he had some serious responsibilities as a parent.
Lloyd’s dog, Pigpen started barking loudly while scratching the front door with his paws.
“Hang on. I’ll be right there.” Lloyd hoped that his voice was loud enough to be heard outside the door.
When Lloyd answered the door he was greeted by Misty and Rick and a young man that he did not recognize.
Lloyd moved closer to Rick to give him a hug. “Hey, man, I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age. Pardon the pun, Pigpen.”
“Hey, Dad. I’d like to introduce you to our new friend, Norm. Rick and I just met him tonight at The Sals on Osborne,” Misty said, while brushing some snow off her coat.
“Why don’t you guys park yourselves in the living room while I put on some coffee. I’d offer you guys a beer, but I’ve been on the wagon for awhile now.”
“Yeah, Dad’s been sober for six months now. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous,” Misty said proudly, just before she sat down on the couch.
“At the last AA meeting they gave me my sixth month pin,” Lloyd said proudly as he walked towards the kitchen.
After the coffee had perked Misty brought out a silver tray with the cups, coffee and creamer.
Lloyd sat down in his black recliner.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been around to see you Lloyd. I’ve been keeping a low profile since Sasha and I broke up,” Rick explained.
“That’s what I figured,” Lloyd said. “Well you don’t have to worry about that Rick. Sasha’s cool with it. She says she still likes you, but she has a new boyfriend now. In fact, they’ll probably be here soon. Lloyd then turned his attention to the new guest.
“So how did you get to talking with Rick and Misty?”
“Actually, I first met them on the Osborne Bridge. I was getting ready to jump in the river,” Norm answered.
One day in August Rick walked to the Canada Employment Center to see if he could get some help finding a job. He was two credits short from attaining his high school diploma and realized that with this small amount of course work he would need to at least, get a part time job. At this time, he did not think that he would return to playing hockey for another season. Last year had been much too stressful for him and now he would have a lot of free time on his hands. Rick felt that he would need to get a job to keep his parents happy.
As he entered the employment center Rick was nervous. He had worked one summer at his dad’s printing plant and had a very negative experience while working there. Rick did not yet realize that he lacked the manual dexterity, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning required for most factory jobs.
Rick walked up to the reception desk and was told to pull a number out of a machine. He was directed to take a seat in the waiting room and wait until his number was called.
Rick found an empty seat and took a look around the main floor of the employment center. It was a very drab place that rendered a rather depressing mood. After waiting approximately fifteen minutes Rick heard his name called and was greeted by a young attractive female who asked him to take a seat in her work area. The employment counsellor did not have a closed- in office. Her office space was separated from her co-workers by grey rectangular partitions. This arrangement didn’t give the client any feeling of privacy as one could hear what people in other sectioned off work areas were saying.
The employment counsellor shook hands with Rick and said, “Hello Richard, my name is Arlene Johnson. What can I do for you today?”
“You can just call me Rick. I’m here to find a job.”
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” Rick answered. “I don’t know what kinds of work are available to me.”
“Well, that all depends upon your education and work experience.”
“I’ve got my grade 11 and I’m just two credits shy of my high school diploma. I worked at my dad’s printing plant one summer and I used to have a paper route.
“Do you like working with your hands Rick?”
“Not very much. I’m not very good with my hands.”
“I have to be honest with you. Most of the jobs you could apply for require a grade twelve education and manual dexterity or fine motor skills. We occasionally get referrals from employers for manual labor jobs, but I don’t have any referrals right now,” Arlene said.
Rick was now feeling very uncomfortable. “So I guess you really don’t have anything for me today?”
“Not really. What do you do in your spare time?”
“I play hockey, watch tv, listen to music and read.”
“But you don’t do much work with your hands?”
“No, not really, but I read a lot,” Rick said feeling insulted.
“Listen Rick. Can I be blunt?”
“Yeah,” Rick replied feeling annoyed.
“You need to get your high school diploma and you need to take up a hobby where you have to use your hands. After you do that come back and see me.”
“Thank you for your time,” Rick said as he got up to leave Arlene’s work area. When he got outside Rick lit up a smoke and said to himself, “So that’s that. I’ll go back to school to get my two credits and I’ll play hockey for one more year.”
At about 7:00 PM Garry Hardy was still feeling the effects of the shot of Haldol that had been administered to him by the psychiatric nurse. He stared at the white ceiling above him and was slowly drifting into a state of partial consciousness. It was not a bad feeling. It felt more like floating on a cloud.
Garry was starting to realize that he was in a psychiatric ward. Garry heard a knock on his door. He managed, with a great effort to say, “Come in.”
A rather large man whose arms were covered with tattoos entered Garry’s room. The man looked very tough but he had a gentle manner about him.
“Hi Garry. My name is Todd Finlay. I’m a psychiatric nurse here.”
Garry managed to slur out, “Pleased to meet you.”
“I was thinking you must be getting very hungry about now,” Todd said sitting down in a chair by Garry’s bed.
“Come to think of it, I am. I can’t really remember the last time I had anything to eat. I think I had a peanut butter and jam sandwich with me on the bus but I can’t remember if I ate it or not,” Garry said. “Are you the guy who gave me the shot of drugs?”
Todd laughed, “No. That would have been one of the day shift nurses. They all went home about three hours ago. Believe it or not you’re in luck today. The suppers they serve here are generally not bad, for a hospital I mean. Would you like me to order a supper from the cafeteria for you?”
“I would appreciate that,” Garry answered. “Any chance that I could get a cup of coffee?” Garry hoped that some caffeine might alleviate his mental sluggishness.
“No problem. I’ll get you a coffee from the staff lounge.”
As Todd left the room to get Garry’s coffee and to phone the kitchen to order a supper Garry felt a shot of optimism travel through his brain. “This nurse is all right,” he thought to himself. “He’s treating me like a human being.”
Chapter One Hundred Thirty-Two:
When Jack Kimberley and his crew arrived at the Kelowna General Hospital, Mike O’Grady’s medical condition had further deteriorated. Jack ran into the emergency ward entrance to ask if he could get some orderlies to bring a stretcher out to his truck. He told the security guard on duty that there was a man in his vehicle who was near death and required immediate medical attention. The old security guard immediately walked to the nurse’s station and advised the nurses on duty of the critical situation. The head nurse quickly found two orderlies who could take a stretcher out to Jack’s truck. She was able to find an intern who would follow the orderlies out to the vehicle. The intern’s name was Dr. Ian McLeod. He was a young man with short sandy blond hair. His white medical coat covered Ian’s slight build.
When Dr. McLeod got a look at Mike O’Grady, he quickly determined that if Mike did not receive medical attention immediately his patient would probably die. The stump of Mike’s right arm was covered by layers of bandages that were now soaked through with Mike’s blood.
Brian Kelly, the paramedic on Jack’s crew started giving the intern pertinent information about Mike’s medical situation. He told the intern that Mike O’Grady had his right arm ripped off by a large unidentified fish that could have been a sturgeon.
Dr. McLeod did not waste any time getting Mike into an operating room. He asked Brian Kelley what he could tell him about Mike’s medical history. Brian told him that he did not know the patient well, but that Jack Kimberley would likely have more information. Jack told the doctor that Mike O’Grady was grossly overweight and suffered from severe arthritis in his neck, spine and knees. He also stated that Mike had COPD. Jack was not sure if Mike was diabetic or had a history of heart disease.
Dr. McCloud observed that Mike was in shock and had lost a great deal of blood. Mike’s face displayed a sickly blue pallor. A nurse hooked Mike up so that the doctor could monitor the patient’s vital signs. The young intern phoned the second floor to see if a surgeon was available and could come to the operating room immediately.
A surgeon, Dr. Phillip Garvey arrived in the operating room a few minutes later. Dr. Garvey was in his early forties. He wore glasses with black frames that gave him a very scholarly appearance. He asked Jack and Brian what had happened to Mike’s arm. Jack retold the story about Mike’s arm being severed by a large fish and that the fish had taken Mike’s arm below the surface of the water.
Dr. Garvey ordered a blood transfusion for his patient. He looked over at the machine that was monitoring Mike’s vital signs.
“Mr. O’Grady is in a dangerously weakened condition. I will try to stop the blood loss, but I can’t guarantee that this patient will live. His overall physical condition is very poor and he has lost a great deal of blood. After Mike has received a blood transfusion I will be in a better position to assess his odds for survival. For the time being I would ask that all of you go to the waiting room. I will provide you with any medical updates after we start treating Mr. O’Grady. I would highly recommend phoning his next of kin,” said Dr. Garvey.
Jack, Brian and some other crew members made their way out of the operating room.
In under five minutes four paramedics arrived on the scene. The paramedics in this city were very familiar with this facility and the surrounding neighborhood. It was not unusual for emergency personnel to pay ten to twenty visits per week to this facility. Many of the calls they received were, in
essence, false alarms. When the paramedics arrived at the scene they would
often find that the client was very intoxicated with either alcohol, drugs, or both being the culprit. Other times they would be called out due to a client complaining of being short of breath and or having chest pain. Other occasions the calls would be for residents experiencing anxiety attacks or going into psychosis. Two years ago they had been called to the scene for an actual fatal stabbing incident.
A young blond female paramedic in her twenties and her handsome young male partner were the first to attend to the resident in the stairwell.
“He’s not breathing and I’m not getting a pulse,” the female paramedic said to her co-worker.
“He’s feeling stiff and cold to to the touch,” added her male colleague.
Just then a young police constable and his senior partner arrived on the scene.
“How’s the man doing?” asked the younger police officer.
“He’s dead,” the male paramedic answered. “He has numerous contusions on his body and his neck could possibly be broken as a result of a fall or a push.”
“The medical examiner will need to determine the exact cause of death. I’ll call for the detectives,” the senior constable said to his young partner.
Within ten minutes a big , burly detective in his early fifties named Jeff Barnes arrived with his partner, Krista Holland, a trim, attractive, strawberry blond, female detective.
As all this was happening, the security guard, Jim Bellows, had called a code blue for the building. This meant that all available staff who were available were to respond to the site of the incident. The first residential care worker to arrive at the scene was a tall, thin woman in her late forties. She was instructed to stay where she was by the male detective.
After a brief introduction to each other Constable Redding asked the residential care worker to round up the rest of the staff of the facility and have them wait in the staff room until the detectives were ready for them.
The second staff to arrive at the scene was Rick Jennings, the mental health wing supervisor. Rick was a good looking, physically fit man who had just turned forty. He quickly identified himself to the detectives. When Rick asked what had happened, the female detective, Krista Holland, told Rick to wait in the staff room but not before informing the supervisor that a resident of the facility was dead.
The body of the deceased resident was taken to the city morgue after the
detectives had taken pictures of him and had taken notes on what the resident
was wearing and to make a record of any belongings found in his clothing.
After approximately fifteen minutes the two detectives went to the staff room on the second floor to talk to the staff of the facility.
The House of Hope was a four floor building that housed approximately seventy residents. It was the brain child of the government’s Health Division and was considered to be state of the art. There were two main treatment facilities located in the building. The fourth floor contained the substance abuse treatment center. The third floor was a rehabilitation unit for clients presenting with severe and chronic psychiatric disabilities. The second floor was for female residents that had previously been homeless or were escaping from abusive relationships and the first floor was occupied by impoverished men who didn’t have a safe and permanent place to live in the community. The administrators of The House of Hope were very proud of their building as it purported to meet so many divergent needs in the poorest area of the city. When a first time visitor came to The Center, they would first notice the offensive odor that only chronic and severe poverty can produce. There was always a strong smell of body odor present in and around the building.
The Cover Up
It was around 4:00 AM Sunday morning and Cora Sanchez, the night cleaner at the House of Hope has just completed her washing of the floors on the third floor of the building. She pushed open the door that leads to the stairwell and is immediately struck by the stench of urine and feces. This was not an unfamiliar smell to Cora as residents urinating or even defecating in inappropriate places was not unheard of in this facility. As she took a look around the curving stairwell she saw a pair of blue jean covered legs. The body that they belonged to was hidden by the curve in the stairwell between the third and fourth floors.
The House of Hope is a state of the art facility designed for the treatment of multiple mental and substance abuse disorders and the general conditions of abuse, homelessness and poverty. It was a recently built multi-complex facility that was funded by a large government grant.
Cora suspected that she would find a resident who had soiled himself before passing out in the stairwell. Although the facility’s policy was not to allow alcohol or illicit drugs in the residence, they could not prevent a client from obtaining their drug of choice from the street.
As the facility was located in an industrial warehouse district of town there were always drug dealers near the premises. Cora climbed down the flight of stairs until she was on the landing. She found a young man probably in his twenties passed out on the stairs. It was obvious that he had soiled himself. He was wearing a red hoodie with matching red sweat pants. His body appeared to be positioned in an unnatural position as if twisted the wrong way. Cora did not recognize the man. As the cleaner worked the overnight shift she didn’t get to know many of the residents of the treatment facility.
Cora asked the man in a loud voice if he was okay to see if he would respond. She waited about five seconds but did not hear any response from the man. Cora got down on her knees in order to give the gentleman a shake.
As she got close to his face she realized that the man was not breathing. There was a stream of saliva and red spittle coming from his mouth that had dried on his chin.
Becoming alarmed Cora ran out of the stairwell to get help.
As she opened the door to the stairs she saw a security guard doing his rounds. She called out that a man was down in the stairway. The security guard immediately called 911.
After Smackdown ended Winston made some more popcorn and offered the boys some more pop and popcorn. The conversation switched to the topic of mental health and life in psychiatric treatment facilities.
“The whole mental health system in North America is a disaster. The present system simply does not work. The only people it benefits are those who have important sounding job titles working in government bureaucracies,” Winston stated, pounding his fist on the coffee table. “From what I’ve heard, though, the Kelowna Mental Health Center is one of the better run mental health facilities in Canada.”
“That’s true,” said Wally. “The front line rehabilitation staff is really cool and they know what they’re doing.”
“I have to agree with Wally,” Garry added. Our rehab workers, Todd and Shelly really seem to care about us and our psychiatrist, Dr. Weisenthall is also very good.”
“Well then, you guys are in the fortunate group of mental health consumers that are getting adequate treatment for their mental health issues. Many people with mental disorders, especially those with schizophrenia, simply fall through the cracks of the mental health system. A lot of them either end up homeless or are forced into living in filthy, cockroach and rat infested hotel rooms or old broken down rooming houses.”
“Nobody cares. That’s the whole problem,” said Wally.
“You’re right, Wally, but there are a minority of people who do care, but these are usually the underpaid and underappreciated front line workers.”
“Do you think that this situation will ever change?” Garry asked Winston.