12 December 2012

Contact


She shuffles by lost
in the fog of mental illness,
mute, unreachable.
I make nursing rounds,
hum some old tune. She
turns, follows me, hums
the same song.
Across her chasm
of neural chaos,
contact.


The prompt from Fireblossom over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads was to write about calamities and from my 36 years as a psychiatric nurse, there is no calamity that touches my heart more than major mental illness. This is a true story of a client with schizophrenia in a state hospital in California who had been mute for years. I was humming a song my father used to sing and she hummed along. So I started singing the songs I remembered from him and she sang along. She had a beautiful voice. Eventually we learned she was a singer with Benny Goodman in the mid 30's. She loved to sing. I offer it on dVerse poets open link night as well.




44 comments:

  1. It is tragic to know the beautiful minds lost to mental illness. How nice that you found a way to make that connection.

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    1. It was so unexpected. Took her a long time to do anything more than hum and sing but eventually she talked. What a moment!

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  2. pretty cool how something like that was able to sneak in and grab hold of her...actually its rather beautiful to see that happen as it gives a little hope...but def so sad those living wiht mental illness....

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    1. I pictured her brain as a neural tangle but music sneaked in and found her.

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  3. That is a wonderful story! Love to hear stories like this...where there are unexpected miracles of connection. Music could apparently achieve what nothing else could. Very touching poem.

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    1. It's what I loved about psych nursing- the marvelous stories I had the privilege to hear.

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    1. It was- I later thanked my father (who loved to sing) for the treasure trove of songs in my memory.

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  5. This touched my heart. It's so good to know there are people like you in this field who care so much. Wonderful.

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    1. It wasn't hard since I met such amazing people as they emerged through treatment. It was a great profession.

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  6. Wonderful poem and story, and how your singing reached her.

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    1. She was a great singer we found out!

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  7. This story is both heart-warming and heart-rending at the same time. Thank you for sharing it on Real Toads.

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  8. Lovely story...I like that she is able to follow and hum along to your songs ~ Thanks for sharing ~

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  9. Music is something we carry the seeds for deep within, I think. A sad story, but not without hope.

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    1. I was reading about working with the elderly and it said the music of our adolescence plants the deepest seeds. Seemed true for her.

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    1. It was a moving experience. It has stayed with me aall these years.

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  11. OH! MY! GOD! What a story!!!!!! Yes, contact. How wonderful. I have read that many people who are mute, or who stutter or who have various difficulties speaking, can SING without apparent problems. Isnt that something? And it KILLED me to read she once used to sing with Benny Goodman.And then, there she was, wandering the halls, a lost soul. Bless you for humming. Bless you for caring. Thanks for telling this story. It is a wonder!

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    1. What I didn't get across here was how lovely her voice was. The rest of the staff were astounded since they knew her longer. I was the new nurse on the staff. In a place like that she really was a lost soul.

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  12. Wow, so glad you shared and how amazing! Music does open pathways to so many facets of one's mind~ I am so happy you were humming and she found her voice!

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    1. Yes, she found her voice, her beautiful voice no longer silent.

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  13. How wonderful you could bring her voice back to her...a bright spot in such heartbreak.

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    1. I think she brought it back and I just kept humming/singing for her.

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  14. Oh that is so poignant. And so true. So beautiful.

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    1. A special moment, for sure. I had many special moments in my career. I'm grateful.

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  16. What a wonderful story came from that chance encounter, allowing her to open up her world and sing again.
    K

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  17. Major mental illness is indeed such a major calamity. This is a heartwarming story--but still so sad.

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  18. Wow, this is an amazing story told with great grace and simplicity. You inspire me.

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    1. Thanks, Sally. Hope your holidays are happy.

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  19. Oh my word, what a story. So sad, but also so human. Some of the responses to my challenge are leaving me fumbling for words that are equal to the pieces being written. Like this one.

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    1. It's where your prompt took me. It was a good one- thanks.

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  20. that took me right back to when I was a child and my grandad had Alzheimer's and was being nursed. really well done

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    1. Thanks, Emma. I've since learned that playing the music of the person's adolescence is the best way to access their memory.

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  21. Hi Mary,i recently visited your blog,i want to say that this post is really lovely,thanks for sharing

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    1. Hi Sunny, thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you liked this.

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  22. ... she turns, humming the same tune!! Powerful, this!

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    1. It was a powerful experience for both of us.

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