Welcome to the Chaos

You have stumbled upon the new blog (i.e. random babblings) of a quirky single mom. A shoot-from-the-hip, anti-pink (yet almost gaggingly perky), non-traditional, can cuss like a sailor but loves insanely and has the save the world syndrome gal who is bracing for a future as a Crazy Cat Lady though she secretly hopes like hell it doesn't come true. Enjoy your stay and feel free to say hi- I don't bite. Well, unless we're dating and you are into that type of thing or you contain peanut butter. >;-)

About Me

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Quirky single mom of two monkeys. I used to beat up the kids that picked on the "special students" during recess. Now I work with those with chronic mental illness. I speak quite a few languages, enjoy coed naked underwater basket weaving, have an addiction to Sushi and humor is my defense mechanism. Arrogant people make my right eye twitch. I'm ambidextrously brained, I will knit for tattoos, I am the friend that everyone comes to for advice and bail money. I pride myself on keeping my eyes, ears, heart and mind open. Making me laugh goes a long way with me, I think the brain is the sexiest organ and I'm the kinda gal you can take anywhere and I'll have a good time. Other than that, I'm just me.


Hustle and Flow

They say in every career in health care you experience one major event. Something so messed up that it stretches way out of the norm. Of course, I like to throw off statistics. I have had a couple of them already. Each one, while Hell at the time, taught me so much. There is indeed a lesson in everything in life. The most recent of these taught me a couple of things. It cemented my belief that treating your staff with respect and nurturing a true team environment will allow you to accomplish anything. It reminded me that even when people make incredibly poor decisions (and are too dimwitted to hide the evidence of it), they can still rise above it and turn themselves around. It proved to me that there are people in this world that really do care about others more than they care about a paycheck. It showed me that the Milwaukee Police Department (specifically District 7) seriously leaves A LOT to be desired. And finally, you have not truly lived until you’ve had a one-legged schizophrenic over your shoulder at 3:30 in the morning.

I was running a 42 bed assisted living facility for those with chronic mental illness. Illness to the point where no one else would take them. When I first started I had a social worker I’d known for years be like “this place will take anyone.” At first I was offended. But, then I decided, damn right we will. EVERYONE deserves a home. We had 36 residents that made up quite the motley crew. But it worked. Damn well at that. The building was an old ass nursing home in a neighborhood most call a “ghetto.” The staff were just as diverse in personalities as the residents. When I began there, those that survived the lunatic bitch that ran the place before were emotionally beat. She was beyond hard on them and you could tell. Morale sucked, but they toughed it out because they loved the Hell outtta those residents. The owners hated the building, the residents and everything to do with it. We were the bastard stepchild. Like flaming red hair, missing digits, cross-eyed, had Tourrettes with a lisp kind of stepchild in their eyes. Not only were we the complete underdogs, but combine the owners’ refusal to put any kind of money in the place, the aforementioned crazy boss and yeah social workers, doctors and even State pretty much hated us when I got there. But, WE worked our asses to change all of that.

And one night we proved every naysayer wrong. There’s not much I love to do more than prove people like that wrong.

It was roughly 3:00am on February 12, 2007 when my work cell rang. Calls at that time of night weren’t all that rare, but this one was way different.

Third shifter: “Umm..I think we’ve got a pipe burst up in the smoke room.”
Me: ”You think?!?”
Them: ”Yeah, there’s some water leaking down into the 1st floor living room.”
Me: ”Hmm….some??”
Them: ”Yeah, that’s what I said. Some.”
Me: “Like how much some?”
Them: “Like dripping some.”
Me: “Ok. Well, keep the residents out of the smoke room and I’ll get a plumber out there right away.”
Them: “Ok”

So, I call around until I find a plumber that can go out in the middle of the night and send them on their merry way over there. I call the staff back to let them know help is on the way. “Cool. Thanks.”

Roughly two minutes later (3:12am) my phone rings again.

“Hi, this is JT from the Milwaukee Fire Department. We’re going to need to shut the power off and you’re going to need to start getting these people out of here miss.”
“Miss, this building is flooding.”
(insert stream of cussing that would rival the dad in The Christmas Story)

It took me approximately 14 minutes to get dressed and haul the 12.9 miles to get to the building.

On my way, I called my boss in Chicago who told me she would “rally” the other buildings’ Administrators and have them grab their facilities’ vans (my facility wasn’t good enough for one) to come help. I then spent the rest of the ride on the phone with my building talking them through what to do. It was all of 12 degrees out that night, snow everywhere, ice lurking. When I pulled up to my building, my heart swelled sooo much with pride. EVERY staff person I had showed up. Most in their pajamas.

I will never forget walking into that building, a place we all called our second home. Water was halfway to my knees and raining down from the ceiling. The only light came from flashing emergency lights. One of my staff described it later as what she pictured the stairwells of the twin towers to be like that fateful day. I’m not sure that I would describe it as such, but the images will never leave me.

We immediately divided the residents up by medical needs. The ones with the most would go to our facility that had a nurse on staff. All charts, medications, treatments and cigarettes (trust me, they lived for smoke time) were grabbed, bagged by resident and ready to go. We assigned residents to each staff per vehicles (who could get in a car vs. needed a van) and started loading.

All of this was done before a single Administrator from another facility showed up.

Through every step of this, all of the residents (you know the ones “too crazy” to “belong” anywhere else) remained perfectly calm. Well, except for Mr. M. when he started some drama over not riding with me. But, he was a bit of comic relief “ If I can’t ride with baby girl, y’all can just leave my ass here to die!” So, I loaded him in his assigned car and gave him a smooch on the cheek. Rumor has it he cussed the whole way to his evacuation spot when he figured out it wasn’t my car.

As I sat worked on loading residents and walkers and wheelchairs and charts (oh my!) I kept noticing police car after police car just drive right on by. The officers would look, but just keep going. I admit after I got my one legged friend in my van and saw the sixth squad car roll by, I was pissed. They ended up stopped at the light right by our facility. Yeah, I admit it was unprofessional, but I couldn’t help it. I yelled “What do you think we’re going on a fucking field trip?” No response from him.

By the time the sun started rising, every resident and all of their necessities were safely relocated to their temporary home. I made the rounds visiting them and my staff that went with them to care for them and it was the only disheartening part of the whole experience. The staff at our “sister” facilities were rude to our residents and our staff. They were completely put out by us invading their space. Which I can honestly understand in some aspects. But knowing what they have been through and knowing the staff that understood them best was there to meet their needs, wouldn’t you have some ounce of compassion?? Had the tables been turned, I know we would have welcomed the newcomers with open arms and made sure they knew they were welcomed.

The company felt no need to move the residents from their evacuation areas. “They can just double up with the residents there for a bit, they’ll be fine.” They were far from fine. They were miserable. Tossed in a new location was hard enough. Yanked from their regular routines was beyond hazardous to triggering behaviors they fought to control. Most importantly, they had bonded with each other and the staff in a manner where we really were a family. One that truly put the fun in dysfunctional. And, we were they only family most of them had. So, I pulled out the big guns. I went through the HFS 83 State codes we were governed by and pulled out every single potential violation we could be sited for. The company HATED me. I was proud. By the end of the day, our entire facility, med cart and all, was moved into our own floor of a hotel.

It took the restoration company an entire month to repair all the damage that had been done and bring the building back up to code. It proved to be one of the longest months of my life. I worked literally every single day. The smell of mold will forever bring back a nauseating feeling. I also know much more about abatement and dealing with contractors than I ever thought I would.

During this whole time, the initial conversation I had that night with third shift bugged me incessantly. Coupled with the fact that the two who were on duty that night were magically transformed into amazing employees, picking up shifts they never would have before and actually charting in a manner they never had and yeah, something stunk in Denmark. Yet, neither would spill. I had investigated to the point where I knew, without a doubt, that they could not have prevented what occurred in any way. There was no way I would tell them that though. But “some” water versus a veritable waterfall weighed on me.

Then one day I was cleaning at the facility, getting it ready for our family to come home, and I just happened to check the DVD player in the first floor living room. The very living room that lay directly under the smoke room. I could have smacked myself for not thinking to do so earlier. In it was a bootleg copy of Hustle and Flow. Oh the irony.


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