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Friday, July 9, 2010

The Perils of Parrish


This is how Parrish looked when I first saw him on July 9.

I’m reporting from somewhere over Florida, as I travel to see my son in Miami. Some of you know that Parrish, who was 41 yesterday, suffers from the devastating mental illness called schizoaffective disorder. It’s an unfortunate combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He lives in an assisted living facility (ALF) in Hialeah, Florida.

Why so far from me, you might ask? Six hundred miles is a long way. The short answer isn't really short, but I’ll give it a go.

In 1995, Parrish was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and though a college graduate and all around good guy, he, well, ran off of his tracks. He resisted therapy and assisted living, lived on the streets and in the parks and under the bridges of Atlanta for for 14 years. There were two year stretches when I didn’t know where he was. He was mugged and robbed so many times that he lost all of his teeth. He was bounced in and out of the legal system and the state mental health system. As you probably know, state agencies cannot keep patients against their will for more than seven days without their permission. Every time he was admitted to a state psych hospital, having been deemed by the legal system that he was a danger to himself or others, he was back on the streets in a week.

Finally, in January of 2009, when he was released from a state facility, newly diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, they gave him a bus ticket and two boxed lunches and sent him to a rehab facility in Miami. (Like most untreated bipolar patients, he had long since become alcohol and drug addicted).

After a week, he had deserted, but finally having hit that famous “bottom,” he presented himself once more for help. The director of the center described him this way, “We scraped him off the bottom this time.”

They got him sober and on the anti-psychotic drugs he needs, got him integrated into Social Security disability and had him enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare. Having done their job, they placed him in the ALF where he has resided for a little over a year.

His disease is under good control, though his meds need to be tweaked from time to time. He is clean and sober. In fact, he is more lucid and reasonable and has better judgment than when he was in college.

After all that, the reason he lives so far away from me is twofold. He is where he was when he got clean and sober, 700 miles from his old stomping grounds and his drinking and drugging buddies. It is best for him to stay where he is for that reason alone. Then there is the codependency thing that happens if we are too close. It never works and each of us ends up sicker if I play a big role in his daily life.

Information overload? I hear you.

So, later, after I have had some time with my son, I’ll be ready to edit and post this. I know many of you are already praying for us. Thanks. For others, if prayer is what you do, we could use more. If you communicate with the universe in another way, please include us in your meditations and other spiritual routes. We need all the good energy you can send our way.

Later, in Miami. In my post of 07/05, I wrote:

“I spent a hour in my paper journal. Parrish is in hospital with a spider bite that could have cost him his hand or his arm or even his life. A Brown Recluse bit him on his hand last Monday, while he was taking a nap in his bed in the assisted living facility, and because of their negligence and that of two separate emergency rooms, he is now in hospital at a third facility. He has been there since Thursday, wracked with pain and getting continuous IV antibiotics.”

Now it’s July 9, and I am in Miami with Parrish. He was dismissed from hospital yesterday afternoon, and though his hand and arm still look bad, he is being treated with antibiotics by mouth, and it seems that he will have a full recovery, albiet with a scarred hand.

I had a face-to-face meeting with the owner of the ALF as soon as I arrived, and we came to terms over my disappointment with the way Parrish was treated. He reassured me that, in the future, Parrish will not be denied care when he’s sick or injured. I am not completely comfortable with all of his excuses, and I made that fact clear to him - in a diplomatic way, of course. Parrish and I are planning to shop around for another ALF when the time is right.

This is a hard time for me to be away from home, because I start my new job in two weeks, so we will work on this over the next few months.

Parrish and I had a nice lunch, and we are now resting in our hotel. He is anxious to get back into his mental health program, so he will stay with me until Sunday night when he will return to his ALF in order to be ready for his 8 AM computer class on Monday. I will be flying back to Atlanta later that morning.

I am encouraged by his attitude and the worried Mama in me is somewhat assuaged. To say that I am exhausted from worry and sleep deprivation is, well, an understatement. I’m going to take a nap.

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