Saturday, July 16, 2011
Eva Hudson Is Alive: A Story About Magic
*This is a true story but i have changed the names of those involves to protect their identities.
Eva Hudson sat on the toilet, her shirt off, from 1-8pm mumbling to imaginary people, and sobbing occasionally. She refused food, she refused drink, and she refused company.
I got to her house around 4pm the next day, and there she was again on the toilet after a sleepless night of manic mumbling. She hadn't showered in a week either. As caregivers we are responsible to help her with the basics of life, which include hygiene and diet. She refused help in both areas. What could we do?
The house manager, Amy, raised her voice at Eva, riding the fine line between commanding and strongly encouraging her to join us for dinner. Eva continued in her stubborness and yelled, "Leave me alone! I need space! Don't talk to me! I won't listen to you! I can't eat!" The voices wouldn't let her eat. They wouldn't let her leave the bathroom.
"Eva Hudson died," she said, "She's dead."
"Eva is not dead! Eva is alive and she needs to eat!" Amy said. We decided that talking to her in the third person might help. Lately she is so confused; she can't tell that "you" is her. She can't hear us over the voices, and sometimes we have to say her name three or four times loudly before she even notices that we're talking.
This continued for sometimes, and frustrated the house manager went back to the table and joined the other client and I for supper.
An hour past before Eva left the bathroom and returned to her room. She kept repeating, "Eva died." Or she would say, "Amy you have a phone call! They're going to tell you that Eva died this morning!" She talked to her "friends" about other things too, and we listened in from the living room on the baby monitor.
At 8pm I went to her room to offer her the 8pm meds she is prescribed. The meds are supposed to calm her, help her sleep, help lessen the psychotic behavior, maybe quiet down the voices. The pills may or may not do their the job. She refused the meds at first, but then when I offered her dinner as well, she walked with me to the kitchen and ate, and took her meds.
She asked me to do her hair after eating, and I agreed. Amy took this opportunity to tell Eva that she needs to wash her hair before I could brush it. So I washed her hair and she cooperated. The voices tell her she can't take a shower, so we had to wash it in her bathroom sink, using cups to rinse out the mess.
Her hair was mess a of mats and dreads. I combed it as best I could, and piece by piece, picked apart the tangles until her hair was again smooth and soft like it used to be.
This is something we say a lot about Eva, "She used to be." I never knew the original Eva, but I hear she was a lot of fun. She loved to watch baseball and sing her heart out to country music while driving. She'd make up the words if she didn't know them. She was sweet and she loved to laugh. For a woman with MR, she was very high functioning. She can read, cook, work, and budget her own money.
But last November things changed. She stopped sleeping, and she started talking to imaginary people, and she became angry and preferred isolation over the company of her staff and peers. She became verbally and physically aggressive. She had to move out of her original apartment to a new house for fear of mountain lions. She was convinced that mountain lions would eat her if she stayed in that house.
Eva rarely goes outside now, and usually she only leaves her room to eat. She loves to eat, well, until a few days ago she did. She fears the outdoors, the mountain lions.
"Eva died. She choked on a hot dog." she said, and later, "Eva died. She got bitten by a mountain lion." or "Eva died. She got stabbed in the head."
I listened to her delusional conversations while quietly brushing her hair. Occasionally she would smile at me, as if realizing I was there. She said, "You're a nice person." And asked me to do her make-up. I did. See, we'll do anything to see the old Eva back. We'll do anything to keep her from being a hermit in her room for the rest of her days. She's in her 30s, the lady deserves some pampering, some fun, but she's troubled.
I did her nails too, a strawberry red. She cried as I clipped her nails, as if it hurt her. I was gentle, and hummed as I painted her nails. But suddenly she started crying, then she started sobbing. "Eva, what's wrong? You're okay!" I touched her shoulders, and she looked at me confused, again as if she had never seen me before. She buried her face in her shoulder and continued in tears. She wouldn't talk to me.
I finished her nails and she ate some pudding while sniffling, and then I lead her to bed. Before she would lay down however, I checked every nick and cranny to scare away the monsters. "It's safe here. I checked," I said, and she shivered but went to bed.
That night, while in bed speaking maniacally, lost in her delusional life, she repeated 56 times that Eva Hudson was dead. I was so disturbed and troubled. She’d yell at us to shut up if we said, “Eva Hudson is alive.” I cried that night for her and for my inability to help her. The next day, I prayed with her, but she was angry all day and hardly ate or spoke to me.
Then tonight happened. Tonight was magic. I can’t explain it except that I saw a glimpse of the woman others reminisce about.
All day she had been growly and upset at Amy and the other staff that was at her house. She had refused lunch too. I came at 4pm again, and around 5pm I went to her room and again she was shirtless, standing in the middle of her room staring into space. I asked her if she was hungry
“A little bit,” She said quietly.
“Well food will be ready in about a half hour, would you like to come help me cook?” I asked.
She didn’t answer me, but followed me to the kitchen. I quickly grabbed a shirt from her room, and prompted her to put it on. She did, without complaining. We ate spaghetti with chicken and we took turns stirring the chicken on the frying pan. She would smile at me sometimes and say, “I’m making good choices. Are you proud of me? No aggression.” I was very proud of her. These were baby steps.
The magic happened after her 8pm meds. She asked me again to do her hair, so I washed it in the sink, and began to brush it.
“What songs do I know?” She asked me suddenly.
“Oh, umm, well I heard you singing the national anthem the other day. You know that one.” I said, surprised.
“Oh ya I do!”
“Oh say can you see…” Together we sang, off key, missing the high notes, and she laughed. “Oh I know this one!” She said, excited. “He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got the whole world in his hands…” And again we sang in perfect unison.
Can anyone understand it? The feeling of seeing such a troubled girl laugh and sing? It was marvelous, and I couldn’t let it end. She didn’t want it to end either.
“Can I listen to the radio?” she asked.
“Oh of course! Let me get it.” I tuned it to the 105.7 Cattle Country, and I didn’t know the song that played but we sang it anyway, making up words and dancing. Head banging, shaking our booties, and lifting our hands. Every time there was a commercial I would change the station and we’d dance to something else.
“You gotta keep your head up ooooh oooh! And you can’t let your head down oooh ohhh!” sang Andy Grammer. What perfect words, and our heads were high. How long had it been since she was happy, since she had thrown back her head and laughed?
I brushed her hair while Coldplay “Viva La Vida” played and she told me that I’m a nice person. “You’re a nice person too Eva.”
“Sometimes,” she said.
“You are now. This is Eva. You are nice.” I assured her. She was herself. It was like she knew then who she was and what was going on. Eva Hudson was alive.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“I don’t like to tell people how old I am. I’m a lady,” she told me.
“OH! I’m sorry that’s right! I should NEVER ask a lady her age!” she laughed again as did I.
Lady Gaga “Poker Face” came on and to my surprise she cried, “Oh I know this song! I know this song!”
And in the kitchen we rocked out again. I took a video of it, so I’d never forget the magic. Oh the power of music. The freeing power of God!
I did her make-up and told her that she looked beautiful. She wanted me to take a picture of her and I did. She could barely keep her eyes open at this point, and as she got more tired, she fell into her delusion again. Mumbling to the imaginary people, and keeping me at a distance.
But it doesn’t matter that it only lasted a little while. It matters that she was Eva Hudson for the first time in eight months! It matters that she was happy, and free, and she danced and she talked to me rationally. She understood what was going on. She was there. Eva Hudson is alive.