“Pamelia” was one of those patients that we’d see on the Psych unit many times over. She was somewhere in her 50’s and lived in a Home For Adults in New York – a large “group home” sort of place where some people with mental illness lived because they were not very functional and/or didn’t have any family who would/could help them and they weren’t mentally healthy enough to live on their own. At an HFA, which was sometimes a converted hotel, there was staff to help them so they were able to receive the structure and assistance in their lives that they needed. Well, that was it in theory, anyway – many patients said that the various HFAs were hellholes, or one step short of them, and, if truth be known, some of the patients sometimes purposely made themselves look bad so they could come back to us at the hospital (case in point: Gloria).

Pamelia wasn’t like that though – she had been living with Schizophrenia her whole adult life, her meds never really fully kept her in a good place and sometimes they still let her go to the bad place, where the voices in her head became too loud and disturbing and where she did bizarre things like drink gallons of water out of the toilet bowl (No really, it’s true. It’s called Water Intoxication and can cause a condition called hyponatremia, wherein the sodium levels in your body goes way down, which causes your electrolytes to get all screwed up and you can die from it). Most of the time Pamelia would get admitted to the medical floor for hyponatremia first and, once she was stable, would come down to us.

She was a nice enough woman although, as I said, even at her best she wasn’t the most functional. She also had been on a lot of heavy-duty meds for a long, long time so on top of the voices and thought disorder that never did really totally stop, her thought processes weren’t always the quickest. But, just like “out of the mouths of babes,” sometimes that could make for some, shall we say, interesting conversations.

It was a Monday morning and I had just arrived for work. I was passing various patients in the hallway, on my way to the Activities Room, when Pamelia caught up with me.

Pamelia: “Sharon, Sharon, guess what? You’ll never guess what!”
Sharon: “Hi Pamelia, what’s up?”
Pamelia: “Last night on Sunday, we were eating dinner in the dining room,” (she pointed to the big room at the far end of the hall – the one that had an antique buffet in it to make it feel “like home” – except the buffet looked, swear to God, exactly like a casket. Same height, same width, same dimensions. Freaky-looking thing.) “Yeah, we were eating in there. And I started choking on some of my dinner! I couldn’t breathe!”
Sharon: “Really? Oh no! So what happened?”
Pamelia: “You know the Nurse’s Aide whose name is Alda? Well, Alda was in the dining room too and she saw that I was choking. So she wrapped her arms around me and she gave me the Heineken. She had to do it twice! And the food came up and she saved my life!”

Y’know, Pamelia wasn’t always the easiest patient to work with but she did unintentionally made me smile that Monday morning.

The Heineken. 😉