Page 20: Joe is Going Home

It had been four weeks since Joe was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Mayo Clinic.  During the last week, Joe started working with therapists to begin helping him relearn basic cognitive and motor skills.

A speech therapist met with him everyday and showed him words, the letters that made up the words, how to pronounce the words, and then showed him the word in the dictionary and read what the word meant.  To Joe, the word was much like his memory.  It existed, but the meaning was void.

Christa still came everyday, too, bringing with her photo albums and visitors of friends and family.  Joe showed interest in the pictures and the visits, but again, just like his memory, they had no context or meaning.  None of it generated any type of feeling or emotion in Joe.  

There was one thing that did generate a feeling inside of Joe, though.  Tessie.  He saw her every day.  Sometimes when he was sleeping and sometimes when he was awake.  Even though he didn’t remember his family or friends, he knew Tessie.  He knew she was his sister.  He knew what a sister was.  And, every time he saw her, he saw himself as a little boy, too.  He saw her fall.  He saw her hurt.  And he saw himself just stand there doing nothing. He saw her say it was his fault.  Every day, this is what he saw.  It wouldn’t go away.

Today, Joe was finally going to go home.  Christa showed up right at noon to pick Joe up.  He was ready and waiting.  As she walked into the room, Joe said, “Hi Mom.”

Christa never thought she would ever hear him call her “Mom” again.  While it meant so much to Christa, it had no meaning to Joe.  “Mom” was just a word that he was told to call this person–the person that had been by his bedside every day for the last four weeks.  He had no knowledge of what a “mom” was or no recollection of what important role his “mom” had played in his life the last 40 years.

FACTS:  Joe did work with therapists to regain speech and learning.  Joe had visions and nightmares of Tessie and the accident frequently.  It was the only thing he remembered.

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