Page 14: The Truth about Joe’s ECT

“Mom, I had no idea,” Don said as they were making their way from Joe’s room to the elevator of the hospital.  “This is normal?”

“Yes, that’s what his doctor keeps telling me.  They’re the professionals.  They must know what they are doing.  Short-term…that’s what they keep saying, short term.”

“But why did he still remember Tessie?” Sharon asked.

“Well, that’s the memory the doctor said that he needs to forget, so I’m guessing that’s why he still needs to keep getting these shock treatments…until he doesn’t remember Tessie anymore.  Then I guess his other memory will come back.”  Or so Christa hoped.

As Christa and her children continued walking down the hallway, Christa heard someone call out, “Mrs. Aden?”

“Yes?” Christa asked cautiously. She turned around and saw one of the nurses that worked on Joe’s floor.

“Yes?  What is it?” Christa asked.

The nurse walked down the hallway toward Christa and motioned to have her come over by her.  She gently pulled her arm to the side of the hallway and leaned in very close to Christa.

“I could probably lose my job for this, but I feel that I need to tell you….”

“Tell me what?” Christa asked.

“Joe…what they are doing to him.  It just isn’t right.  I mean, he doesn’t remember anything, and they just keep giving him more shock treatments.  I’ve never seen anything like it before. He doesn’t remember anything…nothing.”

“Yes, obviously I’ve noticed,” Christa sighed.  “But the doctor told me that this type of memory loss is expected…short term…that it will come back.”

“He has more than short term memory.  Joe doesn’t remember anything.  The other day I heard Alice say that Joe didn’t seem to know how to go to the bathroom.  She thought Joe was just being difficult.  And yesterday, Alice had to show Joe how to eat…he picked up his knife to eat his mashed potatoes.”

“He keeps having these nightmares, too.  He wakes up in the middle of the night just screaming out, ‘Tessie!’  I ran in there one night on my shift, and he was crying and in a cold sweat.  I had to call the doctor to prescribe something to calm him down.”

“But here’s what you need to really know, Mrs. Aden…I know for a fact that they are giving Joe stronger shock treatments than normal.  The doctor said it’s because of Joe’s size…that the electric current they normally use isn’t enough for someone as big as he is.  You have got to tell them to stop.  Joe shouldn’t have any more ECT’s.  They are going to fry his brain…if they haven’t already.”

FACT:  Joe remembers someone telling him that one of the nurses at the hospital called his mother and told her that they should stop giving Joe the treatments because they were too strong and that this type of memory loss was not normal.

Page 14: Visions of the Past

It had become awkwardly quiet in the room as Don and Sharon realized that the person they had come to visit was not the brother they once knew.  Their mother had told them that Joe had forgotten some things, but it didn’t appear like Joe knew what they were talking about.
“Well, I guess we better get goin’.  We’ll…ah…maybe stop by next week, huh?  See how you’re doin’ next week?”  Don stammered.
“Ya, I might not be able to come back to see you in the hospital again, but I’m sure you’ll be home real soon, and I’ll stop over then, OK?”  Sharon said in an apologetic voice.

Don and Sharon gave their mom a hug and said their goodbyes.  Christa was used to Joe not remembering anything, but she knew that this had been hard on Don and Sharon.  She knew they wouldn’t be back to visit him.

As Don and Sharon were leaving Joe’s hospital room, Joe spoke.

“Make Tessie go away, too.”

Don and Sharon froze in their tracks.  Christa turned and looked at Joe, stunned.

“Tessie?!”  Christa urgently asked.  “Joe, how do you remember Tessie?”

“She’s right there,” Joe pointed over to the corner of the room.  “She’s hurt.  She’s crying. I can’t help her.”

Tears came to Christa’s eyes, “Joe, Tessie died.  She’s been gone a long time.”

“No, she’s right there…with me.  She’s mad at me.”  Joe was getting increasingly upset and his voice grew louder with each sentence.  “I pushed her.  I can’t help her.  It’s my fault.  It’s my fault!”

What is Joe’s Connection to the MN Vikings?

The connection between Joe and the MN Vikings legendary Purple People Eaters was in Sunday’s blog post (December 18).  Can you guess what it was?  Leave your answer in the Comments section of this blog.

Page 13: The Visit

“Hey, Joe…how’s it goin’?” 

“Joe, you remember Donny,” Christa said, hoping that Joe would at least speak up and answer with a “Good.”

“Hi Joe, it’s Sharon.  You’re lookin’ good, big brother!” 
Joe just sat there staring at both of them.  No emotion. No response.

“So, I was thinkin’ when you get out of here, I’ve got a friend of mine who needs some work done on his truck, and I told him you were the best diesel mechanic within a hundred miles of here.  Whatdaya say?”

No response from Joe.

“Well, I mean, as soon as you are feelin’ up to it, that is.  I know you probably won’t get back to work right away.”

“Joey, we really miss you,” said Sharon sympathetically.  “We can’t wait until you can come home.  Ted and Hal need you on the city basketball league…they’ve been losin’ ever since you’ve been sick…I mean, not sick, but, well you know, sad…or whatever.”  Sharon rolled her eyes from Joe to the floor, feeling embarrassed and not knowing quite what to say.

“Hey, Mom, are these some of our old pictures?” Don asked excitedly as he grabbed one of the albums and starting paging through the photos.  “Whoa, look it here.  Joe, remember when you got your first Corvette?  Dad was so mad.  He said, ‘No farm boy has any business drivin’ one of those fancy cars.  You’re just gonna get yourself into trouble…or killed!’  And then you went out and bought another one!  You sure showed him!”

“Ya, my friends were all so jealous when I went ridin’ ‘round town with you,” Sharon chimed in.  “It was sooo much fun…I bet you can’t wait until you can get home and drive your Vette again!  You do remember your Corvette, don’t you?”

Christa quickly flipped the pages of the photo album and found a picture of Joe with his first Corvette that he ever bought.  He leaned proudly against the driver’s side of the car.  Next to that picture was a photo of his personalized license plate, MOOSE.

Facts:  Joe owned and drove Corvettes and had personalized license plates, MOOSE.  At one time, he owned two Corvettes.  He played on a city basketball league.  He was a diesel mechanic.

Page 12: Getting Ready for Visitors

It had been a week since Joe was admitted to the psychiatric unit at Mayo Clinic.  There was no improvement in Joe’s memory.  He still did not recognize Christa.  His father, John, came to visit only once as he couldn’t bear to see his son this way. 
Christa, on the other hand, came every day to visit Joe, and every day she brought pictures of Joe and their family.  Christa had taken lots of photos throughout the years, taking great care in placing them in albums, chronologically sorting every image with a date and title.  Every birthday, every holiday, every happy event. 
Today she brought pictures of Joe’s sister, Sharon, and his brother, Don.  They were both coming to visit today, so Christa wanted to show Joe who they were.  If they could at least be somewhat recognizable to Joe by the time they came, it would be less uncomfortable for Sharon and Don and maybe they would come and visit again.

Christa came into Joe’s room, “Hi, Joey.  How are you today?  It’s Momma…do you remember who I am?”  

No response from Joe. It was apparent that he didn’t remember.  Every day was the same.  Christa would open up the photo album, “See, here I am holding you when you were a baby.  Here’s your first birthday.  Oh, and look it here, this is you and your dad with your first car.”

Joe just looked at the pictures and every time Christa asked if he remembered, he either didn’t respond or he would shake his head no.

Christa had just finished showing him pictures of Sharon and Don, explaining to him who they were, when they walked in the room.
Facts:  Christa would bring photos in to help Joe remember who people were.  

Page 11: Joe Learns to Eat Food

After Alice finished explaining what cars were, she regained her stern disposition.  She called the nurses’ station.  “Can you see if Mr. Aden’s dinner will be coming soon?  If not, see if you can put a rush on it.” 

Within a matter of minutes, one of the other nurses came into the room with Joe’s food tray.  “Dinner time!”   

Alice got up from Joe’s bed, grabbed the tray, placed it on the dining cart, and rolled it in front of Joe.  Joe looked at the food.  He didn’t know what to do.

“You just gonna look at the food?  Eat!  How’d you get to be so big and strong if you never eat?” Alice chided.  

Joe just sat there.

Realizing that Joe needed help, the nurse cursed, “Jesus Christ, I don’t know why I get all the tough ones.”

She unrolled his napkin and removed the eating utensils, all nicely wrapped inside, and placed the fork and the knife on Joe’s plate.  Then she laid the napkin on his chest. 

Joe looked at the two silver objects sitting on his plate.  He wasn’t sure what to do.

“Go ahead, eat!” the nurse said as she moved her clenched hand to her mouth in an eating fashion.

Joe looked at her carefully.  He cautiously reached for the knife, put it in the mashed potatoes on his plate, and then moved it up to his mouth, just like the nurse did with her hand.

“No, no!  Not your knife!  You need to use your fork.” 
Joe stared at her.
“Here, let me show you.”  Alice softened a bit and took the knife out of Joe’s hand and replaced it with his fork.  Then she took his hand and helped him scoop some mashed potatoes onto his fork and brought the fork up to his mouth.  “Open wide,” she said.

Joe liked the feel of the mashed potatoes in his mouth.  There was something in his brain that told him he liked the taste of them.  He scooped up another bite with his fork, just as Alice had shown him the first time.  Within three bites, the mashed potatoes were gone.  He wanted more, but he didn’t know how to communicate that, so he just sat there.

“Something to drink?” Alice asked.

Again, Joe remained motionless.

“OK, how about your milk here?” she asked as she handed the milk glass to Joe.  Joe took the glass and put it up to his mouth.  He tried to drink some, but it just dribbled out the sides of his mouth.

“Oh yeah, your mom says you need a straw.”  Alice took the straw laying on the tray, removed the paper and placed it inside of the glass of milk. 
Joe just looked at it.
“OK, watch me,” Alice said.  She put the straw close to her lips, pursed her lips together, opened them just a bit, and drew breath in.  “That’s how you suck it up into your mouth.”

Joe watched her closely and did exactly what Alice had done.  This time, he successfully managed to get the milk into his mouth to quench his thirst.
Facts: Joe didn’t know what eating utensils were, and he did use a knife to scoop his mashed potatoes the first time he saw eating utensils after his shock treatments. Joe did always drink from a straw.

Page 10: Are you Afraid of Cars?

Joe was screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs.  Alice, the nurse, came running into his room.  Grabbing his arm and shaking him, Alice said loudly, “Mr. Aden, wake up!”  You’re having a nightmare!  Wake up!”

Joe opened his eyes.  He saw Alice, but he still saw Tessie, too.  “Help her,” Joe said.

“Help who?”  Alice asked.

“Tessie. She’s hurt.”

“Mr. Aden, no one’s hurt.  Ain’t no one in here except you and me.  You had a bad dream.”  Alice let her guard down, sat down on the side of his bed, and tried to figure out what she could say to comfort Joe.  

Joe looked out his window and saw those objects still going around in circles.  Everything was becoming terribly frightening to him.  Alice could see the fear in his eyes.  Trying to figure out what he was looking at out the window, she asked Joe if he saw someone out the window.  

Joe pointed out the window and said, “Those…moving…they scare me.”  

Alice looked, and she couldn’t figure out for the life of her what he was looking at.  All she saw was a parking ramp.  “Mr. Aden, is there something you see in the parking ramp that scares you?”

“They move,” Joe mumbled.

“Are you talking about the cars?” 
“Don’t know,”  Joe said. 
Not knowing for sure if that was what Joe was referring to, Alice explained to him that the cars would not hurt him.  She explained that people drive cars to take them places.

Joe had a blank look on his face.  He didn’t understand, but he listened.

Facts:  Joe did see the cars outside of his hospital window, going up and down the parking ramp.  He didn’t know what they were, and he was afraid of them.

Page 9: Joe is Afraid

Joe looked out the window of his hospital room and saw a tall structure that had objects moving in circles around the outer edge.  From a distance, the objects looked fairly large.  They went around in a circle from the top of the building to the bottom of the building and then some went around in a circle from the bottom of the building to the top of the building.  Once they got to the bottom of the building, they moved in a straight line away from his sight.  When they got to the top of the building, they stopped.  Joe was afraid, because he didn’t know what they were.  As he kept staring at them, he became hypnotized by their circular motion, and his eyelids began to close.

Then Joe saw her, right in front of his eyes.  She was in the room.  Somehow he knew she was his sister, and he knew her name was Tessie.  There she was, still 3-years-old, and he saw himself, too, as a little boy again.

“Joey, let’s go play…come on, Joey!  Let’s run, run as fast as we can.”

He tried to call out her name, but he couldn’t.  He saw himself, as a child, run after Tessie.  They both were running and laughing, having so much fun.  And then he saw her fall.  He saw the blood from the gash in her forehead.  She looked at him just like she did all the other times and said, “It’s your fault, Joey! It’s your fault!”

Joe just stared at her, just like he did that fateful day.  He did nothing. 

Joe’s eyes popped open.  Where was he?  Where was Tessie?  Where did she go? He looked out the window and saw the objects going round and round.  He was afraid.  Those things were coming to get him. Tessie was getting back at him. He felt trapped. He had no control.  

In a loud voice of desperation, he yelled, “TESSIE!!!”

Facts:  Joe didn’t know what the objects were outside his window, and he was afraid of them.  Joe did often see and/or dream about the accident.

Page 8: Joe’s First Time in the Bathroom

Joe opened his eyes, staring straight ahead at the ceiling.  Today, just like yesterday after his ECT, Alice, the nurse, was there to raise his bed to a sitting position. 
“Time to wake up, Mr. Aden!  Enough rest for you!” bellowed Alice.

There was that person again.  Every time she talked it hurt Joe’s ears.  Joe didn’t have a word for what she sounded like, he just knew he didn’t like it when she talked.

Joe felt an enormous pressure around his stomach.  He took his hand and placed it over his lower belly and groaned.  

“Do you need to go to the bathroom?” Alice asked.

Uncertain, Joe shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, either you do or you don’t!  Right in there,” the nurse pointed to the closed door in Joe’s room.  Joe didn’t move.  “Need help?  You need to ask,” Alice said impatiently. 
She took Joe’s arm and helped him get out of bed and led him over to the door. She opened the door and pointed to the toilet.  She backed out of the bathroom and closed the door.

Joe came out about 10 minutes later.  Alice was holding her clipboard, making notes on Joe’s chart.  “Did you urinate or have a bowel movement, Mr. Aden?”

Joe looked at Alice with a puzzled look on his face.

“Did you pee or poop?” 
“Don’t know.”

Thinking that Joe was just trying to be difficult, Alice went into the bathroom and looked in the toilet.  Clearly he did both, but she noticed that there was no toilet paper in the toilet.
“Mr. Aden, did you wipe? 


“Your butt?”

Joe didn’t understand. 
Alice shook her head in disgust.  “Did you wash your hands?”

“Wash my hands?”

Not knowing whether or not to be concerned or perturbed, Alice explained to Joe what he had just done and why it was important to wash his hands.  She finished with, “Don’t you normally wash your hands when you are done going to the bathroom?” 

“Don’t know, do I?”

What a smart aleck, Alice thought, and she quickly finished filling out Joe’s chart and left shaking her head.

Facts:  This whole posting is true, including the nurse, who Joe described as a “drill sergeant.”

Page Seven: Quiet, Shy Joe

Christa was worried.  She always worried about Joe.  Being the oldest, he had a special place in her heart.  Some people might have even called him “a momma’s boy.” 
It was true—she probably did baby Joe more than the rest of her five children.  She took special care to protect him from what happened that day.  She knew an accident like that could have an emotional impact on a child.  She just wanted Joe to know that he was loved and that it was an accident, something he had no control over. She thanked God every day that she only lost one child that day, not two.

As a young boy, Joe was shy.  He went to St. Mark’s Lutheran School in Elsmore, a small town about a mile from their farm.  The family was members of and attended St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, which was affiliated with the Missouri Synod, a synod that holds one of the most conservative theological teachings among Lutherans.  

Attending a small parochial school in a small town brought its challenges for Joe.  Joe only had five classmates in his grade—one other boy and four girls.  Joe and Ted never really got along.  Ted was outgoing and liked to always tease the girls.  Joe just stood and watched so he wouldn’t get into trouble.  The girls didn’t pay much attention to Joe either.  And, even though he worked hard at everything he did, Joe was just an average student.

Built big and strong, Joe was a hard worker on the farm.  He came home every day after school and went straight out to the barn or out to the field to help his dad.  After his chores were done, he came in the house and ate at least four helpings of food every night.  But at a height of 6’ 5”, and weighing 160 pounds, Joe stayed slim and trim all through high school.

Joe went to the public high school in 9th grade, and it seemed he had trouble making friends.  Christa blamed it on the fact that the public school kids didn’t like the kids that came from St. Mark’s.  Even though he was big, Joe’s quiet demeanor made him a target for relentless teasing from the other kids.  Christa remembered the night that the other boys beat up on Joe after the football game.  He never fought back.  He just came home with bruises and cuts.  Jealous, Christa thought, they were just jealous!   

Facts:  Joe went to a Lutheran school through grade 8, then attended public high school.  He was quiet and shy and picked on by the kids in public school, thought to be because of the animosity between the public and parochial school kids.  He was beat up after a football game.
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