He stumbled into the ER, disheveled, in torn clothes, and smelling of excrement and urine. When the nurses pulled off his boots, much of the skin of his feet came off with them. He was homeless, although at one time he had held a law degree. He had fallen on hard times. He had been struck by a car as he huddled under a blanket near the grocery cart that was his home furnishing, under an overpass. He had an acute subdural hematoma, several fractured ribs, a displaced pelvis, a punctured lung, a lumbar vertebral fracture, a ruptured spleen and a bruised ego. He was a proud man.
Four surgeries later, our trauma team was impressed with his resilience. He was ready to go home, but, of course, he had no home. No insurance. No family he would tell us about. His grocery cart of empty soda pop cans and rags had most probably been stolen.
He had endeared himself to the nurses and all of us. He loved having three warm meals a day brought to him in bed. He would have liked to stay. He talked at length about toxic torts.
Our social worker presented him with three options for placement; where he could go to heal, to receive physical and occupational therapy, to prepare him for the day when, once again, he would be released to the streets, to his home, to begin again.
But wait, he said. He’d like to survey the options. We lent him a phone. He put the word out on the streets. How, we had no idea. But the next day, six homeless persons arrived in his room. He was solemn with us. He would like his associates to have a chance to go and check out his nursing home options. He needed to know where he’d be staying for a while, needed to be sure.
We waited. We got the word. His team had chosen. We sent him to the nursing home of his choice. He ruled the roost there, organized patient meetings designated by age: Anyone over 89 was in command; anyone there over four years was second in command. Anyone with bipolar disease could speak as long as they wished, uninterrupted.
Healed, six weeks later, he returned to his overpass. A friend had found a new grocery cart. He pushed it ahead of him that Christmas to briefly visit again the nursing home that had been his first choice. #LeadingInsights #StoriesofHope