Please Know...

As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

I Pray You A Mary Christmas


A Message from "Banana Man"
Chris Battin      www.bananasandblogs.com
 
Rather than handing out my song sheet during my Christmas visits, I prepared the following letter which seems to have been well received.  Here is a link to the original handout.

The Birth of Jesus

Luke 2:2-20
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. 

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior[1]—yes, the Messiah[2], the Lord[3]—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger[4]. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.


Dear Friends,                                 

I see you in this Bible reading. 

Do you see the star above?  Read those bold words carefully:  And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.    She gave birth to her firstborn son.

"The time came
for her baby to be born."

That means that her body decided it was time for the birth of her son.  Her body had done its part in creating, forming and protecting him. 

Between those two lines:

The time came… & …She gave birth

Mary endured a lot of physical pain and discomfort.  If you're a lady who has given birth, you know this first hand.  Even if it was made less intense by medical help, you didn't have a choice but to go through some pain and discomfort.  Guys, if you're a Dad, your lady endured a lot of pain and discomfort so as to give birth to that new life.  If you're not a parent, you can know that the woman who birthed you endured pain and discomfort so as to bring you into this world.  

Your body or that of your lady or Mom decided the time had come to go through the pain and discomfort and give birth to a new life.

With the birth of her Son, Mary would have all but forgotten the pain and discomfort of childbirth.  She may have forgiven the misery and been thankful that it was over.  She would have looked into the eyes of her Son, this new life in her arms, and decided that for as rough as it may have been, enduring the pain and discomfort was worth it.  


Be Mary.
                                                               
There's a new life inside of you waiting to be born.  To give birth to your new life, even with medical help, you must endure some amount of pain and discomfort.  When you are ready, I encourage you to see the pain and discomfort of detox and withdrawal as the labor pains preceding the birth of your new life.  Upon the successful delivery of your new life, your pain will be all but forgotten.  Like Mary as she raised her son, you will raise your new you.

Mary's body decided it was time to give birth to this new life.  It was not her decision as to when this would happen.  It is your decision as to when to go through your pain and discomfort and give birth to your new life.

You've heard it said that you must hit "rock bottom" before your moment of decision comes.  Mary went through her pain and discomfort so as to give birth to your Rock.  You do not have to wait for the circumstances of your life to take you to that rock bottom moment of decision.  You can call out to Jesus, The Son of Mary, The Son of God, The Rock, to be your Rock to bear your pain and discomfort while you give birth to your new you. 

In the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.

Thank you for being you!  You are very much loved in the Name of Jesus, the Son of Mary, The Son of God, Your Rock if you so choose, whose birth we celebrate!

Peace,                             
Chris

Romans 10:9-10 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.





[1] somebody who rescues somebody or something from harm or danger
[2] in Christianity, Jesus Christ regarded as the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible
[3] in Christianity, God or Jesus Christ
[4] a trough from which livestock eat

Saturday, December 21, 2019

My Christmas Letter to "Diane"


Dear Diane,
          
I only knew you for a couple of years as you lived inside your naturally raspy-voiced elegant pure gold and fine porcelain container.  From day one, your inner spirit, overflowing with the Love of your LORD and Savior shined bright within the environment in which we first met.  You quickly became the inner portion of my inner circle of friends who allowed me into their lives in that sad setting.  Even in your hardest and most challenging days, your Faith-In-Christ Filled Spirit Burned Bright.

Diane, I only knew you for a couple of years.  I cannot begin to know the pain of missing you that your Mom, Dad, Sisters, Step Dad, Aunts, Cousins, further extended family and most of all those two precious living memorials to whom you gave birth, as well as your best friend and co-creator thereof, are going through.

Diane, I do thank you for your final letter to me that you wrote ten days before you went Home and arrived to me three days after you arrived Home.  


Not that I needed to know it but with this statement in your own writing, I and all who love you can know beyond the shadow of any doubt that you are alive and well in a way that none of us can fully understand. 

Help us LORD and help us Diane to follow Christ's Ways of doing life on this earth so that one day, we can all be together again in HIS, YOUR and in each other's presence.  In Jesus' Holy Name I pray.  Amen.

In the meantime Diane, we cry for your absence from us and experience our saddest ever of Christmases.  However, in knowing that you are with your LORD for the first time in your never-ending eternal eternity celebrating His birth in His actual and factual presence, we can know Joy upon Joy for you our dear Mommy, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, lover, all other manners of relationship plus friend.

And so, Diane, I thank you for being exactly who you were on earth and who you are in Eternity and I humbly gift to you the following which seems to sum up all I'm trying to say…



Your temporarily heartbroken and eternally Joy-Filled friend,

Chris


Thursday, December 19, 2019

"A" is "A."


Time and time again, I hear well-meaning people in various aspects of service to men and women from the street make comments such as:

They lie.
They are thieves.
They are con artists.
They say one thing to your face but don't follow up with their actions.
They can't be counted on.
They are disorganized.
They are unreliable.
They don't really want healing.
They can't be trusted.
Etc…

They may carry names such as B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. 

But

"A" now lays on your cot in your E.R. injured or ill or recently overdosed.
"A" is your client in need of food or clothes or housing or hug or handshake.
"A" wants to feel welcome in your place of worship.
"A" says they want help.
"A" needs the professional guidance and support that you can provide.
"A" states that they don't ever want to go back to drugs and the streets.
"A" plans to never do another "date."
"A" wants to learn a new trade.
"A" wants to go back to school.
"A" wants to be back in relationship with his/her children.
"A" wants to hug their parent before that parent's new diagnosis claims them.
"A" wants…
"A" needs…
"A" hopes…
"A" dreams…


Did B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z let you down in some way as you've interacted with them?  Yes?  That is disappointing.

Make it just that: a disappointment in that situation with B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, or Z.

Don't make disappointment your expectation for your interaction with "A".

"A" is not B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, nor Z.

"A" is "A."

"Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is.
Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be."
- Stephen R. Covey


"If you treat "A" as you feel they are,
They will live down to your expectations.

If you treat "A" as you feel they can be,
They will live up to your expectations.
- Paraphrased by Chris Battin from Stephen R. Covey

"A" is "A."

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Substance Use Disorder and An F2 Tornado


As I start writing this blog, I’m sitting in Concord Auto Body Shop six weeks after getting a bit to close to an F2 tornado on October 31 while driving home from my employment at Recovery Centers of America.  A very large tree branch found the back door window on the driver's side.  It is being replaced with the same window of a deceased car of the same model that gave its life just a few days ago when its driver wanted to be in the same location as the car in front of them.  I’ve been told that this minor surgery will take, at most, a couple of hours.  

Forty minutes from where I sit, a person I know and love from the streets of Kensington is suffering from a medical situation that very much needs a procedure for healing that will take a couple of hours.  Having been in the hospital recently for the early stages of this same situation, and, having not been treated for her growing withdraw symptoms while she was being treated for this, she signed out AMA[1] in agony with symptoms that she knew she could relieve on her own with one injection of “Medicine.”  

Her faith in the medical system was injured by this lack of care of treating the all of her and not the selected symptoms of her one at a time.  This and the accompanying lack of compassion as representatives of Hippocrates withdrew from her out of their own discomfort of being yelled at as her suffering grew leaves her reluctant to try again to get the care she knows she needs.

And so she sits in a park or walks the streets and begs and seeks ways to find funds to support her medicinal needs as a medical situation secondary to her SUD[2] grows in its critical need for attention.  

It would have been so much more beneficial for her and the hospital to heal her in her entirety.  To start her medical care with her socially accepted symptoms and then move to those symptoms of a disease that finds itself in the file of “Socially Stigmatized Diseases” is to not treat the patient in her entirety.  

To make her whole again, you, representatives of Hippocrates, must treat her in her wholeness and not symptom by symptom.

My car is almost ready to roll.  She’s still in agony.

P.S. If you ever need auto body work, please consider Concord Auto Body Shop! :)





[1] Against Medical Advice
[2] Substance Use Disorder

Monday, December 9, 2019

Where do you start to fix a broken system?


Have you ever seen so many broken parts in a given situation that you don't know where to begin with efforts to repair something?  That's where I am in my thinking in regard to how our society is handling this opioid issue.

There are so many areas that need repair.  Maybe, if we focus on one specific area, some of the "lesser" areas may be, somehow, automatically repaired.  I don't know…

In my efforts to understand the differences between how private insurance reimburses detox and rehab facilities compared with the Medicaid system, I've been told the following:

Private insurance pays $800 to $1,000 per day for detox and rehab services.
Medicaid pays $150 to $200 per day for detox and rehab services.

The result of this difference is that nearly 100% of the people on the streets of Kensington who are trapped in the addicted and resulting homeless phase of their Substance Use Disorder are reliant on Medicaid and cannot easily gain entry into detox facilities that provide care with the dignity and respect which is due to any human being.

The typical time spent in the first phase of detox and rehab is 30 days.  That means that:

Private insurance pays out $24,000 to $30,000.

Medicaid Insurance pays out $4,500 to $6,000.

The argument is made that Medicaid and our society simply cannot afford to pay private insurance rates for care.  Here's the flaw in that thinking…

The end result of not paying private insurance rates for medical treatment due to our citizens with Substance Use Disorder is a tremendous financial expense that comes along as a result of not paying upfront. 

The following is a very incomplete list: 
  • Additional police coverage in areas where homeless Substance Use Disorder patients gather
  • Medic units that try to keep up with all of the overdose calls and supplying Narcan to those who choose to carry it
  • Shelters
  • Jail and not rehab beds filled with Substance Use Disorder patients.
  • Guard's wages and administrator's salaries at those jails
  • Court expenses: Judges' salaries, their offices, and staff...  The courtrooms themselves
  • Medical expenses to emergency rooms and hospitalizations for issues that are the result of being homeless but are not specifically the Substance Use Disorder itself.  Examples are pneumonia, broken bones, cuts, etc.
  • A lifetime of lost tax revenue from that 25-year-old who could have found healing and has overdosed.
  • That same person's child(ren) who may end up being raised by their grandparents who are on limited retirement incomes or moved to the foster care system and the costs related to that process.
  • Funds spent by outreach groups trying to do what they can in light of our societal absence of proper funding and care to these Substance Use Disorder patients.
  • Funeral expenses


I'm sure that you can add other items to this list. 

In doing what I do on the streets of Kensington, I hand out Christian song sheets.  Each one has the following statement on it:

Say this to yourself every hour of every day:
I am an inspirational human being made in the image of God and I am worthy of dignity, honor, respect and love.

As a society, we must treat our Substance Use Disorder citizens accordingly.



Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Make Hippocrates proud of you!


Charles is a stubborn man in his upper 80s.  He lives alone in a ranch style house and gets around in a wheelchair that is leashed to his bedroom by a very long oxygen tube that often gets tangled as he rolls from room to room.

He's grumpy and never tells people anything about his health.  He's not interested nor ready to get help for a noticeable difficulty with breathing that started a few days ago.  Determined to keep going in his independence, his breathing shallows to the point that he gets dizzy upon any exertion.  Still determined to not call for help, he struggles to stand up to put on his sweater that is on a hook at the top of his basements steps.  It's more effort than his ailing body can absorb.  He passes out, falls down the steps and lays there until his son stops in for a random visit the next morning.

Finding his dad at the bottom of the steps urine-soaked and soiled, the son calls 911.  The ambulance, medics, and police arrive and take him to the hospital for care of his obviously broken wrist and lower leg.  At the hospital, it's also discovered that he has very advanced pneumonia which the doctors immediately recognize as the primary cause of Charles having passed out and fallen.

Casts are placed around the broken bones and antibiotic therapy is immediately provided to clear up the pneumonia.  About a week later, Charles is transferred to a nursing home for therapy and rehab of his broken bones and to monitor is clearing pneumonia.  

**********

Hannah is a delightful and stubborn woman in her 20s.  She lives on the streets, gets around by foot and finds food for the day at local outreach ministries.  She's been on the street for years as she does what she needs to do in her life as a homeless woman with Substance Use Disorder in its addicted phase.

She's settled into a routine of what drug combinations she prefers and has avoided overdose until recently.  For reasons that she can't identify, she's overdosed four times in two weeks and[1] been revived by Narcan each time.  At her third overdose, she was taken to a very local hospital where the nurse told her to get out.  Hannah returned to the street and overdosed for her fourth time four days later.  This time, she fell and caused enough of a bodily injury that she had to be taken to a more advanced local hospital that could handle her injuries.  And that the hospital did. 

They tended to her injuries which were the direct result of falling as she overdosed from her use of street drugs.  While fully aware of her use of drugs, the hospital, according to their policy, did not treat her symptoms of dope sickness that were increasing by the hour and day.  "We don't detox patients on this floor.  Detox is done in a different unit." They explained to me.

With four days of medical care for her injuries and no real care for her dope sickness, to relieve that sickness, Hannah signed out AMA[2], made her way to Kensington, consumed her first bag of medicine and began to…

As you read this, Hannah's story is unfolding on the street in a way that could oh so easily march her right into her fifth and final overdose.

**********

Charles' fall and resulting broken bones were the result of passing out due to insufficient breathing caused by pneumonia.  The hospital treated his injuries and his illness simultaneously.

Hannah's fall and resulting injuries were the result of passing out due to overdose caused by street drug use.  The hospital treated her injuries and would have treated her withdrawal issues only upon transfer to the detox unit.

Charles was transferred to a nursing home where his healing continued under the watchful eye of professionals who have pledged their careers to the Hippocratic Oath.

Hannah transferred herself to the street since it's far faster to do a quick date for the money to buy a bag of drug and relieve her dope sickness than it is to wait a few more days to be transferred to the "proper unit."

In a few weeks, Charles will be heading home, this time with arrangements for a daily visit by a community nurse.

Hannah, well, Hannah might be dead by now.  I don't know.  She may be deceased by an overdose that could have been avoided if the hospital had treated her in her entirety and not symptom by symptom. 

Now that Charles is home, his son visits him on a daily basis and asks him why he's so stubborn.  They laugh about it a bit as Charles agrees to be more honest about his health issues.

My concern for Hannah is that the day will come when her cousin will hold Hannah's youngest child in her arms as that child looks down at Hannah and ask "Why is my Mommy asleep in that pretty box?"

**********

When a patient of Substance Use Disorder is admitted to a hospital for treatment of any injury or illness, that hospital MUST do everything within modern scientific understanding to provide comfort and relief of withdrawal symptoms while they attend to the illness and injury. 

Make Hippocrates proud of you!



[1] , because she injects in public, has been seen overdosing and
[2] Against Medical Advice



I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

—Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The "Cure" Is Worse Than The "Problem."


Today, for the first time in the three years that I have been visiting the people on the streets of Kensington, a new and disturbing thought hit me…

While acknowledging and being thankful for pockets of success…

Sadly, the inept[1], unprofessional, cruel, incompetent, non-respectful, etc. etc, etc. responses by people who have pledged themselves to integrity in government or their medical careers to Hippocrates have largely been an utter failure in making better to any real degree this national tragedy within homeless addicted people diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder.

The men and women of SUD themselves, in their attempts to maintain self developed safety guidelines had been doing an amazing job.  For example, 

To the untrained eye, a bunch of people living in tents under a bridge are labeled “addicts” “whores” “moral incompetents” and other uneducated, painful, derogatory references.

Looking more closely, however, you would have discovered a gathering of people bound together by an officially recognized disease of SUD and who are in the addicted phase thereof.   In the absence of respectful, timely medical treatment at the Medicaid level of care, they have no real choice other than to continue to take their "medicine".  

In the absence of being able to find w-2 type employment they must resort to various forms of less dignified ‘service jobs’.  For the men: this might include hauling loose metal to junkyards to redeem for cash or for the ladies: renting their bodies for, well, you know…

They gather in these communities for one overriding reason.  Their needed medicine can kill them.  They know this.  So as to avoid this possibility as much as can be, they gather together to inject.  If one person starts to overdose, someone else will see this happening and provide Narcan.  In so doing they save each other’s lives.  

The number of saves of homeless SUD patients by other homeless SUD patients will shock you.  153… 76… 43… 25…  These are real numbers presented to me by four street residents.  That’s a lot of non-dead relatives and funerals that didn’t happen.

By being in community, they maintain their own grassroots level overdose prevention sites.  Well, we need to put that in past tense.  These coherent communities were deleted by the City of Brotherly Love in their efforts to “clean up” the problem of “addicts” injecting in the open.

The end result has been an increase in the number of orphans as their Moms/Dads or both have overdosed in the solitude of an abandoned house, back alley or other such settings

and

Moms and Dads of these men and women who suffered from SUD who have had to bury their daughters and sons.  

There are many other examples of how these medical patients have been failed by those who were pledged through oaths of office and Hippocrates to serve, protect and do no harm.

Judicial practices plant these medical patients in cells designed for criminals for months on end and with no rehabilitation during this time of “mental rot.”

Subsidized housing offers protection from the street but increases the likelihood of solitary injecting in rentals that are not abandoned but largely slumlord managed.  

When any of these Medicaid reliant SUD patients decide they have had enough, they must climb what I’m calling “Medicaid Mountain” so as to get to their personal path of healing.  Most don’t make it as they navigate narrow ledge trails on the sides of this mountain through bureaucratic procedural obstacles and attitudes of supposed professionals who they encounter along the way.  

So, you may be asking…  What was that disturbing thought that I had earlier today?  

Given that the homeless men and women of SUD had already established their own Overdose Prevention Sites and were saving each other at astounding rates and given the low quality of care that these children of God receive on the narrow cliffs of Medicaid Mountain from the larger community, it’s sadly safe to concur that the current ‘cure’ for the problems associated with SUD in its addicted and homeless phase is much worse than the "problems" themselves.



[1] not in keeping with what is right or proper for the circumstances