When someone has had a stroke with severe memory and speech impairment, it’s hard to gage what they can remember, what they do remember, what they understand, and what they don’t. Such was the case with Deacon Floyd.
When he was brought to us, they put him on 3rd Station which had a circular brick nursing desk. They placed him in what’s called a “Geri-chair.” This is a reclining chair with a tray in front so the patient cannot get out of it (usually).
I was sitting in the 3rd Station dining room with one of the CNAs’ when I noticed Mr. Floyd struggling to sit up. Having had a stroke he leaned to the right side and was trying to push himself into a sitting position. We sat him up a few times during my break, when walking through the dining room, or even when we just saw him struggling.
After two weeks of being in the nursing home, I went to him, not knowing if he could comprehend what I was saying, and said to him, “If you can sit up straight for a week, I’ll put you in a wheelchair.”
He laughed and hit his hand on the table of his chair. I didn’t know if that meant he understood me or not but, I took the tray off and set the chair upright. I was nervous but if he could improve, I was willing to take the chance.
As a rule, Anne worked 3rd Station as the charge nurse for 7-3 Shift. Blanche was the 3-11 charge nurse, and Linda was the 11-7 charge nurse. As the float nurse on 3-11 shift, I was always Blanche’s relief. Since I worked that floor on a regular basis, I was able to check on his progress.
For a week, Mr. Floyd sat up straight. When I came on the floor for my shift, Mr. Floyd saw me. He laughed and hit his table. Did he know it had been a week?
I went to him and as promised, I put him in a wheelchair. I watched him closely for the first part of the shift and realized he didn’t know how to maneuver the chair. When my work was caught up enough, I got a chair of my own and showed him how to move around in it. We must have circled that brick desk 100 times. He never did get it exactly right but he did get it. He learned how to move the chair where he wanted to go.
I reported it to the 11-7 nurse and asked Linda to pass it along to Anne in the morning. “Please ask Anne to follow up with the wheelchair and I’ll say something to Blanche when she comes back from her days off.”
The word was passed and they too put Mr. Floyd in a wheelchair. About a month later, one of the CNAs’ told me he could walk from the bathroom to the bed. His wife and daughter already tipped me off that his favorite candy bar was a Snickers bar.
I wheeled Mr. Floyd to the canteen room and bought a Snickers bar then took him back to the desk. “If you can walk to your room from here, you can have this candy bar,” I said to him. His room was only three doors from the desk.
He laughed and hit his chair. I quickly learned, that meant he understood me. He walked to his room and ate his candy bar. I went in and told him, “Every night that you walk to your room, I will buy you a Snickers bar. Even if I’m not working the floor, the girls will let me know that you did it and I’ll bring it to you or they will.”
I passed this information on too. Much to my delight, Anne had her staff walk him to the desk in the morning. She also notified Physical Therapy and set him up for “gait retraining.”
Within weeks, his wife Getha was able to take him home on weekends because now, Deacon Floyd could walk and use the bathroom. He wasn’t incontinent like he was before. Although still confined to a wheelchair, he still had a little more freedom of mobility. As a team, we had all worked together to help him achieve that success.
True to my words, every time they put him to bed and he had walked, one of the CNAs’ would page me over the PA system, “Michelle, Deac’s in the bed,” and I’d bring him his candy or send it over.
It wasn’t all Snicker’s and Reese’s Pieces either. There was one night we lost him. When it was time for his nightly jaunt to his room, he was missing. I got on the PA system and paged him to the floor. Since he could roll around in the chair, he could have been anywhere.
Suddenly, I heard something banging against the staff’s bathroom door. I opened it. There he was. Mr. Floyd had gotten stuck in the bathroom. He’d heard his name and was trying to answer us.
“What are you doing?” I inquired as I wheeled him out of the bathroom. Mr. Floyd laughed and pointed to the toilet. “You need to use the bathroom?”
He shook his head that he didn’t but I looked, he’d already gone to the bathroom and got himself back into the chair. His pants were down under his butt, but considering his condition, he did a great job!
The next time we lost him, I paged him again and the nurse from 2nd Station called me, “He’s down here in the canteen room.”
I went down to the snack machines and there sat Deacon Floyd tapping on the machine where the Snickers bar was hanging. He was saying, “I want that, I want that.” He was ready for bed and was looking for his chocolate
We 3rd Station nurses and staff had created a monster. It was hard keeping up with him but for what it’s worth; it was great and we were all so proud of him and his accomplishment. His success was our success. That’s one patient I don’t think any of us will ever forget.