“I used to be a heroin addict, ex-alcoholic too,” he said to me, as his piercing blue eyes looked into mine awaiting judgment and scrutiny. As his nurse anesthetist (student) it took me hundreds of patients later to maintain a neutral response, unscathed by his words but exuding understanding and genuine care instead. After all, I would have to take on his body for the next forty minutes or so. Not only did I have to know what heroin’s effect on the body was and alcohol’s chronic use on his liver, translating into a chronic vitamin deficiency but really how was I going to keep him breathing and safe for the next few minutes keeping his stories in the back of my head?
As I sit here in a Starbucks (after a 10ish hour shift at my 2nd clinical rotation) I can’t help to think about how time is either on your side or not. And for me, I just want to fast forward, become a CRNA, so I can work on endless side projects I have always envisioned. One that sticks out, in particular, is creating a senior center for the Asian community in my neighborhood. Particularly South Asian.
You see, my father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder last summer (coinciding perfectly with the stress of starting summer classes of what I did not anticipate to be the hardest months of my life after) and has been progressing into roller-coaster results. Hospitalized a handful of times of syncope episodes, and medication noncompliance which resulted in being admitted to an inpatient unit. That was not pretty. To watch your father, once an influential surgeon in Bangladesh, Japan, and Vienna regress to childish behavior and being locked up behind the bars of a psychiatric center. Was he always bipolar? Was he just manic all of those times that he had a freak episode in Bangladesh, and people attributed it to him a surgeon?
He’s a lot better now. Besides the fact that he constructed a metallic shiny gate surrounding the perimeter of my house without my mother’s consent I think he is doing quite well. The only other problem is- he is incredibly bored. Amidst his mental disorder, there is just NOTHING to do in my neighborhood besides go to the mosque and pray five times a day. There is no social life. There are no friend circles. Just as we were children, our elderly need to be similarly stimulated or we are faced with a noticeable decline in the activity of daily living. Surrounding retired neighbors are also similarly just as bored as I find them loitering in my backyard, entertaining my dads nonsense bicker.
My point is senior centers need to be a thing. Not just for those who are disabled but for everyone who is getting old. Those are retired and may or may not have grandchildren or means to a hobby. I would love to start this. Back in nursing school for our community nursing clinical rotation we facilitated a “eat better and move more” program for the senior citizen of East Harlem. I would love to mirror this, to have a schedule every day for weight training, walking groups, field trips, educational sessions about nutrition. They seemed to really love it as if they finally had a purpose again. Bangla translators and Bengali young professionals who want to give out pro-bono advice and teaching need apply! 🙂