“What a long, strange trip it’s been…” ~ The Grateful Dead
If there’s one thing I’ve learned this past week, it’s to never say you’ve bottomed out…’cause there’s always more bottom beneath the ‘bottom’ where you think you are. There’s always more edge to the cliff you think you’re hanging onto. At least there was for me.
Let’s see if I can account for the time I’ve been gone. On Friday at 1:30pm we had a team meeting at CPS office downtown; M watched Jonah for me while my mom, my dad, Andy, me, and various representatives from Jonah’s school and benefit offices met to brainstorm options for my family. After more than two hours it was determined that I could place Jonah in respite care for the weekend – a private home where a local couple would care for Jonah from 10am Saturday until about 7pm on Sunday. Then, so the plan went, we would meet again on Tuesday (the 26th) to determine a more long-term course of action.
On Saturday morning I was nervous but I dropped Jonah off at the private home as planned, where this very kind lady took Jonah’s overnight bag, booster seat, his special ‘blankee’, some of his favorite DVDs, and my list of instructions and details. The lady and her husband take in foster kids all the time, including developmentally disabled and fetal alcohol syndrome children – in fact they had 3 or 4 of these kids in the home when I came – and she assured me that Jonah’s violent behavior was nothing she couldn’t handle. Jonah took to the environment gladly, not clinging to me or seeming upset when I left, which made it easier. I thanked her, she hugged me, and I left.
I whispered a Hail Mary under my breath and headed straight to Colonie Center mall with M to get an eye exam and new glasses at the one-hour shop. Because Jonah is always grabbing at my glasses I figured I could use my old pair as a spare. I bought two pair – one regular and one sunglasses – and then M and I ate in the food court. The whole time I felt very strange, not needing to worry about running out of time before I had to pick Jonah up, and I kept fighting the urge to call and see how he was doing, even though it had only been 2 hours by then since I’d dropped him off.
After the mall M and I headed to the grocery store to shop. Halfway through the store my cell phone rang – it was the lady providing respite care. She explained I’d need to pick Jonah up – that it wasn’t working out. They’d taken a car ride in their big van to ‘leaf peep’ when, without warning, Jonah launched himself at their foster child, an infant with cystic fibrosis, and scratched his face up pretty bad.
Four hours, he lasted. Four hours. Shaking, I hung up, purchased the groceries in my cart, and headed over to get him. I apologized profusely to the woman and was heartsick at the sight of the baby’s scratched and bleeding face. I gathered Jonah’s things and signed some paperwork while M put him in the car.
Then we headed to my house, but before we got there, Jonah attacked again from the backseat. He couldn’t reach us but I was a frazzled mess so I called Four Winds to do an over-the-phone pre-intake screening, an option that had been mentioned at the CPS team meeting on Friday. They told me there were no beds but my case would be reviewed on Monday. “But what can I do until then?” I asked, desperate. They told me to call Mobile Crisis, so I did. Three policemen and a caseworker from CDPC (the Capital District Psychiatric Center) showed up about 15 minutes later and we got a police escort to their crisis unit. When they got Jonah out of the car to walk him inside, he launched an attack so violent it took 3 policeman and M to hold him down. Four times he attacked before they could even get him in the door. Like someone on PCP, my 55-pound boy kicked, bit, scratched, and fought with superhuman strength. Finally they got him into the ‘safe room’ (literally padded with rubber walls, with only a mattress and blanket inside it) and dosed him with some Risperdal. I held it together for a while and then paced the halls, crying in anguish and frustration and helplessness.
We literally lived in the Children’s Waiting Room of the CDPC crisis unit for the next three days and nights.
Part two to follow…