I heard a story the other day that touched me to my core, and I thought I would share it here. A lady was talking about her son who was in the local hospital. Her son didn’t have a broken leg, or a bad appendix. Her son had a mental health issue, and he was admitted to get his medications reevaluated.
In our local hospital there is a special psychiatric ward, which is a locked down section of the hospital, and security needs to be in place as some of the patients are or can be violent. Some patients have tried to commit suicide, or are very depressed. Whatever the mental illnesses or issues, this ward has very different tools for patient care. One of those tools is a pool table and a ping pong table. There is also a PlayStation 3 and one or two games. What the ward doesn’t have, like the rest of the hospital, are the personal toiletries we all take for granted. If we get sick and have to spend time in the hospital, we still need to bring our tooth brushes, soap, shampoo. All these items most of the patients who are in this ward don’t have access to. They were either homeless or near destitute or they have no family to bring these things to them.
The most amazing thing happened when this lady asked her son what he wanted for Christmas. He told her he didn’t really want anything, but that he did have a couple of items on his Christmas wish list. He wished the pockets on the pool table could be fixed, because the balls kept falling on the floor. He wished they had another ping pong paddle to replace the one that was broken, and maybe one more ball. He wished for some comfortable seats for the TV room. Not one thing on this young man’s Christmas wish list was for himself. It was all small things to make an already really bad time just a little bit better for everyone else.
Every city has at least one major hospital, and I bet there are things their psychiatric ward could use but never get. A simple call can get you all the information you need. Just call them up and ask what they need for their patients. Some of the things mentioned were toothbrushes and individual or small tubes of tooth paste. If you tell your dentist what your plan is he would likely donate some things like brushes or dental floss. Playing cards from the dollar store, or an old board game you have kicking around. Even books and magazines might be very welcome on a floor or ward that doesn’t see many visitors. Ask them what they need or if they can accept certain items. In some cities this secure ward is also the place in the hospital where they may escort criminals, so the restrictions could be different from place to place. I thought about this lady’s story and I called this piece The Forgotten Ones because this is such an obscure place that for most folks, if they knew such a place existed, they never gave it a second thought. This is my second thought. Before you go visit Aunt Jane in the hospital, take a minute to ask the switch board for the nurses station on the Psych. Ward. They’ll know where you mean.