I wrote this some time ago but an obituary in the local paper brought it to mind. I thought I would throw out again in memory.
I worked at a psychiatric hospital in high school assisting insane doctors giving disturbed patients electric shock treatment. I understand there have been strides made in that type of therapy but in 1975 it seemed barbaric at the least.Forty years later I still do not understand the practice.I did meet a very special patient , a man named Rufus , who will forever be with me in my memories.
Rufus was probably six feet eight inches tall and weighed somewhere over 600lbs. All he ever wore were overalls.He never got angry. He was never mean to anyone. He never got better and he never got worse.In fact , there was no reason for Rufus to be in the hospital other than the fact nobody wanted him.We never saw his family and he had no visitors. He apparently came from a well to do family that considered him to be an embarrassment.We were his family and I feel so privileged that even for a brief period I was part of his life.
Rufus was the first patient I ever assisted with electric shock therapy. The effects vary from patient to patient depending on a wide variety of variables. They never remember the treatment even though they are wide awake while it is performed.They tend to be disoriented , euphoric , and physically unstable.A rubber mouthpiece is placed between their teeth to keep them from biting off their tongues or breaking their teeth.They are restrained on the arms , legs and head by leather straps. When the electric current hits them it is exactly what you would expect. It is one of the most disturbing , horrific , sights I have ever witnessed and I have seen some horrible stuff.
The other attendant that day was Artie. Artie was about five feet five inches tall and weighed maybe 130lbs. it was our job to get Rufus up and back to his room. What happened next is fairly predictable but we never saw it coming at the time. I was in front trying to pull Rufus while Artie was behind him pushing when Rufus lost his balance falling backwards pinning Artie to the wall ! I couldn’t even see Artie and I know I shouldn’t have laughed but it was just funny and the more I laughed Rufus laughed.It took us longer than it should have to get Rufus off of Artie because Rufus was having so much fun with the situation. Rufus could make the world laugh. He could also make the world cry.
On one particular visiting day Rufus was extremely depressed.He knew he was different because other patients came and went like revolving doors. But not Rufus. He WAS home and most of the time that was o.k. but sometimes he just wanted to go.On this particular day it was go.Of course this was a secure facility with many locked doors and buzzers to pass through but that didn’t matter to Rufus.He headed towards the door like a gentle, lumbering elephant with me in front of him , both hands against his chest with my feet sliding backwards begging him to stop. He pushed me all the way to the door just by walking and without anger or malice.
The charge nurse that day was was an old retired army nurse who weighed maybe 90lbs but she stood in front of Rufus with one hand on her hip and the other pointing back in the direction where we came from. She never said a word. It was amazing and sad. Rufus just deflated and turned around and said,”I’m sorry Eddie”
All I could manage was ” So am I Rufus.” That night the world cried.
One of the best memories I have of Rufus was one of pure innocence.One particular day after his shower he was despondent. Sitting alone and crying.I had to ask what was wrong because he was usually playful after a shower.
He said,”I ain’t got no wacker !. It had never occurred to me before that Rufus had never seen his penis !I went straight to the old army nurse and explained the situation. With military efficiency and without a smile she pulled out her make up mirror and told me to ” show Rufus his wacker.”
I did and the world smiled.