Them There Eyes

Them There Eyes- Billie Holiday
Oct. 2007 Bordeaux Hospital

I work the graveyard shift on a lock down Alzheimer’s unit in Nashville Tennessee. Many strange occurrences have taken place there. I am sure that a 120 year history of treating the mentally ill could contribute to such things. Any place that has held the title “Asylum for the Insane” is ripe for strange occurrences.

Now there is the opinion that it is a bad idea to give baby dolls to female elders due to the fact that it promotes disassociation, however families do it all the time. I suppose they do it because of the seeming comfort it gives them. Some thing to look after and nurture, filling the long, lonely hours. The sad truth is that these ladies see the dolls as real . They are not pretending like my seven year old would.

There are many nights when you feel like you are in a zombie movie. Endless people roaming the halls; walking…walking… walking…never getting where they are going, forever lost. This was one such night and one of my elders couldn’t sleep. Some how she was taking care of someone else’s “baby” that night. Around 1 am I finally convinced her to go to her room and try to get some sleep.
When we reached her room she laid her “baby” on the pillows and covered her up. There she sat…staring at the doll. As I tidied the room, I continued to suggest she get some sleep. “There’s something wrong with this baby’s eyes.” she said. “They just don’t look right.” “I’m sure everything is just fine, please don’t worry.” I said.

As the night wore on and I made my rounds each time I found her staring at the doll. And each time I entered the room she repeated “There’s something wrong with this baby’s eyes.” …“They just don’t look right.”

On my last round she was still sitting and staring at the doll. I went about my business preparing to get her roommate up for breakfast. Again she repeated “There’s something wrong with this baby’s eyes.” …“They just don’t look right.” “Please don’t worry.” I consoled “If you want we will get someone to check her out.”

Rummaging through the chest of drawers, I turn around over my right shoulder and distinctly saw the dolls eyes open and close! I said a few choice words walked over and took a closer look at the doll. It sat still no signs of “life”.

My question is how long had this been going on….all night? This poor lady sitting all night looking into the eyes of this doll… not having the where withal to even remove herself from the situation. No fear. Is it a blessing or a curse. To live without unwarranted fear is the goal of any balanced, whole individual. Fear has a purpose on a very primal level and that is to protect and preserve our lives. Alzheimer’s has many harrowing side effects.

The power of suggestion is also a powerful thing. Did this actually happen or was my empathy working overtime? I don’t know but it sure seemed real.

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