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Sister Ignatia

Excerpt of Talk, 1960

However Doctor was so straightforward that I enjoyed working with him. And one day he told… he looked rather down. We used to have our little chats and this morning when he came in, he looked a rather down. I said, “Doctor, what’s the trouble this morning?” Well, then he told me, he said “Well Sister,” he said, “I might as well tell you that I came in contact with a New York broker and I’ve had a drinking problem for a long time and somehow we got together and we vowed, tried to work out something that would help these drunks,” he said. Well, he said “We’ve been trying it out, they tried a few rest homes,” and he had some in the other hospitals, and he said “Sister would you consider taking one?” Well, I hesitated because some time before, oh probably some months before, I took a man in who, oh he looked—I didn’t, I didn’t know much about this drinking. [audience laughter] I mean, I knew some could drink and handle it, while others couldn’t. So they go into the emergency and I went down and talked with them, and oh, he said “Sister if I could just lie down a little while.” He worked at the city garage and looked like a very respectable person. “I had been drinking a little too much and I want to get straightened out,” which I thought was a good thing. Well the only bed that we had at the time was a bed in a four-bed room. Then we knew nothing about special treatment and I assigned him to the man on service, on medical service, and registered him, put him to bed, and I said “You won’t cause any trouble?” “Oh no,” he’d be an angel! [audience laughter] Well I forgot about him. When I came over early the next morning the night supervisor, who was a tall Sister—we always teased her about her big feet—well she was standing at the door waiting for me. She said “The next time you take a DT in this place, please stay up all night and run around after him as we have.” [audience laughter] That wasn’t the end of it either. I decided then that that’s enough. I often felt sorry to see them turned away, but I was not the last word in the hospital. So when doctor proposed my taking a reaI… as I thought a real drunk [audience laughter]—well you could imagine my misgivings. I thought oh dear me! I told him about this experience and I said “Doctor, not only will I be put out but,” I said, “the patients and everything else.” I said “I don’t think they want alcoholics.” He said “Sister this patient won’t give you a bit of trouble because I will medicate him, I’ll assure you.” Well I had much confidence in him because he never said anything that wasn’t so and I’ll always say that. Well very fearfully I said “Well doctor I shall take him then and put him in a two-bed room.” I thought I was doing pretty well because we were so crowded in those days and beds were at rather a premium. So I took him to this two-bed room, the doctor—pardon me—the doctor went up and medicated him and everything, and I thought, well, I figured I wouldn’t hear much till the next morning anyway if there was any trouble. So there wasn’t a word about it. Doctor then came to visit me in the office—thank you—he said “Sister would you mind putting my patient in a private room?” I thought I had done pretty good to put him in a two-bed room. [audience laughter] He said “You know there will be some men come to visit him and they like to talk to him privately.” Well I said “I’ll do what I can, doctor.” After he left I went up and looked the situation over, and right across the hall we had a flower room where we used to prepare the patients’ flowers, and I thought Well, they can fix their flowers somewhere else for today and I believe I can push the bed in there. [audience laughter] That’s what we did. And his visitors came. We kept a close eye on them. [audience laughter] I did! It was all new, and I thought What mighty, respectable-looking men! They don’t look like they ever took a drink. And went along and I thought now, the next time I won’t have this trouble I will put him in a private room. So the next one that came along I put in a private room and he—see, I didn’t know much about these alcoholics, I was not an expert; surely the Lord picked out a weakling when he picked out me, I know. But however, I took him down to the room (as I would any patient) and then I was taking the chart to the desk to explain to the nurse a little about it. I couldn’t tell her too much, but said Dr. Bob would give her the orders. And wasn’t he down after me! [audience laughter] Well he had a sharp tongue and everything else. [audience laughter] I nearly went through the floor because the nurses all looked and I said “You go back to that room, I’ll be right down,” so the nurse came down with me and here he was under the bed. [audience laughter] Well I thought This will never work, I don’t believe this will go at all. I’d better put two together the next time. I didn’t want to give up at once. I don’t now just exactly what I did, whether I had someone stay with him or what I did. But I know after that I put two together and then finally took a four-bed room that seemed to go pretty good—one would help the other. Usually one or two would be in a few days before they would be coming out of it pretty well, and so then we took another two-bed across the hall. Well, it’s hard to say no when they really wanted to do something about it. And by that time the men were coming in quite often. So much so that some of the Sisters said “Who are these fine-looking men? They come in so often and seem so interested in the patients.” And I didn’t say much at first but later I said “Well that is A.A.” I said. “What is A.A.?” “Would you like to know something about it?” “Well, yes.” “Well, I’ll bring some literature then.” [audience laughter] – (unintelligible) But of course before that, a committee from Alcoholics Anonymous talked with Sister Superior—she was one who had a lot of experience in the old days of Charity and all—and she knew what we were doing, and she said to these men, she says, “Well, strange, when we had them at Charity, they would be running around the hall and doing a lot of trouble, but since Dr. Bob is treating them we don’t know that they are in the house.” So she said “There is no problem as far as I can see. Just go right along.” Well that was wonderful.

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