Skip to content
August 23, 2019 / Sandra Bossert

The Ten Knots

A man in his 30’s came into our detox. He was homeless and living on the streets of New York City. His hair was very unkempt, long, wild and looked like a lion’s mane standing up around his face. Somehow, he convinced a woman patient to start brushing his hair with a comb. We took the woman aside privately, and explained that due to hygiene rules, we can not allow her to continue combing the man’s hair. She understood and stopped right away. When someone lives on the streets, they are very vulnerable to lice and illness, even more than others.

However, logical this was, the man just wouldn’t let this drop. First, he tried to complain to anyone who would listen. “Why can’t she comb my hair? I want her to comb my hair”.

Growing more and more frustrated, he walked up to a co-worker who just started her shift and he yelled “I HAVE TEN KNOTS IN MY HAIR!!!”. Then he walked away. She was puzzled and couldn’t understand why he said or did that.

 

Since he kept getting the same exact answer from the entire staff on two shifts, he changed to more drastic measures.  He went to the same staff (including me) and then the new shift of my co-workers hours later and raised his voice. “I have TEN KNOTS in my hair and I want her to comb my hair”. It didn’t work.

 

The man started marching through the hall and recited “I. HAVE. TEN. KNOTS IN MY HAIR” over and over again?!?!?!?!

It was all we could do not to laugh.

Not 9, not 11 but 10 knots. How did he know it was 10???

It was a sight that I can never unsee and is forever burned in my brain. A man with a caveman type appearance, marching through the halls reciting “I have ten knots in my hair” over and over again.

Eventually, when his “10 knots in my hair” marching campaign did not work, he got the comb and started combing his own hair.

Later that evening, he left the unit against medical advice.

One thing I can say. My job is never boring.

(2019)

July 20, 2019 / Sandra Bossert

The Walmart Referral

My co-worker spent a lot of time with a patient. If you remember the Hanna Barbera cartoon called Magilla Gorilla from the 1970’s, the character “Deputy Droop Along” is what this patient was like. He was a tall man in his 30’s that slumped over when he walked. His step had a glide to it like a slinky toy. He also spoke in a low voice and looked down when he spoke. I introduced myself to the patient and asked if he had made any decisions about going to rehab when he finished our detox. The patient explained that even though my co-worker helped him get into a rehab, he changed his mind and doesn’t want to go to that one. Instead, he spoke to his parents. They are encouraging him to consider a Christian based program in its place. He said that he called the program on his own and was accepted for a date in August. He gave me the name of the place and said it is near Lake Ontario. He gave me a phone number and requested information about the program. I could not find anything about a program near Lake Ontario on the internet, so I called the phone number. It lead me to a voicemail…of his family member. I went back to the patient for clarification. “Oh, that’s my dad, sorry”. I was given a new phone number. The patient took his slumped over stance and started walking in the hall with me towards my office.

He then explained “my father stopped to talk to the guys hanging out and using heroin in the front of the Walmart and they recommended this place”!?!?!?!?!

Lovely. My co-worker and I who killed ourselves for years to become credentialed substance abuse counselors have been replaced by PEOPLE USING HEROIN. IN THE FRONT OF A WALMART. 

He paused and added “I better find out what I am getting myself into because the program is for a year”. I went  back to my office to look up the place on the internet. First of all, it was not near Lake Ontario by Canada, it was closer to Albany New York. Then there was the website touting about “Christian life skills are taught, such as shopping”.

Now, since I am not a Christian, it begs the question. How does someone of a Christian faith go shopping differently than a non Christian? Don’t Christians and non Christians go shopping the same way? It involves filling up a basket of what you will buy and then you pay for the items?

I then looked at the list of new patients that came in the door to see who I needed to work with next.

One Patient’s first name was “Daniil”; pronounced “Denial”. A substance abuse detox and that is the patient’s first name. Maybe he is in denial about his addiction…I wondered.

Another patient was using an alias pronounced

Unknowndatown Map !?!?

It was one of those days at work that I felt like I was in the twilight zone. As creative as I would like to think that I am, there is no way I can make this stuff up.

(c) 2019

 

November 22, 2018 / Sandra Bossert

Coke and High and Crazy Glue

It was going to be a memorable work week. When a patient first comes in to our detoxification unit to stop using drugs and alcohol or any other addiction they may have,  there is a meeting with a nurse. A patient started explaining to her “I am sick. In a different sort of way”. In a different sort of way?!?! I can only wonder how the rest of THAT meeting went.

A female Counselor came back to her office and she was pretty annoyed. “That is it! I refuse to work with that patient because he REFUSES to…well… put on his pants. At least his pajama bottoms or something. I will not work with a naked man. We held a quick meeting and it was agreed that a male counselor would meet with him in case there was another refusal or more nakedness.

I received a list of the patients that I would be working with for the week. I read the names and I re-read the names. Out of the hundreds of cultures that walk through our doors of New York City on a regular basis, half of their names I can’t even pronounce. These names were pretty clear and I had to read them twice. There were two women. Ms. Coke and Ms. High. What this equated to is that all week I had to call rehabs to try and get these women a bed. “I’m calling about Coke and High”. “Calling for an update on Coke and High”. “Coke and High, please call me back”. With last names like that, in no wonder why these adults are facing addiction issues. I got lots of laughter all week. These poor women.

A new patient came in and was added to my list. Apparently, he reported to the nurse that he drank too much and blacked out. When he came to, he was told an ambulance had brought him to a reputable New York City hospital due to his head being cracked open. He reported to the Nurse that “yeah, the hospital used crazy glue to put my head back together so I am not feeling well and want to get off alcohol”. I was bracing myself for what my meeting with that patient would be like. He wasn’t joking. He had a nurse document for the entire treatment team to see that he believes his head was being held together by Crazy Glue.

For anyone who doesn’t remember Crazy Glue, it is glue that was advertised on TV like mad in the 1970’s every other minute. Their claim is that their glue can be used for any reason and can hold together anything you can think of. However, not once did the commercial say it was used in hospitals to piece together your head. I met with the patient to focus on how to stop drinking. However, when he mentioned the Crazy Glue part, it was a challenge to not comment and to keep a straight face. After all, I spent most of my life in broadcasting where the way we got along was by messing with each other in a playful, harmless way. If you weren’t given a nickname or had someone bust your chops, you just were not a broadcaster. Had I been in broadcasting, this man’s new name would have been “Glue” or something like that for sure. Instead, I had to take the clinician approach and help this man.

There are some days that my blog just writes itself.

(c) 2018

October 18, 2018 / Sandra Bossert

The Impossible Telephone Call

It was another work day at Bellevue Hospital. Until a few weeks ago, any patient who wanted to make a long distance phone call had to be assisted by a counselor. We would call the Bellevue operator, just like the days of the 1950’s and give a code. Then the patient’s call could go through. As I was walking past a patient using the telephone, I saw that he was very upset and yelling at the telephone. Figuring it was a new patient who did not know about this archaic process, I offered to help him. “Excuse me sir, are you trying to make a long distance phone call? A code is needed and I will be happy to help you”. As so many patients before him, he grew less upset but was still ranting. “I have been here for a long time and no matter what I do I couldn’t make this call. Now you are telling me about a code!?!?!?”. I concurred with the patient and let him know how much I was in agreement with him. “Why don’t you give me the phone number and I will help you make the call”?

He hands me a crumpled up piece of paper. I opened it up. On one side of the paper I see a man’s name written down with four numbers. Naturally, I turn the piece of paper over. The other side is blank?!? Not wanting to embarrass him, I explained that I am having trouble reading his handwriting. Would he please read that number to me slowly and out loud so I can dial the number.

Without hesitating, he takes that same paper and reads me the same four numbers out loud.

The reason that he could not make the phone call is NOT because he needed a code from a counselor to give to the Bellevue Operator. It is because there ARE NO phone numbers with four digits!!!! At least not in my lifetime.

I pointed this out to the patient. He kept insisting it was correct. He wasn’t messing with me. He honestly and truly believed that the phone number was four digits. “But this is what he told me his phone number was”!?!

I felt like I was in the twilight zone.

“Sir, unfortunately, until you find a phone number with at least 10 numbers, I am not going to be able to help you”.

It was an impossible phone call to make.

It was also, more than likely, one of the worst cases of wet brain I had seen in awhile.

April 12, 2018 / Sandra Bossert

The Candy Man

I was just listening to a classic oldies radio station. The song named The Candy Man by Sammy Davis Jr. just played. It reminded me of the real candy man in my life. Before my family moved to Mastic, I lived in Levittown Long Island until half way through the second grade. This is no offense to Mastic in any way but Levittown is paradise to grow up in.

For starters, my family lived across the street from a village green. If you are a Billy Joel fan, you may have heard him singing about Brenda and Eddie meeting at the village green. Well I lived across the street from one of the village greens. There was a basketball court, playground, swimming pool, a strip mall of outdoor stores, lots of grass for flying kites, frisbee etc. and all summer long a mobile would arrive with concerts and puppet shows for children.

Then I started school. I met a girl named Larrasa Sue. We became fast friends and would go to each other’s homes to play when school let out. One day, Larrasa’s mother took both of us to their neighbor’s house. She explained that the neighbor had a surprise for us. A surprise! How exciting! I thought to myself and I couldn’t wait to see whatever else this great town had.

The man was very friendly and he introduced himself to me and greeted Larrasa and her mother. With that, the man handed us both plastic bags and asked if we were ready!?! Larrasa shouted with joy “Yes!!!”. We were lead to the living room. Everywhere I looked were candies, pretzel rods, sweets, chocolates and cookies. I could feel my smile growing bigger and bigger. Larrasa’s mother explained that the neighbor is the candy man and I was to pick out a bag of candy.

WOW! A candy man!!! I was all but jumping up and down. Was I dreaming? Is this my birthday? Hanukkah? No!!! It is not but here I am in the candy man of Levittown house!!!

My dad would often bring me and my brother, Ken, to the candy store on Saturdays and allow us to pick out one piece of candy. He would pick one out too.

My grandfather, Papa Joe, would sometimes either let me and Ken pick out candy or he would surprise us with the latest candy of the 70’s such as whistle pops or pop rocks.

If that wasn’t great enough, Larrasa and her mother just introduced me to the candy man.

I hit the jackpot! A REAL LIVE CANDY MAN!!!!

The two adults encouraged me that it was okay and I could take candy or whatever sweets I wanted to take. I couldn’t stop thanking the man. From time to time when I would visit Larrasa, her mother would allow us to visit the neighbor and without fail, he always had bags ready for us to pick out our respected candies and sweets.

I once asked the mother why the neighbor did this. She explained that he is a really nice man who loves children and he just wants to see us happy.

After I moved, Larrasa and I would write letters to one another. We stayed in touch for a long time. I was actually at her Bat Mitzvah when she turned 13, but then our lives grew apart. In later years I have tried to locate her but haven’t been able to. I will always cherish the wonderful years that I lived in Levittown and the people who lived there. To a child, there is nothing better than a real candy man.

(c) 2018

 

March 9, 2018 / Sandra Bossert

The Unsolved Mystery of Regular Dave

Recently, I reconnected with my college roommate at SUNY Oswego and very dear friend, Christine, for the first time in over 20 years. Part of the conversation was us reminiscing about our college years. We were going back and forth with stories. I asked her… “Do you remember our crazy telephone that had so many features that it came with an instruction book? It  would say “HELL-Duh. HELL-Duh or “ANSSSS -ER. ANSSSS-ER.”

Christine reminded me of how at that time I named someone “Regular Dave” and the name stuck. Everyone was calling this person “Regular Dave”. I had no recollection of this until Christine reminded me and I just burst out laughing. It begged the question.

“Christine, who was Regular Dave and why did I call him that”????

If you think about it, the fact that I would label someone as “Regular” couldn’t have been flattering to Dave. Looking back on it, if someone called me “Regular Sandra” I know I would not find it too complimentary or flattering. It would be downright…not very nice. Anyone who knows me knows I have always wanted to be that person that builds people up around me, not tearing anyone down.

Christine answered “I don’t know. You had more than one Dave in your life at the time and one day you just started calling him Regular Dave and then it stuck”. Christine said that all she could think of, is that maybe Larry’s roommate was named Dave.

A couple of days later, I reached out to Larry by text. We met at Oswego and have been close ever since. I let him know that Christine and I were in touch. Then I asked him. “Do you remember a Regular Dave”? He replied “Of course I remember Regular Dave”.

I was so glad.

“Larry, who was regular Dave and why did I call him that?”.

” I don’t know. He was some guy that you knew and you started calling him regular Dave”.

Oh my heavens. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that he coordinated his story with Christine before he spoke to me.

“Larry, what was your roommate’s name at Oswego”?

“George? Ben? Tom? Greg?”. I don’t remember, but it wasn’t Dave”.

Now it was going to drive me AND Larry crazy.

What was Larry’s roommates’ name? Who was Regular Dave and why did I call him that? Didn’t I realize how wrong that was?

After much thought, I realized that one of the people named Dave was “DJ Dave”, which would have prompted me to refer to either “DJ Dave” (a friend who worked as a DJ at weddings etc) versus Regular Dave.

To date, Larry has remembered that his roommate’s name was Scott.

Unfortunately, “The Mystery of Regular Dave” remains unsolved.

(c) 2018

 

 

March 1, 2018 / Sandra Bossert

Special Needs Head

Recently I was working with a Patient who was very nice and appreciated everyone who was helping him. He was an Asian man and unfortunately his English was not very strong. I asked him if he was interested in going to rehab or any program to help him stay clean and sober. Each day he would give me the same answer in a thick accent, “no program thank you G-d bless you”. This became a ritual. I would ask the same question each day and I would get the same exact answer.

To my surprise, on the last night before he was going to be discharged, this otherwise easy going man approached me in a desperate tone. “Sandra. I want program”. Then he started using body language. He put his hands on his shoulders and draped them down towards his legs. “I need coat”. Then he put both of his hands by his shoulders again and started wildly flipping them up. He did this just the way someone would put the hood part of a hoodie on their head. “Special needs head”. WHAT?!?! Did he just say “SPECIAL NEEDS HEAD”?!?!?!? He started flipping his hands like a hood in an even more pronounced way. Then he said it again. “Special needs head”. “I need special needs head because my head special needs”.

I felt like I was in the middle of a cartoon or maybe I was on a Candid Camera type reality show. I found MYSELF copying him flipping my hands over my head as if to put on a hood. Then it occured to me. All this time I am trying not to laugh. He is a very nice man after all and I don’t want to laugh at him when he is trying hard to speak English. At this point I can’t even talk because I am dying and trying to hold in my laughter. I manage to muster up a “do you mean a hat sir”? Thank G-d in heaven that his answer was “YES!!! Hat!!! I need hat Ms. Sandra because I have special needs head”. I wonder what the hell he means by a “special needs head”. Unfortunately, I just didn’t think there was any way I was going to be able to hold in my laughter long enough to get that question answered. So I didn’t ask.

I will never be able to look at a hat the same way again without thinking about this exchange. Special needs head !?!?!?!

 

(c) 2018