Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Old George" A Spirit Of Loving Duty


In an old Mental Hospital in Maryland with he history of raw emotion and agony endured, it might be expected that many spirits or ghosts would hover about.Actually it is a rare occasion of seeing or hearing of such things.Some research in the early 1980's reflected that the patients considered the housekeeping staff in 70% of their responses to be the one who made them feel the best about their hospitalization.Perhaps that was true in the early 1900's as well.In fact during those times and for five decades to follow, the mental patient seldom saw a Professional staff member during their hospitalization.Sometimes one nurse would be responsible for up to three hundred patients.At that time these hospitals were huge communities usually self sustaining with farm, dairy,machine shops and the elements of a small town.At this hospital which was built and opened in 1898 that had been the case.Housing was provided for the staff.Families tended to remain there working from generation to generation.

I heard the story from the staff there and saw the results on one occasion of an old man employed in housekeeping as had been his father and grandfather who had been a freed slave.The housekeeping employee was called "Old George" and beloved by patients and staff.He took his job very seriously and kept everything "clean as a pin."This was before the time of disposable supplies for everything so the worst part of any unit was the Dirty Utility Room.This is where all the treatment and personal use items were put and the responsible staff member was to go back,clean them up,wash and steraize everything and return it to the Clean Utility Room,
wrap it in sterile coverings then return it to be ready for use.George was at his heoric best from the staff point of view since without a grumble he would clean up everything there leaving it ready to be autoclaved.He would even clean and sterilize any bed pans should any be there as some resourceful staff member showed him how to use that machine.The clean and neat room made him feel good he said.
He spent time helping the patients with their cleaning chores and talking with them.Several times he was able to talk someone into the seclusion room when it was necessary.
Sadly,one evening when going down the steps between wards,he fell.His serious injuries prevented his return to work and within three weeks he died.There was a memorial service for him quite well attended by all.

About two months after his death,noises were heard in the Dirty area.Staff saw no one there. Shortly thereafter the night shift complimented the evening shift on the two adjacent wards on how clean the Dirty Room was at the change of shift.(Highly unusual,mostly this was an area of complaints and excuses.)
The head nurse of the two units became interested in this unusual situation and began to watch as did the charge nurses.All noticed a lot of people take things in and come right out.No time to have cleaned anything. Several spoke of hearing noises and finding no one there.Sometimes the water was running in the empty room.

It was finally determined about a year before I came to do my Student Teaching there that it was "Old George"keeping his wards clean.No one ever saw him but did see his handiwork.Once after a peek in and seeing a big mess, I watched the door for almost an hour.No staff took the time to clean anything.Shift change was approaching.One nurse said "Oh George will get it.God Bless him."I heard nothing at that time but went in right before the shift report and there it was.A carefully cleaned organized stack of equipment and basins.The cabinets and floor were also spotless.I became a Georgr believer after that day.What a nice man and a gentle loving soul.

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