Below is something I have been working on for quite some time, it recounts one of the worst days we had with Corbin, but just one. I need to emphasize that these events took place years ago and Corbin is doing great right now. You will notice I have given up my anonymity on this blog – it’s too hard to keep it up. But I did change the names of all the people involved.
I sat at my desk making notes and catching up on various tasks. I was just thinking about stopping to grab something to eat when my cell phone went off. I quickly moved to answer it, noting it was Corbin’s school. My stomach bottomed out before I even heard the voice at the other end. It was Anna Fletcher, the school Learning Support teacher.
“Tina, it’s Corbin. He’s having a really bad day. How fast can you get here?”
I looked at the files strewn across my desk and sighed gently. “I’ll be there in 5”. I hung up the phone and closed all the files. I jumped up from my chair and grabbed my jacket. I threw it on and stuffed my belongings into my bag. I called over to one of my teammates
“Alicia I have an emergency. Could you put files away for me?”
“Sure thing. Is everything ok?” she responded
“I’ll call and update you” I yelled as I bolted for the back door. As I ran down the stairs I dialed my work number, leaving a hasty message for my supervisor to tell her where I had gone.
My hands shook as I let myself into my van and drove wildly through the parking lot. In 2 minutes I was pulling up to the school.
I practically ran into the school where I was met by Anna, the person who had known Corbin the longest at the school. She looked pained and worried. She put a hand out to motion for me to slow down. “He’s ok at the moment, we have him in the spare classroom with June.” I stopped in my tracks and took a deep breath. “What’s been going on?” I asked
“He’s been really agitated and got loose outside in the Kindergarten yard. June was able to get him back inside after the rest of us tried and failed. He keeps talking about being a survivor man and really he doesn’t seem to be in our reality”. I took it all in then took a deep breath “ok take me to him” I said.
We walked down the hall. As we walked Anna added “we have the school on lock down so no one is in the halls and there is a staff member blocking each doorway”. I didn’t know what to say to that. What had things come to?
We reached the classroom and June saw us and spoke quietly to Corbin before she came out to talk to me. “I don’t know what set it off but I haven’t seen him like this. Right now he’s convinced he is in his own house that he has created. I’ll see if I can get him to come out ” she said just before she slipped back into the room.
“Corbin, it’s time to go. How about we pack up your house and you can take it with you?” To all of our surprise he responded to her. Together they mimed folding up a large structure into something that could be carried out by Corbin. He came to the door, struggling to carry his imaginary house. I offered to help him and we carried it together down the long hall. His silence concerned me and as we turned the corner he spotted the courtyard and he was no longer carrying the house and was instead bursting out the doors. I followed, trying in vain to get to him before he broke free. Before I even made it out the door he had begun to climb an evergreen which did not look to be an easy feat. I held his coat in my hands and I worried how long he was going to stay up the tree.
“Mom! I need tools. Survivor man tools. Like rope and a knife”. He cried out from his precarious position up in the tree.
“Corb how about we go home?we can get out the ladder and you can climb the front tree” I pleaded
“No mom. I need to be here. This is where survivor man is happening” he replied as he tried to go higher and the tree swayed under his weight. I could hear branches snapping.
“Corb this really isn’t a tree for climbing” I called out but he didn’t respond.
I looked at June. She shrugged her shoulders and looked as helpless as I felt.
“Corbin what about some hot chocolate? Surely even survivor man likes hot chocolate” June said. His little face peeked through the tree branches. I could tell she had his attention.
“Yah Corb. Let’s go see about some hot chocolate” I added. Then I turned to June and asked “Do you have hot chocolate here?” Because all I could think was that I needed to get him calmed down before I could even attempt to take him home. Otherwise I would just lose him along the way. The last thing I wanted to have happen.
“I’m sure we do” said June so we turned our attention back to Corbin. We finally, somehow, managed to get him down from the tree. He had scratches on his face and arms and tree sap covered his hands. The 3 of us walked inside and headed to the staff room just down from the office. As we went by the office Corbin suddenly startled and I could tell he was going to try to flee.
“Oh Miss Simpson, so glad you are here” I called out to the teacher blocking the side door of the school to keep Corbin from bolting. “We could use your help to turn on the kettle for hot chocolate for the survivor man”. Miss Simpson looked at June who nodded her head and smiled as she turned to Corbin.
“We have to wait for the kettle to boil. What can we do in the meantime?” Corb looked confused and shook his head. I was holding his hand and I could feel him begin to tense up. ” I know” I exclaimed with as much excitement I could muster “We need a list of all the things survivor man needs. A packing list!”
Corbin smiled and shook his head yes. June went to get paper and pen while Corb and I went to sit in the staff room. I could feel the tension beginning to leave my body as he became more lucid and connected to our world. We had just sat down when suddenly he bolted from the chair. I was taken by surprise but was glad that June was there. She blocked the door and reminded him about the hot chocolate. He sat back down and she quickly mixed him a cup. We gave him the pen and paper and encouraged him to write down what he needed for survivor man. We moved out to the hall and I could feel my eyes beginning to well up.
“How am I going to get him home like this? I can’t do it on my own. I don’t know how much longer we can keep going like this.” At that moment there was an ear piercing scream from him as he yelled “my house. I dropped my house” and he came running out of the room and back down the hall. I managed to grab him halfway. I looked at his eyes, the pupils huge. I pleaded with him
“Please Corb. Come back and sit down.”
But my pleas went unheard as he writhed to get away from me. Finally he realized I wasn’t letting go and he fell to the floor still screaming for his imaginary house. He sat there sobbing on the floor. I looked around and saw all of these people trying to help and yet I felt utterly alone. I motioned June over and I said what I had been trying to avoid for months.
“I can’t manage him. I think we need to call an ambulance”. She turned without comment and headed to the office to make the call. Meanwhile Corb was sitting on the floor sobbing painfully.
“Corb, I’ll get your house for you.” I knew he was watching like a Hawk so I went to about the spot where he had dropped it and pretended to pick it up. I carried it in my outstretched arms over to him. I placed it beside him but now he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking off into the distance, his face flushed and his breathing heavy.
June came over and told me it was on the way. We stepped off to the side hoping to be out of earshot. “Do you think we should tell him?” She asked.
I looked over to where he sat slumped in his own world. Would it be better to warn him the ambulance was coming? Would it make him bolt? I quickly decided it was better to tell him.
I said as much to June and she put her hand on my arm “Let me tell him” she said. “That way if he’s mad it will be at me not you”.
She approached him and knelt down to his level. He looked at her and yelled “Don’t step on my house!”.
She adjusted her footing and asked “Is that better?” And he nodded, visibly relieved.
“Corbin. We know you are having a hard day and sometimes when people have a hard day they need a doctor to help them. So we are going to take you to the doctor in an ambulance” she knelt down next to him. He continued to cry and at first didn’t seem to register what she had said then suddenly he turned to her and hugged her fiercely “Thank you!” He cried.
Just then the ambulance attendants arrived along with police. I gave a brief background as to what was happening and why we had called them. While I spoke to the police the attendants talked softly to Corbin and determined it was best to get him onto the stretcher and into the ambulance. I gathered up his things and and followed them out. The attendants told me to follow them and I let them know that first I would go home to get his medications. I hesitated outside the ambulance to see if Corbin would be ok without me. He was busy asking what everything in the ambulance was so I took the opportunity to race home in my van.
We live close to the school. As I drove I took deep breaths and tried to calm my nerves. Once I had the medications I raced to the hospital. I pulled in to the parking lot only to find that it was full. I began to panic. How would he be without me? What was I going to do? I had to be very mindful and remind myself to take deep breaths and not to panic. I searched the adjacent streets and managed to find a spot a few blocks away. I ran to the hospital and was quickly shown to my son who was sitting with the EMS workers, very calm. I filled out the necessary forms and gave the information about his medication.
Every other time I had brought him to the emergency room we had been put in the “quiet room” which is out the one hallway away from the hustle and bustle of the waiting rooms and treatment areas. This time we were shown to the paediatric waiting room and Corbin was still eerily quiet.
There were TV’s on the wall for kids to be able to watch DVD’s or play video games, however, none of them would work which set Corbin off again. I just sat slumped while he raged over the broken TV’s. Then just as suddenly as it started he was eerily calm again. At that moment the social worker entered the room. We had dealt with this man before and they had not been good experiences. I tried to swallow my frustration as he asked a couple of routine questions of Corbin like did he want to harm himself (to which he answered “No I’m survivorman!”) and I tried to explain about the frenetic quality of his past few days and the way he seemed to not be in our reality at times. But I could tell his mind was already made up that he wouldn’t be admitting him.
He went off to consult with the on call Psychiatrist and while he was gone Corbin became incensed again and jumped on me and began punching me with no indication as to why. I managed to grab his arms and hold him away from me until he calmed. He then began to sob and apologizing over and over. This is when the social worker came back into the room to tell me there were no beds and they would not be admitting him. I just sat quietly in the chair, not sure what to say or do. I waited for him to tell me what to do but he seemed to have nothing more to say. I got up and grabbed our things, all the while Corbin pleaded “Please help me, why won’t you help me”. I took him by the arm and lead him out to the hall.
In the middle of the busy hospital hall I turned on my heel to face a taken aback social worker. “This is on your shoulders” I hissed at him, pointing a finger at him as I continued “if he hurts himself I am coming after you and the supposed doctor you spoke to. You should be ashamed of yourself. Come on Corb” and with that the two of us, both crying, left the hospital.
As we walked to my van a few blocks away I racked my brain trying to figure out what to do. I was worried about driving with him as he kept trying to jump out particularly if he saw a tree. All he wanted to do when like this was to be a survivor man and try to climb trees. If he truly just wanted to climb a tree I probably wouldn’t have cared. But the tree would just become a small part in a larger fantasy world where he would begin to take off his clothes and act out.
The wind was blowing wickedly and I tried hard to gain control of myself. Corbin just kept asking me where we were going and what we were doing. I really lost it though when he asked “Why won’t they help me mom?”. I could tell I was scaring him. He’d never seen me so distraught. My hand was on my phone in my pocket. I took it out and dialed CPRI, knowing the number off by heart. I didn’t even know who to ask for. I just needed to speak to someone who “got it” and didn’t make me feel like I was over reacting or was a bad parent.
I stopped walking and with the wind whipping around us Corbin and I began to make phone calls fighting for his life. The first 3 people I tried went to voicemail. Then I reached the secretary of the Developmental Paediatrician that we saw. Debbie explained that Dr. Markham wouldn’t be in until the next day and I bent over as sobs racked my body. I explained, through the tears, that Corbin was not feeling well, that he wanted to hurt himself and that we had tried to get help at the hospital only to be turned away. I told her I didn’t know how much longer I could do this. That both he and I were at our wits end. She was so calm and concerned. She told me she would relay my message to the doctor as quickly as she could. She encouraged me to contact the Psychologist that we had begun to see at our local children’s treatment centre. Just talking to someone so calm and empathetic helped me to calm. The sobs began to subside and I was no longer doubled over as I spoke.
Poor Corbin, being so distraught himself and then having to watch his mother falling apart before his very eyes. The wind was still blowing fiercely so I pocketed my phone and wiped away the last of my tears. I bent down to his level and looked him in the eye.
“I know I lost it there for a bit bud. But I’m better now. We are going to get someone to help us. Until then we stick together, ok?” I wanted to plead with him but knew my desperation would make things worse. He seemed to be calming down and I needed him to stay that way. “Come on, let’s go to the van” I said and we resumed walking.
more to come