I first came to know about Allison through the counseling department at the high school where I was volunteering. I was told that Allison’s mom was living in a nursing home due to a stroke, had lost their home and Allison was living with a boyfriend. The counselor also told me that Allison was diagnosed with “stress-induced seizers”. I thought, “Wow! This is tragic!”
I called Allison in to my office to meet her and introduce myself. Allison was a stunning young woman, but I remember how sad she was and how quickly the tears came. Actually, thinking back on my time with Allison, there were a million tears shed in my office. She started telling me her story, but of course the story is always go so much deeper than first revealed. With the initial meeting, I remember writing down, “Will be homeless if boyfriend kicks her out.“ Well, it wasn’t long before I received the phone call; the boyfriend had hit her and kicked her out. I told her to pack her things and she could come stay at my house for a while. Allison was barely 17, no car, no drivers license an no job!
After our initial meeting, I had talked to a friend at church about a young girl in my program and how she is going to eventually need a place to stay. My friend said that her and her husband were interested and would love to meet her. So after coming to my home and many hours of talking, she realized the options were not there and she needed to meet the family. She was frightened, but said yes to my friend and moved in.
Allison was a wounded soul and she made it hard to like her. She was very sensitive and angry; quick to yell and throw things. She made it hard for everyone around her including her mentor and me, but she made it especially for the family that took her in. But, after learning more and more about her life, you start to understand why she was so angry and so hard to love.
Allison had a father that was an alcoholic and left her mom when she was a young teen, around the age of 13. So it was just her, her mom and her younger sister. Mom started behaving in a weird way, staying in her room for hours or staying out for hours with the girls never knowing when she was going to be home. More and more Allison had to take on the mom role for everyone. Allison had to take mom’s money and pay the late bills and fines or keep mom from spending all they had on things they didn’t need to keep the electricity on as many mornings Allison and her sister would wake up in the dark or without water having to get ready for school anyway. Then finally the eviction notice came. They lost their home! This is when Allison started having seizures.
After seeing many doctors and ruling out many ailments, it was determined that it was stressed induced. Allison’s eyes would roll up in her head and she would convulse when too many decisions or worries would confront her. But the amazing thing is, she never missed school.
One day, she came home from school and starting looking for her mom. When she got to her mom’s room she found her lying face down in her closet not moving. She was rushed to the hospital and had to have part of her brain removed, which left her forever blind and unable to take care of the girls or herself. She was then sent to a nursing home. It was determined the mom had a massive stroke due to meth!
This was very painful for Allison to learn about her mom. She loved her mom and truly believed she was the greatest mom on earth. Finding out that your mom is a drug addict and that she will never be the same is too much for anyone.
After getting to know Allison a little bit better, she began to open up and even show me pictures of her mother in the nursing home. I could tell Allison was looking for my reaction to the pictures but of course I never let on that her mom was any different than any other mom. I offered, many times, to take her to see her mom in the nursing home, but she always had an excuse.
Then a call came from the nursing home that her mom was very sick and was sent to the hospital. I kept asking her if she had gone to see her mom and she would say no. I finally insisted that she go and that I would take her. We arrived and entered her room. Allison’s tears immediately began to fall. It was hard to see! A young woman, that was obviously beautiful at one time, with half of her head, emaciated, blind and barely lucid to the life around her. But she did know that Allison was there and called for her. They told each other that they loved one another many times. Mom consistently repeated herself but Allison would always answer her with patience.
Allison started getting agitated seeing that her mom was not being taken care of the way that she wanted. She found food left in her mouth from her last meal etc. I was amazed to watch this young 17-year-old girl cleaning out her mothers mouth thinking nothing of it. We often prayed together and left after mom fell asleep.
I brought Allison back to the hospital every other day. Each day, mom seemed a little worse. I was amazed that no one else ever visited her. How sad was it that there was no one in her life that cared about her but Allison and her younger sister?
Because Allison was so young, I realized that the doctors were not telling her what was going on with her mother. So I called the head nurse over and asked him what was going on. After explaining who I was and that I was acting as an advocate for Allison, he agreed to fill me in. He said some tough decisions were going to have to be made. Her mother was not going to get better and would have to decide on a feeding tube or do nothing and let nature take its course. Mom was not going to get better with the feeding tube, so it would only prolong the suffering.
Wow, I had to tell Allison. We walked out to my car and she asked me what the nurse was talking about. I told her that I had something to tell her and that it wasn’t going to be easy. When I told her the prognosis, she collapsed in my arms crying uncontrollably.
After a few days, she spoke with the doctor and decided to call hospice. What a horrible position to be in; to make a decision like that about your own mother. This would be awful for a grown woman but unfathomable for a teenager!
The hospital moved her to a nursing home and had hospice on sight. I brought her back and forth to the nursing home. Some of those days I would pick up her sister as well. The only other visitors was her mentor, the family she was living with and my pastor.
Allison continued going to school everyday and seeing her mother in the evenings. She was amazing with her mother, talking to her, feeding her and cleaning her up. Mom slowly began to quit talking to her and only screamed for Allison to help her. She would say, “Allison, help me, help me, I’m hurting!” Honestly, this infuriated me! It was just too much for Allison to endure. Her mom didn’t know what she was doing, but I could see the incredible guilt would stay with Allison for the rest of her life. So I went to the hospice director and begged her to give her more morphine. She said she couldn’t as it could possibly be lethal. They finally agreed that she was close to death and that it was the right thing to do. But, due to her drug use, the increased morphine did not progress her death nor give her more relief. We just had to comfort Allison as she tried to comfort her mom.
After several days, I received a call at school from hospice telling me it was time and that I needed to get Allison up there as quickly as possible. She was amazingly calm. We were there for only 20 minutes when her mother passed. I looked around the room and thought, “how sad.” This woman just left this world with only her daughter at her side.
She probably was a good wife, mother, daughter, friend at one time. But drugs came into her life and robbed her in every way a life could be robbed. She lived in a nice home in nice suburb surrounded by hard working Christian people in her community that had no idea what was going on.
Allison amazingly graduated from high school. She continued to struggle throughout the summer until I convinced her to re-establish a relationship with her father. During the process of visit- ing her mother and attending the funeral, I saw a father that was flawed but sincerely loved his daughter and wanted a relationship with her. We all tried to find her a job, a place to live and a car using her social security benefits, but she resisted so greatly, she was so wounded. One day I brought her to her father and the three of us had a great visit. Allison finally started to let the walls down and agreed to let her father help her. He quickly got involved and she got her life started.
She only came back once to say hello. She looked good and said she was happy. She had a job, an apartment and a car with plans of enrolling in a community college. She cried a few more tears, said thank you and left my office.
copyright 2012, Dena Petty.
All rights reserved “What The Community Doesn’t See”