Monday, November 24, 2008

But I used to put on her lipstick and give her her morphine!!!!!

Due to some "customer complaints" about my blog being too bland lately, I'm trying to juice it up a bit tonight. My friend told me that he "liked it better when I was negative". Yes, Mr. Vanschmataburg, I understand your point. Angry and condescending does indeed make a funny weblog.

So let me not exactly be negative, nor angry, nor condescending, but instead let me share some stories of my career. As a disclaimer, I might add that I love my career and I am in no way angry about what I have chosen to do by trade. But I do think my friend's point is that I sound a little too chipper lately....that said, I'll get to the meat. I think these stories may satiate my friend's appetite for a non-wholesome blog.

Oh- and one more thing....Let me preface by saying, I am often asked what I do as a career and what I will be doing on Semester at Sea. The answer to that is sometimes complicated for people to grasp. Currently I am a counselor and disability coordinator at an art school in the city. Primarily I do referrals, and very short-term personal counseling 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time I do disability services, which means I accommodate students with disabilities. This could be anything from arranging a sign language interpreter for a deaf student to allowing a dyslexic student to have extra time to complete an exam according to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations. On Semester at Sea I will be a "Living Learning Coordinator" which is a residential life position.

In my previous jobs 2 jobs, I have been a Resident Counselor. This job entailed being on-call all hours of the night and responding to student emergencies. I dealt with everything from student conflicts to suicide attempts to drugs to alcohol poisoning to rape to physical altercations. Some evenings I'd have no calls whatsoever. Yet other nights I wouldn't get a wink of sleep. During these nights I worked closely with Graveyard Shift Security to handle each "project". Much of my job was simply being the college's staff representative and ensuring that the student is hospitalized or treated for whatever the emergency may have been and then reporting to my director so that appropriate follow-up could be done.

So here are some vignettes of my career. *Names have been changed. And names of colleges at which I've been employed have been withheld to protect privacy.

Munchhausen Bi Proxy This one occurred at a private institution uptown where I did my internship in the summer of 2001. There was a student named *Kristy. Kristy was a high school student who was enrolled in a pre-college program and had what we in higher ed refer to as, "helicopter parents". Simply put, they hover. Her father was a physician and was very involved in his daughter's life. The family lived in North or South Carolina, but the father must have flown up to New York at least 5 times during the two month program. During the course of her 2 month summer program, Kristy was in the hospital four times. Her father was always inventing illnesses for her. I spent a good chunk of my internship in a hospital waiting room, waiting for a student who had absolutely no ailments, only a father who insisted she needed treatment. After researching MBP, I discovered that it often occurs among children whose parents work in healthcare professions. I remember being on the phone one day with the other intern and reporting back to her "I'll be home soon. I'm just waiting on Kristy to finish her colonoscopy procedure." (No joke). I actually think this father created illnesses for the entire family. The kicker came when Kristy's grandmother died and despite all of her illnesses, she had to fly home for the funeral. She was kicking and screaming and thrusting on the floor in the lobby of the residence hall. As we put her into a cab her parting words were "I'm going to miss her so MUCH. I used to put on her her lipstick and give her her morphiiiiiiiiiiine!"

Black Feet
In 2002 I moved back to NYC permanently, after finishing my last year of grad school I took a position at another university downtown. I about had a heart attack when I saw Kristy's name on my roster. A tooootally different college and there she was. I think I almost quit that day. As it turned out, Kristy ended up dropping out of that college (because she was so "sick") and returning to whichever Carolina she was from. But this story isn't about Kristy. It's about *Jane. Jane was a student who often looked confused and disoriented. One night at 4 AM, Security contacts me in my apartment. "Umm, Laurie? Are you asleep?"
Sidenote: why do they always ask this?

"Could you come down to the lobby of *Nassau Street residence hall?". Down I trudge after awakening from my slumber. In the lobby I find a student whose feet are as black as coal. She is wearing no shoes. I see that it's Jane. Jane is wandering aimlessly in circles and asking Security why they took her money. A better question might have been where were her shoes. She proceeds to tell me she walked downtown from Union Square. (Probably at least a mile away, Union Square is a park where drug deals have been known to occur at wee hours of the night.) It took her awhile to be able to explain to me where she was or where she thought she was. Clearly she's confused, because she also told me she walked here from Williamsburg (a neighborhood in Brooklyn). Another student coming in from a night of drunken debauchery told me he thought he saw her on the Brooklyn Bridge. Wherever she may have arrived from, she was out of sorts. After this confusing conversation, she fell to the floor and began to convulse. EMS were contacted. I asked Security to go up to her room and get some shoes. Her roommates, now stirred come down. As she is being wheeled into the ambulance, the roommate tells me "Umm...Laurie? I found this next to her bed. Do you think this is significant?" In her hand was a syringe. I still remember the EMS guy's name badge. Bartolome. So Bartolome took the syringe and off they went to St Vincent, a very scary place, I might add. St. Vinny's is in the 14th Street area and last time I had to accompany a student there at 4 AM there were homeless people dripping blood and naked women lying in pools of vomit and defecation in the lobby area. But nonetheless a place that treated my students. I later found out that Jane had been using heroine. She had OD'd but not to the point of death. She was dismissed from the residence hall and returned to Westchester where her parents lived. This one was actually pretty sad for me. She came back the next week and I escorted her to her room to get her belongings. She was crying and she told me how much she loved school. Unfortunately she loved drugs more. I never saw her after that.

South Stairwell One day I received a report from Security that stated "Oral sex occurred at 2100 in the South Stairwell of *Applegate Hall." Oh boy. I swear I don't make this stuff up. Attached to that report were photos from the security cameras. I met with the student the next day. When I asked him if he knew why he was in my office, he said no. I suggested we take a walk. We walked to the stairwell and I pointed out the camera. He turned as red as a beet and began to cry. I felt sorry for him. I think he moved out of the residence halls at the end of the semester.

Pink Robe

This one actually occurred when I was a graduate student, working as an Associate Resident Director in a campus-owned sorority house. I lived in an apartment, kind of attached to the side of their house. When a drunken prankster would pull the fire alarm, we'd evacuate. Sororities had strict rules, one of which being that they were not permitted to have men in their rooms after 10 PM. Lo and behold at 4 AM the fire alarm would go off. (In case you're wondering, yes 4 AM is the witching hour on college campuses.) When that alarm went off, we would check the rooms to ensure that everyone had evacuated. More often than not, we'd see boyfriends scrambling out, trying to hide from view. My favorite incident though, was the episode where this girl *Jill's boyfriend came outside in nothing but Jill's pink bathrobe. "Laurie, I'm not in trouble right?" Well, Jill, as soon as I stop laughing I'll be able to give you an answer.
*** No one was harmed in the "fire".

Something's hot!
When I worked at a fashion school in Chelsea I am happy to say that I didn't deal with many fire alarms, but when we did, I loved it because that meant the NYFD brigade would arrive! I loved it so much, because even though it was annoying for 500 students to evacuate a building, the silver lining was the New York Fire Department. Oh how I loved those muscular men! How brave they were in the face of danger! Even if it was just a college student who had burnt some grilled cheese.......

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