Vision of Hope
Still despondent over the end of his marriage, George had little strength to cope when faced with another big loss.
"George Muir. Fifty-eight years old. Married 17 years. Divorced." George tells the facts, light on adjectives and affect. He lived most of his life in Beaumont Texas, and did "every kind of work, yard maintenance, engine mechanic, dishwasher, cook." He is now a janitor.
In his late thirties he married Diana, a "pretty little thing, four foot 9, 100 pounds, with great big brown eyes." She had cerebral palsy, but "she'd take off down the street on her crutches, and it was a devil of a time to catch up with her." She was "just generally fun to be with. I felt I could handle the physical condition and I did."
His wife turns on him
Diana's thyroid acted up and her weight doubled. His voice resonant, but matter of fact and unemotional George relates that during their last ten years together, "I had to put Diana to bed at night. I had to pick her up and take her out of her recliner, set her in her wheelchair and push her into the bedroom, pick her up out of the wheelchair, set her on the bed and then swing her feet up onto the bed. I did this every night and every morning." He got up twice during the night to turn her and then at 5 to have coffee together before work. "You must have loved her a lot," I commented. "I did."
Then Diana suffered two strokes and "her personality turned violent." She would attack George and once swung the metal triangle, which was perched above the bed to lift herself, and just missed his temple. "I hated to do it, but she was liable to end up killing me, so I asked her to leave." Within a month the divorce was done. "She didn't contest it. She didn't even show up in court."
By "nature and background," George explains, he keeps things to himself. "Aside from the preacher, you're the first person I mentioned this to." Only his two dogs knew his despair and would nuzzle close to "give me sugar."
More difficulty followed. George was having trouble paying the bills and was relying on church donations. Then after hardly noticing at first, he realized "there was something radically wrong" with his left eye. When he covered his right eye he could not see. With everything combined, George felt "totally lost." He was "just existing basically. I didn't really care whether I ate, I didn't care period."
Without a regular doctor, uninsured and with limited means to pay, George tried the new neighborhood clinic, Ubi Caritas. The nurse practitioner immediately recognized the urgency of the situation and made arrangements with the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. In short order, George had surgery to reattach his 65% detached retina and his sight was saved.
A new smile
Spirits uplifted, George decided, "to clean my slate and start all over." Since boyhood he had bad teeth and in fact, had only 21 teeth remaining. "You were lucky if you got me to smile." He turned again to Ubi Caritas and they made connections with University of Texas Dental. Half a year and many trips to Houston later, George's face no longer sags, and for the first time in his adult life George has a full set of teeth.
Looking good, eye and teeth fixed, George's total outlook changed. "There was a dark rain cloud hanging over my head. Now it is rosy." He smiles.
George is "eternally thankful the clinic was there in my time of need." He continues to go to them for regular care, paying only a minimal fee. "They do not belittle me. Everyone says 'Hi," and greets me by name."
A secret life
When I remarked on his impressive vocabulary, George revealed that he is a voracious reader. He has read "The Fall of the Roman Empire", Winston Churchill's writings and a naval history about World War II, the "Clan of the Cave Bear" series and a set of books about North American prehistory. Without knowing, Ubi Caritas saved more than sight, they rescued George's "secret life."
George seems surprised. "This is the most I spoke with anyone in a good while. This is the most I've talked period."
Perhaps he will talk more now, knowing people want to hear his story.
- Provides primary care, health education, medical case management and referrals for medically underserved adults and children in south Beaumont area.
- Utilizes model of nurse- managed clinic.
- Opened late 1998, supported by start-up grant from SLEHC, and is now serving over 1900 patients per year.