aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Head Case - a hard read in a good way

I've been catching up on my reading. So for the last couple of days I read Head Case, which I first started thinking I should read when the author, Sarah Aronson, was active on LJ. Now her blog seems to be on hiatus - but I'm very glad I finally read her book.

Frank Marder is a head, paralyzed from the neck down. He can move his wheelchair with his chin, but that's about all. Someone has to put on his clothes, bathe him, feed him, and put him in that chair. He's a high school senior who got drank five beers and then got in an accident that killed his passenger and a pedestrian and left him a prisoner in his own body.

Reading this book brought back lots of memories. I guess Aronson used to be a physical therapist who worked with people in wheelchairs. Years ago, I was working at the only job I could find, sitting behind the admitting desk at Good Samaritan Medical Center. The economy was kind of like it was today. I tried to down play my college degree because I didn't want them to guess that I would leave as soon as I could find a better job. So I lied and said I wanted the swing shift job because I could use the day time hours for what I really wanted to be - a mystery writer. I put into words a dream I didn't even believe myself.

It was stressful in ways I hadn't imagined. I saw more death and dying than I have before or since. At one point, I figured out I had seen about 20% of all the folks in Oregon then diagnosed with AIDS, because Good Sam was where some of the experts were - which didn't stop all those beautiful men from dying. This was before universal precautions, before gloves were routine, so the AIDS folks got special wrist bands that had BBF on them, for blood and body fluid protection. Some housekeepers refused to do their rooms. The nervous joke was that the four risk groups for AIDS were Haitians, homosexuals, heroin addicts and house staff. (House is what they call the hospital.)

At that time, Good Sam also had a rehab unit for people learning how to be in wheelchairs. Nearly all of them were young men, aged 17-24, who had gotten drunk and driven into something. I used to flirt with them - it seemed safe.

We had to wear polyester uniforms that followed a set schedule. Like Wednesday might be the white plastic blouse with the bow tie worn with the 100% polyester blue jumper (just like the ones they wore at Mr. Steak, only their's were brown). I said I would kill myself if I was there for the spring/summer uniform schedule. I ended up working there 18 months.

The first book I ever wrote was about a woman who works at a place like Good Sam. And falls in love with a guy in chair.

In Head Case, Aronson finds a way to give even Frank some hope.

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