Compassionate care sets artist on a healthy path

Compassionate care sets artist on a healthy path

If your friend reaches out for help, how will you respond? Will you say you are too busy, or will you step up and help a person who needs you?

That was the situation when Scott (left) reached out to his friend Rod (right) about seeking help amid a mental health crisis.

Scott, 53, lives with bipolar disorder which is managed by medication under the care of his provider. He is also working to overcome addiction to alcohol and regularly attends AA meetings.

During an exceptionally bad mental health episode, Scott sought the care of his friend. Working in the patient services department of a California hospital, Rod, 50, had a lot of experience solving problems for people in need.

“We’ve been friends for about a year,” said Rod. “We will often get together to watch a movie or do something downtown. I knew that Scott was in recovery and had some dark times in the past, but I had no idea he had started drinking again.”

Care and comfort

That night, Rod put Scott into his car and drove him to the Emergency Department at Portneuf Medical Center.

“It was probably 10:30 p.m. when we got there,” said Rod. “There were only two people in the waiting room, so we checked in and waited a short time for the staff to get Scott to a room. He was shaking badly as he was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. Once they got him into a treatment room, they ran initial tests and gave him medications to help calm down his body.”

On duty as the ER triage nurse that night was Kerith Crabb, RN. “I am often the triage nurse overnight in the ER because I am passionate about how I care for patients, especially those in crisis.”

"A mental health crisis is the most difficult condition we treat in the ER,” she explained. “It’s easier to treat physical problems like appendicitis, abdominal pain or issues that have clear, objective symptoms. I've taken a fair amount of psychology classes and understand much of it. There is a unique way to manage people in a crisis that is helpful and I think I’m good at it, and I am passionate about helping them.”

A social worker was assigned to talk to Scott but would not arrive at the hospital until 7 a.m. the next morning. “The nurse assigned to Scott was named Kerith,” Rod recalled, “one of the most pleasant and caring individuals I've ever met in a hospital.” With Kerith overseeing Scott’s care, Rod was able to go home and get sleep.

“I arrived the next morning and Kerith was still tending to Scott,” said Rod. “He looked perfectly happy and didn’t need anything. Then around 8 p.m. when Kerith’s shift was nearing its end, she came into Scott’s room one last time to check on him. She had her bag on her shoulder and her drink cup in hand, so I could see that she was ready to go home.”

Still shaking from the withdrawal symptoms, Scott asked for more medication and a glass of water.

“Instead of passing along Scott’s request to the next nurse,” described Rod, “Kerith put down her stuff, found the doctor, got his authorization for the meds, and took care of everything. She wasn't put out at all; she was genuinely concerned for my friend. She even stayed after her shift to sit with Scott and tell him how important he was to the world, which made him feel much better. The world needs more people like Kerith,” said Rod.

“I can't leave somebody when they need me,” said Kerith. “I can’t leave things undone, especially at shift change when there's so much going on. Scott was shaking a lot and it was only going to get worse until he got the medication. I don't really like asking somebody else to do something that I can very well do myself.”

Scott echoed Rod’s experience. “I recall Kerith being very kind and compassionate,” said Scott. “She came in at the end of her shift to make sure I was okay and comfortable.”

“I always keep in mind a little quote that my nursing instructor said years ago,” said Kerith. “’It doesn’t matter how good you are with your skills because many people can start an IV. What really matters is how you make someone feel.’”

Soon afterward, Scott was transferred to the Behavioral Health floor, where he stayed for four nights to recover from alcohol poisoning.

Finding joy in activities

After Scott was discharged, he resumed a few enjoyable activities as he worked to lead a healthier life.

“I have a bike that I ride down to AA meetings every day,” said Scott. “I also ride it to concerts, movies and cooking classes.”

Scott and Rod will often attend community cooking classes to learn how to prepare new dishes.

“We’ve been to the Chinese dumplings and bread-making classes together, and I’ve been to Ukrainian foods and cinnamon rolls classes,” recalled Scott. “Many of the classes are on the Idaho State campus, which is within walking distance from my house. We are looking forward to cooking Greek food.”

In addition to cycling and cooking classes, Scott has also stayed busy with his new hobby: rock painting.

“We go out every Saturday to the Farmers’ Market and then to the Grocery Outlet store on Hurley Drive,” Rod said. “For the past few weeks, he has been dropping off rocks there and at other locations.”

Scott likes to paint colorful images of cartoon characters, comic book superheroes or some of his favorite food. Each of the hand-painted rocks includes the inspirational message “Be Kind” on the other side, which he hopes will brighten someone’s day.

“He does an amazing job painting,” said Shannon, one of the owners of the local Grocery Outlet.

“My employees and I love finding the rocks. They are usually lying on a shelf in plain sight. Our produce people will sometimes find them among the strawberries or mixed in with the bananas. I’ll be walking through the store and picking up stuff or putting things away and then suddenly a rock will be there. It makes me smile.”

Shannon and her husband recently set up booths at the first Idaho State home football game and the Kind Community event. They use some of the bigger rocks as paperweights.

“People will come by and say, ‘These look so great!’ and I’ll answer, ‘Yes, we have a customer who paints them and brings them in. I just hope he knows how much joy these rocks bring to our employees and our customers.”

“A couple of weeks ago,” said Rod, “the store started publishing photos of the rocks on their Facebook page. The caption read, ‘We love finding these in the store. Thank you!!!’ I know that Scott saw the post and that it lifted his spirits.”

If you are shopping in Pocatello and find a brightly painted rock with “Be Kind” on the back, you can be sure that it was put there on purpose by Scott… to brighten your day and make you smile.

For more information about Inpatient Behavioral Health Services at Portneuf Medical Center, visit our website.