Kathie Gagne died 1477 days ago.

August 12th, 2016 @ 10:40 am
World Elephant Day

mother-elephant-baby-elephant-calfI had no idea that August 12th is World Elephant Day. I like to think that mom would have been happy about that.

It’s been four years now and I miss her as much today as I did the day she left. It breaks my heart that my two boys will never know their her, and that she never got to be their grandmother. She wanted so, so badly to be a Nana.

She loved The Jungle Cruise, especially the joke about seeing, “the backside of water.” That cracked her up every time, and I try to explain it to my son whenever we are there. But he just stares at me.

The world never looks as big as when someone is lost.

April 18th, 2016 @ 9:01 am
Volusia Nursing Home Residents Receive Risky Drugs for Dementia

pillsHere’s an article from the Daytona Beach News-Journal published in April 2015 that details a woman with a story that nearly exactly mimics what happened to mom. It’s heartbreaking to read because it confirms what I have been writing here all along, and what I was literally screaming at people before mom died. She was even in several of the same facilities and almost certainly under the “care” of the same doctors.

Volusia Nursing Home Residents Receive Risky Drugs for Dementia

“[S]he was told her mother would be placed on a few antidepressants, but she noticed a sudden change and suspected something wasn’t right.
Medical records show [her] mother was placed on Zyprexa and Risperidone, two powerful antipsychotic medications not approved for the treatment of dementia.
She refused food and her medication and exhibited ‘exit-seeking behavior.’ She lashed out at staff and hit an aide, according to her records. ‘If you are not going to help me get out of here, then I’ll kill myself,’ she was quoted in her medical records saying.”

March 16th, 2016 @ 7:56 am
Podcasts

microphoneI have been listening to the Radiolab and This American Life podcasts for years now. This morning while driving to work I heard a story about a young man who was suffering from delusions who was actually shot in his hospital room. I realized that of all the things I’ve done to try to get someone to care about my mom’s story, I’ve never attempted to contact a journalist. So I found the submissions pages for these podcasts and sent them the following:

Nursing homes and psychiatric care facilities in the state of Florida are using the uninsured elderly as unwitting participants in drug trials for multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies, often with fatal results.

If you are reading this, you are likely not elderly and / or suffering from dementia, but one day you will be or one of your parents will be. And it is when you are most vulnerable and voiceless that you will learn that this huge segment of our community is invisible.

I know this because my mother died at the very young age of 63 after a nine-month ordeal during which I vainly attempted to get her appropriate medical and psychiatric care. She was repeatedly given the experimental drug Risperdal for “off label” purposes even after I was made her “Guardian” and made it known that I did not want her taking that drug. She died of the exact known side effect of being administered the drug.

The conditions of most mental health facilities in Florida to this day almost exactly mimic those of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. I would go days without being able to get in touch with my mother, she would be (literally) lost or misplaced, phones did not work or went unanswered, etc.

I finally called the Department of Children and Family Services to get help, and she died the day after an investigator — who never actually visited her — told me that there was nothing to investigate.

I have meticulous documentation of the entire experience, including names and phone numbers and email addresses of local, state, and federal employees and hospital personnel involved and notes and transcriptions of conversations.

I have been trying for over three years to get someone to care, but the laws in Florida are so horribly skewed against the elderly that it is impossible to get a lawyer to even consider investigating the case.

My mom is dead and she should not be. And I want her story to be told.

February 9th, 2016 @ 7:17 am
Never Throw Stones

bricksHere’s a little poem I’m sure I’ve referenced in the past. It’s by Irish playwright and novelist Brendan Behan, born on this date in 1923.

Never throw stones at your mother,
You’ll be sorry for it when she’s dead,
Never throw stones at your mother,
Throw bricks at your father instead.

Florida cut $100 million from its mental hospitals. Chaos quickly followed.

September 22nd, 2015 @ 10:00 am
Sixty-Seven

Kathie GagneToday would have been mom’s sixty-seventh birthday. My sister and I are going to take my son to Walt Disney World for the day. I think that would have made her happy.

In the car on the way to school yesterday, he asked me how old mom was going to be. I said she would have been 67 or 68, and that I couldn’t remember. He said, “You should just call her on your phone and ask her!” Trying to explain death to a five-year old isn’t easy. When I told him she wasn’t here any more, he asked where she was. When I said she was far away, he asked if she was on another planet. He’s young enough, I think, to still not be able to tell whether I’m crying or laughing sometimes, which is probably good.

I love him so much and wish he’d gotten to know his Nana Gagne.

Happy birthday, mom.

August 27th, 2015 @ 8:48 am
The African Queen

Mom loved the movie The African Queen. I remember she was very excited when I went to see it at a small theater when I was in college. Today is the birthday of C.S. Forester, the author of the book upon which the movie is based, who wrote:

When a man who is drinking neat gin starts talking about his mother, he is past all argument.

August 12th, 2015 @ 5:18 pm
Three Years

Kathleen A. GagneIt is somewhat ironic that one of the ways I remember mom is by making sure to have at least one piece of chocolate every day. She struggled — battled, fought, really — with her weight for her whole life and always considered herself an ugly duckling. She never knew how much we really loved her. She never knew how much we really cared.

I had a bowl of chocolate chocolate chip ice cream tonight, smothered in chocolate sauce and sprinkled with macadamia nuts. Three years is a long time to go without talking to your mother.

May 19th, 2015 @ 8:24 am
Don’t Tell People

Kathie GagneIt’s been over a thousand days since mom died and I am still finding scribbled, unsent letters and postcards of hers in manila folders and spiral notebooks that seem threateningly infinite. I frequently curse her for not adding dates to things, so many, many of them are impossible to fix in the timeline of her too-short life.

One thing that makes me happy, though, is just the sheer quantity of empty pages she left. It sounds anti-intuitive, I’m sure, but she and I shared — and, to be fair, she is the one who instilled in me — a great love for writing, and writing implements, and new paper. There’s something profoundly hopeful about buying a new notebook.

In this I will begin my great American novel …
This one will hold letters to my great-grandchildren …
I can use this to record ideas for short stories …

I know those are the sorts of things she was thinking when she purchased yet another exquisite leather-bound journal or $1.99 college-ruled Walgreens notebook. I know because those are the sorts of things I think. And even though so many of them contain three pages of her lovely handwriting and 197 pages of blank space, it still brings me such joy to imagine the thrill she felt in line at the book store, and to know that for those few minutes she was sublimely hopeful and happy.
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