Kathie Gagne died 2,476 days ago.

Podcasts
March 16th, 2016 @ 7:56 am

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.
Continue reading …

Things No Grieving Person Wants to Hear (and What to Say Instead)

Old and Overmedicated: The Real Drug Problem in Nursing Homes
December 8th, 2014 @ 10:50 am

pillsThis just makes me want to scream and cry. There’s a whole story today at NPR about how nursing homes are illegally — literally criminally — over-medicating patients with the exact same drug that killed mom. Check it out: Old and Overmedicated: The Real Drug Problem in Nursing Homes

And I can’t get anyone at all to care or listen to me.

Jackie’s Goodbye