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The San Giacomo Psych Ward Tour

June 3, 2006

There was the “Scar Doctor” because we never got his name- he had serious reconstructive scars around his chin and cheeks and was very present in our first 2.5 days at San Giacomo Psych Ward. At the end of the 2nd day he came across us on the phone near the elevator. As he waited to go down, he asked my mom how she was. She explained that as the anxiety from Sammy’s ordeal lessened the grief came back very strongly. He revealed he had lost his 3 year child 6 months earlier. As we gasped and offered our sympathies he simply said, “It is hard, yes… and it is possible”.

There was Bernardo- the multi-lingual “International Thief”, he was released on Monday to his family who wouldn’t accept his kisses. He made sure Sammy got up for meals and often translated when the orderlies were attempting to communicate with us. He says he has 10 months off and enough money to come to the states and stop by Northwood, the Dr. says he doesn’t see him leaving Italy anytime soon.

There was Jessica- the street worn, sockless smoker, who always said hello and was ever appreciative of cigarettes we bought for Sammy to give out. She taught us how to count in Italian and we taught her 1-10 in English. We speculated she had come from a history of abuse and perhaps lived on the streets.

There was Valentina- the young outgoing makeover queen of the ward, who had a penchant for cigarettes and Sammy. Alison says she was there from the beginning and only started to come out of her shell when Sammy was more awake. I remember her family on the 2nd day handing out pastries and cookies and her happily walking the ward. She drew many pictures for Sammy and every day we returned a new female patient would have her face done up.

There was Stephano- the pony tailed non-English speaker who was friendly and sweet. He had outdoor smoking privileges and told Alison he was one of 7 and had to stay till Sunday and had already been in the ward for 9 weeks. I remember his family coming once, but mostly he was left alone to chat with other patients and give Sammy high fives.

There was Mary the one with roots strongly coming through died blonde hair who told us she was there from a depression crisis. Her sister visited frequently and walked the hall with her. Her mother came on Tuesday with a new pink outfit for Mary. Valentina’s makeover of her included putting her hair up in a way that made her roots less noticeable.

There was Josie who arrived on Sunday bugged eye and pajamaed. She spoke small bits of English with us and enjoy the M&M’s we brought.

There were others we never met, or who mostly slept. I’m sure there will be many more. They will remain a part of this experience that made it in many ways more real and in others more surreal. They made us a show, something that entertained them- The sleepy American boy and his family that comes everyday at 10, 4 and 8- and also reminded us of the realness of life, the reality of living each day, how hard the world can come crashing down on you at times, and yet, how, it is possible.

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