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Our Man Hugh

Hugh was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when he was 19 years old. That’s when he started hearing strange voices and experiencing grandiose delusional thoughts. He stopped paying attention to his hygiene. He could not hold a job. Hugh simply could not navigate the world. He was alone in the world. Every two months there was a striking pattern. Hugh would show up at the emergency room with voices telling him to walk into moving traffic. It was always the same story. Was he telling the truth? Or did he just want a bed to sleep in for a few nights? And three meals per day? But - what if we refused to admit him to the psych ward and he subsequently walked into traffic…..? And so we thought, better safe than sorry. Once in the hospital, Hugh would be restarted on his schizophrenia medication, medication which he was never compliant with outside the hospital. Sure enough, in a few days he would say with jubilation that the commanding voices had died down: “I’m feeling better, time for me to leave!” And then Hugh would sign himself out of the hospital. We told him we could find a group home for him, but Hugh would have none of that: “I don’t want to be stuck somewhere “‘ he would say; “I just want to ramble around.” Two months later, our friend Hugh would show up again and the cycle repeated itself. Again and again. I must say that we who worked at the hospital loved Hugh. He was a very engaging and spirited fellow, always with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face. Our hearts went out to him - a life utterly alone. I believe that his short stays in our psych ward were his main social outlet. From his perspective, he seemed quite happy with his lot. One day I was walking down the street and suddenly ran into Hugh. He gave me a big smile and yelled out: “Guterson, Guterson! See you real soon! I’m coming back to the hospital next week!”

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