Admissions Essay - Forgotten, but Not Gone
The only signs of life came from faint movements their bodies made when inhaling and exhaling the surrounding air. Most of the patients did not even blink as Bob Barker, host of "The Price is Right," somehow held his viewers in a hypnotic trance. Others maintained slouched postures as they dozed off in their wheelchairs. Ben and Gene, however, danced spastically while quietly chanting unrecognizable hymns. Ninety-four year old Mary was discreetly wheeling herself out of the recreation room. A shaggy looking maintenance man, with the name Ronnie embroidered on his stained uniform, was viciously tearing apart the room's air conditioning unit.
Despite this less than ideal environment, my summer internship as a recreational therapist in this long-term health care facility remained unchanged. "Current Events at 11:00" was boldly displayed on the doors and cork-boards throughout the building, and it was my job to facilitate a discussion with this diverse group of brain-injured people.
To more than a few jeers from the crowd, Bob Barker's entrancing powers suddenly evaporated as I turned off the television. I convinced our two talented dancers to join the rest of the group, while steadily wheeling Mary back into the room. I sat down with my usual copy of the Boston Globe. A picture of families splashing and running along the coast of a sandy beach immediately seized my attention. Some patients also caught a glimpse of the striking photograph and conversation erupted. The group ranged in age from twenty-one to one-hundred-one, but it did not matter, everyone had a story to tell about their days of summer fun. I could not deny a sense of longing in their voices, as tales of sand and sun sounded like intangible dreams from a remote past.
Our dialogue was cut short by the squealing sounds of the lunch cart, signaling the end of our current events session. I bolted down to the recreation office while visions of a beach-related activity flooded my mind. I eventually acknowledged that for medical and safety reasons it would be impossible for patients to leave facility grounds. The focus of my thoughts shifted to images of an artificial beach within the institution. I immediately remembered the second floor patio which was outdoors and easily accessible. When I threw my ideas at the office, everyone was skeptical because of a shortage of staffing, but after two days I was able to enlist an enthusiastic group of volunteers, including kitchen workers, interns and even Ronnie our maintenance man.