On my Wednesday rounds at the dialysis center, one of my patients, we shall refer to as Mr. H said to me, “I’m not happy where I am.” He was referring to the nursing home he was discharged to after a prolonged hospitalization. Approximately 1 year ago, Mr. H suffered a debilitating stroke which left him with a speech impediment, left sided paralysis, dysphasia, and profound memory loss.

Puzzled to hear this sort of reaction from a man who, just a week ago lacked any insight into his dire situation, I asked, “Why?”

He replied, “They are not treating me right”.

I called the social worker on site and requested a search for his family or POA (durable power of attorney), which in the case of Mr. H, would likely be court appointed being he was devoid of all memory of life before the stroke. After skimming through his chart and finding no trace of next of kin, our social worker proceeded to contact the nursing home. They reported that no family has come forth and has yet to be assigned a court appointed designee. They told her allegations of improper conduct were unfounded and that Mr. H is in excellent care.
Tis was the story of a homeless man, who had lost his identity, dignity and health all within a few short months. Who believed his peril, who would save his lost soul?

Few weeks went by without any other news or mention of this incident, when unexpectedly my office received a call from the unit secretary at Mar Vista Dialysis Center.

Ruth, a born, raised, and current resident of Venice, CA said in an exhilarated tone, “Tell Dr. Yazdani, we have found Mr. H’s family and they’re all here at the center.”

Turns out, Ruth and her team did their own digging into Mr. H’s background, first by inquiry on a missing person’s online database, which would cost $38 to obtain. They didn’t want to pay, but they didn’t want to give up either. They searched long and hard through public profiles and social media sites, where lo and behold they came across his Facebook profile, and discovered he had a presence, with family and friends, his dog, his posts. There was a life behind this unacknowledged, unaccounted for man. They saw a contact number for his daughter, and range her phone. She was shocked and very happy to learn he was finally found. Later Ruth would explain to me on my subsequent visit, Mr. H’s story as described by his daughter. How sometime last year, after his divorce, he had ventured out free spirited with a camper van and his dog meanwhile keeping in touch with his family as best as he could. That fateful stroke which stripped him of his memory and so much more must have occurred shortly after.
He was shuffled back and forth from hospital to nursing home with no prospects of finding his former life, until two determined care extenders found an ingenious way to locate his family, thus regain his identity. When they showed him pictures of his daughter and some of his friends, he was able to recall their names, and remember parts of his “previous” life. The power of social media, that nowadays has gotten a bad rep, allowed us to reunite a lost man with not only his family, but also miraculously parts of his memory.

His daughter caught the next plane from San Francisco and reached out to all other members of his family and friends that eventually filled the dialysis center, at Mr. H’s bedside for a momentous celebration. They brought him clothes and food and surrounded him with a lot of love and happiness. Most importantly his daughter now his POA, will advocate for her father’s wellbeing.

Tears of joy and appreciation flowed through our micro-community that day, where love and compassion for another human being, in his most vulnerable state, proved to be the most precious gifts humanity has to offer.

And with that, we wish you all a Valentine’s Day filled with love!