Posted by Dr. El - January 31, 2011 - Anecdotes, Communication, Role of psychologists, Younger residents - 4 Comments

“My aide treats me like I’m an idiot,” Katrina typed to me on her talking computer.

“What do you mean?”

“She thinks I don’t know what’s going on!”  Her eyes radiated her emotional pain.  “She’s a bitch!”

A series of strokes had stolen Katrina’s ability to speak, leaving her a silent observer of her surroundings and interactions.  A former schoolteacher, she carefully typed her perspective on the world to me, hunt and peck with one good finger on each hand, then pushed a button that released them in a mechanical female voice.  The computer saved her, but it was a slow process and the only way to prepare a sentence in advance was to store it in a memory key.  We’d set it up so that Control-H was “Hello.”

“Does she know you can type on the computer?”

“That bitch won’t give me time to type!”  Her brows were furrowed and she appeared ready to explode with anger.  Her enforced silence was a frequent topic in our sessions.

“Let’s use psychology with her.  We’ve got to show her how smart you are.  And we need to make a personal connection to shift the dynamics.  Is there anything you know about her we can use?”

Katrina thought a moment.  “She used to work nights.”

“Perfect!  What if we set up a macro that said, ‘How do you like the day shift?’  That way she’d know you knew her well enough to be aware of her schedule, and it would set up a friendly tone.”

Her eyes lit up and she nodded.

“What memory key do you want me to program?  Hey, what about B for bitch?”

Katrina laughed.

I set up the macro and she pressed Control-B for practice.  “How do you like the day shift,” the mechanical lady said.  We discussed her plan: Control-H, Control-B the minute the aide came to her bedside.


The next week Katrina was beaming when I entered the room.

“Did it work?”

“Everything is different,” she typed.  “She talked to me like I knew what was going on!”

“You pressed the key?”

“I didn’t have to!  She just knew!”  Katrina was smiling from ear to ear.

“Well, isn’t that interesting?” I said.  “All we had to do was put it out into the world, and God took care of the rest!”