One of the memorable clients at Twin Pines Psychiatric Hospital was Dave, a gentleman who worked for a company who manufactures surgical instruments. He was a brilliant man with ideas way ahead of his time though he was diagnosed with Bipolar illness. In the “high” periods of his illness he presented the company with rather “way out ideas” for new surgical instruments and more than fifty percent of his ideas where usable.
When Dave sunk into the depressed state of his illness and was unable to come up with ideas or solutions to surgery problems, the company “footed the bill” for him to get back to the profitable phase by sending him to Twin Pines.
When he was able to attend Occupational Therapy he remarked, “Betty, I have a plan for an underwater spear gun for big game fishing. We wanted to develop it for a long time now.
Can I work on it in Occupational Therapy?”
“Perhaps, what do you need to create this spear gun?” I asked.
“Oh, let’s see . . . resin, and catalyst. glass fabric to start with, “he related.
“That’s a big order, but I’ll see what I can do,” I promised.
The next day Dave arrived in Occupational Therapy with a drawing of the spear gun, specifications and a list of materials.
“Wow! You have been working overtime,” I told him. I could see Dave knew what he was doing as the plans were very specific and neatly done.
“Well, I’ve had this idea for a while,” he remarked. “Do you, by any chance go fishing?” I asked.
“Sometimes, when I get the opportunity, I like to go down to Mexico for Marlin. I like the challenge!” Dave told me.
“I guess you know that what kind of ‘findings’ you need, but don’t you have to dive to spear big fish?” I queried. (Findings are the small miscellaneous pieces that are needed to complete the project.)
“Yes, I know how to catch Marlin with a line though I wonder how it would be to spear a big bass or something. Of course, the shot must have a tether, so the fish won’t get away,” Dave explained.
“I’ve never fished for anything bigger than trout,” I admitted to Dave.
“Fly fishing is fun too, especially in the high mountain streams. The water is cold and the air fresh,” he seemed to be reminiscing of just such an event.
After conferring with his doctor, it was decided that Dave could make the spear gun and I should obtain the materials he needed.
Dave was delighted when I presented him with the materials he had requested, and he set to work immediately! He took over one of the craft tables and spread his gear out as carefully as a surgeon’s operating tray. He hummed to himself as he worked and it was obvious he was happy with the prospect of the project before him.
‘For a week he worked at the table, and then he needed more space and ventilation for the resin formula, so he moved out onto the porch. Within two weeks the object began to resemble a long barrel of a gun made of glass fabric and slick with resin. He then fashioned a handle, much like one on a handgun and covered with the resin to seal the handle for underwater use. It was becoming a beautiful instrument and the other male clients were fascinated to watch the gun emerge for the messy resin and glass fabric. Dave was also asked questions as he worked which pleased him greatly.
Finally, after six weeks, “Betty, I need to test the gun now.”
“How do you test it?” I asked.
“I need a C02 cartridge to activate and propel the spear out of the gun.” Dave answered.
“C02 , I’ll ask the doctor,” I told him.
“The gun is no good until I know if it works,” Dave said rather disappointedly.
The doctor gave approval for one C02 cartridge, so I called Dave’s wife who brought the cartridge to him.
Lots of excitement was generated by the rumor this was “test day” and everyone came to Occupational Therapy eager to see the testing of the spear gun.
“Where?” Dave asked, “I need water for the test.”
“How about the bathtub?” I suggested, having absolutely no idea regarding the strength of such a gun. “Okay!”
The bathtub was filled with water and the carbon dioxide cartridge loaded into the gun’s chamber. Dave lowered the gun into the water.
“Ready?”, he asked. “Sure, why not!”
The sound was deafening in the enclosed bathroom. Immediately both of us were drenched in the avalanche of water and there was a gaping hole in the foot of the bathtub. We looked at each other wide eyed and started to howl with laughter.
I laughed until tears ran down my face in the image we made sitting in a large puddle of water. We both were wet clear through; leaning against the bathroom door and neither of us could stop laughing long enough to speak. “it works! It works just like l’ d planned,” Dave proclaimed between bouts of laughter.
“it sure does!” I agreed.
Meanwhile in the other room the patients were clapping and cheering and saying “It works, it works! Dave can catch a big fish now!”
Haruko came to the door and since we were leaning against it, she couldn’t open it. “Are you all right? Oh, oh, there’s water seeping under the door.”
We could not answer as every time we looked at each other we burst into laughter again.
Finally, Haruko demanded, “Open this door! Are you all right? What’s with all this water?”
“Okay, you get up first” I said.
“You sure look funny, soaking wet!” Dave pointed out.
“So, do you, Mr. inventor!” l retorted.
“But it works! it’s really good! Powerful enough to get the Big Bass!” Dave shouted with glee.
When Haruko could finally get the door open there was another rush of water into the hallway and over her shoes She couldn’t help but join the laughter as she glanced down at her shoes and at the broken tub and water everywhere!
“It seems we have learned the C02 underwater spear gun IS a success!” Haruko agreed.
The patients gathered around to add their congratulations. Dave just beamed. This was another success to his credit, but this time for himself not for the company. Later I learned that his spear gun was patented and marketed!
I wonder how many game fishermen have acquired his spear gun, which was developed in Occupational Therapy.
Before Dave was to be discharged, I asked, “Dave, please try to clean up your work area. The table is unusable, and the porch rail IS a mess.”
Dave worked for two days sanding and scraping to remove the resin from the table and porch rail. Finally, in disgust he said, “Hell, Betty, I’ll buy you a new table and fix the porch. I can’t get this stuff off.”
I didn’t quite believe him, but I knew he’d worked very hard at trying to remove the mess. To my surprise two weeks after his discharge a truck pulled up to Occupational Therapy. Dave and his friend Matthew unloaded a new table and lumber and paint to repair the porch. Dave introduced Matthew who worked with him and was also a design engineer. By the end of the day Occupational Therapy had a new porch with a fresh coat of paint and a new bathtub.
Smiling, Dave hauled the old table into the truck and waved good-bye.
An excerpt from “Once Upon a Career” published in 2011 This book is the original work of the author. All included information is common knowledge and the names of the clients in these tales are fictional, but their stories are true. The names of places and staff are real, though a few of the staff names have been changed and are part of the author’s account of her past.
Copyright 2011-2018, Betty Kaseman all rights reserved.