When James Love cracks a joke, describes movie scripts he’s written, or shares his enthusiasm for the latest English/African American literature that’s caught his attention, it’s hard to believe the trials this 65-year-old has overcome in the past year.
But James finds reasons to smile, despite tough circumstances.
A little over a year ago James had fallen on hard times and found himself living in motels. And he was rapidly running out of money. But that was just the start of his troubles.
“I woke up in my motel room and went to renew my room and the staff couldn’t understand me. They told me they thought I might have had a stroke, so I got on the bus and went to Abrazo West in Goodyear,” James recalled.
Abrazo West medical staff verified that James had in fact, experienced a double stroke when a blood clot in his brain split into two overnight. On top of that, he ended up back in the hospital three days later with pneumonia and the flu.
“I had to relearn all the language. I lost a lot of it,” James said. “I’m a writer and all the things I wrote… I couldn’t remember. It was like that part of my brain was erased,” James said.
Challenging family dynamics left James on his own emotionally and financially. With altered speech and memory function, and little to no money to support himself, James didn’t know where he would live or what would happen to him.
That’s when he met with Lesley Greven, a registered nurse at ACN, who helped James find low-cost temporary housing he could afford, using supplemental security income while he applied to live at the downtown Phoenix YMCA.
The Downtown Y Residence Program helps adults in need of stable and independent housing. The housing gives residents a comfortable place to live with necessary resources.
After his stroke James’ cognitive abilities were compromised, and he was having trouble remembering important dates and appointments. He needed to keep track of his cognitive rehab appointments with Dr. Ashby at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
ACN Social Worker Scott Elliott was looped in to help James keep track of his appointments, organize his medications, and provide a listening ear and support during this difficult time. James says Lesley, Scott and his best friend Julie were the main people he leaned on for support throughout the tough year.
“His speech and memory have drastically improved since I first met him, but he has done so much of the heavy lifting of healthcare,” Scott said. “Ultimately, James has embraced opportunity and support to improve his circumstances and condition. When there was speech and memory rehab appointments, he went to every single one. If he didn’t have transportation, he would find a way to get there.”
Scott brings James a food box from St. Mary’s Food Bank once a month to keep his kitchen stocked. On food box days, James patiently waits for Scott in the lobby and always greets him with a smile and an oversized recycling bin for them to fill with the food and take up to his room at the YMCA.
“Scott is my emotional support, encouragement and he laughs at my jokes,” James said.
James is on a mission to change his name and we all laughed as he talked about his options of “William Sonoma” (after the cookware brand) or “Micah Cilantro.” He said humor is the only way he manages, but his humor doesn’t stop him from going out of his way to care for people who are seriously struggling.
“At Thanksgiving I used to go buy a bunch of turkey dinners [from the cafeteria at St. Joseph’s Medical Center] and give them to the homeless people on the streets because I didn’t know anybody. Everybody died or moved away so I didn’t have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving,” James said.
According to ACN Social Worker Scott Elliott, James is the type of person who brings out the best in other people whether he is in the cafeteria, community, or in a medical office. James says that it’s not something he thinks about – it’s just who he is.
He has come a long way since he woke up in that motel in January of 2019, but James remains modest and says he still has such a long way to go. He says the best thing about the care he is receiving is that it’s all “tied together” and it consolidates care for the multiple health challenges he is facing.
Today, James is once again an avid reader and writer with eclectic tastes. He is so smart that he knows section 822 in the Dewey Decimal System is where he can find a Shakespearean novel to satisfy his itch for a good poetry read, but he can also be found in library sections containing Tibetan Buddhist psychology or political novels.
James hopes to buy a small home in Payson one day. In the meantime, he continues to live independently while working on his speech and memory through cognitive rehab, high-level reading, writing and his witty jokes you just have to love.
“I have to laugh – because it’s a hard life right now,” James said.