© greg hannan| hannangregory@gmail.com 902 825 3534 | Nova Scotia | Canada
Hannan Greg

Re: BIOFILM #2, (bear)

For me, that period in Washington D.C between 1968 and 1972 was extraordinarily compressed. I married a woman (girl) I did not really 'know.' I enrolled at George Washington University with a prospective major in Anthropology. I continued my work (now in the office) for Walter C. Doe & Co. as a union member with IBEW local 27 (electrical). The Vietnam War finally "came home" to the American populace with the introduction of a 'draft' to secure a fighting force in numbers deemed sufficient to win a war. My adviser/dean in my first and only full year at university said, in reviewing my situation ..." One of these things: work/school/marriage has got to 'give'(go)." I had the occasion to run into him sometime later to say, "You were wrong. They All went." In 1970 I went through basic medic training, characterized as what a volunteer firefighter would initially receive, then worked with Medical Committee For Human Rights (MCHR) as a field medic during the four major antiwar demonstrations that descended upon Washington D.C. Three were far from peaceful, and the last one, "The March To Stop Traffic," resulted in the largest mass arrest in the country's history (13,000 people in the span of six hours). I was one of those incarcerated (and beaten) just after having conveyed the second of two critical care patients to George Washington University Hospital's E.R. The first, several hours before, was a young Black woman, unstable after cardiac arrest at our main field station. The second casualty was a demonstrator who had been run over by an enraged motorist. This patient had to be stretchered three blocks to the E.R. after all the MCHR ambulances (D.C. Dept of Public Health vans on loan) had been rammed and put out of commission by the DCMPD in a dawn attack on West Potomac Park. GWU's E.R. was on 'Mass Casualty Alert,' being the emergency unit closest to the events unfolding in the city that morning with Dr. Tomas Piemme, director of The Division of General Medicine, coordinating the operation (I remember Tom having a bullhorn). My first patient infarcted again, literally as her stretcher was pulled from the back of the van into the arms of a team amassed at the E.R. entrance. The second casualty was stretchered in, unconscious but breathing with indeterminate organ injury and visible fractures, and rushed to surgery. I'd already been awake for 24 hours at least, and I must have looked it (and this ordeal would not end for me for another three days). After the second 'delivery,' Tom Piemme, in his characteristically straightforward manner, asked, "What are you doing after this?" I replied that my girlfriend was thinking of going to Colorado, but I didn't know. Tom replied, "I want you to come see me," and handed me his card. Based on that encounter, I was hired by the hospital initially as a Mental Healthcare Expeditor for Service Area 9 (D.C.'s Ward 2 plus an area in S.W. along the Anacostia River). This would be my 'beat' in an expanded service. I worked with a social worker, a Black man named Thomas (Tom) Ingraham. I won't disseminate my duties other than the fact that they ranged from working at The Washington Free Clinic one night a week to attending meetings with The Metropolitan Council of Governments and Preterm (1st abortion clinic in D.C.). This however, was orientation for a role unknown to me until six weeks later when I was called into Piemme's office, and he introduced me to Jack Hasty, who was to be my future partner. In doing he said, "You two are going to start a Methadone program at the hospital." This moment was historic. We were a component of the first 'comprehensive' (full administrative/medical/psychiatric/research) Methadone Maintenance/Detox/Abstinence clinic in the country, one that couldn't be/never was repeated after its lifespan. Jack Hasty was a graduate of the first class of Vietnam combat medics/Physician Assistants to exist and begin active service in hospitals. Jack, as a U.S. Marine medic, was wounded in The Battle of Khe Sanh. During our contract tenure (18 months), we never spoke about the war or politics. We were friends. 'Top to bottom, this program was a 'research vehicle. Jack and I were Administrative Co-Directors, Dr. Robert Keimowitz, medical director with two P.A.'s in support (total medical care), Dr. Steven Lipsius, psychiatric director with two mental health professionals/two ex-addict counsellors, and Dr. John De la Rosa, medical research director (lipid studies) with one P.A. as support. I note this lineup, bereft of the specifics of our tasks directed towards sixty-two patients in a late stage of addiction over the project period to say, each director had one vote in determining specific treatment and prognosis of each addict patient. Where was I six months before? The 'bugs' were never worked out of this program. Predominate to Jack, and I was the administering of methadone doses to patients outside of business hours and on weekends. The E.R. literally revolted at the process of accommodating the program. There is still to this day in emergency rooms a bias against 'addict presentations' in general. So Jack and I traded off duties ancillary to our fixed salaries, with a few distinctions: Jack was married with a newborn and living in suburban Virginia while I lived within 15 minute's cab distance and Jack, being the P.A. of this duo was the only one licensed to makeup each patient dose in the morning. Within a few months, what began with me holding forth in the E.R. at designated evening times segued to being on call to monitor overdose recoveries 'after hours' then still further to triage Drug Related Psychiatric Admissions. I was the first to go into The 'padded room,' and on one occasion, I was stabbed through my shirt after tricking a patient into drinking an emetic. Quite often working at night, while waiting for a stabilized overdose recovery to wake up for an interview or waiting for a psychiatric resident to arrive from the 6th floor. I was pressed into support service ranging from debriding a gangrenous leg, maggots and all, to holding down drug/alcohol inebriated trauma cases while invasive probes/procedures were performed without anesthetic. I witnessed many deaths, saw a 'first aura' leave the body. There were moments of outrageous, surrealistic hilarity, and I became an odd part of the same four- nurse team with rotating residents directing the show. I've never calculated my overtime hours in the E.R. that I never received payment for. I was paid a fixed salary every other week by grants from the National Institute Of Mental Health (NIMH) and The Law Enforcement Association of America (LEAA) for administrative work. That wasn't a great descriptor of office hours either, being an umbilical cord to 62 patients: their needs, circumstances and in some cases, their criminal behaviour ranging from burglary and armed robbery to aggravated assault and homicide. As my contract eventually drew to a dose, it was made clear to me by the directors and Tom Piemme of their encouragement to renew it. For Jack to do so as well. At the same time, I received an offer from a Dr. Gallanter of Albert Einstein Medical Center in the Bronx to work at that institution with the mind of starting a similar program. I asked for three weeks off from the program before considering, and not having had an actual life apart from my duties, let alone adequate sleep, which they knew, they accorded me such, as long as I covered for Jack upon returning. I took a trip to Nova Scotia for two weeks and then to the mountains in New Hampshire for a week before returning. It wasn't hard for me to dispel the notion of moving to the Bronx. In my first 12 months on the methadone program in D.C., my girlfriend and I were placed under police protection for two weeks with scenes straight out of a movie, and that forced us to move to the other side of the city. This was thought at the time to be work-related. I was quite certain that working in the Bronx would produce some congruent experience or worse. I was thoroughly burned out without much understanding as to what that meant other than the conclusion that I could no longer be effective in my work. I tendered my resignation, stayed for six weeks to orientate Andy, my replacement, and allowed Jack to return. Jack resigned as well six weeks later, and I, in turn, packed immediate belongings/supplies and drove headlong to where I'd just returned from, Nova Scotia in mid-October 1972. Mine was not an odyssey 'full of promise'. The moments I'd previously had to myself were stolen moments from being on call, and the patients never left my head either, and my girlfriend had left, moved to Colorado after that first year, and so I had no one. In another week, I would be 22 years old. What I did know was that I had to be alone with no idea as to how long.
re: BIOFILM # 2 (Bear) 2016 wood ash, gesso, medium on paper 42” x 57” Private collection