My name is Claudia Schalm. I live in Williams Lake, and want to share the story about my son, Kent. Kent was the oldest of my four children. We lived on a farm when the children were young and Kent was his father’s right-hand man. Kent was a responsible, hard worker. He could do anything from milking cows to running machinery, and everything in-between. You name it and Kent could do it.
|Kent in Grade 1|
Kent spent several summers planting trees, and was always the top tree planter. He made enough money to travel throughout Australia for six months.
Kent dreamed of becoming a police officer and when he was 21, Kent went off to Douglas College to study Criminology. But by the end of his second year, Kent was experiencing such significant symptoms of serious mental illness that he was no longer able to cope on his own. Kent returned home to Williams Lake to live with me and his sister, Cindy.
We were concerned and confused by Kent’s increasingly erratic and bizarre behaviour. The most disturbing was when he would laugh and chat with people that only he could see and hear. Despite our pleas, Kent refused to see a doctor and declined rapidly, becoming more and more withdrawn and silent.
Eventually, Kent was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But Kent never accepted his diagnosis, even up to the day he died. “There is nothing wrong with me,” he would announce, “I don’t need medication.”
We didn’t know it then, but this lack of awareness is actually a symptom called anosognosia.
BCSS Educators could have helped us understand and cope with this symptom.
For the rest of his life, there would be times when Kent would stop taking his medications. And then, when things got bad (and after much begging and pleading), he would reluctantly start them again.
Over the years, Kent had many jobs, but they always ended in dismissal because he simply could not stay on his meds. When Kent was not working, he would “make the rounds” as he called it. His hang-outs included McDonalds, A&W, Tim Hortons, Gustafson Chrysler, Heartland Toyota and The Jamboree. Kent would greet everyone with a huge smile and visit, while bumming coffee and cigarettes. The staff at these businesses were kind and friendly to Kent, helping him feel like he had a place to go, somewhere where he was wanted and appreciated. And I can never thank them enough.
Kent loved people and had some really good friends. He was a kind and gentle soul with a big heart. Even though Kent accepted people as they were and judged no one, some people did not understand Kent, especially when he was not taking his medications.
Kent shared many years with Teena. And through Teena’s First Nations heritage and connections, Kent was embraced by a large community of friends and family. Their acceptance of him was complete and unconditional. Teena loved and cared for Kent, and we are deeply thankful that Kent and Teena found one another.
|My family and I|
(From left to right: Troy, Cindy, Wade, myself and Kent)
By January 2017, Kent was put on a newer atypical antipsychotic medication. But he received only two doses before developing blood clots. He went through three operations to remove the clots, but they just kept reappearing.
My loving, kind, and gentle son, Kent, died on Mach 4, 2017.
If only we had discovered B.C. Schizophrenia Society sooner.
Parents should never have to bury their children.
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Your generosity will help give more families the information and support they need when they need it. Your donations will also fund essential research, right here in B.C., with the hope that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren may not have to struggle with schizophrenia as we have.
P.S. Thanks to the generosity of Chris Sandy, donations received by December 31, 2018 will receive a 2018 tax receipt. Every gift counts. Please make your gift today and double your impact! [Read the story of Chris Sandy's brother, Dave.]