Am I really afraid of Whitey Bulger? I’m not connected in any way with organized crime, corruption or any of the various aspects that go along with the seedy underbelly of life. I have no reason to be checking over my shoulder for a geriatric Whitey and I am not a rat. So why would I say I’m afraid of Whitey Bulger? There are two reasons:
Reason One: I was a visiting nurse for a short time in Lynn, Massachusetts. “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin, you never come out the way you went in…” It was pretty grimy and skeevey but Lynn had that reputation for years. I knew what I was in for:
Visiting an apartment with the floor covered entirely with mattresses and the kitchen cabinet doors pulled off, covered with wire to make chicken coops. It was multigenerational family from Cambodia and the 6-year-old great-grandson was the one who translated to about twenty people that I was the nurse who was going to give the million year-old Cambodian woman a shot of epogen. They all put their hands on me after I gave her the shot. I think it was a gesture of gratitude.
I remember trying to do a sterile dressing on a leg wound in the dirtiest apartment I have ever been in. I was so ticked off trying to find a clean place to put my pack down that I turned on the man and launched into a lecture that his living in filth was reason for his non-healing wound and he’d better make some changes if didn’t want his leg to fall off. It was a tirade from a garbage pile. When I ran out of steam I looked around and shook my head and we both burst out laughing.
I had agoraphobic woman who chewed me out royally for being five minutes late. She said she had a busy schedule and I had just ruined her day. I was dumbfounded! This woman had not left her apartment in seven years! What on earth was so urgent inside her four walls that couldn’t be put off by a few minutes?
Despite the challenge of practicing in a variable environment instead of the more controlled and cleaner hospital setting, I liked Lynn. As far as I was concerned, the city had heart and a very warm spot for its visiting nurses despite some of the less endearing events like sitting at a red light and watching a happy couple slug it out on a sidewalk in front of an open bar. By the time the light turned green they had each other in a clinch-hold and were rolling down the sidewalk.
My territory included Revere, MA. I didn’t like Revere. They really do say it like “Ra-vee-yah” and most of the inhabitants wear leathah jackets and have big hair. It was a city stuck in the 1970s because the personal style of my patients were kind of Brady-bunch nostalgia with a strong Italian flair. It was weird.
During that time I watched a show on Fox television called “Where’s Whitey?” All about Whitey Bulger, his crimes, his disappearance and the FBI’s renewed effort to capture him by upping the reward to $1,000,000. Revere came up as one of his possible hiding spots–he had a lot of hired goons from Revere.
After that I kept a lookout for Whitey Bulger. It was like, Whitey, I’m watching for you… while I drove around the city but it was more to pass the time than to really hope for a Whitey sighting.
One of my Revere patients was a big fat guy who needed daily dressing changes to his big fat belly because his surgical incision would not stay closed. He sent his wife out of the house on my first visit despite me telling him I needed to teach her how to change the dressing.
He wanted a nurse, not his wife to do it.
After the second week he offered to take me to Las Vegas as his personal nurse.
I said “My husband would not like that.”
He asked if my husband was a tough guy and I said, “You don’t want to make him mad.”
“He Italian?” he asked and I said, “No, Russian.”
He stopped making Vegas references but still sent his wife out of the house before I arrived.
Then came the morning I thought I saw Whitey Bulger walking along Massachusetts Avenue. I did a double take, a triple take; it looked so much like a picture Fox 25 had on the news! There he was, walking along the street, not even on the sidewalk, Whitey Bulger.
I made the mistake of telling my patient who I thought I saw because by that time I’d resorted to inane, annoying chatter to bother this man into wanting his wife to do the dressing changes.
This comment, he did not find inane or annoying. Instead, he sharpened up quite a bit.
“Oh yeah? Where’d you see him?”
“Massachusetts Avenue but I know it wasn’t him.”
“I tell you what, I’ll send a guy out and if it is him, I’ll split da money wit you.”
Oh crap, what the hell had I done? He’d send a guy out?? I knew I was I was not in a good place. I started to sweat and get cold at the same time. I had made a big mistake.
“Come on, it wasn’t him, it’s just all that stuff on the news about finding him. Besides he’s a terrible person and I’d never turn him in.”
“Why you think he’s a terrible person, huh?” he asked me
Why am I having this conversation while trying to pack gauze into a huge abdominal wound?
“He kills people!” I said.
My patient was quiet for a moment and I prayed the conversation was over but instead he said,
“What makes you think someone who kills people is a bad person?”
It was chilling.
I jabbed my hand hard into his belly and he went “Ooooof!” then I told him the conversation was over.
That was the last time I went to that house. I quit the job about 2 weeks later.
Reason Two: Nine years later. I work in a hospital on a busy med-surg, detox, cancer, you-name-it unit. There are some interesting patients and recently we admitted a gentleman who was withdrawing from alcohol. He was quite sick and took a very long time to come out of the DTs. Patients who are withdrawing usually take about 3 days to clear up but this guy took well over a week.
He was interesting in that it appeared he was homeless–the police brought him in off the street. He had a number of prison tattoos and had his left arm amputated. He had a very Italian name with an uncommon first name; it was a name kids would definitely make fun of in grade school.
Because he took so long to clear from the DTs, the doctors were thinking they would have to send him to a long-term care/psych facility for the incurably insane (kidding, I don’t think that place exists, although I wish it did). This patient looked like he had more problems than what he first presented with until the afternoon he opened his eyes and asked if he could sit in the chair.
He became the Miracle Man. He was amazed that he had lost 10 days of his life in the hospital and we were amazed that he was able to string together two words that made sense.
He was able to give information about who he was and where he was from. I am not sure if he told us anything that was true because he was definitely a wise guy. He said his tattoos were from prison but wouldn’t say where he did time. He had a brother in another state and let us try to guess which one. He said he lost his arm in a motorcycle accident.
When he was well enough he was discharged to a homeless shelter. On his day of discharge, he told staff that he was one of Whitey Bulger’s boys and that we could look him up in some book about Whitey’s street warriors. While I was doing his paperwork and arranging for a cab to a shelter, I asked if he was really one of Whitey’s boys.
“Oh yeah, I worked for Whitey! He wasn’t so bad. He was loaded (drunk) most of the time.”
“Well, you’re all cleaned up, so stay out of trouble.”
He laughed like he knew he couldn’t or wouldn’t stay out of trouble.
Then he said, “You know Whitey wasn’t bad until he got hooked on percocet. Then he ripped off my arm.”