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  • Writer's pictureCatherine J Rippee-Hanson

The Road Ahead... by Linda (Rippee) Privatte

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

Mark will soon be medically cleared and based on over 3 decades of discharges and releases several dozen times from hospitals the outcome will likely be the same. We will soon know what all the professionals with all their wisdom, will decide. I am forced at this time to contemplate the road ahead. I have no choice. I have much to fear. My brother is a mangled man inside and out. His injuries so horrific most people will look away. His body disfigured on every level. Loss of both eyes, severe TBI with loss of one third of frontal lobes, his body, face, head wired back together, and 60 surgeries, bolts, screws, and metal plates. Yes, he is a mangled man on the outside, but worse there is a brain disease that controls him…and his own brain will not allow him insight into the disease that that grips him. Anosognosia is brain damage –an invisible concurrent disorder in serious mental illness that will not allow Mark to know that he has serious mental illness. The comprehension of this condition eludes most people.

As I said, we have much to fear from the road ahead. Should he be discharged back to the streets once more, I have more to fear than ever before. The world changed drastically while he has been hospitalized since February 12, 2020. (109 days now) It changed for him due to the extent of his injuries from being hit by a car twice in a 4-month period. For the outside world…Covid-19 happened. Yes, a blind seriously mentally ill man walked into traffic twice in 4 months but was not considered a danger to himself or others by our trusted professionals. Now wait, that is not all though. Our local Police department has decided for themselves that Mark is only partially blind, based on their observations of him on the streets for 13 years. To be clear, both his eyes were severed at the optic nerve 34 years ago. I submitted a current vision exam from an ophthalmologist that confirmed that Mark is 100% blind with no NLP, no light perception. The Police department rejected the eye exam. My twin Catherine (CJ) Hanson and I were speechless, and that does not happen often for either one of us. No worries it will not last long.

As I said, we have much to fear of the road ahead. My twin and I have been contacted by hundreds of citizens over the years telling us they almost hit Mark, he was walking in traffic, he was laying down in a road or they almost wrecked their car swerving to miss him in the road. An officer put in the police report that only one week before the second time Mark was hit by a car that she had to swerve and almost wrecked her patrol car to miss hitting the car in front of her as Mark was in the road on the same street that he was hit by two separate cars. Our county supervisor announced at a public meeting that he had seen Mark in traffic and in the road for over 10 years and officers had to get him out of traffic when he had fallen. We now live in fear of our local police interacting with our brother on the streets under the wrong assumption that he can see anything. Already we have dealt with their denial of him being “Gravely Disabled” for 13 years. Now they do not believe that he is blind after getting him out of traffic for 13 years.

We live in fear of the Pandemic knowing we have no control over Mark encountering the virus out on the streets. How will he social distance? How will he know to wear a mask for others sake? For God’s sake, how will he keep his hands washed? He is blind. How can he not touch everything he encounters much more than the average person? I fear I will no longer be able to follow and search for Mark on the streets the way I have in the past. Things are so much more complicated, and my family insists that I take my safety and health into consideration when contemplating continuing to search and care for Mark on the streets.

I live in fear of the day I must tell my mother and twin sister that I have finally confirmed Mark’s death even though we have mourned him dozens of times already. I do not know what I fear more - him dying because of traffic or him being hit by a car a third time and suffering more damage to his tattered body.

The video clip above explains my many fears of the road ahead. The mental crisis I find my brother in. Listen to the sound of the busy traffic. Look at the 7-ft tree branch he is attempting to use as a guide cane! Him insisting I cross the street with him in the wrong place. Anyone who views this video cannot deny the serious mental illness that Mark lives with every day. Had I not shown up that day he may have been hit by a car crossing the road by himself. This was just a short clip of an exceedingly long visit that escalated throughout the remainder of the night. Now I will tell you what you do not see in the video clip.

I had been searching for Mark for a few days. A few weeks prior to this a woman in Vacaville attempted to help Mark rent a room in her house. She kindly worked through his mental illness and tried to shelter him, especially as winter was approaching. We were so relieved that maybe he would not be out there for that winter. It only lasted weeks. A few days before finding Mark, he had a serious mental health crisis and became delusional and when the woman tried to calm him down, he tried to hit her with a metal pipe. Thank god he missed, but he panicked and ran to the streets again. It took me days of searching to locate him after that incident.

After the video clip the day turned to night with several incidents. I had gone to Mark there on Alamo street because a friend had called to say that Mark was there asking her for a ride to San Francisco to the ocean so he could jump in. He was very confused over what happened with his landlord. He began insisting again that he was going to cross the street in the wrong place so that he could walk back over to the county building across town. My daughter and I managed to get him in our car and drove him over so he would not be in traffic. Now night was falling. We got him over to the county building where he has slept behind for years.

Suddenly the voices he hears began to torture him. He was arguing out loud speaking as the voices. One of the voices told him to hit me hard in the face and he did as they told him. I began crying. Immediately he grabbed me and I thought he would continue to hit me, but he grabbed me and hugged me and was trying to comfort me as if it were someone else that had just ran up and hit me. He began to cry as he comforted me.

I got him settled and then went home to ice my injuries. I called Vacaville Police department, Adult Protective Services, and the Crisis unit. I made reports that my brother had been suicidal, a physical threat to his landlord, injured me, been in traffic, and was having a mental health crisis. I told them he was a danger to himself and others. This was all in one day. I expected that this time he would be placed on a 51/50 hold! The following morning, we discovered that he was not. A good citizen let us know that he was at the 7-11 near the county building crying.

Please think about how many times in that one day - that Mark met the criteria for a 51/50 hold. Think about our local authorities seeing just what you see on this video, but not comprehending that he needs a 51/50 hold. Just think if you ever need to call the authorities to help one of your loved ones in a mental health crisis. Do you believe they will be helped? Are you sure? Are you sure you know what you would find down that road? You may think it would be so different if serious mental illness touched your family. It will not. Just think if I am not there one day- to pull Mark away from that road where our leaders want him to remain.

Yes, I fear the road ahead. I fear what is coming Mark’s way.


Mark being questioned by local police as he sits two feet away from a busy intersection.


Photo sent to us to let us know that Mark was in the street and traffic again.


Mark in a driveway of a busy local shopping center.


Mark in the driveway of another busy shopping center off a very busy local street.


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