Marvin Rumsey, 76, has mellowed through the years, but he still enjoys a little mischief now and then.
Perhaps he’ll slide a magazine under a rug when no one is looking. Then watch him smile when a staff member trips, pulls out the magazine and exclaims, “Now how did that get under there?” Or Marvin may stealthily poke his food into the seat of his dining room chair so staff members will think he ate it.
His pranks today are pretty harmless compared to some of his escapades during his nearly 50 years of living at Winfield State Hospital & Training Center.
“One time he crawled through one of those windows where you reach through grating to open it,” recalled Herb Evans, who supervised Marvin’s caregivers at the hospital in the 1980s. “The opening was not very big, maybe 12 by 18 inches, but he crawled through it and got outside in the middle of winter. We found him sitting in the snow on the front porch.”
Herb and other former hospital employees recall a time when light bulbs kept disappearing. It was quite a mystery because, one by one, the light bulbs were simply gone. Eventually a staff member saw Marvin unscrew a bulb when he thought no one was watching. Then Marvin silently climbed up, pushed aside one of the ceiling tiles in the suspended ceiling and added the light bulb to a large stash of light bulbs and other items he had hidden there.
“Another time he crawled up into the elevated ceiling and crawled along to the ladies’ dormitory,” Herb said. “He fell through the tiles onto a lady in bed.” (Neither was injured.)
“When you went outdoors, you really had to watch Marvin. “He’d take off. You had to keep an eye on him.”
Marvin was born on May 26, 1934, at Waverly, a small town east of Emporia. His father was a blacksmith, and Marvin had three sisters and a brother. His mother died in 1945, and he was admitted to Winfield State Hospital in 1947 when he was 13 years old. His records don’t indicate he had much contact with family members after that. A notation in his records did say he worked at the dairy farm that was part of the state hospital until sometime in the 1950s.
Marvin was transferred to Norton State Hospital in 1971 but returned to the Winfield hospital in 1973 and resided there until the hospital closed. He moved in December 1997 to a Creative Community Living duplex on Harris Road in Winfield.
In his earliest days at CCL, Marvin’s needs were mainly related to his behavior. Doors at the Harris Road duplex have automatic alarms, so the staff knows when someone leaves. That kept him from leaving the premises without being noticed. Because of Marvin’s obsession with poking items into openings, including unsafe ones such as electrical outlets, covers were placed on the outlets there for his and other clients’ safety.
“Marvin would wait for opportunities – when the staff were busy – and then he would jet out the front door,” said Nichole Gardner, his behavior services consultant at CCL. “Then he would look for something to poke, which was often a small stick he poked through a vehicle grill.”
“Sometimes he would hit staff members if they were pushing him to do things he didn’t want to do,” said Kim Moore, his current case manager. “At mealtime, for instance, he didn’t like people to keep telling him to eat. He didn’t like to be told to put something down. It works better if it’s his own idea to do something.”
Last year, Marvin was diagnosed with diabetes after becoming more medically fragile and losing weight. Dependent on insulin, he just wasn’t engaging in his usual behavior. The decision was made to move Marvin in August 2009 to a CCL residence at 430 W. 33rd where the staff is skilled in providing more medical attention. They did a good job of getting him stable, but it became apparent Marvin needed to have a more active peer group.
Marvin moved to the CCL duplex on Chicago Street in early September 2010. Instead of presenting behavior challenges, as he did in his earlier years, he now requires more assistance with medical needs.
Supporting someone with diabetes “has been a huge change,” said Chicago team leader Sandy Wilson. “The staff check his blood sugar four times a day and give him insulin four times a day. They have to make sure all his food is sugar free or low sugar.
“We have worked to get him more involved,” she said. “He is more awake now and more active. He’s also laughing more. We went to the (Sedgwick County) zoo recently, and when he saw the animals he was so excited. On the way home, he just laughed and smiled and watched everything.
“Marvin also started going to the Kansas Veterans Home with the other men when they volunteer twice a week,” Sandy said. “We wash, fold and put away laundry for some of the veterans on Mondays, and we get their shopping lists, go shopping and then drop off the items on Thursdays. Some of them will come and sit and talk with us while we’re doing the laundry.”
“Marvin is having a good time at Chicago,” Kim said. “He’s really enjoying his housemates Bruce and Richard. When they first met, they shook hands and are now friends. It’s exciting for Marvin because of all the activity and having more male staff. He’ll do more for them. He really likes Bill Cooper, who works at Harris Road, and Bill still visits him.
“Marvin is eating slightly better now, and I think he’s happier,” Kim said. “He’s a person who needs activity around him. Even if he doesn’t join in, he needs something to watch. He also seems to be getting stronger. Maybe it’s because he’s more excited about life.”
“You never know what Marvin is going to do,” said Bev Jenkins, his guardian since 2003 and a longtime state hospital employee. “He’s got a great smile and a good laugh. When he’s in a talkative mood, it just blows me away. It really makes me happy.”
Most of Marvin’s time is spent in his wheelchair, but he walks with the assistance of staff, Sandy said. He has gotten up on his own a couple times but didn’t have the strength to remain standing.
Many individuals have lived in the same house ever since coming to CCL. Marvin is among those who have moved because their changing needs could be better met in a new location.
“When he was at Harris Road, Marvin went from getting up and running away to needing a mechanical lift at one point to get into the Aquatec bathing system,” Kim said. “Because of his diabetes, it was felt he could be better cared for at a different home. When an opening became available at the Chicago home, where there are more people with his same interests and needs, he had an opportunity to move there. Since it is already equipped with lifts, Marvin should be able to live there for a long time, even as his needs continue to increase with age.”