Zack, a 13-year-old boy, was spiraling out of control. He was struggling with worsening severe anxiety and aggression, and his parents, Tracy and Wendy, were the targets of his aggression. He was emotionally and physically attacking them and destroying their property. They spent many days in and out of emergency rooms and in-patient hospital stays, but these visits were band-aid solutions.
Zack was on 15 different medications and his psychiatrist was concerned that they were causing more harm than good. Wendy and Tracy knew the only way to start fresh and wash Zack of all these medications was to do so at home but that wasn’t a safe option anymore. Zack struggled with making friends and started sharing suicidal ideations like “wanting to live someplace else” and “not wanting to live anymore.” Wendy and Tracy were running out of options.
They researched the 5-state area, looking for treatment options for Zack. When they came across Nexus-Gerard Family Healing’s webpage, they liked what they read. Unfortunately, it was the height of COVID, so Tracy and Wendy were not able to tour the facility. They learned Nexus-Gerard works with Dakota County and county social workers spoke highly about Nexus-Gerard. The county recommended Wendy and Tracy get a written note from their psychiatrist so that Zack could stay more than 30 days. Oftentimes that process can take a while, but their psychiatrist responded right away because his need was so great.
They recall what it was like dropping Zack off at Nexus-Gerard for the first time. “It was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do,” Wendy says. “We live an hour and a half away, so we drove down, sat outside for 10 minutes, and said goodbye. Then we sobbed the entire drive back home,” Tracy shares.
“I remember seeing the pride and transgender flags hanging as you drive into campus. As a lesbian couple with an adopted biracial son, inclusion is so important to us. That little gesture was very welcoming,” Wendy recalls.
The first couple of weeks were the hardest. Since they couldn’t visit Nexus-Gerard prior to arrival, Zack was initially upset with how Wendy and Tracy described the buildings, but things got better. He liked that he could socialize with peers his age in his dorm and was able to have a private room to himself.
Wendy and Tracy called Zack every day and visited on the weekends. When visiting, they always brought Zack lunch from his favorite Chinese restaurant, and would spend 1-3 hours with him. “We love there are so many different buildings with lots of green spaces. That kids have the dorm space but then also have different spaces and areas, like a family room to socialize,” Wendy shares. “Visiting our son while he was in Nexus-Gerard’s care meant everything. We loved we could call every day and visit on the weekends.”
Employees Who Genuinely Care
Wendy gushed about Nexus-Gerard staff. “The staff is amazing. Staff at hospital units are encouraged to not work long-term with patients because they see the kids as too difficult to work with. It is routine to have staff rotate in and out regularly. You never know who is working with your child at any given point. Not the case with Nexus-Gerard.”
“Staff at Nexus-Gerard see working with youth as a privilege versus a burden,” shares Tracy.
“We were always blown away around the holidays. Staff alternated holidays. It was great to see how much staff loved the kids; they wanted to spend their holidays with them,” Wendy says.
Wendy recalls how helpful it was to talk to staff members Angie or Dev regularly. “They would reassure us of Zack’s behaviors and let us know it was normal. When it was time for Zack to come home, Angie told us to call anytime. And she meant it. She responded to our calls on the weekends or replied to emails late at night.”
Zack spent a total of 7 months at Nexus-Gerard. While there, Zack was able to reset his medications. He went from 15 medications, down to 4 or 5 on reduced levels. He learned coping skills for his anger and aggression and how to communicate his feelings. “We’re so grateful for the coaching we got from Angie and Dev. Zack is able to tell us what he needs now, he couldn’t do that before,” says Wendy.
“He even does chores!” Tracy chimes in and laughs.
Zack started puberty while at Nexus-Gerard but was able to talk to the “cool guy staff” about “guy stuff.” “Now when we ask him about certain puberty topics, he says, ‘Oh yeah, I learned about that at Nexus-Gerard.’ And I don’t second guess it because I trust Nexus-Gerard staff that much,” says Wendy.
“If Nexus-Gerard didn’t exist, Zack would either be dead or in jail,” Tracy says as tears well up in her eyes. “Nexus-Gerard saved Zack and our family.”
“Not just saving. Nexus-Gerard brought back our Zack and helped our family go back to how we wanted our family to be. We can now have a family dinner or a movie night. We couldn’t do that before.”