By Jim Schutze
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"The most effective thing we do is psychoactive medications," Perry says. "That's probably the most important treatment intervention we have."
Medication is about all Macie Stafford got when he wound up back at Terrell in November 1999.
Stafford had been there once before, committed in December 1998 and released the following May. While he was there, he was diagnosed with neurosyphilis, a disease that had reached its heyday before World War II when it filled the nation's mental hospitals with victims. They commonly died in a state of dementia after the disease robbed them of their ability to remember and left them sinking in despair.
In between his commitments, Stafford occasionally stayed with his daughter, Katherlyn LaGale Walker. She thought he had "syphilis," the early stage of neurosyphilis, and says she never really understood what was wrong with her dad. When he was acting OK, he'd spend his time fixing cars at various garages, where he would also sleep. When it got cold, he came home.
"I was trying to make sure he was taking his pills and stuff," says Walker, who also took him to and from the local MHMR facility where he got his medications. "They would ask him a couple of questions, refill his medications and send him off."
That fall, Stafford started acting like he wasn't OK. Walker knew he was really off when he failed to fix her car. He was becoming increasingly disoriented. He didn't know what year it was. One day he was cooking spaghetti and cornbread together. Then he started leaving home for days at a time. Invariably he'd call Walker and she would bring him home. Walker would probe him to see if he was still taking his medications.
"He'd say, 'I ain't no child,'" Walker says. "I'd have to tell him to take a bath. I'd tell him to change his clothes. He'd get mad. He didn't think about nothing like that. All he thought about was fixing cars."
Then one day Stafford asked Walker if she would drive him somewhere. It was cold out and Walker said no, told him he should stay at home. He left. Walker didn't go after him. After all, he was a grown man.
Dallas paramedics later found him lying on a street, claiming to be "non-existent." They took him to Parkland hospital, and from there he went back to Terrell. When Stafford got there, the doctor asked him if he felt like killing himself. "Why not?" Stafford replied. "I'm dead anyway."