He’s an extremely impatient patient. He wants out. He wants to return to “his streets.”
Charles Waldrum even celebrated his 58th birthday in the hospital. He didn’t like it either.
“I’m ready to get back on the streets,” he insisted. “I’m tired of being here.”
The staff of this facility have been patient, and they have been gracious, careful, and sensitive to this man’s legendary status. Charles has had visitors like family members, friends close to him, and even fans who are visiting their own family members. Photos of him have been shared on social media during his hospitalization, but he doesn’t seem to care when he’s told.
He likes to talk with people, he is seldom in his room, and it’s been difficult to track the man down at times. And yes, at times, he sticks his tongue out at people when he’s being his ornery self.
During my visits I have listened to staff members thoroughly explain treatments and schedules with him so he understands the medications and procedures that he has been experiencing since a few Wheeling firefighters delivered him to OVMC nearly two months ago with a badly infected left leg.
“People are nice here,” Charles said. “I go everywhere to see people.”
Many local folks in the Wheeling area have asked, “How’s Charles?” But when he learns about the interest, he wonders why folks are offering their well wishes.
“Who wants to know?” he asked. “Why do they want to know anyways?”
He is eating well, and sometimes Charles even appears to have fun with some of the staff members. When he encounters children, he usually offers them a dollar. It’s not the first time, either, but when I’ve asked him about it, he has said, “I don’t need it. Kids need it so they can go buy candy.”
Charles is eager to see the people he calls his “regulars,” and he also believes “the bad guys” are getting away with more mischief with him off the streets.
He is right about that, too, because he has shared more eyewitness accounts with authorities than even he can recall, and that’s because, as always, he cares about his town. It truly is about good people and bad people to Charles Waldrum, and that means age, gender, race, or religion matters not.
This week is an important one for his continued recovery and eventual discharge, and Charles has tired of the answer, “When you are all better.”
“When can I go home? I’m ready to get back out there,” Charles says pretty often to anyone who will listen. “I feel fine.”
(Photos by Steve Novotney)