Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


2 Comments

Brick Walls

Part Five

Thanks for all the comments and support. People get outraged when they hear what happens and the assumption is that something can be done about it. The reality is, probably nothing will ever happen to that doctor or that hospital. They will have to investigate because I filed a complaint, but the chances of anything actually changing or being done about it, are probably less than 2%. I’m not exaggerating.

Anyhow, I think I’m done with the day by day accounting. It’s just too depressing. So again, just a couple more highlights.

When you are admitted to a psych unit or facility, they take all of your belongings. Emily told us that the hospital finance person had approached her at least three times to tell her she needed to pay the thousand dollar deductible in order to be discharged. This upset her because she kept explaining to them that her purse had been taken so she didn’t have her credit card to give them.

Now understand, Spencer and I are having to sort out if Emily is comprehending things fully or not by this point. Did that really happen? Spencer handled this one. He called their insurance company and was told that of course that was not an appropriate procedure for the hospital. The insurance rep called the hospital and kept Spencer in on a three-way call. They got a hold of the woman directly and she verified that indeed, there was no misunderstanding. That is their protocol at the hospital. The conversation got pretty heated but the gist of it, was that this is NOT appropriate for three reasons:

1. Emily is not the primary insurance holder. Any conversations about deductibles or any other coverage questions should have gone through Spencer.
2. It is not normal procedure to trouble a patient about finances while they are currently still being treated.
3. It is just completely lacking in common sense when the patient happens to be having mental health issues and hasn’t even been coherent for 48 hours yet. Really??

Spencer made it clear as well that when his wife was discharged (which couldn’t be soon enough at this point) they would not be given a dime. He had been paying on his deductible all year, and the hospital would have to do what every other medical facility has to do. They bill the insurance, and then the patient pays the difference. That is just the norm and it absolutely makes logical sense. The finance person finally reluctantly agreed and then said she was hanging up because she thought the conversation was getting hostile.

Don’t even get me started with health insurance. I have heard so many ridiculous stories or experienced them myself that I could write another book just on that. Honestly, is there no common sense anymore? I have no idea if the insurance company will follow-up with that hospital, but if it were me, I would be extremely concerned to know that patients are being pressured while still in treatment. Let’s face it. People pay the money to get out of that hell hole. When the hospital finds out that the patient has already filled the deductible, what do you think the chances are that the hospital gives the money back to the patient? Now I don’t consider myself cynical or paranoid but let’s be honest. The hospital has probably ripped off thousands of patients. And oh yeah, let’s remember these are patients who also happen to be mentally unstable. That’s really special.

I recently got feedback that I can come across as bitter. I disagree. I also got the feedback that I seem angry, not bitter. There really is a difference. I am pissed off at the things I see. And I’m beyond enraged that I can’t seem to do a damn thing to help make it better. No matter how hard I try.


3 Comments

Imbeciles

Part four.

I have to admit, I am tired of writing about this. All three of the previous blogs only covered a little over 24 hours of what happened with my daughter. Every day, I get another email or phone call that makes me hit my head on the wall again. My plan was to give you all the gory details blow-by-blow so you could really follow the events, but I’ve decided just to give you the highlights. Or should I say low-lights?

After driving an hour and a half home from the hospital, we discovered that we were supposed to bring Emily shampoo and other toiletries. We brought her some clothes, only because the mobile unit suggested we put some together for her. The hospital gave us ZERO information. ZERO. We had no idea that we were responsible for bringing her supplies. And we had no idea they wouldn’t give her several of the clothing items Spencer had packed because there are lots of rules and regulations. Can’t have pants or shirts that have a tie on them. Again, just a tiny bit of information WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY VERY VERY HELPFUL. Great Monday.

On Tuesday I called to try to see what the treatment plan was. The nurse was very sympathetic and said the case worker should be contacting us. I told her what a joy that case worker was the day before. Now the nurse was very apologetic. She said she would not only have the case worker call, but also the psychiatrist. (By the way, we never did get a call from the case worker. Not once during the entire time of Emily’s hospitalization. Nice.)

Later that afternoon, Dr. Personality called me. This is how the conversation went.

“Hello, Darcy. I had a message to call you. What is going on?”
“Well, that it is the question I had for you actually. What is happening there?”
“I don’t understand your question.”
“I’m calling to find out what the treatment plan is for my daughter.”
“I don’t understand your question.”

Are you kidding me? Ok, let me spell it out for you.

“Have you diagnosed her yet? Have you started her on medications? Which ones? Is she compliant with taking them? What is her reaction to the drugs? Do you have a discharge plan? Is she doing any kind of therapy while she is there?” DUH.

The arrogant responses came back in full form. “Well, the diagnosis is a psychotic episode.” So we talked about that. I understand she had a psychotic episode. So he put her on Risperdol which is an anti-psychotic drug. Will she stay on that for a while? Yes. Ok. Now I explain to him that we have addressed the symptoms. She had a psychotic break and we have stopped that. Now what about the disease that caused the symptoms?

“I don’t understand your question.”

Ok. Well, I suspect she has Bipolar Disorder because of the strong family history and the manic episode. But she was saying some things that sounded schizophrenic. He said Bipolar more likely, but that isn’t his job. He has no intention of diagnosing her or starting her on meds that address her disease. An outpatient doctor will do all that.

Are you f*****g kidding me? Again, a little information would be helpful.

Their website says they are a full treatment facility with a multi-discipline approach. (I have to always point out that includes family therapy.) However, they are clearly not. They are a stabilizing facility, like most here in NY. Stabilize her and release her. Now that is information I find helpful. Just tell me what your plan is and I can adjust. But you gave me no information and your website is completely false and deceptive.

I then try to enter a dialogue with him about the next step. Should I be researching another type of facility for her? Why would I want to do that he asks me. For about a million reasons. Because Bipolar is an extremely difficult disease to manage. The meds are heavy-duty and take a long time to level out. And you are going to release her back into the environment that stressed her enough to cause a psychotic episode in the first place. I don’t know what the best next step is, but as her advocate and loved one, I would like to have a dialogue with a professional to figure that out.

Here’s the winning statement for Dr. Dreamy.

“Your daughter is not an imbecile or a retard.”

Are you f*****g kidding me?

“Yes doctor, I know. But neither am I. I am a licensed mental health professional and I would appreciate being talked to in that manner.”

Conversation over.

But that wasn’t even the worse part. After we got off the phone, he actually went to my daughter and told her this:
“You need to tell your mother that you aren’t an imbecile. You can make your own decisions and she should stop treating you like a child.”

I am not treating my daughter like a child. I am treating her like she has a mental illness. And apparently I am the only one that understands this in the entire circus.

I’m not sure if you understand the significance of what that doctor did. Besides being politically incorrect and completely unprofessional, he was undermining my relationship with my daughter. My daughter, who has discovered a serious, life-threatening mental illness. I am not trying to be an ass, but I am TRULY THE ONLY PERSON IN HER ENTIRE LIFE THAT HAS THE EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE TO TRULY UNDERSTAND AND HELP HER. And that asshole basically told her not to trust me.

I’m so mad all over again just writing it, that I’m going to end here. There is so much more to say but I’ve had enough for today. UNBELIEVABLE.


3 Comments

The Mental Hospital

Part three.

Emily was taken to a mental health facility at 2 AM, early on Monday morning. Spencer and I went home as we were told we wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone til the next day. So Monday we got in our car and made the hour and a half trek there. And so it begins.

We enter the lobby and we are told to have a seat. A phone call comes through the lobby phone. Spencer wants to try to handle things as it is “his wife” and I am trying to give him the space to do so. I can only listen for so long and then I have to insist on him giving me the phone. Enter Hilary. She is Emily’s case worker. I tell her I’ve just flown across the country and then driven an hour and a half and we would like to meet with Emily’s treatment team. She curtly informs me that she has no time to meet with us because she is too busy. I politely but firmly tell her that is an unacceptable response. She again curtly informs me that we will be contacted when they are ready to meet with us.

I know my advocating abilities are going to be challenged to the max. I tell her I’ve been to the website, and my daughter is supposed to have a treatment team of six to eight professionals working on her case. If she is too busy to meet with us, then someone else on her team can talk with us. It doesn’t matter who. She gets frustrated and hangs up.

Shortly, another phone call comes to the lobby phone. Again, I attempt to let Spencer handle it but eventually I have to insist on the phone again. This time it is the psychiatrist. I tell him I expect a face to face meeting. He tells me “it doesn’t work that way” and he will talk to me on the phone. I again firmly explain that is totally unacceptable. I have flown across the country after the state mobile unit requested my presence. (These are buzz words that I was coached to use but were also truthful.) After another 90 minute drive we are requesting to talk to a member of the treatment team in person and that is not unreasonable. Eventually I have to pull out the bigger guns.

“I have already spoken to the Northern Alliance for the Mentally Ill, in fact with president so and so. He has given me the direct number to the Commissioner of Georgia (which is the highest level you can go) and has also provided me with three attorney names. Now I would like to speak in person to the people who are treating my daughter.”

Suddenly, he had time to meet with us.

Now I had been on the phone all morning. We weren’t sure if Emily was going to sign a release for them to talk with me, but she had indeed signed one. That meant there was absolutely ZERO reason for anyone on the entire staff to not freely give me any and all information I had asked for. I found out during the drive, that if Emily hadn’t signed a release, we would have been shit up the crick.

Think about it. My daughter was 10-13’d into a psych ward. That means she was deemed not of sound mind. But the hospital policy is to ask the committed patient whether they want anyone involved in their treatment. The Alliance explained to me there are currently two bills that haven’t been passed yet to address this very concern. I’m not intending any disrespect, but what common sense is there to that policy? If a person is deemed incompetent to make decisions, the family still has no rights or say? The woman who was in the midst of a psychotic episode was able to call the shots. It would not have mattered that when she was still lucid, she told the caseworkers she wanted me in Georgia to help with care. COMPLETELY SENSELESS.

But luckily, I didn’t have to fight that battle because my daughter happily signed a release. She WANTED me involved with her treatment. However, the hospital acted as if I wasn’t allowed to be involved at all. This ridiculous set of phone calls in the lobby of the building where she was hospitalized was just the start of a whole bunch of nightmares inflicted by the hospital.

Anyhow, I got sidetracked. Doc, Spencer and I enter a conference room. I politely ask the doc if it doesn’t make sense to meet with us seeing as they have had my daughter for over 12 hours and no one has even spoken to her yet. I could explain what brought her to their facility, and also crucial information about family history that could help tremendously. He decided that was a good idea and got a piece of paper. We unfolded the weekend of events for him and I also explained the lengthy family history of severe bi-polar disorder on her paternal side. He took a page full of notes. Then he explained that 99% of their patients come in alone and have no family or support system. I told him that helped explain his behavior, but clearly Emily is not in that scenario. According to their website, they have a large family treatment component. Emily is lucky enough to have family that loves and supports her. In fact, she has family that is also educated in this field. I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, practicing in the State of New York.

I asked if we could see Emily after making the long trek there. We were told we could see her for one hour on Wednesday evening. What? How does that plan fit in with family treatment? I tell him I understand that it hospital policy, but that it truly makes no therapeutic sense to me. My daughter is sitting in a room, interacting with no one, when she has trained family that loves her. How is that in her best interest?

He said they make exceptions for little kids and I told him I suspected he could make an exception for us if he wanted. He did finally agree to giving us 30 minutes with her. I told him I had planned on staying in a hotel near the hospital so I could be there as many hours as possible. He made it clear that would be a total waste of time and money because I wasn’t going to be near her except for 60 minutes on Wednesday.

Perfect.

It was a long drive home and I was already exhausted from the hours of phone calls and the fierce advocating I had to do right from the get-go. Yikes.


1 Comment

From Neurosis to Psychosis

Part two.

I left off on my last blog when I arrived at the hospital at 1:00 am. Spencer (Emily’s hubby) had told me on the phone earlier that it was like someone had possessed his wife’s body. I was about to see firsthand what he meant. Emily recognized me. She knew my name. But there was no response to seeing me like she understood I had just flown in and I don’t usually get to see her this time of year. The interesting thing, was that she used names of actual people from her life, but just didn’t associate them with correct reality-like details.

One of her favorite repetitive phrases at this time was, “You gotta go,” accompanied with a wave of her finger. One hospital staff would come in and she would tell them they were much too fat and they had to go. (They were not necessarily overweight in reality.) She also complained repeatedly about the filth she was seeing in the room, and there many filthy people who “had to go” as well. She would point to the floor and say, “Don’t you see that? Don’t you see that?” Only there was nothing there to see.

She knew her four-year-old Aubry’s name and age, and she knew her eight-year-old Parker’s name and age. But then she would explain to me that it was crucial that I understood that each of her children were in actuality herself and Spencer. Again she would ask me, “Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?” And of course, I couldn’t understand. I had known from training that you don’t ever support a delusion or hallucination. The right thing was not to agree. But at the same time, it seemed equally insane to argue with a person about reality when they were clearly not in touch with it. So I mostly just listened, didn’t correct her, but admitted I didn’t understand when she asked me directly.

One of the saddest moments of all for me, also serves to best explain the level of her confusion. Eventually we will all chuckle about it, but at the moment it was purely gut wrenching. I was watching my daughter suffer emotionally because of what she believed was happening. She was weeping and telling me about Henry. “Darcy, you just wouldn’t believe what they are doing with Henry. They are treating him like a dog. Like a dog. Like a damn sheep dog. It’s horrible and we have to help him.” And she was so distraught because of the injustice to Henry and was genuinely sobbing for him. The problem? Well, Henry is her sheep dog. He really is a sheep dog.

When the ambulance came to take her to the treatment facility, at first she was not going to cooperate. I asked them what would happen if she didn’t go voluntarily. I was told they were not allowed to touch her. If she didn’t go with them, she would have to be police escorted. They would handcuff her and the whole affair would probably be extremely traumatic for all of us. Thank God we were able to reason enough with Emily that she eventually got up and moved to the stretcher without incident. We said goodbye to her in the parking lot and went back to our car. The hospital she was going to was an hour and a half away from where they lived. We were told we would not be able to see her until the next day, so there was no point in following the ambulance. They did however, say they would do their best to get the hospital staff to call us when they had her checked in. They couldn’t guarantee they would, but they would try.

So we went home, disturbed, worried and scared for the woman we love so dearly. Of course, the treatment facility never called me. Unfortunately, that would turn out to be the least of the disappointments we were about to be encountered with. I had looked at their website on the way home and told Spencer I was really happy with where they were sending her. It was a real treatment facility, not just a stabilizing place. She would have an impressive treatment team with several different professionals helping her, and most importantly family involvement was a key part of their protocol.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a facility so totally and completely false in the representation of themselves. But more to come in part three.