I was admitted to Upstate Medical Center’s Psychiatric Unit in Syracuse, where I was suicidal and mistreated for bipolar disorder, type II. After a week, I was transferred directly to Benjamin Rush Center where Dr. Nasri Ghaly, who had been my psychiatrist for about six years, treated me for suicidal depression. The treatment was not successful but, after three weeks, my Medicare coverage expired and I was forcibly discharged.
A week later, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, Dr. Ghaly admitted me to St. Joseph’s Hospital Psychiatric Unit in Syracuse because I was suicidally depressed; his note said I’d been admitted “to secure [my] safety.” That week Dr. Ghaly wrote a pass for me to be picked up on Thanksgiving by a member of my church, taken to my church for service, then returned to the hospital.
Then Dr. Ghaly went on holiday and left Dr. Jane Kou covering. He knew of the previous “treatment” I’d received from Dr. Kou, consequently, other times that he’d gone out of town he’d arranged for me to be covered by some other psychiatrist. However, this time he told me there was no one else—I would have to suck it up. In fact, Dr. Ghaly proposed one of his radical solutions: I could talk to Dr. Kou about what had previously taken place.
Could I? I was locked down on inpatient psychiatry and this women held the power of life and death over me. Could I talk to her? I talked to other staff members about my fear of Dr. Kou and my need to confront her about what she’d done before. Almost certainly, this is the kind of information that staff would have passed on to Dr. Kou, however, by her own word, she had never seen me before. Did she have no memory of me as her patient at Hutchings? I asked to see her to discuss these matters, and to ask for a pass.
Dr. Kou entered the room and her first words were: “I’m busy. I don’t have much time. What do you want?” She did not want to know what was wrong with me so I was compliant and did not tell her. She only spent about ten minutes with me, a patient who had been admitted suicidal to three hospitals in six weeks. Dr. Kou then wrote a four-hour pass for me to go home alone. “Home” and “alone” are both high-risk conditions for a person who is suicidal. Dr. Ghaly had written a pass to go to church with a friend, thereby building in protection. Dr. Kou rubber-stamped my request without questioning my impaired judgment.
By voluntarily admitting myself to the hospital, I essentially had said, “I do not trust myself to make healthy judgments. I am, therefore, putting my freedom in the hands of a doctor.” Dr. Kou had taken the responsibility and signed the pass that sent me out through the locked doors.
On Saturday I went home. A minor failure to communicate with a friend pushed me over the edge and I took an overdose of the antidepressant Desipramine and other drugs. I lost consciousness around 2:15 p.m.
When I did not return from pass at 4:00 p.m., as required, the hospital staff tried to phone me. I was unconscious and did not hear the phone. When Dr. Kou was contacted, she did not send the police or anyone else to look for me. I was at home in bed dying and Dr. Kou—who had accepted the responsibility for my safety—left me there.
I lay in bed unconscious for sixteen hours, then, I am told—I have no memory of this—that on Sunday morning I called 911 and was ambulanced to the Emergency Room, already wearing an ID bracelet that identified me as an inpatient at St. Joseph’s. I held on until I made it to the ER, then I crashed. Heart, lungs, kidneys—everything went.
I was transferred to the ICU and put on a life support. The therapeutic blood level of Desipramine is 100; my level was 1800. I was not expected to live. I was unconscious for a month. My 82-year-old mother sat by my bed, trying to understand: I had been admitted “to secure [my] safety” and now she had to decide where to bury me.
The bill from the Intensive Care Unit was $82,700. I was in the hospital for seven months at a cost to the taxpayers of about a quarter of a million dollars.
Dr. Kou did not read the history in my chart, did not listen to me, actively prevented me from talking to her and, when I failed to return from pass, did nothing. She told staff members that I was “probably out partying.” Since she knew nothing of my lifestyle, she had no grounds for this supposition.
I have watched Dr. Kou follow the same pattern with other patients: don’t read, don’t listen, don’t talk: practice know-nothing psychiatry.
It is five o’clock in the morning as I write this. It has been two years since the suicide attempt. I wake up to go to the bathroom and can’t go back to sleep because I remember.
Do you know what happens to your soul when you have hung in death’s doorway because you were in the care of a bad doctor?
Dr. Jane Kou continues to practice psychiatry. Her office is located at 610 S. Salina St., Syracuse, NY.