St. Joseph’s Psychiatric Services: About Me, Part One (continued)


I have celiac sprue, an autoimmune disease; wheat makes me sick.  The CPEP staff just shrugged and said, “Well, sandwiches are all we have.”  That is not true.  Dietary was sending my special diet tray to CPEP.  How can a hospital staff refuse to take care of a sick person?  They act like being sick is bad behavior, not a disease over which I have no control.  They didn’t try to help.  They made me sicker.

            It was in the afternoon that CPEP reopened.  People came in, but I was afraid.  Michael came to my room, wanting a drink, then I heard him screaming.

            Nobody would help us.

            Only because my friends were there, the staff brought the fruit and a cot.  After my friends left around 4:00 p.m., I collapsed on the cot.

            I lay there without moving, except to go to the bathroom, for six hours.  I did not sleep.  I was fully conscious but I couldn’t move.  This had happened to me about three times in recent weeks:  I would be fully conscious but unable to respond.  Some of the doctors think there’s something wrong with my endocrine system; one thinks it affects my parasympathetic nervous system.  It happens when I get too exhausted.

            In six hours, the staff never checked my vital signs.  They never brought my supper tray.  Later, they said they had, but they lied.

            First, a woman came in and called my name.  I couldn’t answer.

            Soon after, another woman came in and called my name and poked at me.

            Later, another woman came in and checked my oxygen level with a finger thing.

            No one ever checked my sugar level. 

I’ve been having blood pressure spikes as high as 208/117.  No one ever checked my blood pressure.  The CPEP staff doesn’t care if you live or die.  They just stand outside and look at you, and decide you’re faking.  I wasn’t.  From all the stress they made on me, I was too sick to move.

            Diabetes insipidus is a rare kidney disease that causes excessive urination.  They never brought me liquids or checked to see if I was drinking.  Dr. Jenifer Rich was the doctor on in the evening.  She knows I have nephrogenic diabetes insipidus because she’s the one who caused it by not monitoring the lithium she prescribed.  She didn’t do anything to make sure I was all right.

            I laid there forever.  I was so sick and tired that it had knocked out my thirst reflex so I wasn’t thirsty.  After while I began to realize that I was peeing every hour, but I wasn’t drinking.  I was dehydrating.  Twelve years I’ve had to deal with this illness; I know what happens.  I was laying there dehydrating, too sick and tired and filled with despair about how mean they treated me—I didn’t care if I died.  I figured I might.  They would just leave me there while I went into a coma.  I was glad I was dying.  The terror of CPEP would finally end.

            Not one staff member ever treated me with kindness or compassion.  At best, it was business; at worst, it was hell.

            Someone came with the finger thing again and checked my oxygen.  The next day, a staff member told me I was asleep without my CPAP.  He said it like I was a liar when I said I needed my CPAP.  I wasn’t asleep; if I had been asleep, my oxygen level would have been below normal.  I was awake and sick and scared.

            About ten o’clock a man came in—the next day Anthony said it was him—and barked at me that I could go back to my room—I’d been locked out for 13 hours—but that if I didn’t go right away, then I couldn’t go at all.

            Shortly after that, a woman came and said that Dr. Rich said I could go back to my room anytime.  I suppose they let Eddie do whatever he wanted, and didn’t let me back until he went to sleep.  The CPEP staff are horrible people.  I never did anything wrong; Eddie did.

            Sometime around then, I started to get thirsty.  I’d been lying there for six hours, and was finally rested enough that the thirst reflex came back.  I started drinking from the bathroom sink; there were no glasses.  I drank and drank and drank.  Then I fell asleep.  Pretty soon after I fell asleep, I woke up not breathing because they didn’t let me have my CPAP.  That’s very scary.  I went and knocked on the door in back.  They wouldn’t let me in at first.  Dr. Rich was sitting there looking at me.

            Eddie was asleep in his bed with his CPAP.  They got mad at me when I asked for food then.  Donna was there and said she hadn’t been given anything to eat either.  They just brought me more fruit.  All day, nothing but fruit.  No protein, no starches.  They didn’t care one bit about me being sick.  I was hungry and they wouldn’t feed me.

            In the morning, Anthony woke me up to tell me my breakfast tray was there.  When he left and closed the door behind him, Eddie appeared and completely filled the window.  He kept chanting my name.  I was terrified.  There was no call bell or anything in the room.  I sat in bed yelling, “Staff!  Staff!  Staff!” but there were no staff on the floor to hear me.

            Eddie blocked the door so nobody could see in and mocked me, chanting, “Staff.  Staff.  Staff.”  I couldn’t get out to get my tray or go to the bathroom, and nobody came in to help me.  One time he was at the bathroom door when I was inside.  There’s no lock on the door.  He came in when I had my pants down.  He said it was an accident.

            They let Eddie run CPEP, and then they punish the women who cry out for help.

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About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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