St. Joseph’s: Dr. Roger Levine, Part Two

During my first ten days of hospitalization, Dr. Roger Levine, the director of inpatient psychiatry, only appeared on Unit 3-6 twice.  Each time he only stayed about twenty minutes, and the second time coincided with a staff baby shower.

            On the eleventh day, I told a staff member that I had filed a complaint about Unit 3-6 with the NYS Commission on Quality of Care, the oversight agency.  Thereafter, Levine appeared on the unit every day, sometimes staying all morning.  What he did, or if it made any difference, is unknown to me.

            After Mary Corbliss started harassing me, staff frequently referred to the treatment-planning meeting that had been held on Wednesday afternoon.  Several days later, I caught Dr. Levine in the hall and asked him how a treatment planning meeting could be held without either the patient or the patient’s doctor being present.  Levine immediately responded, “It wasn’t a treatment planning meeting—it was a staffing meeting.  I have to keep my patients safe.”  It was a treatment planning meeting:  out of it came a new treatment plan.

            Levine walked away from me down the hall.  I followed in my wheelchair.  When I reached my room, I saw that my CPAP had been taken away for the umpteenth time.  I wheeled down to the nursing station and challenged Levine about it.  He said, “Well, you can’t have it if you are suicidal.  Are you?”

            “No,” I said crisply.

            “Well, all right then,” he said, and my CPAP was returned.

            A psychiatrist who had not spent eight minutes with me in a quarter of a century stood in a semi-public place, asked one question, and decided I was not a danger to myself.  What was the nature of his professional evaluation of the woman whom he sent out on pass from another hospital?

            She left the hospital, went directly to the mall and jumped to her death.

            One morning, as I am wheeling down the hall, I see Dr. Levine sitting in the dark on the bed of a female patient.  Medical doctors stopped sitting on patient’s beds a quarter of a century ago.  Psychiatrists have never sat on patient’s beds—it is too open to misinterpretation as to the doctor’s intent.  Unless, of course, you want the patient to misinterpret your intentions. 

If you are a depressed, fat, middle-aged woman and your doctor sits on your bed, leaning toward you intimately, wouldn’t you feel better?  I would.

Psychiatry is an undisciplined sport.  If a woman says she feels better, then she is better:  her psychiatrist’s treatment must have made her so.  There are no lab tests to confirm that a patient’s depression is down by 42%.

            When Levine evaluated the mental status of the woman who jumped to her death, was he sitting on her bed?


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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