About the Party. The staff has a party on 3-6, a shower for two pregnant staff members. The party is held on the unit in view of the patients, but patients are not allowed to attend. We watch through the window.
The staff “lounge”—the room used for writing charts and giving change-of-shift reports—is at right angles to the nursing station and the hallway wall is glass from the waist up. Venetian blinds have been installed to shut out the patients, but the window in the door is still exposed. Dozens of times each day, patients are told to look in the lounge for their staff members.
On this day, we go to the lounge and see a cloth-covered table, flowers, candles and a dozen trays of professionally sculpted desserts—double chocolate layer cake, cheesecake with cherries, other pastries. In the day area, we get Lorna Doones and Oreos in cellophane wrappers. In the lounge doorway, we must look at what we cannot touch. Being labeled as a psychiatric patient means you are never invited to the party.
There is an empty conference room six feet outside the locked door of the unit where these parties could be held discreetly, nevertheless, the staff have their party on the unit during work hours. It is always about their convenience, never about our courtesy.
About the “She Started It” Factor. Someone—perhaps the ex-unit manager, Kelly DeVaul—remarked that part of the problem is that staff do not examine what they are doing that precipitates a problem.
A nurse pushes open the door to my room and comes in to do a finger stick. She puts the computer equipment down on the bed and we exchange unpleasantries. She says things about my attitude that are mean and I know will show up either in report or on my chart. She says I don’t need to have the attitude. I point out to her that she entered my room without knocking and has left the door open.
I am standing in the middle of the room wearing a nightshirt and no pants. She has exposed me to public view, and criticized my attitude when I was offended.
Show Time. Because I need to use a CPAP, they force me to sleep in the front lounge at night and during daytime naps. It has glass walls from waist to ceiling on two sides.
A CPAP machine consists of one box containing water and another containing a motor, plus a long hose, a facemask, and a contraption of straps to hold it on my head. When my friend wears her CPAP in the privacy of her bedroom, her husband calls her Darth Vader.
In the hallway around the front lounge there is a steady stream of passersby—patients, unit staff, visitors, drug company representatives, men pushing linen carts, clerks from admitting. They tap on the windows and laugh at me.
I am denied the right to privacy; I am an animal in a zoo.
Aide Makes Patient Beg for Treatment. Cheryl, a counselor without respiratory or medical training, has incorrectly set up my CPAP machine. She is sitting in the staff lounge. I fly at her in anger, demanding that she come do it right. She refuses.
I go back to the front lounge, calm myself, and then for some vague experimental reason I return to the staff lounge and say, in a humble, meek tone with the sarcasm inaudible, “Cheryl, I beg you, please come fix my CPAP.”
She stands, moves toward the door, and says, “There—that’s more like it. That’s what I want to hear. That’s good.”
About Short Michael. Short Michael is a middle-aged artist—he shows photographs of his work—who became employed as a counselor on 3-6 a year ago. I tell him I remember how hesitant he was when he first started to work, always very conservative in both his speech and actions, and that now he clearly has gained confidence.
He is offended by my remarks, and denies their reality.
The first time I need to use a wheelchair, it is Michael whom I ask to bring me one. He refuses, saying, “See—you’re walking!” I am standing between my bed and the bathroom, and I need help to get down the long hallway to the day area and breakfast.
Michael, an artist with no medical training, makes no inquiry into why I have requested assistance. The staff on 3-6 has no desire to help the patients.
A week later, Michael sums it up: “I’m not interested in your rights . . . I’m interested in keeping order.”
Those are the last words I hear before I am wheeled out of 3-6, the prison unit, where sick people have fewer rights than convicted felons.