Mohawk Moms (Part II)

There are two women whose adult sons have been hospitalized at Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center in the Wright Building on Ward 39—and the moms have been denied visitation with their sons.

One woman, call her Margaret, would go to the Wright Building and check in with Security.  Security would call Ward 39 then tell the mom that her son didn’t want to see her.  She didn’t believe it, so she kept going back—pretty much every day (moms are faithful like that)—and kept getting the same story.

A bunch of other things were going on, including the fact that Margaret and her husband had applied for guardianship of their son, Rob.  Rob was an electrical engineer who had moved to another city, gotten married, had a son, and been diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He was acting pretty weird and upsetting people.  One thing led to another over a period of about ten years, during which time Rob’s wife divorced him and he was denied contact with his son.

By the time he ends up in Mohawk Valley, he’s in pretty bad shape so, as noted, his parents apply for guardianship, which results in them ending up in NYS Supreme Court with Judge Bernadette Turi-Clark.  The Mental Hygiene Legal Services attorney is there.  He’s supposed to be representing Rob but he hasn’t even brought his client to court.  The judge is not accepting of this at all.

The good judge is not about to take away a man’s right to manage his own affairs without evening talking to the man, for Pete’s sake.  Likewise, the attorney for the hospital—which is, oh by the way, some guy from the NYS Attorney General’s Office, because that’s who represents state psychiatric hospitals—has not produced the patient in question either.  So the judge gets off the bench, takes herself into chambers and calls the hospital.

Judge Bernadette, who I’m going to bet is also a mom, is trying to reach the head guy, either at the Wright Building or at the entire hospital, who knows, but some assistant something-or-other hangs up on her.  When I was involved in a court case, a doctor—testifying against me—interrupted a Supreme Court judge.  Ladies and gentlemen, please be advised that two things you do not do with Supreme Court judges is interrupt or hang up on them.  You listen; they talk—that’s the way it works with judges.

So Judge Bernadette keeps pushing and ultimately gets Rob on the phone and has a chat with him.  Then she comes back into court and notes that Rob loves his son and wishes he could see him.  Nobody else in the system has paid any attention to the fact that this man is a parent and longs to see his child.  But what the judge also has heard is that Rob shows no signs of being able to handle his own affairs, so she appoints his mother as his guardian with his father as backup guardian.  (There is probably some legal thing that you can’t have co-guardians in case they disagree, and Rob and his dad don’t get along good.)

Then the judge orders Mohawk Valley to produce Rob for his mom.  The judge says, in no uncertain terms, that the psychiatric hospital does not get to decide whether Rob sees his mom or not; the judge decides.  The patient’s mother is his guardian and Mohawk Valley is produce this man, whom they say doesn’t want to see his mom.  So Margaret returns to the hospital to visit her son and gains access.

This son, whom Ward 39 and Security said didn’t want to see his mom, is brought to the visitation area.  Does he come kicking and screaming, in handcuffs, forced by two burly male security guards?  No, he walks in with one girl-aide escorting him.

Do we think Rob wanted to see his mother all along?  Yeah, we do.  Do we think that Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center finds it much easier to manage a patient (i.e., keep the patient drugged into compliancy) if the patient has no contact with outsiders?  Yeah, we do.  Do we have any proof that the patient understood that his mother was downstairs, and that he really didn’t want to see her?  No, we don’t.  Do we know that there are ways to ask a question to ensure that you get the answer you want?  Yeah, we do.

A couple days ago, Margaret went to visit her son and was kept cooling her heals in the lobby.  Security said Ward 39 didn’t answer the phone; Ward 39 said Security never called.  And you know what Rob was doing?  Rob was telling the staff on Ward 39, ‘Look, that’s my mom’s car in the parking lot—I can see it.  Where’s my mom?  Why isn’t she here?  I want to see my mom.’

Margaret would like to find a different place for Rob where he would be treated without so many drugs and with good talk therapy.  It’s what a mom wants for her son.

Stay tuned for more details about another mother whose adult son got locked up in Mohawk Valley’s Wright Building, Ward 39, as first reported in “Sexual Abuse, Mohawk Mom, and the Good Life.”  ( )

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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