Greetings, Gentlefolk


I have spent the past twelve days in St. Joseph’s Hospital on inpatient psychiatry (Unit 3-6) with Dr. Roger Levine attending.  I am now going to file complaints with the New York State Dept. of Health, NYS Office of Mental Health, NYS Commission on Quality of Care, the NYS DOH Office of Professional Medical Conduct, and St. Joseph’s Hospital for grossly substandard “care.”  I invite you along on the ride:  this is your “mental health” system at work.  You have a responsibility to know how your tax money is being spent.

For starters, the ride may be bumpy.  I was of sound mind when I was admitted to 3-6; by the time of discharge this afternoon, my mental faculties had broken down severely.  The psychologist, whom I have been seeing for a year or so, came to visit me in the hospital.  After hearing what was being done to me, she wept.

The story will come in fits and starts and odd lumps as my severely insulted psyche tries to pull itself together and get organized.  Let’s start with something simple:  housekeeping.

Housekeeping

When I was on medical units at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the housecleaning ladies would come in every day to clean the floors and bathroom and do such other tasks as presented themselves.  I was on Unit 3-6, inpatient psychiatry, for twelve days, variously occupying three rooms.  I was bedridden 95% of the time so I definitely knew what was and was not happening in my room: it was not being cleaned.

  • A nurse picked a kernel of corn off my shirt and tossed it in the bathroom sink.  Three days later it still was there.
  • I vomited on the floor.  Two days later the table beside my bed was moved and there was vomit underneath it.
  • Dirty washcloths accumulated on the bathroom floor for three days.

The usual everyday housekeeper was a short, fat, black woman.  On Friday (only) she was replaced by a tall, white woman with short brown hair.  When the tall woman swept my bedroom floor, she pulled out dust bunnies, coins and other stuff consistent with a floor that had not been swept in a week.

The regular housekeeper on 3-6 is lazy and not performing her job.  Her supervisor is not adequately doing follow-up inspections.

ID bracelets

Every patient in the hospital is banded with a plastic identification bracelet that includes a bar code.  The bar code is to be scanned at bedside whenever the staff does finger-sticks, draws blood, administers medication, amputates a leg, or whatever.  It is done to make sure they have the right patient.

On 3-6, some nurses don’t do it.  They scan the chart instead of the patient.  One nurse said, “Oh, I know who you are.”  Yes, but does she really know whose chart she scanned?  There are thirty patients; she grabbed one chart out of the thirty identical ones on file.  When she checked my blood sugar, it went from her bedside gizmo directly into the computer.  What if she just recorded my 299 blood sugar onto another patient’s chart?  What if they spring into action and give the other patient a large dose of insulin?

The 3-6 nurses who violate policy and scan charts instead of patients are not secretive about it; they are very casual and open.  Clearly, they believe that if their higher-ups hear about it, they will not be reprimanded or punished.  What does that say about how the 3-6 nursing administration is failing to monitor and discipline the nursing staff?

Fourteen-hour fasting

For 14 hours each day, I am allowed to have nothing but water.

Supper is served at 6:00 p.m.

At 8:00 p.m. they serve snacks, however I am not allowed to have any.  The reason given is “You have high blood sugar.”  They have not checked it, nor do they offer a no-sugar-added snack.

At 6:00 a.m. I wake up and ask for juice.  The nurses refuse to let me have any, again stating that my blood sugar is too high.  Again, they have not checked it.

Around 8:00 a.m. they check my blood sugar and it is, for example, 299.  If my blood sugar is 299 after a 14-hour fast, who in their right mind thinks that restricting intake is going to significantly lower my sugar?  Following their behavior, one would expect that their intent is to deprive me of all food and drink.

And they get upset when I call them morons.

Yesterday Dr. Edwards, my primary care physician, said to me, “But you’re on a regular diet!”  When a doctor orders a regular diet for a patient it means that the patient is authorized to make her own choices of food and drink, including snacks and juice.  So Dr. Edwards goes to check my chart and comes back to report that Dr. Roger Levine has ordered no juice.  That is logically inconsistent with a regular diet, and Levine is a psychiatrist, not a competent total-care physician.  Levine is also an asshole, but we’ll get back to that later.  Pay real close attention every time you see the name Levine.

So here’s the situation:  through education, responsibility and discipline, I kept my diabetes under good control for about eight years.  Then something really, really weird and unexpected happened:  I got older.  And with age, my pancreas started to fail and produce less insulin.  So my doctor and I struggled with insulin injections but after a few months I had such bad side effects that I no longer could take insulin.  (Consequent to lithium poisoning, I have “immune dysfunction, type unknown,” which includes hypersensitivity to all medications.)

So two weeks ago I went to my doctor with a glucose level of 458 and he said, “There’s nothing more that can be done.” 

I now am on a long, slow slide into diabetic hell and there’s nothing that can be done about it—except maybe offer compassionate care, as in Death by Chocolate.  Nevertheless, nurses on 3-6, working under Roger Levine, literally pull juice and snacks out of my hands.

The concept of “compassion” has yet to be introduced on inpatient psychiatry.

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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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4 Responses to Greetings, Gentlefolk

  1. MC says:

    This is almost a full year later and I was just recently released from the 3-6 unit. Nothing has changed from what you wrote other than they do scan the ID bracelets. Staff has had confrontations with patients and a housekeeping lady even threatened a patient when she inquired who cleans the rooms. I have constantly asked for my room to be cleaned and nothing was done about it. I wasn’t on any meds and I was thrown up there on a Wednesday and thought I was going to be discharged on a Friday. Unfortunately, my attending was Dr. kou, who took no time to read my chart and called me a liar because of something that was put in my medical record which was inaccurate. She caused me a lot of distress and she told me she wanted to keep me because she didn’t know me. What sense does that make? They bullied me into not calling the mental hygiene law attorney (which I did) and said I couldn’t write a written statement indicating the inaccuracy. On my day of discharge, my mother complained of that inaccuracy and she backtracked and said it was just a note by a NP and not something actually in my record. She called me a liar when she, in fact, lied to me. My safety was seriously at risk. People smoke on the units. Staff and security use their cellphones on the floor and could easily take pictures of us if they wanted to. The rooms are still filthy as hell with urine and fecal matter encrusted along the walls. I’m sure your vomit is still there, lol. Our bathroom had blood all over it. They discharged me on a Monday because my insurance only covered 7 days for me to be at that hospital (I was admitted on a Monday in the ER). Dr. kou has a reputation for “collecting rent money”. She is not a good doctor at all. She doesn’t listen to what you have to say and is beyond rude. You have to walk-and-talk with her. If you or any of your loved ones are assigned under her care TRANSFER immediately! My first night there they almost refused me dinner until my Mom called them screaming because she works in a hospital and knows they can go and get a key to the kitchen. There’s a hefty lady there with bangs who works evening and nights and she was the one that refused me dinner. I’m on a special diet and can only eat certain things.

    It was the worst experience of my life. I was offered no help whatsoever. I had to be persistent and annoy the nurses for hours upon hours just to talk to someone. Lots of lies and deflection amongst the staff. I have already called lots of places with my complaints and I won’t stop until something is done about it. I almost feel like I want to put a lawsuit on them, mostly Dr. Kou for causing all that distress and pain. I probably will look into that and see what my options are but it’s my word against theirs and they are the biggest dang liars ever . They lie, lie, lie to cover their butts.

    If you need help, I hear conifer is great.

  2. My heart breaks for you after reading this. You hit the nail on the head. The number one thing lacking in the entire mental health system is COMPASSION, followed closely by basic human dignity. Keep on going.

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