Monday, July 18, 2016

The Psychiatric Hospital (chapter 2)

Monday, August 9th 2010 - 9:00 am

We have decided to take Scott to New York Presbyterian Hospital. They participate in our insurance plan, are in White Plains which is only a 45-minute drive from our house, and these things seem like important considerations at the time. 

Returning home from the ER the night before around midnight we are dazed and tired, and decide it is best if we set Scott up to sleep on the sofa in our office. In this way, he would have to walk through our bedroom to leave. We want to make sure he does not drive away, and also we could not deal with getting rid of all the knives and sharp tools in the kitchen. 

Lying down to try to sleep, I face what feels like the worst night of my life. In the morning we will be taking our beautiful child - our handsome, smart, loving, funny, varsity-athlete, straight-A student – to the psychiatric ward. He is no longer the Scott we know and love. He is a manic, volatile, unrecognizable person from whom we have been told to protect ourselves and whom cannot be trusted not to hurt himself.  The pain is so acute and so vast that I cannot find the edges to grasp on to. It hurts to breathe and it hurts to be conscious. 

Amazingly, I eventually sleep. I know this because in the morning, Scott is no longer on the sofa in the den. In his mania, he slept almost not at all, and at some point went to his room. Fortunately he did not try to leave. He agrees to go to the hospital with us. With treat him with kid gloves because his reactions and responses are so alien that we are not quite sure whom we are dealing with, or what to expect. Apparently he is still under the impression that he is going to the hospital so that he can hook-up with a nurse. In his imaginary world where we are all actors to bring about what he desires - he feels he is playing a part, where we all pretend that he needs to go to the hospital because he is not well, but in reality, it is part of an elaborate scheme so he can get laid by a nurse.

We have called, and NY Presbyterian is expecting us. We were given instructions on how to find Admitting.  Still, it has not occurred to us to pack any clothes or toiletries for Scott. Like automatons, we get numbly in the car with him. We try to keep our voices calm and neutral. The hospital will be nice. I think they have beautiful grounds. They may even have a swimming pool … 

He does not notice, but we do, that the doors lock once you walk into Admitting. The process is very long and tedious. He is seen by many people, examined, interviewed both with us and without us. A woman has him fill in the paperwork for a voluntary admission.  She instructs him to write on the form: “I need help” and he complies. 

A doctor eventually shows up. We have been there for several hours already. He comes through one of the locked doors wearing a suit and is brusque, seemingly irritated to have to be interviewing Scott. His pager goes off several times during the short time we are in the room with him and each time he consults it. We feel like an afterthought. Our world is crumbling around us, and he can barely take the time to make eye contact with us. I am silently hoping that this man will not be Scott’s doctor once he is admitted. Scott asks if there is a swimming pool. The doctor is dismissive and tells him curtly that he has bigger things to worry about than the pool. He does not look up as he says this, but continues writing something on yet another form. A little empathy, compassion or even patience would have gone a long way that morning. But we are not to find any from the staff here. 

Sometime later a person comes to escort us to the ward. Since Scott is 18, he will be placed on the adult males’ ward. We are buzzed through various doors and eventually enter the ward. Linoleum floors, fluorescent lights, white plastic chairs, and a TV that is on at the end of the hallway greet us. Doors open to small rooms with twin beds. Some rooms have two occupants and I am happy to see that Scott has been assigned a room that is a single. The men seem to be passing the time by hanging out and walking back and forth in the corridor. They are all much older than our son. Most of them seem to have had hard lives and are not in a good place. Some have headphones, others are talking to themselves. Clearly this is a psych ward and the people are not here because they are doing well but still I am taken aback. So many men, some in hospital pajamas, some in sweats, shuffling up and down the hallway. Scott  will be under continuous observation initially, which is standard, since he is still deemed a risk. 

At this point we realize that he has no clothes or any personal items, so we decide to drive back to the house to gather these things. It’s not that we really thought he was not going to be admitted after he was examined at the hospital, it’s just that we were incapable of thinking further than what was necessary to put one foot in front of the other.  Our doctor had gently told us this morning on the phone that we needed to tell the hospital that we were looking for an evaluation and an admission. Yet in our automaton state we were operating mechanically and not really thinking about anything.

(continue reading) 

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