Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I enter hell

The nightmare in my sister’s home was ending, but I figured her false police report would follow me to San Francisco. So, I decided to prevent that from happening – I didn’t get on the plane that would have taken me to SFO. Instead, I had the airline folks retrieve my luggage from the plane, and I took a taxi to a nearby hotel. I checked in, bought a Coke from a vending machine, and had yet another lengthy wild seizure while I tried to get some sleep.

The next day, I began my entrance into hell as I was taken to a psychiatric ward courtesy of my sister, my “friends” in San Francisco, and a judge. After my arrival, the admitting physician crudely tossed my copy of the admission papers onto my gurny and told the guard to not be concerned if the papers were to get lost, as I would not be getting out. The guard read my sister’s police report, said I must have been tased by police several times, and handcuffed me to the gurny. I did not expect my sister could lie in such a way as to warrant such a reaction. I was becoming very scared.

On the ward, my psychiatric team was highly professional and supportive. However, I listened as members of the nursing staff gasped while reading my sister’s report, and their treatment of me when the psychiatric team was not around became horrific. The first hint that bad things were going to happen involved a group of four nurses sloppily drawing blood from my hand; throughout the process, blood dripped onto the floor, and they left the needle in my hand – still dripping of blood -- after they were done.

Shortly thereafter, several new “patients” without identifying wrist bands appeared on the ward and would continually walk the oval layout of the floor. At night, they would pound on my door and yell. During the day, they would blend in and go unnoticed by psychiatric teams who focused only on their assigned patients. I overheard some of these fake patients’ discussions of what it was that my sister claimed I had done.

The head nurse on the ward yelled at me often. Twice, he yelled that I was a psychopath, and I overheard him making that claim and quoting my sister’s report to medical personnel scheduled to perform tests ordered by my psychiatric team. The result was that certain tests, including brain and other scans, ordered by my psychiatric team were not done. For scans, I’d be taken at night via wheelchair and wheeled up to the imaging machines which would then be turned on for a few seconds without my being placed within them. Thankfully, claims to the psychiatrists that tests were not being done were greeted with seriousness, and a psychiatric student eventually accompanied me on a couple of tests to make sure they were performed. However, for a lumbar puncture to be performed in my room, the psychiatric student was asked to leave after medical personnel used a small pin to puncture a hole in the skin at the base of my spine to mark the point at which the long needle would normally be inserted; after the student left, the doctors stood around for a few minutes, grabbed some of their equipment, and departed, vials intended for spinal fluid sitting empty on the nightstand.

Throughout this time, I would, as before, have occasional seizures and related symptoms, but all of this quickly became the least of my worries.

One night, a temporary nurse hailing from Alabama (as he often told other nurses) began arriving on the ward very late, and I listened in as plans were hatched to force me to do all sorts of things, many sexual, with other patients and some of the nurses. “I’ve got the maggots for him to eat,” I heard him say to another nurse one night, as he disappeared into the drug room to prepare the drugs I’d be forced to take. (Another nurse accidentally left a typed list of drugs in my room for awhile after delivering an unexpected snack that knocked me to my knees as I was eating it.) Additionally, a scary helicopter ride was in the works (this hospital is well-known for its heliport). I appealed to the nurse to stop the vigilantism.

During evenings of this timespan, several patients complained about excessive doses of prescribed medication intended to help them sleep and about the unusually early hour they’d be required to go to bed. A few patients and some of the fake patients would be led off the ward at 11 to one of the neighboring wards to a room selected for many of the activities planned for me. (A couple of patients in the group who were my informants expressed dismay at what was to happen, but seemed rather happy to have been given the opportunity to participate.)

Twice, I was able to log into the one computer on the floor made available to patients. Both times I posted “in a nightmare” on my Facebook wall. Subsequent attempts at signing into anything were blocked, as the passwords I would enter would be visibly scrambled as I typed them. (I use the same username for almost all of my online accounts.) Clearly, they were well-prepared for abusing a patient.

During this time, I had no prescribed medication as the psychiatrists were unable to determine what was wrong with me. However, I would be drugged in an assortment of ways at night, including via food as mentioned earlier. By 11, I was usually fighting to stay on my feet, and I’d head for the bathroom which seemed to offer the only protection I had. Throughout the rest of the night, nurses would come to my door every 5 to 10 minutes, inviting me to come out into the hallway, enticing me with promises of special snacks and movies or threatening me with promises of penalties. Ice cold air would be pumped into my room to help flush me out. Snide remarks about my every move, caught on camera, were broadcast over the PA system.

Nor surprisingly, I was terrified, but I was committed to fight what was planned for me. And one night, I simply repeated some nasty words one of the nurses said to me to lure me out of the bathroom. To my surprise, she responded as if threatened and stupidly sounded an alarm. Shortly afterward, I heard the group of patients, fake patients, and nurses scurry back onto the ward. The alarm had apparently nearly led to the discovery of their plans. Later, the nurse from Alabama entered my room shaking; this time, it was him who had been frightened.

The next day, a student on my psychiatric team told me that a nurse had been verbally abused the night before, and the abusing patient had been moved into a secluded room off the ward. In fact, it was I who had been the “abusing” patient, and another patient, a meek man also named Richard, had been removed from the ward. Soon afterward, I was moved into a room with a roommate, and the terror was over.

Hearing that I had been spending nights holed up in my bathroom led the psychiatrists to prescribe light medication. To my surprise and delight, seizures and most other symptoms largely stopped, and I became able to eat normally again. And eat I did -- often. The meals there tasted terrible, but I supplemented meals with lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream, and Graham crackers – the food made available to patients at night. I regained two-thirds of the 50 pounds I had lost.

Finally, the psychiatrists began to speak to me of my release. Earlier I had been told I would likely be transferred to a mental institution elsewhere in the state for the rest of my life. Now, a full release only required that I find a place in which I would be able to stay after I left. Fortunately, a friend in the Bay Area offered to take me in for a short time.

As I was about to be released, one of the nasty nurses on the ward scowled that I had “escaped.” I did not linger when they finally let me out that door. And this time, I got on the plane.

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