Finally, I think that any physician who administers shock treatment against the will of the patient should be arrested and charged with criminal assault. Court-ordered ECT is an abomination. Society does not have the right to invade that most private of all places—a person’s brain.
My Alliance employer never asked about Dr. Ghaly; Dr. Ghaly asked about my employer. “Why he does this? Why he protests?” I told Dr. Ghaly about the 58 shock treatments administered against his will. Dr. Ghaly listened without comment. The two men have never met.
After Dr. Ghaly’s round in the recovery room, administering ECT to two or three patients, he would head upstairs to the inpatient psychiatric unit on the third floor. I came to recognize his footsteps, and could tell how tired he was by his step. He has a curious way of sliding his feet when he is tired—which is most of the time. He practices alone, without the support or protection of a group, consequently he is on-call twenty-four hours a day. If a patient is in trouble, Dr. Ghaly gets the call, whatever the hour of the day or night.
I had always supposed that as an experienced physician, he had acquired the skill of quickly falling back to sleep after being awakened. One night when I was in the hospital, I had a bad head cold and my sinuses were too stopped up for me to be able to sleep. Around three o’clock in the morning, I asked the nurse to call Dr. Ghaly and get an order for an antihistamine. She called, he gave the order, I got the medicine and fell asleep.
When Dr. Ghaly arrived in the morning, he was cheerful but fiery-eyed as he explained to me that he’d not gone back to sleep after the nurse had called. I never again called him during the night. Dozens of people depend on him every day. I can get by without sleep; he shouldn’t, and even under the best of circumstances, he gets very little sleep. On one occasion, the night nurse who reviewed the daily medication orders woke him at 5:00 a.m. to ask about a medication order. I would have killed her. Dr. Ghaly just rolled his eyes in frustration.
I have never been able to understand how he tolerates the stupid, petty, irrational, unkind actions of receptionists, secretaries, social workers, nurses, case managers and aides with whom he works, but he does. Somehow he absorbs it and lets it go. He does not fight back; I do.
I am an activist, passionately committed to righting every wrong I encounter, and I am often angry. Dr. Ghaly is completely apolitical; he does not participate in the process, and is usually cheerful. There’s a lesson in that. All he wants to do is treat his patients. He sees himself as a simple country doctor whose only business is to care for his patients.
On inpatient psychiatry, across from the nursing station there is a small room that is glassed-in on two sides, and it is here in this fishbowl that patients meet for supposedly private consultations with their doctors. When word passes through the unit that Dr. Ghaly has arrived, people line up outside the door. Those too sick to stand pull up chairs. There is a careful and subtle vying for position in the line. Everybody wants to see him, and everybody wants to see him now.
Even people who are not his patients seek him out. They have heard about him from other patients, and want very much at least to ask his opinion and at most to shuck their own psychiatrists and become his patient. Dr. Ghaly cannot, of course, permit such transfers because colleagues view it as “stealing.” (Patients are not considered to be free agents who may pick and chose their health care providers.)
On one occasion, after supper in the hospital, eight patients gathered around a single table, and they were all—Dr. Ghaly’s patients as well as others—telling stories about the expertise, kindness, wisdom and humor of Dr. Ghaly. You will never, ever, under any circumstances, find eight patients who agree on the goodness of any other doctor—not even in a doctor’s own waiting room.
Dr. Ghaly’s gift is kindness. He has no enemies. Not only is he loved by his patients but also he is sought out by his colleagues. Other doctors think at least as highly of him as do his patients. He is the most wanted psychiatrist in the county and it is nearly impossible to get an appointment with him. After his waiting list grew to six months, his office staff stopped taking names. You cannot get an appointment with Dr. Ghaly, unless—. Unless. There are many exceptions.
First, Dr. Ghaly always treats family. From his point of view, family includes (a) all current patients; (b) all patients who have left him and want to come back; (c) first-degree relatives of all patients; (d) staff of all psychiatric facilities where he is affiliated; (e) any person currently residing in Central New York who was born in the Middle East, and (f) patients referred by doctors whom he cannot refuse. Dr. Ghaly tries to refuse, but has an apparently pathological inability to say no.
Sometime around noon, after seeing his patients who were hospitalized at the Catholic hospital, Dr. Ghaly would go to his private office and see patients until there were none left. There are stories of patients still being in his office at midnight. I, personally, never saw him later than 10:30 p.m. (To be continued)
For the antithesis to Dr. Ghaly, see mental health counselor Mary Corbliss: http://behindthelockeddoors.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/st-joseph%e2%80%99s-the-perverse-pathology-of-mary-corbliss-part-ii/