Dr. Nasri Ghaly, Psychiatrist (Part 4)


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/

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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11 Responses to Dr. Nasri Ghaly, Psychiatrist (Part 4)

  1. telula says:

    I am so grateful to have stumbled on this blog. My counselor has suggested I see Dr. Ghaly. She has been trying to get the records there and all that red tape. I know it will take forever but I have nothing to do since I am trapped by depression that I try to deal with in every way possible and physical pain that is untreated, ignored and laughed off despite recent MRI films that show crazy damage. It was my counselor’s idea that I see Dr. Gahly since the doctor I was seeing at Brownell really didn’t care about me and once I decided I wanted to try things a different way he flaked out on me. I guess It makes life too hard when patients actually have a part of their brain left that still functions on occasion. I found a combo that sort of worked. went off it to see if it was still working because I really didnt think it was. well…it was and once I realized I needed to go back on it this so called doctor i was seeing decided it was all too dangerous and uncomfortable for him to restart the meds. None of it makes any sense to me and he acted as If I had no mental capacity to understand why he made this decision for me. Your writing is so close to home for me. Its really sad that someone, actually so ,many others, go through this. You do exactly what I have always wanted to do…expose the people I have been harmed by. Your blog makes me see that it is possible to do something to overcome the feeling of powerlessness these so called doctors have caused me to develop me over the years. I fight very hard for myself and my friends and family and I educate myself but it only seems to backfire. I am terrified to see a new doctor. I just want to stop altogether but I have that thin hope than someone might listen. I hope so. Thank You for sharing this experience with us. It helps more than you know.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      If you want someone to listen, get a psychologist. Dr. Ghaly’s office only does medical management, and what depression wants is someone to really listen and help you sort out your issues of powerlessness. Learn to act with power. File complaints against doctors. Go it alone. My dear, we all keep hunting for someone bigger and wiser who has the answers for us. The only one I’ve found who “gets it” is God. Read the Bible, Koran and Bhagavad Gita. If you are terrified to see a new doctor, THEN DON’T! Trust yourself. If your self is telling you what not to do, LISTEN. There are no gods but God; doctors do not have the answers to your mortal problems. You and I both understand what you’ve been going through. More doctors and more medicine is not the answer. The answer is (1) good sleep, (2) a healthy diet, (3) challenging exercise, (4) mature spirituality, (5) being grounded in the natural world, (6) creativity, and (7) doing work that benefits others. Start at 1 and slowly work your way through the list, taking baby steps and changing from one activity to another as seems reasonable. Educate yourself about good sleep hygiene; see a nutritionist; consult a physical therapist; talk to the Lord; start a garden; draw pictures; advocate for others. The source of your healing is in you, nature and God, not doctors and drugs. Stop making yourself crazy searching for something that doesn’t exist. (And Dr. Ghaly is in failing health and will not take new patients.)

  2. telula says:

    Thanks for your reply. I have been learning a lot about vitamins, supplements etc. I have so much pain from a disc in my back that has pretty much dissolved. I have irritated nerves and muscular issues. I have a really hard time doing much at all these days.Ive been through PT and all kinds of treatments, trigger point injections etc. but nothing worked. I had surgery on my neck 2 years ago and it was successful but my back is so bad nobody will touch it. It can never be fixed so to speak and the pain is ignored. I feel it all the time and sometimes I am exhausted by it and sick to my stomach from it. I respect your comments and your ideas. I guess maybe I am not yet in the position to do these things you suggested because I am so down from the constant pain. I know the depression is mostly from the pain. not being able to do nearly anything I used to which wasnt that much anyway but I did try to stay active and my brain used to work better. Now I feel like I have no imagination, no energy, no inspiration. i have been studying mindfulness and i find it very interesting but I have not been able to really go deeply into it since I find it very hard to meditate. i read all the time and try to understand how pain works and how I may be able to lessen it myself but i have not yet been successful. Im so tired. Just tired of not being able to move without pain and my sleep….forget it. Ive tried many ways to get my sleep on track but with the way my body feels I can’t get a good sleep and havent in so long.. I keep trying but sometimes i feel like Im going backwards. I know i wont be able to see Dr G but my counselor is the one who suggested it so I will end up seeing one of his helpers. Im just glad there is someone who can relate. Im also glad that you have found a way to deal. I hope I will too one day.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      The biochemical pathways for pain and depression are almost the same, consequently, your pain is your depression. You are not depressed ABOUT your pain. Multiple sclerosis is the same way–the depression is a part of the disease, not a reaction to the disease. Go see Dr. Ghaly for acupuncture. You’ll probably will be able to get an appointment with him for that. Also, see Dr. Stephen Wechsler, chiropractor, on S. Salina St. He’s different from all the rest, and if you haven’t seen him then you haven’t exhausted all the possibilities. You may feel that your brain isn’t working as well as it used to but I can tell from your writing that your brain is still working better than most people’s brains. Hang in there. Help is available. Have you ever had acupuncture or chiropractic before?

      • telula says:

        Ya know something? I actually have seen Dr Weschler!! I forgot about that! It was a while back and i ended up having to stop because the medicaid wasn’t covering it or there were problems submitting the claims to them.. I really liked him. He was very different. I remember not really seeing much in the way of lessening pain but i really didnt go that long. I understand the comment about depression and pain. the only thing I disagree with is that the pain isnt the depression. The feeling of pain is holding me back so much so that i see myself becoming less and less active and creative. I haver a garden that has gone to hell the past two years since I have not been able to really get out there and care for it. It is so frustrating to me that I want to punch something but If I do I will only cause more pain!! Like this week I have not been able to walk without holding onto things because if my back goes out I will fall. It happened to me a few weeks ago. I was dressing and I fell right on the floor! It made me feel really bad and scared me too. I know pain and depression pathways are the same. Its interesting to me that people cant figure out how to turn it off or at least down. I will be 43 next month and have had this pain for over 20 years. Its getting worse and I guess its scary to think about it always being there. I wonder why I can’t train my brain to tell myself that it doesnt hurt!! Sounds stupid but I think it must be possible. the injury will still be there so it will keep hurting but even to take the edge off would be so great. Thanks for the comment about my writing. That is something I have always been able to do. Even if its horrible it still seems ok. I have written many letters to people and got things done. You should have seen what I had to go through when I was working part time and getting harassed by social security on a weekly basis. that whole working while disabled thing is no fun. They sucked any sense of pride out of me trying to be a functioning member of society! I wrote some stellar letters back then but I will tell you one thing….I don’t feel like I could do that now. Anyway, thanks for writing back. I hope its ok for me to keep writing on here like this.

      • annecwoodlen says:

        Yes, Medicaid is a bitch. They will only pay for chiropractic care if the chiropractor is in some other doctor group. We do not have a health care plan in America; we have a sickness care plan. A health care plan would pay for chiropractic. Talk to Dr. Wechsler. He has never turned a patient away for inability to pay. He’ll work something out with you if he knows your situation.

        You sound like a perfect candidate for hypnotherapy–“. . . why I can’t train my brain to tell myself that it doesnt hurt!!” Maybe you can train your unconscious to alleviate the pain. For this, see Dr. Paul M. Cohen (Ph.d., not M.D.) He and I did some splendid work together in hypnotherapy–I actually had a root canal done using only hypnotherapy as an anesthesia.

        Despite all the problems I do have, I am blessed in that I don’t have chronic pain, so I am not the world’s most helpful person on this subject. Acupuncture is used to alleviate pain,and Dr. Ghaly may be accpeting new patients for that.

  3. telula says:

    and i actually DO see now what you meant about the pain depression thing. I get what you meant now. Seems logical. thank you.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Yeah, that pain/depression thing is tricky. Depression is a side-effect of pain. If you can fix the problem that’s causing the pain, then the depression will go away. Talk therapy won’t do a whole lot of good in this case.

      • telula68f says:

        Exactly!! Its impossible to get rid of the pain when the problem causing it can’t be fixed. Its just a merry go round and I want to get off now! You are so right about the Sick care system….Its more obvious when you live like we do on Social Security. Thanks for the advice!

  4. telula68f says:

    And Im not sure but I don’t see My insurance paying for acupuncture since It just might work ya know?

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Doggone right–Medicaid and Medicare are government programs, and the government is in bed with Big Pharma, consequently you can get all the pills you want, but you can’t get alternatives. Seems to me I wrote a post about how the National Institute of Health (NIH) is giving less than one percent of its research money to alternatives, meanwhile, MOST Americans are using some kind of alternative to pharmaceuticals. “The government” will not go where the people are; the government no longer is us.

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