So I’m on psychiatry, where they at least have to clean up the mess—even if housekeeping isn’t going to mop the floor. It’s Friday morning and Levine is explaining to me that I’ve got him because nobody else wants me. So I ask Levine if he wants to hear my story and he says yes. I ask him to sit down so we are at eye level and he does. I tell him the story, from lithium poisoning to multiple sclerosis symptoms to immune damage to diabetes and the disastrous consequences of insulin, and Dr. Tucker telling me that there’s nothing more that can be done for me.
Levine listens, asks some good questions, and says, “You don’t belong on this floor; this isn’t a correct placement.” I agree with him one hundred percent. He leaves, saying he needs to talk to Tucker. Tucker comes later and leaves saying he needs to talk to Levine. It’s Friday afternoon; nobody talks to anybody.
Unit 3-6 is locked. In the back of 3-6 there is a double-locked unit. That’s where I am. Where my bed is placed, I can’t see out the door. I have no phone. No television. I am not permitted any bedside visitors and am too sick to get out of bed and go to the dayroom. Dr. Stephen Wechsler is my Health Care Proxy, Trustee and Power of Attorney. When he comes on Saturday, they will not let him see me.
On Monday morning, Levine comes in. I ask him to call Palliative Care. Hospice care is six-months-to-death; palliative care is when you’re wrecked but won’t die fast enough to qualify for Hospice. (Dr. Tucker referred me to Hospice last year and they wouldn’t take me.) Levine looks around and says that I should have some music, and I can have a telephone.
When Levine comes back on Tuesday morning he says he has not called Palliative Care. He says I don’t belong on his unit but won’t take five minutes to make the call that might get me moved out. Why do you suppose that is? Do you think Levine wants to put the screws to me? Do you think he might find perverse satisfaction in knowing I’m under his control and can’t do anything about it? And now Levine has reversed himself: he says he didn’t say I could have a phone and music; he says he only said they would look into it.
I am bed ridden. All I have to listen to are the psychotics howling in the hall, hour after hour, day after day.
I ask for the charge nurse; the nurse manager, Sue somebody; the director, Gail Gilbert. They all say they will look into this or that. They disappear and never tell me the outcomes of their lookings. Have they looked into anything? I have no way of knowing; I am being held incommunicado.
The NYS Patients’ Bill of Rights says I have the right to “Receive complete information about your diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.” Levine gives me nothing. With the exception of Friday, he gives me about five minutes and then walks out while I’m still trying to talk to him. I have the right to “Participate in all decisions about your treatment and discharge from the hospital.” Nobody has any discussion with me about my treatment or discharge.
St. Joe’s says “If you would like to meet with Palliative Care Consult Service, please tell your nurse or call 8-5175.” I tell my doctor and he doesn’t call them. I have no phone, am bedridden on a double-locked unit, and cannot exercise the right St. Joe’s says I have.
The discharge planners, Amy and Judy, come. I ask them to call Palliative Care. They say they have to get a referral from Dr. Levine. No, I cry, you don’t! As a patient, I have the right to make the call! But because I am disabled, I can’t! They agree to make the call. When I ask who will get back to me, how I will hear of results, they say, “Dr. Levine.” There is no discussion of anything else regarding discharge.
I ask a nurse to call my church and ask for a visit. She says, “I’ll have to ask Dr. Levine.” Everything is to go through Levine; he will control every moment of my life and he will not talk to me. He turns on his heel, says, “I don’t have to listen to this,” and walks out. My frustration leads to anger and my anger leads to cursing—which then is turned back on me as the reason why he won’t deal with me. I am slowly being driven crazy—held incommunicado, deprived of basic medical care, and insulted and abused at every turn.
Dr. Gerry Edwards comes every day. He is the Heritage Family Practice doctor who is on hospital duty this week. He takes my scraps of paper and calls my church and Palliative Care himself.
I listen to Levine yelling at a man who is psychotic. “Victor, did you go to court yesterday? Victor, did you go to court yesterday? Victor, did you go to court yesterday? LISTEN!” The patient is psychotic, not deaf. Levine has virtually no skills for talking to his patients. Half the therapy aides have better skills for talking to a person with psychosis than does the head psychiatrist.
A day comes—possibly Wednesday—when a woman from Mental Hygiene comes. She is not a lawyer. She writes a single sentence, that I want a court hearing, and I sign it. I think that the court hearing is to get me taken off the commitment so that I can be voluntary.
Levine comes in and says, “I understand you wrote a letter for discharge.” I don’t know what he’s talking about. He says I’ll be discharged the next day and walks out without discussion of discharge planning. Meanwhile, Dr. Edwards is telling me that Dr. Tucker is trying to get me into a nursing home; I qualify for skilled nursing. That is a correct placement.