Saturday 20 April, Continued


Last night at 6:20 p.m. I called the nurses’ station and asked when supper would be served.  I was told that it had been served at 6:00 p.m.  When I asked why my tray had not been brought, there was no answer.  When the tray was brought, I had to eat stone-cold rigatoni with meat sauce.

An essential part of infection control is being able to wash your hands with hot soapy water after a bowel movement.  The “new” sinks on 3-6 do not have handles or faucets.  The sink has push buttons for hot and cold water and a hole through which water spouts.  The buttons only stay pushed for fifteen seconds—not long enough to fill a denture cup in one go.  In order to get warm water, you have to stand and wait and push the button six to eight times.  The water only “spouts” ¼ to ½ inch from the wall of the bowl.  You cannot get your hands under the water to wash off soap.  There are no paper or cloth towels in the bathroom.  In the bedroom, a staff person has put the cloth towels and wash cloths on top of the wardrobe about three feet above my head.  When I call the nurses’ station, I am brought a towel with someone else’s matted hair in it.

The tray table has not been cleaned.  As I write, the paper is sticking to the dirty surface.

I have multiple medical illnesses.  I have been using an electric wheelchair for about ten years and an electric hospital bed for about fifteen.

I was admitted here to a standard psychiatric bed, which is a foam pad in a wooden box.  I have an indwelling catheter.  Standard hospital beds have intentional places to hang catheter bags; psych beds do not.  Staff jammed the bag hook over the edge of the bed but it wouldn’t stay and repeatedly was left lying on the floor.

I was too sick to get out of bed.  The first morning I awoke around 5:45 a.m. feeling terrible and rushed to the bathroom.  I was soaked with sweat, shaking, and lights were flashing inside my head.  I pushed the call bell and collapsed on the floor.  Staff came and found my blood sugar to be 65.  They brought glucose, then I requested and received 4 oz. of orange juice.  I had a second bowel movement then was assisted back to bed.  My glucose was 67.  The staff—R.N. Amber, I think—left me alone over my objection.  I was too sick to get out of bed.  The only call bell was located on the far side of the room above and behind a dresser.  I am only 5’1”.  Under the best of circumstances, it’s hard for me to reach the call bell; under these circumstances it was impossible.

The night before when my blood sugar was 65 in the Observation Unit I immediately was given a full cup of apple juice and a ham and cheese sandwich, followed by more juice and food, 15-minute Accu-Chek, and staff constantly with me for about an hour.  I had overdosed on a long-acting insulin; this was no simple diabetic hypoglycemia.

On Psych, they brought me pretzels that were too dry to swallow.  When I objected to being left alone, the nurse said, “I have 16 other patients.”  When my glucose reached 70, she said I would not be checked again for forty minutes.

At some point a tap bell was put on the stand by my bed.  I had two more bowel movements.  Then I tapped frantically to no avail.  No one came.  I threw up on the floor.

Sunday 21 April

The Psychiatric Unit of St. Joseph’s Hospital has an ethos and policy structure that denies physical disability; they discriminate based on physical disability.  In the words of one charge nurse, “This is a mental unit, not a medical unit.”  And with a single sweeping statement, 3-6 denies reality.

  • My meals are served cold.  Able-bodied people go to the Day Room and pick up their hot meals.  Trays for bedridden people are set aside and may or may not be delivered if or when a staff person gets around to it.
  • On a previous hospitalization, my doctor ordered a wheelchair.  The staff refused to push it.  A therapy aide with a bachelor’s degree in art and no medical training said he saw no reason why I should have a wheelchair.
  • I am currently in an old-fashioned manual hospital bed, which has to be hand-cranked.  Sometimes when I call the nurses’ station and request that the head be raised or lowered, the staff response is a resistant, “Why can’t you do it yourself?”  Fact:  If a patient is sick enough to qualify for a hospital bed on a psychiatric unit then the patient is too sick to hop out of that bed and hand-crank it.
  • Significant numbers of staff members in authority base their actions on moral judgment, not reasonable psychiatric or medical assessment.

Yesterday morning I woke around 6:00 a.m. needing to be assisted to the bathroom.  I pressed the nurses’ call bell three times.  Three times it was turned off without anyone opening the intercom or coming to my room.  I had diarrhea in bed.  I made it to the bathroom, pressed the call bell there, R.N. Amber came, asked what I needed, and I requested clean sheets.  She and her co-worker [possibly Megan] stripped the bed and left.  I knew I was going to collapse on the floor if I tried to remain on the commode so I went back and lay on the bare mattress.  When Amber+1 returned, she asked if it was hypoglycemia.  Not knowing, I shrugged.  Amber did not check my blood sugar.

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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