Are You Listening?


For seventeen days, I have been subjected to a level of seclusion at Crouse Hospital that the NYS Office of Mental Health would not permit for more than two hours.

Today I heard from Brenda, a nursing supervisor, that I am being kept in an isolation room because of my blog. Is this true? And if so, who made the decision?

Then the nurse practitioner told me it was because of an unnamed and unknown incident with another roommate. Is this true? And if so, who made the decision?

And why hasn’t anyone had the balls to go face-to-face with me and talk about it?

I have been in isolation for six weeks. I cannot see into the hallway to observe any other human beings. My window is entirely filled with the brick face of the POB. There is nothing on television except re-runs of re-runs of things I didn’t want to watch in the first place. My eyesight has deteriorated so badly that I can’t read for more than fifteen minutes. There is nothing to see, hear or do.

For weeks I have been asking and asking and asking for a room change and the nurse manager has refused to even make a commitment (e.g., “When room 5015 [or whatever] becomes vacant again, we’ll move you.”) Is it because Crouse has no intention of letting me leave this room? Why haven’t they talked to me? When I call, why don’t they answer?

What is being done to me defies NYS Office of Mental Health policy:

“Restraint and seclusion of patients are last-resort safety measures to prevent injury . . . Seclusion occurs when a person is placed alone in a room which he or she cannot leave at will.”

The batteries went dead on my power wheelchair SEVENTEEN DAYS AGO. For seventeen days, I have been restricted to a bed in an isolation room.

“You can be restrained or secluded only upon the written order of a doctor, based on personal examination . . . An order is valid for no more than two hours . . . . Restraint and seclusion are not to be used as punishment, or for the convenience of staff or as a substitute for treatment . . .”

When I was admitted a month and a half ago, I was so desperately glad to be out of the Iroquois that I accepted isolation. And then I repeatedly asked to be moved and got nothing.

“As soon as practicable after a person has been restrained or secluded . . . staff must review the circumstances surrounding the episode with the individual. They must try to identify with the person’s help what could have been done differently and how a future emergency could be averted.”

I attempted suicide at the Iroquois because I was suffering and there was no hope of being moved. The same situation now exists at Crouse. How can an emergency be averted? MOVE ME OUT OF ISOLATION.

“Hospital quality assurance programs also are expected to monitor restraint and seclusion.”

I have left three messages for the director of quality of care. He has not acknowledged any of them.

After I attempted suicide at the Iroquois and was transported to Crouse, people said, “Why didn’t you tell us? Why didn’t you let us know you needed help?” Well, now I’m telling you; I’m letting you know. CEO Paul Kronenberg’s email gets bounced back, so some of the rest of you ought to tell him that I cannot endure this anymore. I never should have had to endure it in the first place.

I’ve reached out to Laurie Fegley, Barb Drapola, Betty O’Connor, Bob Allen and a host of other people who weren’t anywhere to be found. Well, I’m telling you now. You simply can’t treat people this way.

At 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, I’m going to start making phone calls to people outside Crouse.

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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