Going Out AMA


So after months of being too sick to leave the isolation room at Crouse Hospital, I finally started getting out a little. After all, some of the management team—including the Chief Medical Office, Dr. Ronald Stahl—repeatedly told me that I was not in isolation; I was free to come and go.

And then on Monday the management team brought me the letter saying that I couldn’t go out, and something snapped. I see it in my brain as a black strip, about half an inch wide and an inch and a half long, and broken in the middle. Both sides are still attached but broken—cannot support weight. The unsigned letter restricting me to isolation was the final straw.

Somehow I got through the rest of Monday. Slept a few hours, was wakeful the rest of the night. Tuesday dawned hard and cold. Anitra, the wonderful aide, proposed that she ask if I could go the Christmas Eve service in the chapel at noon. I said yes, she did, and I was given permission to go. After everything else that I was being denied—the normal community of a roommate, appropriate medical care, a bottle of seltzer water—I now had to beg to be allowed to leave my room.

At the Christmas service, I was asked to do one of the readings from Luke. I broke down at the last line: “there was no room . . .” I could not get out of my tormented isolation in room 5008.

My nephew sent a bouquet of lilies. Steve came to visit. Peter Sinatra visited. The day ended quietly with Christmas carols on television, messages on Facebook, herbal tea, Tylenol and a little light reading. Prepared for sleep, I turned off the light . . . and in the dark all the pain and anger and frustration and fear and hopelessness came pouring out.

Crouse Hospital, at its highest reaches, had no intention of helping me. I was trapped there with no hope of ever getting another placement. I had been reading my medical records—they were having Security follow me on camera when I went out. They were putting the screws to me, grinding me down, forcing me to beg, refusing to hear my cries for medical treatment.

All my calls to DNV, IPRO, DOH and everybody else were fruitless. There was no justice. Nothing could be appealed. A hospital is a right unto itself. It rules. I was alone in a small back room where nobody could see me; nobody knew I was there and being tortured.

The screaming started in my head. I couldn’t stand it, was broken and beyond all help. If I screamed, they would come and shut the doors and leave me completely alone. I must not scream, must not. This was insane, unreal; you don’t treat people like this. I had been driven crazy. I had to get help.

I called the aide and asked her to get the nurse. She didn’t come. I called the nurse and asked her to get the charge nurse. She didn’t come. I called, somebody else came, I asked for the nursing supervisor. He didn’t come. I called and asked another nurse to take me to Upstate Medical Center emergency room so I could request admittance to their psychiatric unit. He said, “I’m on it,” but didn’t come back.

For God’s sake, I was behaving appropriately! I had been telling them that the letter had been the final straw and I was broken. I was APPROPRIATELY climbing the ladder of authority, asking for help, and none was forthcoming. I was over the edge and gone.

I pressed the call bell for the last time. The nurse came in and helped me get dressed. I wheeled off the floor and out of the building. There was snow on the sidewalks and the journey to the Upstate ER would take me down a steep hill. I may have been crazy but I wasn’t stupid. At 11:30 Christmas Eve I wheeled into the cold darkness, went next door to Upstate’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, and asked the guard in the lobby to get me to the Emergency Room.

And he did.

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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