First Do No Harm

Do No Harm

2016 was a bad year for me. Mid-June I was fired from my job for being 1 minute late eight times in six months. Never mind the fact that I was usually 10 minutes early; it was those eight times that I got stuck in traffic that mattered. To be honest, it was probably for the best. I had a hard time focusing on work due to my ADHD and I wasn’t the most productive employee there. Still, I was upset and my depression/anxiety kicked into overdrive. I said some things that I shouldn’t have and walked out of there without any of my stuff.

During the drive home I calmed down and made plans to move on. I had a class that afternoon that I had to go to, I wanted to talk to a friend who is good at therapy stuff (she studied psychology in college,) I needed to talk to my therapist about what happened and schedule an appointment, I needed to update my resume and hit the job boards, and I needed to move forward from this. Overall, I was doing good, with the exception of that 15–20 minutes talking to HR.

I got home, went inside to my bedroom and checked to see if my friend was online. Nope. OK, I’ll check later. I checked my email and took a quick look at Facebook. Before I could change into comfortable clothes, I heard someone call my name. I got up and looked to the open window in the room across from my room and saw a cop there. He said he had received a call about me and wanted to talk. I said OK and went outside to talk to them. The cop asked me if I wanted to harm myself, and I said no. He asked what was going on, so I told him I was fired and had been upset, but I had calmed down and wasn’t going to harm myself. He asked if I would go with him to the hospital and I said no. I told him that I had a therapist and gave him her card. He again asked if I would let them take me to the hospital and I repeated that I didn’t need to go there and that I was going to set up an appointment with my therapist.

This went on for about a half hour. I wasn’t upset or distressed; I was very calm. I kept reassuring them that I was OK and wasn’t going to harm myself. They kept asking me if I would go with them to the hospital. Finally, I agreed to go if that was the only way to get them to leave. They told me that I had two options: check myself in and talk to a psychiatrist, then I could go home in a couple of hours, tops, or they could have me admitted and I’d have to stay there for a minimum of 72 hours. I chose the first option. They patted me down, confiscated my comb, and took me to the hospital 3 miles from my house.

I had gone there once before, when I first had gall stones. They checked me in after taking an ultrasound of my liver and gall bladder. After being there most of the day, they gave me a pain pill, it kicked in, and I had no more pain. When I woke up, they told me there was a “shadow” on my liver that they wanted to investigate. I couldn’t have any food or water, and they were going to do an MRI the next day (Tuesday.) They did the MRI and couldn’t figure it out, so they were going to do another one with contrast in two days (Thursday.) They still couldn’t figure it out, so they scheduled a CAT scan on Friday. I asked what about my gall bladder and the doctor said he wasn’t concerned about it. On Friday, they said there was nothing wrong and I could go home Saturday. A whole week wasted while they chased ghosts. I determined I wouldn’t go there ever again.

Except I did, grudgingly. I told the ER receptionist I wanted to check myself in, she asked why and I said I didn’t know why, the cops were making me do it. They took me back to get my blood pressure and temp while the receptionist talked to the cop. I told them I had a therapist and showed them her card. They told me to show it to the psychiatrist. I was taken back to a room and told to change into a gown. Some guy came and took my clothes and I laid down on the gurney to wait. I waited, and waited, and waited in a 10’x10’ room with a TV but no remote. I got up and paced a bit, stuck my head out of the door and asked when the doc would come to talk to me, waited a bit more and someone came in, drew some blood, and gave me a cup to pee in for a sample. He said that the doc would see me when the lab results came back, probably in an hour or two. I waited and waited some more. I sat on the edge of the gurney and swung my legs back and forth, which made the bed move back and forth because the wheels weren’t locked down. Some big dude slammed the door open and yelled at me, demanding to know what I was doing. He locked the wheels and told me not to do that again, then left.

I was shocked, feeling like a little kid whose parents had punished him for doing something wrong. I tried laying down, but I was bored and nobody would tell me what was going on. Late in the afternoon a nurse came in and asked me if I wanted to hurt myself. I said no.

“Do you want to harm anyone?”

“No.”

“Do you hear voices in your head?”

“No.”

She left and I was alone again.

An hour or two later another woman came in.

“Do you want to harm yourself?”

“No.”

“Do you want to harm anyone?”

“No.”

“Do you hear voices in your head?”

“No.”

She started talking to me about outpatient therapy. It was from 10 am until 4:30 pm during the week. I explained that I had classes and couldn’t do that. She said “You need therapy, you do know that?” Then she said that a psychiatrist would see me in the morning, if my insurance would pay for me overnight, then left me alone. I saw that they delivered my dinner and I ate it.

That was the only food or drink I had in the 25 hours I was at that hospital.

I laid back down, bored out of my skull. Nobody talked to me to tell me what was going on. I was alone and scared by this point. This was supposed to be a couple of hours, tops. That’s what the cops said, and in my naivete I believed them. (News flash: cops lie all the time. Don’t ever believe them.) I had been there since noon, and it was well after 6 pm.

At some point I broke. I wanted to be home to let the trauma of the day heal someplace where I could be comfortable and actually do something to move forward. I didn’t understand why I was still there; I didn’t understand what was happening. I needed to be home and they wouldn’t let me go.

I started crying and went into a total panic attack.

After an hour or so, security came in and yelled at me, telling me to stop or they’d restrain me. I told him I wanted to go home. He said I couldn’t because there was a court order against me. I asked who filed it and he said he didn’t know.

A nurse came in shortly after and put an IV in my arm, then thumbtacked the bag to the wall, effectively restraining me to the room. I couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom, or walk around, or anything. I eventually drifted off to sleep late that night.

I woke up around 8–8:30 am and wanted to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t because of the now empty IV bag thumbtacked to the wall. I started crying again. I noticed breakfast and was going to eat, but some guys came in, removed my IV and carted me out to the hallway, right by the nurses’ station. I laid there where everyone could see me until 1:30. Nobody tried to talk to me or tell me what was going on. At 1:30 two ambulance guys showed up and said they were there to pick me up and move me to another hospital.

I said I didn’t want to go to another hospital, I wanted to go home. They said there was a court order. I asked who got the court order, and they said they didn’t know. They put me on their gurney, loaded me up into the ambulance, and took me to the next hospital. It was a different branch of the hospital I had been in. They wheeled me up to the psych ward and I sat in a chair facing the nurses’ station. After an hour I broke down again and they asked me what was wrong.

“I WANT TO GO HOME!”

“You can’t go home until you’ve talked to a psychiatrist.”

“Then let me talk to him!”

“All the psychiatrists have gone for the day.”

It was 2:30 in the afternoon. All the psychiatrists were gone. I sat there until 4:30, and they showed me to a room. I pulled back the covers on the bed and saw a stained pee pad.

“Sometimes they put those there,” the nurse said. She didn’t offer to have it removed and change the sheets. I put the sheet and blanket back and just laid on the bed.

Someone came and said dinner was being served.

The first food I had eaten since the night before.

I slept that night and woke the next day. Around 11 I got to see the shrink. I told him what happened, and what was going on in my life (full time job and part time university, lots of stress.) He said I was fine, just had been under a lot of stress. I was free to go home at 2:30, good thing it had been less than a day. I corrected him on that and he didn’t care.

There was one problem with me going home. They sent me to another hospital, but they didn’t send my clothes. Nobody knew where my clothes, wallet, etc. were. They didn’t bother to call the other hospital. Instead, they gave me clothes that they had there. A stretched-out t-shirt, lavender sweat pants that were too large, and nasty sandals. They called a cab for me and I got to wait outside where everyone stared at me, waiting for the cab.

I got home, changed into real clothes and drove to the first hospital to retrieve my clothes and wallet.

“That nightmare is over,” I thought to myself. I can get back to normal, whatever that is.

Except I couldn’t.

The next day I got in the car to go to a BBQ a friend was hosting. I stopped at a store halfway there to get some things to share. I saw a register that was open and walked up to it, only to be told that there was a line that I didn’t see. No problem, right?

Nope, my brain instantly melted down. I put my things down and ran out of the store, tears starting to stream down my face. I got into my car and just rocked back and forth for a couple of minutes until the absolute need to get back home overwhelmed me. I started the car and bolted out of there, nearly hitting a couple of people. I got back on the highway and floored it, going 90 MPH just to get to the safety of home.

For the next couple of weeks that same thing happened every time I went more than a couple of miles from home. I’d reach some limit that only my mind knew, and I would start hyperventilating, I would start bawling for no apparent reason, and I had to return home. It was frustrating. I completely withdrew into myself, afraid to let anyone know I existed.

My mom decided that since I didn’t have a job, I didn’t need a house and threatened to sell my house. See, she owned the house and I had paid her every month for the past 5 years to buy it from her. I had already paid her over half of what she paid for it. Once I got another job, I’d be paying her again. In the meantime, I offered her the money I had in my 401k which would have covered 10 months’ payment. She rejected that and kept telling me she was going to sell the house. Stress kept building as I searched for a new job without success. I made a post on Facebook one night trying to find a new home for my cats, since I was about to be homeless.

One of my friends in California thought I was about to commit suicide and called the cops.

I was still in bed, undressed. I heard my name and assumed someone was shouting at me through the open window in the bedroom across from mine. I shouted for them to wait a minute while I got dressed. I was surprised to hear someone say, “She’s getting dressed.” I looked up and there was a cop standing in the doorway to my bedroom looking at me.

I freaked out.

They explained that they got a call saying I was suicidal. I told them I wasn’t. They said they had to take me to the hospital. I said I wasn’t going. I told them to get out of my house, they said they didn’t need a warrant to enter my house. They wouldn’t leave. They threatened to physically carry me out. One cop had a riot shield. They had 10 cops there to drag me out. Panic had set in and taken hold. I knew I was going to be taken back to that hellhole and I didn’t have any say in the matter. I walked out of the house and lightly punched my car in frustration. Big mistake. I was swarmed by cops, handcuffed, and had a bunch of cops pin me to my car until the ambulance came. They picked me up and slammed me onto the gurney, forcing the handcuffs into my wrists in the process. I told them I wanted to go to another hospital, but they ignored me.

I was wheeled into an ER room where they stripped me with the cops there watching. They restrained me even though I just laid there, then they injected me with something, then wheeled me into the hallway because they needed the room for another emergency. I shifted a little to try to get more comfortable but didn’t really succeed. A while later they wheeled me to an alcove and left me alone. I have no idea how long I was there restrained with one arm above my head and one by my waist; I just know that my right shoulder started hurting. The nurse who came to see what I was complaining about just told me to suck it up and left. They eventually removed the restraints, then wheeled me for an MRI of my lower abdomen. I have no idea why. They didn’t tell me anything.

After several hours some ambulance guys came to take me to another hospital.

They wanted me to sign some papers saying I was admitting myself, and I refused. They showed me to a room, and I laid down. After a while, I was called to see the shrink. He didn’t ask me if I was suicidal or what was going on in my life. He just rattled off a list of medications I was to receive, including Lipitor for my diabetes. They fed me 9 different medications (plus insulin) three times a day. All the pills did was put me to sleep. They woke me for meals, meds, and the 30 second daily visit with the quack.

They never asked me why I was upset. They didn’t care.

My friends and family had no idea where I was. I just disappeared. My friends got my address through the tax records, then asked the police if they knew what happened to me. They told my friends that I had been taken to the hospital. The hospital told them that I had been discharged and wouldn’t tell them where they sent me to. HIPPA, you know. One nurse finally broke the rules and told my stepsister to check the hospital they sent me to. It took them a whole week to find me.

When they visited, they asked for my keys so they could get in and take care of my cats. I gladly gave them my house keys. That was a big mistake. They visited a couple of times. I slept the rest of the time. The first Saturday a different quack saw me for 30 seconds. He asked me how happy I was on a scale of 1 to 10. I lied and said 5. He doubled one of the medications and said that would take me up to a 10. It just made me sleepier. They didn’t care.

At the end of two weeks, I heard the quack talking to the head nurse outside my door. He said that Medicaid wouldn’t pay any more, so I was all better. Amazing! I was given my wallet, keys, phone, and boots. That was all the first hospital sent over. None of my clothes were sent. My sister bought new clothes for me to wear. My stepsister picked me up and took me to my house but refused to give me my keys. The house belonged to my mom, she informed me. I was going to stay at a friend of a friend’s house. I numbly went inside and packed some clothes and grabbed my laptop. That began 3 years of homelessness, during which I lost everything, including my cats and family, but that’s another story.

It took me a year after those events to get a part time job, and another 6 months to get a job that paid enough to live on because I was so messed up mentally. I flunked the classes I was taking and wound up withdrawing from college. The mental damage that was done caused me to attempt suicide three times. To this day I have nightmares about those events. I still get panic attacks when I see cops. I don’t answer the phone or my door, and I have severe anxiety about losing my apartment. I am scared to death of hospitals and doctors, and things have to get extremely bad for me to even consider going for medical aid.

I know not all hospitals are this bad. The hospital I was taken to when I attempted suicide had someone sitting with me the entire time I was in the ER. When I was taken to the psych ward, they gave me my clothes instead of making me wear a gown the entire time, and a psychiatrist came and talked to me to find out why I wanted to kill myself, spending a half hour talking with me. If I stayed in my room too long, they asked why and encouraged me to spend time in the social areas. The daily visit with the psychiatrist lasted 15–20 minutes and we actually discussed stuff. That hospital tried to make me better.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done, and it won’t be undone. That first hospital chain broke me and got away with it. All I can do is suffer for the rest of my life.

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Alexander Nicholas

Alexander Nicholas

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