Monday, January 7, 2008

My First Day in Looney Bin 1

After I filled out all the paperwork, a nurse took me on a tour of the ward and explained the daily routine. The ward was one big loop. The center section consisted of a nurse's station, a pharmacy and several exam rooms. Patient rooms were ringed on the outside of the loop. At one end was a day room and a large activity room. The day room was outfitted with couches, chairs, a television, board games and a few rows of old paperback books. This was where most patients spent their free time and was also where we would have daily group meetings. The activities room was a large, tiled room with cafeteria tables, a sink, cabinets, another television with a couch and chair and more games, books and magazines (all very outdated). I liked this room because it had a wall of windows, our only real view of outside. Next door to this was the kitchen. All meals were delivered from the hospital cafeteria, but the kitchen held graham crackers, saltines, peanut butter, honey, ice cream, juice, milk, cereal and fruit. They provided plastic spoons, but no forks or knives. There were two telephones in the hall directly across from the nurses station.

The routine was pretty much the same every day. We would never leave the ward. We were woken at 6:30 am for temperatures, vital signs and medication dispersal. We could go back to sleep until 8:00 am, at which time we were expected for breakfast in the activities room. After breakfast, we would have a morning group session and see the psychiatrist. Lunch arrived at noon and we were given an hour or so of free time. The afternoon was filled with group activities, journaling time, or sessions with nursing students and social workers. Dinner was at 5:30. We were free the rest of the evening until medication dispersal and vital sign check at 9 pm. Lights out was at 10:30. During the free time scattered throughout the day we were allowed to use the phones, watch TV, sleep, socialize, whatever. Nurses took regular head counts and did room checks.

After the tour, the nurse took me to my room. Each room had two wooden platform beds, a desk and an adjacent bathroom. I had a roommate, Patricia. She was around 45 years old and bipolar. She was very welcoming and tried to give me the lowdown on the place. She had been there about a week and it was not her first time there. I never got to know too much about her because she slept the majority of the day. Her medications sedated her. From what I could gather, she was essentially homeless and had been living with various friends and relatives. She hoped to get enough bus fare to make it to her daughter somewhere in the Midwest.

By the end of the tour, it was around 5 pm. I had not seen a psychiatrist and was told I might not see one for a couple of days. Beside the intake person, no one had spoken to me much about my condition and I had received no real medical attention.This worried me, but I had no control over the situation. I made it clear to the nurses that I wanted to talk to a doctor as soon as possible and they assured me I would see someone eventually.

I went to the day room where several patients were watching TV. I sat down and they introduced themselves and asked me what I was there for. I explained my situation and they told me their stories. There were about 20 other patients in the ward. It was a fairly even mix between men and women. The youngest person there was in her early twenties and the oldest was probably in his sixties. Most were over 30 and I was one of the youngest there. The majority of them were bipolar. They were all very nice and supportive. It wasn't like you might picture it. There weren't people walking around talking to themselves or screaming at the walls or anything. For the most part, these were ordinary people with varying types of depression. Almost all had been hospitalized before, many at this hospital. Also, they almost all had no insurance. They were lower to lower-middle class, blue collar people ,some of whom had steady jobs, others of whom where homeless or bounced from place to place.

When it was time for dinner, I followed everyone to the activity room. I was given a tray and a meal order form for the following day. The food was terrible, of course. I had some kind of creamed meat dish, green beans, a roll and baked apples. We were not allowed any caffeinated beverages, so I had water and cranberry juice to drink. I jonesed for a diet coke. A nurse ate with us, chatted and joked with everyone. I made conversation with the women around me. When we finished eating, the nurse had to check our trays and record how much we had eaten. I didn't eat much.

After dinner, I called home and spoke to my husband and my mom. I told them I was discouraged and worried that I had not seen a doctor. They agreed that was a problem but hoped I would see someone tomorrow. For the rest of the evening, I watched TV in the day room.

Since I had not seen the psychiatrist yet, at medication dispersal I was given the standard sedative and anti-psychotic drug they seemed to give most of the patients. They made me very sleepy. I was finally given my bag and I went to my room to try to get ready for bed. My bag had been searched and several item removed. I have a urological disease called interstitial cystitis and brought my medications I routinely take for it. They were removed, to be held in the pharmacy. My belt was gone, as were some hair products that contained alcohol and a bottle of body spray. All my toiletry items had to stay in the nurses' station to be checked out when I needed them.

When I was admitted earlier that day, I was relieved to be away from my children and the responsibility of caring for them and from the possibility I might hurt Ladybug. As I went to bed, though, I missed them and half wished I were home. I was getting more concerned that this facility was not the place for me and that the level of care I would receive here would not be adequate. I hoped that the next day would be better.

1 comment:

Cami said...

Another nice post.......thanks for sharing.