I want to share today my experience at a very bad acute care facility. I have to preface this by saying that not all acute care facilities are the same, some are very good, treating patients with respect and have incredible care. Unfortunately, here in Miami Florida, there aren’t as many good centers as there should be. Most centers, where I live, are underfunded, poorly staffed, and have incompetent doctors who really don’t care very much for their patients.
An acute care center is usually the first step in the journey of a person undergoing psychiatric treatment. The purpose of these places is to stabilize you and send you on your way. Often, they employ social workers that will help you get back on your feet. These social workers will help you in finding a place to live, asses your situation at home, and generally help you on where to go next. The next step in the treatment process usually is a treatment center where you stay for some months for intensive psychological and psychiatric help. Sometimes these treatment centers have outpatient services, so you don’t have to live there. I digress from my story.
One of the very many medications that I take is an antipsychotic. I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you what my doctor has told me. For bipolar patients’ antipsychotic medications help regulate your mood, and also help in controlling the manic end of the spectrum. Please don’t take my word for it, as I am not expert. If you want to learn more, please google. My antipsychotic caused a very dangerous condition called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo for short, is a condition that causes your muscles to deteriorate and dead muscle cells go into the bloodstream. The kidneys get attacked when all of these dead muscle cells go into it. You can find more about rhabdo here. The only symptom I experienced was extreme pain around the entire body. The pain was so bad that when my dad took me to urgent care he had to bend my legs for me because I refused to do so out of pain in order to get out of the car.
I went to a hospital, which I can’t mention it’s name, and they told me that I needed to be hospitalized in order to change my meds to stop the rhabdo. So starts my tale of horror. At first things were pretty much standard. I had to wait for a bed to open up. Once open I received my psychosocial assessment where they ask me my health and psychiatric history. Also, they ask what your primary complaint is and more relevant questions. They put me in a very dirty room with very dirty sheets. The bathroom was disgusting, and the shower head looked like it had mold growing on it. I brought a book and journal with me, as usual, to pass the time while the doctors figured out what was wrong with me. I expected a relative short stay since I didn’t come in for a psychiatric ailment. Boy was I wrong. They would go on to create a psychiatric ailment!
The next morning, I met the doctor that was assigned to me. She came in with about eight or nine residents in order to evaluate me. I felt like a specimen being used as a study subject more than someone who needed help. This doctor thought that my medication regiment was too complex, in other words that I took too many medications. The end result, from her analysis, is that I went from about nine medications to just one. This made me severely ill. I probably needed a small tweak in my meds, but instead I was denied a treatment that was developed and tailored for me through ten years of trial and error. So, I began to feel withdrawal and intense depression. I spend the better part of a week bed bound in a mental pain that was ten times worse than the rhabdomyolysis could ever give me. Actually, this was some of the worst anguish I had ever felt in my whole life. The usual procedure that psychiatric hospitals usually have is to call the psychiatrist caring for the patient, outside of the hospital, for advice. This is done so that the resident psychiatrist at the hospital has some idea how to properly treat the patient.
From being nervous and emotionally compromised I developed some intense gut issues. Meaning I had to go to the bathroom several times during the day. I got severe dehydration problems. This is where the fun began. I know myself, and I know the hospital routine, as this is not my first time in a psych hospital. I asked for some Gatorade, for the dehydration, they refused to give it to me. They gave me apple juice instead, which I gladfully took. I was losing water due to my bowel movements at an alarming rate. I was feeling very dizzy and weak. I remember standing at the nursing station for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time being ignored until someone took notice and would give me a thimble of apple juice. When I wanted some cold water, to vary from the disgusting tap water in the bathroom, I would have to do the now typical fifteen minute to twenty-minute wait to get water. Mind you, I was very weak and to the point of almost falling down every time I stood there like a Dodo waiting.
I was treated like trash. I mean down right inhumanely. I would ask the staff questions just to be ignored. I’d ask to see a gastroenterologist for my problems, and it took three days for a doctor to see me. I remember handing in a sample and the attending nurse said, “Ohhhh, poopie.” I just couldn’t make this stuff up! No one checked up on me. It didn’t matter at the end I was mostly in bed suffering. I tried to call my family on the phone, but one of the two phones in the wing was broken and the other you couldn’t hear the call very well. In Florida, by law they have to have a perfectly working phone with a plaque on the wall with the number to report abuse. That plaque wasn’t there.
At night I made very good friends with the resident roaches. They would come in waves. The food served to us patients was disgusting, but more importantly, it was left out overnight outside each of our rooms. The common area was so disgustingly dirty, with surfaces dusty and sticky, that it made it impossible for any of us to be there. When I left there, I developed rashes and severe acne which had to be treated by a dermatologist. I don’t know if it was caused directly by the condition of the hospital or my nerves, but my skin was bad.
When my family would come visit, I would wake up from my daily slumber. They were treated like criminals entering prison. I understand the normal search and speech that is usually given to visitors, but they treated my family like they were trying to smuggle in drugs or something. It came to a point where my mom had to yell at the man doing the check because he wanted to inspect the wheelchair she was on! This process would have been better if they treated my family with respect. My dad visited me every day. One of the times he made a prize shot with his shoe at one of the pesky cockroaches. I would look forward for visiting hours every day so that I could see my sister, mom, dad, and uncle. I truly knew I was trapped in a horror house.
Finally, I lied my way out. I was discharged after two weeks. I don’t encourage lying your way out of a psychiatric hospital. With few exceptions, the doctors and staff are just trying to help you out. I just had the luck of ending up in a very bad place. If I would have had the option of calling the abuse number I wouldn’t have had to lie. I returned to my normal psychiatrist, we did some damage control, and I moved on with my life with a new mental trauma under my belt
I have to say this again. South Florida isn’t exactly a beacon for mental health, but I’ve also been in a hospital outside of this zone and was treated humanely and put into very sanitary conditions. Also, it has been several years since my last hospitalization so new centers or psych wings could have been opened since then. Moral of the story, do your research beforehand so you don’t have to suffer like my family and I did.