Thursday, September 13, 2007

I received a call from Mom’s house – my work phone has caller ID. I couldn’t understand who would be calling from her place. It was Mom telling me she loved me and goodbye. That she had “done it” this time. I asked what she did. She took a bottle of pills. Enough, she claimed, to finish the job. I asked her to stay on the phone while I called 911 from the other line. She didn’t want me to call. We said more I love you’s and she hung up. I called 911 and an ambulance and deputy were dispatched.

While driving to the hospital, the same thoughts played in a loop. Will she be conscious when I get there? In a coma? Will I be making funeral arrangements?

She had been there less than 30 minutes when I arrived, so I had to wait. Finally, I was allowed back. She was on a gurney in the hall, conscious but groggy. She whispered “I want to die” over and over. Her nurse looked familiar, eventually I realized she’s a friend of a friend and I re-introduced myself. She remembered me and was friendlier and more informative after that. Mom was given charcoal to drink, in addition to the fluids they were pumping in by IV. I stayed a while and left when they needed to take samples and do testing.

She’s on a medical floor now. She took Tylenol (the doctor estimated 50-60 pills). They’re still giving medicine in an attempt to prevent liver damage. They won’t know for a day or two if/how much damage she caused. She’s scared. I’m scared.

I spent yesterday leaving messages and waiting to hear from the hospital. I finally got in contact with the mental health floor supervisor in the late afternoon. Apparently Mom refused to go to therapy meetings (again) and the doctor said if she continued to refuse, Mom would be discharged. Mom still refused. They made an outpatient plan and sent an outpatient care team to assess Mom. Mom refused the assessment. Mom made a phone call (they assumed to me, but I don’t know who she called), they put her in a cab, and sent her home.

I understand that by law they can only do so much, especially with a voluntary patient, and that a patient’s privacy is protected by HIPAA. But they could not sufficiently explain to me how a patient who was involuntarily admitted for an overdose (albeit not enough to be lethal), was downgraded to voluntary within a couple of days, was moved onto the “suicide” hall a few days later, then discharged under her own care with no family knowledge two days later. They couldn’t explain why at the least a social worker or nurse didn’t contact me or why they didn’t have her transferred someplace else.

I spoke next with the head of mental health services. She seemed to take my concerns seriously and is looking into them. Mom is currently under Baker Act and will be on the medical floor for at least a couple more days. She doesn’t know if Mom will go into their psych unit, but is doing what she can to ensure Mom receives the care she needs and isn’t discharged without appropriate planning.

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