Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Recent Hospitalization (Part 3)

I previously wrote about my recent visit to the Psychiatric Unit of the hospital. I wrote two posts. The first about what led me to go the hospital (My Recent Hospitalization (Part 1)). The second about the ER visit at Saint Joseph’s Medical Center (SJMC) prior to my psychiatric hospitalization (My Recent Hospitalization (Part 2)). Now about my experience on One West (the psychiatric unit at SJMC).  I want to start off by saying it was an overwhelmingly positive experience from beginning to end. I did a lot of journaling about my experiences each day I was there. The Nurses were just incredible and caring, the Psychiatrists were informed and detail oriented, the unit atmosphere was welcoming, the Social Worker was kind and compassionate, the Occupational Therapists were incredible. Overall, it was a kind, caring, and compassionate atmosphere. Exactly the way it should be for someone dealing with a psychiatric issue. I am so grateful to have gotten a bed on this incredible unit.

I arrived on the unit late Friday night (12/20/13). It was sometime after 11pm. I did my intake with a fantastic nurse named David, who turned out to be my nurse on a number of shifts throughout my stay. I was then given my medication and I passed out for the night pretty quickly. It had been a tiring day. I was woken up very early for a blood draw and for my vitals. Vitals were done bright and early every morning! I had my blood drawn a few times over the course of my stay.  The first thing I did after the blood draw and vitals that first morning was call my parents then went right back to bed. It was bright and early and I wanted to catch them before they went to the grocery store. I had found out the night before that I was allowed to have outside snacks brought in and I could keep them in my room. I was very excited about that! I wasn’t expecting that as that was not the case when I was at Sheppard Pratt 9 years ago. I made sure to jump on this and let my parents know to bring me snacks during visiting hours that day. They brought me tons of snacks and some Gatorade! I asked for Gatorade because the bottles had to be plastic and no cans were allowed. I don’t really care for bottled soda so Gatorade it was.

I was quite glad to learn that the weekend schedule only consisted of 1 less group than the weekday schedule and that I would see a Psychiatrist every day I was there, weekends included. This gave me more confidence about what the quality of my stay would be. Part way through the first group of the day on Saturday morning, I met with Dr. Haerian who had treated me in his private practice when I was a teenager. I hadn’t remembered too much about him except that I had a hard time understanding his accent when I was younger (much better now). He did however remember me, many years later. After taking a brief history and discussing my symptoms he decided to take me off of Seroquel and switch me onto Latuda. Latuda is a new medication, approved for treating depression in individuals with Bipolar Disorder who are unable to take anti-depressants like myself. The reason I can’t take anti-depressants is because they kick me into full-blown mania! Aaaahhh! I expressed to Dr. Haerian my desire to find a new Psychiatrist prior to my discharge. I explained to him that I did not feel confident in my current doctor and Dr. Haerian agreed the hospital would assist with this. The following day when I met with him he offered to be my outpatient Psychiatrist at his private practice. I was so grateful for this offer and definitely took him up on it. Throughout my time in the hospital he monitored my lithium level, started me on and increased my Latuda, and decreased my Seroquel. Slowly the depression began to dissipate. I was extremely impressed with him and am so happy to have him as my new doctor.

One West is an all voluntary unit. No one is placed there on an involuntary hold; every patient on the unit has voluntarily signed themselves in. I’m not sure if that is the reason that it didn’t feel as strict as Sheppard Pratt or if it is just run better with better staff. For one, the warmth that was exuded by the nurses on One West far surpassed any warmth I felt at Sheppard Pratt. I honestly don’t recall feeling truly cared about at Sheppard Pratt. On One West, every nurse was there because they wanted to be there not just because it was a job. They were there because they care about the patients. I felt welcomed on the unit as soon as I arrived. The other patients were all very caring and welcoming as well. I won’t speak in detail about them for their own privacy but I had many heartwarming conversations with other patients. Everyone really seemed to care about the well being of each oter. There were a number of patients there for Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT); some that had been there for as long as a month. They had seen many other patients come and go but despite their long stays they seemed to maintain positivity as ECT helped them feel “normal” again. I learned during my stay that many individuals are sent to One West for ECT because SJMC performs ECT on their grounds. (I will write a blog in the near future about ECT because I know not everyone is familiar with it)

While I was there I spent my days in groups, writing, doing word searches, doing puzzles, chatting with the other patients, and counting down the hours and minutes and seconds until VISITING HOURS! On a psychiatric unit visiting hours are much stricter than on a medical hospital unit. Visiting hours on the weekends and holidays were from 3pm-5pm and 6:30pm-8:30pm. On weekdays visiting hours were only from 6:30pm-8:30pm. You were only allowed 3 visitors at a time and no one under 14 was allowed to visit without permission from your doctor and. Of course, that wasn’t a problem for me since I don’t have any children but a few people on the unit weren’t able to see their young children often.  I’m sure that must have been hard on them but it is surely not an ideal place for children. Everyone seemed able to see their children for Christmas Eve and Christmas. That was nice to see. I didn’t have too many visitors but I had visitors everyday, mostly my parents. The second day I was there, I had mentioned to my parents that a word search book would be nice to have to help take up some of the time I wasn’t in groups. My dad left, went to the gift shop and returned with two activity books. They really did help pass the time. My sister brought me a Greek salad on Christmas Eve and it was the best Greek salad of my life. I was so pleased to be eating that for dinner, instead of the tray of hospital food I had been used to eating. However, the food was not awful there and I was able to choose my meals, which was a relief.

The groups took up a good bit of my time. There were 3 groups on the weekends and holidays. One of the groups was an hour and a half and the other two were an hour. On the weekdays there were 4 one hour-long groups. The groups were on various topics. Every morning there was Occupational Therapy Task Group. That was my favorite because it was very hands on. There were a variety of tasks to choose from. I always chose some sort of arts and crafts activity. I joked that I felt like a 5 year old showing my parents my art work. All jokes aside, arts and crafts are very therapeutic. The other groups were typically more thought provoking. They had more to do with thoughts, feelings, behaviors, mental illness, and so on. Groups were optional but I always attended them. I wanted to get as much out of my stay as possible. Sometimes I would lie down to rest in between groups but for the most part I stayed up from breakfast on. I slept really well in the hospital. I’m not sure what I have to owe that to but I am surely not complaining. I expected to sleep terribly so it was a pleasant surprise.

Overall I would say this was an incredibly successful hospital stay. I would give Saint Joseph’s Medical Center and A+ from the ER to the unit, the nurses to the doctors and everyone in between! Everyone was incredible! I left with a new Psychiatrist, a med change that was already starting to make me feel better, a better outlook, some goals, and a call in for an appointment with a therapist. I was discharged on Christmas day and was able to have the traditional Chinese dinner with my parents! Hey, that’s what us Jews do on Christmas! 

I will do one more post in the near future about how things have been for me since being discharged from the hospital. I wrote so much about this hospital stay down in a journal. It is way too much to share in a blog post. Maybe one day, if I ever get around to writing a book, I’ll hopefully be able to include much of it in my book!

Thank you for reading! Until next time…
Sara Breidenstein
Kissing Stigma Goodbye

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