I tend to look on the bright side of things. I am optimistic by nature. But there have been very dark days here in our family, and I won’t sugarcoat them for you.
On a visit to the behavioral health emergency unit at the local children’s hospital, one of many, I asked the nurse, “What happens if I don’t come when they bring my daughter in?”
She replied, “You have to come.”
“What if I don’t?”
“You have to.”
“What if I don’t?” I asked a little louder.
“Then we have to call children’s services.”
“Ok. That’s what I wanted to know.” Now I had a plan. A plan of last resort.
I should back up a little.
The first time the police took her to the hospital – let’s abbreviate the behavioral health emergency unit “BHEU” – the nurses fussed over my daughter and got her whatever she wanted from the food service: Pizza and chicken nuggets. I’m sure it was the most expensive meal my daughter ever ate.
The next time the police or ambulance transported my daughter to the hospital, I took the policeman aside and asked, “What’s the point, they are just going to feed her and release her.” I described the first visit to the BHEU and the policeman assured me that it would be different this time. I don’t know what he said to the hospital staff, but they never fed her again. But they didn’t admit her, either.
“It’s a chronic behavioral problem.” Duh! Did they think I didn’t know that??? I was living it!
Asthma is chronic. When patients have a crisis, they can be admitted. Apparently that is not true for mental health patients. I know it has become popular to say “behavioral health” instead of “mental health.” That does not change what it is.
My daughter routinely received a shot of benedryl and haloperidol (or other heavy-duty drug) when they took her in to the BHEU, restrained, fighting and screaming obscenities and threatening those around her. Sometimes it would take two shots to quiet her down. The paramedics would not transport her without a police officer, because it wasn’t safe. The police always came out to deal with her in pairs – The police in our city usually ride alone.
Despite the violence of her episodes, she was never admitted. I asked if the BHEU could check other facilities – to see if some other facility would evaluate her or admit her for treatment. She needed help. They went through the motions, but the answer was always, “No.” No facility would admit her. This happened both before and after she was diagnosed as autistic. This happened despite her medicaid coverage – and this is important – medicaid has NEVER denied her any service. The BHEU’s just didn’t see she needed the care.
They would say to me, “She is calm now, you can take her home.”
That’s how I got to the point of asking the question, “What if I don’t come?” I thought if I didn’t come, they would have to admit her. Instead of not showing up at the hospital and having the hospital call children’s services because I wasn’t there – I showed up and then had them call. This time, the last time, I went to BHEU, when they said, “She is calm now, you can take her home.” I said “No, she can’t come home. It isn’t safe.” And I waited there for the social worker to come and talk to me.
After that, I went home and spent eight hours cleaning up the mess she had made in her room. Broken walls. Broken toys. Broken furniture. There was very little left in her room that wasn’t broken.