Tag Archives: Natchaug Hospital

Just Saying: Restraints and Seclusion are ONLY used as punishment

My response four years ago to an article in CT papers about the use of restraints and seclusion in CT hospitals.

“As someone who has been subjected to more use seclusion and four-point restraints over the past “decade of change” than in the two decades previous it boggles my mind that anyone would even dare to state that things are improving in CT mental health care institutions. During my nearly month-long captivity in the winter of 2013, the Institute of Living in Hartford regularly restrained me to a bed for as long as 19 hours at a time, without ever releasing me for so much as a bathroom break — I had to defecate in my clothing. I was not even released to eat. When I was not in four point restraints “for not following directions, I was in seclusion, which they called the “Quiet Room” and not seclusion, but by CMS definitions, it was seclusion as I was separated from the rest of the patient population by force, and was not permitted to leave the room I was isolated in.

The one time I did actually saunter away, walk down the hall to look out the window, and return to my non-seclusion Quiet Room, I was punished with immediate use of four point restraints, into which I was placed without a struggle, hoping that would make it easier to win my freedom. Alas, for me, there was no way to earn freedom from restraints I never “deserved.” The entire point was discipline, and that would last as long as the staff wanted me to be in shackles to learn my lesson. There was literally nothing I could do, –stay calm, sleep, quietly ask for release — nothing, until they were finally satisfied that I was submissive enough to obey their orders, some 6-19 hours later. But I had to cry Uncle, and submit to a set of degrading humiliating “debriefing questions” that assured them that I took responsibility for my own being restrained and that my behavior would henceforth conform to their norms.

I was surprised to see Natchaug Hospital being given good ratings of any sort. One of their chief psychiatrists on the Adult Unit, a longtime presence their Chief Idiot Emeritus psychiatrist you might say, Paul Pentz MD was so insouciant about this job as to be nearly incompetent, but probably hard to fire even for negligence. HIs name I have mentioned . He routinely did drive-by visits with his patients– a wave in the hallway might not be a completely standard morning meeting, but it happened often enough that peatients knew that would be all of this doctor they would see for the day. He routinely discharged patients with GAF scores at or around 60, the highest “global assessment of functioning” that one can have and still be rated “disabled” — not because he knew this level of functioning to be the case, but because it made him and his psychiatric ministrations at Natchaug look good. After all, if person comes in with a GAF in the 20s, and barely able to function, and you discharge him or her a week or two and some drive-by counseling sessions later with a GAF of 60, you must be doing a terrific job, esp for a 75 year old doctor not too keen on using anything like trauma-informed or patient-centered care. I had never left a hospital before Natchaug with a GAF higher than 40, but suddenly I rated a 60….by a doctor with whom I never spoke.

Natchaug Hospital, when the nursing director was Sharon B Hinton, APRN, was a decent place, because she made certain that abuses like restraints and seclusion rarely to almost never happened under her watch. I know, because I was there about three times during her administration. I also knew her when she was Hartford Hospital’s psychiatric Head Nurse at CB-3, where she and her never failing humanity and respect for the dignity of every patient made all the difference in the world. I might have come from an abusive hospital in the early 90s, like University of Connecticut’s Dempsey Hospital, which in those days four-pointed people to an iron bedstead, by shackling them spreadeagled to the four corners of the bed, a stress position that is not just tantamount to but is in fact torture. But I would be rescued by someone finding me a bed at Hartford Hospital, where Sharon would discover me arriving there in tears and tell me, unfailingly,”Its not you, Pam, you did nothing wrong, It is the hospital that treats you badly…We don’t have any problem with you, because we treat you well and you respond to it. When they treat you with cruelty, you respond badly…That’s very normal.”

But as to Natchaug…Bravo if they have done away with restraints completely. They had not done so when I was there last in 2012. Nor with seclusion, which was imposed in mostly a disciplinary and arbitrary fashion. Largely it was used to force medication on loud obstreperous patients or for angry fed-up senior nurses to take out their peeves on patients they didn’t particularly like (e.g. me). I still remember one APRN demanding that I be dragged to locked seclusion, and left there alone (despite all Sharon’s previous assurances that such would NEVER happen, that someone would ALWAYS remain in that room with me if I ever ended up there.. Alas, Sharon had left by then, so rogue nurses like D could have their way…) and when I peed on the floor in panic, and took off my clothes they rushed in to take them away from me, and inject me with punishment drugs, then made me stay for an hour alone on the pee-soaked mats, freezing cold, pretending to sleep and calm myself just to convince them I could leave and not bother anyone. I managed to do so, or at least the APRN D. got over her fit of pique and finally released me, but I was not really calm, and when they finally draped two johnnies over my naked body so I could decently traverse the distance to my room, I left, disrobing as I went…Who gave a damn about my flabby flat behind? I certainly did not. And it served them right if everyone got an eyeful…served them right..

Natchaug’s biggest problem was and probably still is a lack of staff cohesiveness and bad morale between the staff nurses and the well-educated techs/mental health workers who were all very dedicated college grads but were treated like grunts…The MHW’s did most of the important patient contact, but were not trusted to write patient notes, or the notes they wrote were never read, or accorded any import. This was not just despicable but very unfortunate in more than one instance during my stay, as the notes they took personally might have saved me from some terrible misunderstandings and outrageous misdiagnoses that harmed me terribly..

Most places use techs who are trained by shadowing for a day or two, which means, badly trained, if at all…

You have to take all such in-hospital diagnoses with such a heavy grain of salt, you know, even when they are labeled with the words, “THIS IS A LEGAL DOCUMENT.” Because they get so much of fact-checkable, factual material garbled that you cannot believe a word it says. And as for diagnosis, well it is all of it opinion, one, and two, it depends largely upon whether you are a likable patient or a disliked one, what they finally say about you on any given day. No one should have that sort of power over another human being, frankly. And the idea that they can brand one for life with certain psychiatric diagnoses just sickens me.

Be that as it may, my recent last experience was beyond the beyond, at Hospital of Central Connecticut, The old New Britain General…and I expect to go back to talk to someone there about it. I always do And I have much to say to them, after the pain and rawness have worn off a little. They considered it SOP to strip me naked and leave me alone in a freezing seclusion cell without any access to human contact, unless they chose to speak to me over a loudspeaker hidden in the ceiling. If not, I was utterly abandoned, no contact or even view of another human being for as long as they wanted to keep me secluded. They also restrained me, having male security guards four-point me stark naked to the bed, before they had the decency to cover me with a light sheet, even though I begged for a blanket for warmth. (A nurse manager came in and shivered, saying “Brrr its cold in here!” but did they relent and let me have a blanket…No, clearly I was not human, didn’t need warmth.)

This is just the tip of the SR iceberg in CT in the current years, Remember this is happening right now, not ten years ago, or before the so-called reforms. Nothing is getting better. Things are worse than ever, And when you are a patient in these hospitals, you have no help, no recourse, anything and everything can be done to you and you have no way to refuse or say “no”. No one will help you, or offer assistance. They can just grab you and seclude you or restrain you without your having the power to stop them or any recourse to make them pause and reconsider. You are powerless to stop anything…And so they get away with it every time. And once it is done, who will fight for you? What lawyer will take your case if the guards hurt your shoulder rotator cuff, or bruise you up, or degrade or humiliate you? No one….so you are deprived of your human and civil rights, completely, but the hospital knows that no one cares enough to fight for you, so they get away with it each and every time, and they know this when they do it. They have nothing to worry about,….You are just another mental patient, a nobody, a nothing.

That’s what you are if you are diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized in CT hospitals in 2014. A nobody that the hospitals can abuse with impunity and will. Just wait and see if any of this changes…I doubt it highly. They have no motivation to change. They don’t think they are doing anything wrong now.”

In 4-point Restraints for Disobeying the Rules at the Institute of Living, 2013

Look at the Caption and the Sign on the wall, both are important! This really happened...
PSYCHIATRIC PATIENT IN FOUR-POINT RESTRAINTS
A study in perspective...The tin foil on the wall didn't come out as well as I wanted it to, but the rest is okay..I hope...
A study in perspective…The tin foil on the wall didn’t come out as well as I wanted it to, but the rest is okay..I hope…
Study in pencil of plastic container of doodads
Study in pencil of plastic container of doodads
Study in pencil of plastic container of doodads
Study in pencil of plastic container of doodads
Bearing the Elephants is a spontaneous inkblot drawing...The black spots were inkssplotches that stimulated the drawing.
Bearing the Elephants is a spontaneous drawing…The black spots were inksplotches that stimulated the drawing. I think if you click on the drawing you may get more information…

So that is all I have to post today as I have too many errands to do before my meeting at the Institute of Living. Wish me luck everyone! I don’t expect much from them, I must say. Not much at all, after all, no one is going to acknowledge any wrong doing, much less apologize or even want to improve the situation. Not as at Natchaug where at least they gave lipservice, though it turned out to be lip service ONLY…to wanting to make Natchaug a better place. (Yeah, it turns out they — THe MFs at Natchaug Hospital who said they wanted me to speak — were just stringing me along, never did have any intentions of having me back to speak to the Medical staff, just mollifying and mollycoddling me as I sort of thought they were…Dr Deborah Weidner, the Natchaug Hospital CMO, is a politician as much as a psychiatrist and has to be, right? NO…but that is another subject altogether. I won’t be going back to Natchaug ever again either , not as a patient, as was understood. They don’t have a doctor who will see me, so why would I care about helping them improve? I did care. I do care about all their other patients and I care about their Mental Health Workers, who were the one group that really did do their jobs…and most of the nurses too…But the problem is the Admin of Natchaug doesn’t care, and the senior nursing staff is burned out and problematic…But I am not going to go there. Because THEY DON’T CARE that I care!)

Anyhow, as I said, I have errands to do and I guess I should maybe wash before I go to the IOL, seeing as how I haven’t done so since my trip to NC…It might be  a good idea, though a real drag. I hate it…I hate the very idea of getting under the running water and getting wet is such a hassle. But gotta keep up the appearance for today! After that, who gives a damn…

Okay, so thats it for now. I’m outta here. Thanks for all the FB support, guys. I will let you know how it goes.

Natchaug Hospital Stay #2 and Update with Picture

Just wanted to update you on where I have been and how I am: I  spent 6 weeks at Natchaug Hospital in Willimantic, Connecticut this past July and August and though I was discharged as much improved, I  am still having a difficult time, both readjusting and well, simply having a hard time of it. Although in the hospital they did a little adjusting of meds, increasing both the Geodon and the Zoloft, I am not convinced that either one made much of a difference nor that it did less harm and more good on balance. In any event, Dr C and I (at my request) soon eliminated the 25mg increase in Zoloft, and are now dropping the 80mg increase in Geodon. She is concerned that the 240mg is making me very irritable and more upset and frantic rather than providing enough relief  to make it worthwhile. Yes, the voices are much improved, but that could be the passage of time and perhaps due to a general decrease in paranoia, who knows? All I can say is that I cannot take this general state of overwrought irascibility, a tendency to snap at anyone who “looks at me crosseyed,” as my mother used to say.

Natchaug Hospital remains a very good place, the best I know, and just as I remembered, not least because they have a philosophy of kindness and compassion towards patients. In fact, they are excellent because they have a philosophy and are not simply flying by the seat of their pants, hiring whoever comes along needing a job, burned out or not. Not only is their philosophy based on compassion and not on controlling the patient, but they see no point in rules for the sake of rules. It is clear that if there is something in the unit set-up that doesn’t serve a particular patient, the Natchaug staff will bend it as far as they can and try to accommodate each patient’s particular needs. As I was frequently told, why make someone miserable when you can make them happy? It is difficult to be happy in a psychiatric unit, and many patients are miserable because of their illnesses, but not once did I ever see a staff member add to that misery willfully and certainly not to mine. (I frankly could not say this of two Connecticut area hospitals, one in Manchester and the other in Middletown.)

One thing that makes many patients happy at Natchaug, by the way, is that caffeinated coffee is provided at breakfast, a rare blessing in in-patient psychiatric settings.  And since everything is served cafeteria style, so you can have all you want.

They used to provide hot decaf coffee on the unit itself, which was a treat. Because one very ill patient tossed a cup of coffee at a staff member, however, and she was injured, and because for some reason they decided that that patient could not be restricted individually from having hot coffee, now no one is permitted hot drinks on the unit at all. Yet, I suspect that even he would have not thought it unfair to be kept from the coffee pot! I know that in other hospitals I have had restrictions placed on me that others have not, and no one thought it wrong or unfair to me…Anyhow, I dunno what to think, but it was their policy, a misguided one, perhaps, but who am I to say? I know everyone went nuts for a while about having to drink lukewarm “swill.” Finally, though, the patients simply gave up on the “coffee” machine and did without. Anyhow, I have to admit that when I first saw the hot coffee machine, I couldn’t believe it, not because I was thrilled — though I was — but because I saw an “accident”or worse already in the making…

Note: one of the few hard and fast rules  at Natchaug is one they cannot change because they will lose accreditation: no smoking. Smoking is simply not allowed, not even on hospital grounds. While certain patients have tantrums about this and might cause an uproar from time to time in order to try to force the staff to allow them to use the courtyard to smoke “just one cigarette, just this once, please, I am absolutely desperate!” it is simply not possible. But people are allowed the patch and gum and every effort is made to help smokers quit. Even though some staff acknowledge that the policy is unfortunate, even unfair, nothing can be done about it.

I was not, however, comfortable for most of my stay there, and was paranoid a great deal of the time. Of course, I did not understand that the staff was aware of this, so when I began to come out of my delusions of persecution, it surprised me mightily to discover that they knew that paranoia was the reason for my hostility all along. Nevertheless, up to the very day I was discharged, I was hearing people talk about me up and down the hall and at the nurses’ station.

Well, that is all I am going to write for today because I am, as of  a week ago, in the middle of writing my new memoir, and as the days progress I plan to put parts of it up here, for comments and for suggestions. Feel free to do both!

I will finish here with one of my latest drawings, which represents how I felt when I was restrained at Middlesex Hospital, both the time I described in a recent blog post, and the other(s) (for which I have amnesia) when Josephine told me I was more or less “out of control”…to which I can only respond: Violence begets violence, and perhaps if they had not perpetrated on me what they did, things might not have gotten out of hand, But then, that hospital is one that is guided by the Control for Control’s Sake philosophy and the nurses were bitter and angry people…Needlesstosay, they hated me if only because I refused to roll over and play dead, if not die.

Forthwith the picture.

Pam as Dead Meat: Let's Eat!