Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Fresh Hell Is This?

Flip got himself sprung from the nursing home. Yesterday as I was leaving for there I got a call from the director, who said he tried to escape and I needed to get there right away. I arrived breathless 40 minutes later to find the nursing home surrounded by police cars, but it didn't occur to me they had anything to do with Flip. I walked in to find him lying on the floor with his hands behind his back in handcuffs, baring his teeth in frustration while nine police officers, six paramedics, a psychologist, the nursing home staff and several nosy residents in walkers and wheelchairs surrounded him.

The director took one look at my face and said, "It's all right."
"It is NOT all right," I said. "He's in handcuffs." I knelt down and stroked his face while they all watched, transfixed by the unusual entertainment. An ancient crone dragged her walker closer for a better look, scraping the floor.
"He hit one of my employees," said the director.
"I'm sorry about that, but he is not a criminal. He's an Alzheimer's patient. He doesn't deserve to be in handcuffs." Flip grimaced and moaned as they cut into his wrists since he was lying on them. "Take the damn handcuffs off him!" I yelled.
"Ma'am, it doesn't help for you to yell at us," said a paramedic. "It's for our protection."
"I'm not trying to give you a rough time, but he's a very gentle person," I said.
"We don't know that."
Mitch the psychologist stepped forward and told me that Flip tried to leave the building and was being forcibly restrained when he decked someone. (That's my boy.) The director called the police and every unit in Berkeley responded. It was a lot of head of policemen, a cluster of blue as far as the eye could see.

Someone grabbed a towel from a nearby room to place under Flip's head and the old man (wheelchair) whose room it was bellowed, "I want it back. And it better not have any semen on it." (I couldn't make up this stuff.)

Eventually, Flip was hefted like livestock onto a gurney and wheeled to the ambulance. They wouldn't allow me to ride with him so I followed in my car. I have never been in an ER with bouncers before -- every ten feet, a large man in a shiny black suit sat at a table, looking mean. They put a 5150 on Flip, which is an involuntary psych hold on a person deemed a danger to himself or others. Big, bad junkyard dog. He would love it if he were still in his former mind. Of course if he were, none of this would have happened.

After many hours, he was admitted to a room and a very large man from Cameroon (2 sons, 2 daughters, 16, 13, 5 and 2) was assigned to sit with him all night and watch him. Mark Fezeu (I give his real name because somebody should name a street after him) was as gentle and patient as he was big. He handled Flip with supreme grace, asking permission in his deeply accented, lovely voice every time he touched him for any reason. He never compromised Flip's dignity, even while helping him in the bathroom.

When I left the hospital at 9:00, I discovered that the parking lot across the street from the ambulance bay had closed at 7:00 and I couldn't get my car out without crashing the turnstile. I went back to Flip's room, where a nurse brought me a cot and placed it in the bay windows with city lights (as far as the eye could see.) I didn't sleep all night, so I saw Mark change Flip's wet linens and hospital gown twice with great loving humor. At first light he noticed I was awake and said, "Susan, should I shave him?"
"Mark,you've already worked twelve hours. Don't do anything you don't have to do."
"But I do have to do it," he said. "We have to keep him handsome." And he did. Mark should have sonnets written to him or win peace prizes as he and nearly everyone I have met at this hospital is proof of the fabled kindness of strangers.

The ER doctor tried to get Flip readmitted to the San Francisco hospital that discharged him so rudely on Friday, but they refused to take him back. Yes, they have that option. So for now, Flip will remain in the Berkeley hospital until we figure out what to do for him. I believe he's in good hands. There has been a lot of discussion, not initiated by me, about DNR orders regarding Flip. I should probably give some thought to my own, too.

Meanwhile, despite my repeated failure to get Flip's brother involved in his situation, I thought I should inform him of these changes. No good deed... As I related the handcuff episode, he interrupted me to yell that I was "too defensive" of Flip, that "he broke the law and deserves to be punished." How curious that Flip is the one considered demented. Then he screamed that if I had done my homework, this would not have happened, and it's all my fault. He said that this hospital has the lowest ratings of any hospital in Berkeley. I'm sure he's wrong as it seems like a wonderful, caring place. I tried to ask how I should have anticipated that Flip would ever be in a hospital in Berkeley but he interrupted to rant some more. He insisted that it wasn't a hospital at all, but a nursing home with a different name. He said he knows I think he doesn't care (good guess, Sparky) but not a minute goes by that he doesn't think of Flip. (You could have fooled me.) Every time I tried to say something, he burst out with more profanity (hitting the sauce a bit much, I think) and I abandoned my intention to tell the hospital it was okay to give information on Flip to his brother. The HEPA Law binds hospital personnel not to disclose anything except to the patient's next-of-kin, which is me. The third time he yelled "BULLSHIT" I hung up. He has since sent me sarcastic emails accusing me of lying to him about which hospital campus Flip is in. I wish I could discuss this with Flip, who would put it into perspective and enable me to breathe again. I remember breathing. I always liked it.

Flip's wrists are raw and bloody from the handcuffs. At least no tasers were used and for that, I am grateful.


Molly said...

God bless that gentle giant, Mark, someone, at last, with a bit of compassion and empathy for what it must be like to be Flip. Looks like you might have stumbled into a place where they'll treat him as a human being, not an animal....But who's going to take care of you? Breathing helps. Try to remember to do it. Hugs from here for both of you. And Mark.

English Rider said...

I told you that there would be angels involved in Flip's care. I'm sorry you didn't meet them from the beginning. The brother is history. You tried but you cannot waste one more precious breath on him. He needs to be someone else's problem. I'm glad there is a little hope as you face another new day tomorrow. Hugs to you. E.R.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, God bless Mark! What a lovely, lovely man he is.

I am happy to make the commute if this hospital is good for Flip. They said he tried to get into the elevator tonight after I left. I wish he were not having such a hard time.


You did tell me that, I remember. And I believed you. I feel bad about the brother but he is so unreasonable and full of invective that I simply lack the energy to deal with him. Plus, I react badly to abuse. Nice hugs,thanks.

meno said...

What a horrible ride for you and Flip. I hope you never call his asshole brother again. Mark sounds like a real treasure.

Jo said...

Well, first thing tomorrow morning, I am going to name a street after Mark Fezeu. Second thing I'm going to do is nominate you for sainthood. Omigod, Susan, I cannot believe what you have gone through ~~ and with such grace and dignity.

As far as Flip's brother is concerned, I don't think you need to have anything more to do with him. "He broke the law and deserves to be punished." That is just about the most disgusting thing I have ever heard ~~ punishing a man who is ill.

We're all here to help you in any way we can. Please remember that. :-) Any time you need anything, please let us know!

e said...

Hugs to you, Flip and Mark, I hope the staff at this hospital work with you, not against you...As for Flip's brother, he sounds sicker than Flip in some way. You're right to leave him out of this situation.

Bob said...


I am flabbergasted. I can only hope that this hell you both have been subjected to has led you to a place that can finally help Flip. Mark is a good omen of that.

You and Flip are ever in my thoughts.

Get some rest.

Anonymous said...

I am worn out from (only) reading the events that occurred in mere hours. What a rollercoaster, what a day. I cannot imagine your fatigue.

My heart goes out to you Susan, and to poor Flip, trapped and fighting in ways he did not he had to, struggling for freedom, of whatever sort he can.

These characters dropping in and out of your life right now -- I hope you have more Marks and less handcuff and borrowed towels.

You were lucky to encounter Mark, but Flip is extremely lucky (still) to have you.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Mark is a beautiful human being, and I don't know if we'll ever see him again as the hospital hires sitters to be with Flip around the clock, depending on who's available.


I am hardly a saint. I love Flip.

Last night, his brother's wife left a message on my cell reminding me that he is "Flip's only living relative." Oh, the guilt! Apparently that didn't apply when we were struggling alone with this illness, and if I hadn't informed him that Flip was in hospital the first time, we would probably never have heard from him so it's my fault. I wish I could have a do-over.


This sad saga isn't over. Now that I won't answer their calls or emails, I have no doubt they will show up. And while this shouldn't be about me, I don't think I can handle any more anxiety. It's very unusual for me to take such a stand but I am feeling fragile and worn. I hoped for an ally, not a vicious adversary.


Zzzzzzzz. Yes, it was a waste of much police manpower.


Your words and kindness always help. I am lucky to have you and everyone else here in my court.

the only daughter said...

Just when you thought it couldn't get more outlandish (and wrong).

Life is so much . . . everything, than fiction.

Your husband's brother (& spouse) are just, in a word, special and not in a good way. ::sigh::

Anonymous said...

. . .and you know I meant "still" as in Flip was lucky to have you five years ago, and still lucky to have you now.

mischief said...

Oh Susan. Handcuffs? Police officers? This seems like such an overreaction to what must be a common occurrence in such a place. I would expect there to be better - and more humane - plans in place for such situations. Flip has such a wonderful advocate in you, though the job must be exhausting. I think of you all the time, using my mental powers (such as they are) to rally resources and strengths and aiming them all in your direction. Love xx

neora chana said...

I am so sorry to hear about this as it is absolutely unnecessary had the staff been trained in critical incidents and had he received proper treatment from geriatricians and geropsychiatrists.

Hopefully he will see some MDs who will be able to more effectively manage Flip's medications so that he is not almost comatose and yet let him allow to cooperate more often when staff needs to re-direct him so this is less likely to happen. Also, that you can find a place which is more skilled at working with people experiencing these problems.

I just saw your note about his disability being too large to enroll him in Medi-cal. I wish CA had an exemption we have in our state called spousal allocation. When someone needs long term care in our state and are over income/assets, they can 'assign' a portion of their income to their spouse for the spouse's use in maintaining their household.

Was this nursing home licensed for people with dementia? Is there such a specialty license in CA? Maybe while he is at this placement, a SW or CM there can help you find such a place.

Mark sounds wonderful! I hope my clients find me as valuable in my own way as you found him.

And the brother? I'd keep him away from Flip and yourself. I can see him triggering another outburst really easily. Blood relations aren't automatically entitled to contact...

TechnoBabe said...

You are still doing the best you can possibly do. It saddens me that you are dealing with each new event all by yourself. I see you going to the hospital following the ambulance, parking and getting in there, then hours later finding that your car is held hostage just as Flip is by the disease. In sickness and in health is so much more than any of us could imagine at the time. Take care of yourself. As best you can.

seventh sister said...

I'm glad that you have such and angel in Mark. Any kindness at all must help right now. When you really start thinking about DNR stuff, please email me. I have had some experience with those things and there are a couple of things I'd like to share with you but won't unless you ask. I don't want to butt in or overwhelm you at this point.

Anonymous said...

What awful, awful experiences you are having. And indeed, God bless Mark. There are fine human beings. Flips brother does not qualify as one of them.

secret agent woman said...

Broke the law and deserves to be punished? Jesus Christ. Having worked in a psych hospital, I know there are ways to restrain people without cuffing hem or hurting them. It' snot like he was armed, he was confused and wanting out. I'm glad you found yourself and Flip in the care of Mark - he is just the sort of person you want working with those who have dementia - kind, patient and ever-mindful of their human dignity. I am so sorry you both are going through this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


"Everyone is special in his or her own way..." Barney! That song was written by a Philip Parker, strangely, but it wasn't Flip.


Yeah, I knew.


Please keep the mental powers coming as we badly need them, and I know that yours are especially powerful. Thanks!


This hospital is a very good one, in my opinion, and Flip had a good day today. Everyone loves him because he so sunny and charming. I wrote the brother an email tonight explaining that I am happy to answer any questions about Flip as long as he treats me with respect. If he is incapable of that, so be it.


That's a great analogy about the car and Flip both being held hostage. You're brilliant to have thought of it - I hadn't made the connection. And yes, that sickness and health thing is so easy to promise when everyone is healthy and it's impossible to imagine a time when that isn't so.


We don't have Mark on an ongoing basis. The hospital hires sitters in shifts and they are all different, but Mark is a particularly beautiful human being. I hope we'll see him again.

Please do email me what you'd like to share. I'd like to read it, even though it's a difficult topic. Thank you.


Well, as they say, you can't pick your relatives. Most people are quite nice --I'm very impressed with the folks at this hospital.


I'm sorry we are, too. When I went to the nursing home yesterday to pick up Flip's stuff, the director couldn't have been more obsequious. (Terrified of a law suit, I suspect.) If he had stayed there much longer, I think the food would have killed him.

Mark was the first of several sitters who are there around the clock. I am especially fond of him but they have all been kind and caring.

neora chana said...

I'm glad Flip is responding well to the change in environment and hope this will mean better things to come for both of you. Good idea with the brother....take care.

nick said...

I hope the hospital can find some "onward journey" that's more appropriate than the dreadful nursing home. The totally absurd over-reaction to his hitting someone is extraordinary.

His brother sounds a nasty bit of work with no genuine interest whatever in Flip's welfare. I would say keep well away from him for your own sanity.

If only there were more Marks in the world with the patience and understanding and sheer professionalism that Flip needs in his vulnerable state.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Oh Susan. God I wish there was some way to help you, to hold your hand, to walk through this with you.
I wish it wasn't so at all... wish it never happened.

My empty hands are full of wishes for you, but my heart is over flowing with empathy, peace, light and love all being sent in your direction in multitudes of waves.

If I can conceive of a miracle for you, I will.


Thank God for Mark. I hope he's around a lot more.


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

PS ~ Maybe the hospital has an employee recognition award for good work and he could be nominated (by you and seconded by all of us) for this award as a way of recompense for his love and compassion?


Tanya Brown said...

You poor thing! What a nightmare. I'm glad there was at least one decent, sensible person in the whole mess, Mr. Fezeu.

As for the brother, to hell with him. He's highly toxic and you don't need or deserve his poison.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Now this hospital is pushing me to find a long term care facility. there is apparently nothing available in San Francisco and they are sending me all over the East Bay, even farther than Berkeley. I am seriously stressed and scared for Flip. I wish I could just bring him home,but I know it's more than I can handle now.


I think the brother is acting out of guilt for his shameful neglect of Flip for so long. Much easier to blame me. I wrote him a letter last night explaining that when I contacted him I didn't expect to be yelled at and put down, that I have been caring for Flip alone 24-7 for a very long time and can't and won't tolerate abuse when I am exhausted and heartbroken. And I gave him a rundown of what's happening with Flip. He responded briefly, no apology, but his tone was more respectful so I told the hospital to give him information if he called. At least I don't have to fear a stiletto in my gizzard now.


I called the agency which employs Mark to sing his praises. We are so quick to complain when things are wrong and need to praise when they are right.

Thanks for your loving thoughts. I wish you could help too, but it's hard to do anything but send good energy from so far away.


I do need to avoid toxic people as much as possible because I need all my energy for Flip. It's truly awful and seems to get worse nearly every day. One of the nurses told me that they don't often see such devotion for a patient, which made me sad for all the patients who are alone.

Barb said...

A nightmare with no apparent end in sight! The only bright spot seems to be his caretaker at the hospital. If indeed this place is a "nursing home" as his brother implies, hopefully it's a more decent place than where Flip was. As for the brother himself - goodbye to him!

BroLo said...

My heart goes out to you. You have amazing strength and compassion. I'm sending prayers your way.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


The new hospital is eager to discharge him now, and I'm trying hard to find a suitable place where he'll get excellent, kindhearted care. So far, nothing has turned up which is not at least an hour from home so it looks as if I'll be doing a lot of driving for the foreseeable future.


Ooooh! I know you have a special "in" with the Upper Echelons, so prayers from you are like everyone else's on steroids. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Even in this fresh hell, God sent you people like Mark Fezeu. I don't understand Flip's brother's reaction. I suspect it is his own way of handling fear (of his own mortality) and guilt (at his selfish response). I say this not in judgement but to seek some understanding. I only wish he could overcome his own issues and be of greater help to you and Flip now.

Taradharma said...

Oh jeez, the BIL sounds off his rocker. Mark, however, is indeed an angel here on earth.

Stay as unhooked and separate from that brother as you can -- he sounds so hurtful. At least he could consider how distraught you must be a temper his remarks accordingly. But it doesnt sound as if he is self-aware or has any censoring abilities whatsoever... sigh.

Glad you hung up , girlfriend!