Tuesday, August 16, 2011
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.