On the Saturday night that my sister was in the emergency room being stabilized, Blue Eyes, The Peacemaker and I went to her apartment and gathered all the prescription medication we could find. We went through everything in the apartment: drawers, pockets, cupboards, her hope chest, desks, tv cabinets. We looked inside boxes and handbags, and in every nook and cranny, everywhere. What we found was full bottles of her regular prescription meds for treating her borderline personality disorder and high blood pressure… antidepressants and antipsychotics and something called metoprolol, which we found out is for the blood pressure. What we also found were empty bottles of oxycodone, zolpidem (Ambien) and lorazepam. All prescribed and filled 10 days prior. That’s 150 pills, all gone.
Then I got access to her pharmacy account through an app on her phone. I was missing the bottles of tramadol and diazepam, another 120 pills, filled the week before the above prescriptions (on 6/24). I can only assume those were empty and tossed. I’m not sure why she kept all the other empty bottles. What she does is convince her doctor to prescribe pain medication or muscle relaxants or sleeping pills for her. Then she goes in the next week and tells the doc that that pain medication just isn’t working, so she needs a different prescription. Based on the timing of things, it looks like she convinced her to prescribe the tramadol and diazepam, then the oxycodone, Ambien and lorazepam the following week (filled on 6/30). And by Saturday, July 10, she had taken it all. Apparently she found a real sucker in this doc. Before the doctor, however, she would make frequent trips to local emergency rooms and urgent care facilities. She would go as far as to smack her head against a porcelain sink then walk barefoot to the nearest emergency clinic saying she fell. This is not a kind and gentle illness. Then the system got a little smarter and they started tracking these things online. At this point I had all her prescription bottles, her purse, her phone, her wallet, her keys, her glasses, her shoes.
At about 1:00am that night, I started panicking. I guess it’s a form of PTSD. I was so worried she was going to talk her way out, or just walk out, of the facility. Even though the doc said she was on “involuntary lockdown,” I know that status can change at any time. Also, had they been able to stabilize her at the hospital emergency room? Apparently in these types of situations, even though you have given them every possible way to contact you and keep you updated, there just isn’t enough time for that in state or federally funded clinics. These people: doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, etc… are spread so very thin.
I was fretting and tossing and turning, so Blue Eyes called the crisis center to check on the status. Coincidentally, she had just been brought back over by ambulance and they were getting her situated in the assessment/detox room. I now know that this is a large room with multiple reclining chairs, not regular rooms with beds. My sister does not remember being in this room at all. She knows what it looks like because she walked past it, but she had no idea she was in that room for two days!
By Sunday afternoon, I was still very concerned about what was happening. I called the crisis center and talked with a nurse, not my sister’s nurse, who was busy, but another nurse. He said he would need to get permission from my sister to speak to me and that might be difficult as she wasn’t really alert. More than a day had gone by since she had had any access to drugs, and she was still not awake or coherent? All I wanted to know was if she was safe and if she would be able to check herself out. He returned to say he thinks she gave him permission, she was barely awake but since I wasn’t asking for much, it would be okay. I couldn’t believe she was still out of it and he said that was because they were slowly detoxing her so she wouldn’t go through it cold turkey. He said it would take a couple days to get her off the meds. He assured me that she wouldn’t be able to leave for at least two more days. Her involuntary hold was for 3 days. This is when I started thinking… two days? What then? I had talked to friends who had been in this same situation with their family members and they said without private insurance, this facility is a short term crisis center only. I knew if my sister was released after just a couple days, we would be right back where we started. Her mood after an event similar to this, and without the drugs she wants, is anger and violence and she is impossible to live with.
On Monday, day 2, I spoke with her internist, the doctor who had prescribed all the medication. She said she couldn’t say anything to me because she didn’t have my sister’s permission, but I could say whatever I wanted and she was willing to listen. The more I talked, however, the more she talked. I have been dealing with my sister for 52 years. I have a whole history. My only motive is for my sister to be safe and treated by a competent doctor. I don’t have any ulterior motives and I don’t want any harm to come to my sister. At that point, she was the one who had been manipulated and jerked around by a drug addict. I’m sure she felt pretty foolish. First she tried to offload blame by asking if I thought my sister had purchased prescription drugs on the street. My response, of course, was “there is absolutely no sign of that. She doesn’t have the money and didn’t need to purchase drugs illegally on the street because you were giving them to her, legally. Every empty bottle I am looking at has your name as the prescribing doctor. All prescribed and filled within the last 2 weeks.” She was silent. She said she was under the impression that my sister’s partner was doling out the medication based on the instructions on the prescription. Ha, ha, ha. I asked if she had ever met my sister’s partner? I gave her the partner’s history of psychotic breaks and added the fact that my sister verbally and physically abuses him, gaslights, lies and threatens him. More silence. The doctor was useless. I told her I was thinking of trying to get my sister into a legit rehab, but regardless, this is now a family crisis and we will all need to be involved with whatever doctors are treating her. We don’t want to keep going through this. And actually, in terms of the volume of medication she took, this is the worst it has ever been. She didn’t intend to kill herself with the pills, but she had access to and took enough to actually do so. Scary.
Blue Eyes called the crisis center on day 3 to get a status report. Blue Eyes called me in happy tears saying that my sister had agreed to go from involuntary to voluntary status at the crisis center. That was when I knew I needed to do something quick. Voluntary status meant she could now walk out the door any time she wanted.
to be continued…