Saturday, 5 December 2009

Tackling The Mental Health Minefield Part 4 - Life On The Admissions Ward

(This post continues the story from Tackling The Mental Health Minefield Part 3 - The Lovely Dr Hugh)

Having been so exhausted both physically and mentally from the day I had hoped that I would sleep through the night, but it wasn't to be. At 2am I was wide awake and in desperate need of something to drink. I got out of bed, put my cardigan on over my borrow nightwear and headed out of my room to the dining area in the hope of finding something in the fridge or at least the makings for a cup of tea. No chance; the area containing the sink, fridge and tea and coffee facilities were shut up behind a shutter. Desolate, I headed back to my room.

Just as I made it back in my room, one of the night staff came out of the office to see what I was doing. I explained that I had woken up in desperate need of a drink and had gone looking for something to quench my thirst. I would have loved a cup of tea, but I was offered hot chocolate instead. An hour later I was still wide awake and it was decided that it was too late in the night to give me something to help me to sleep.

I was reading my book at about 5am when I was startled by an alarm sounding. Why had nobody bothered to tell me about the alarms that were activated when there was trouble with a patient and extra staff were required from the other wards? The alarm went on for about 5 minutes before being silenced; all I know was that it was not my ward where the emergency was.

I should, perhaps, at this point describe the ward that I was on when I was admitted. As I have already said entry was through two electronically controlled doors, one at each end of a small corridor. Once inside the ward proper there was a kitchen on the left and a laundry room and a unisex toilet on the right. As you progressed down the corridor there was a television lounge on the right and on the left was a large open area with tables and chairs, a sink, a fridge, a table tennis table and a football game like those that you find in pubs. This area was our dining area as well as being the area where we could prepare tea and coffee. As one progressed down the corridor the Quiet Room was on the left and a Meeting Room on the right; then there was an art room on the left and the clinic room on the right. There was then a bedroom on each side of the ward and the last room on the right was a unisex shower. At the end of the corridor was the glass-fronted ward office and stretching out to the left and right two corridors, one of which was the male corridor and one the female corridor.

My room contained a bed (which was very uncomfortable), a chair, a sink, a bedside table sort of arrangement that was beside the sink and a fixed wardrobe with no doors and just shelves for the storing of clothes and other personal items. The door to the room had a large square of etched glass in it so that the patient could be observed from the corridor.

All of the taps in the rooms, bathrooms and shower were of a push button-type which meant that it was impossible to start the water running for a bath and go back to your room to get your towel and toiletries because the water only flowed for about 20 seconds. This meant that getting sufficient water into the bath so that you could have a half-decent soak would take about an hour and because it took so long to fill the water was guaranteed to be cold by the time that you climbed into the bath. Having a shower wasn't much better because again the water only flowed for about 20-30 seconds and trying to grope around for the push button when you are lathered up and have slippery hands and your eyes closed because you don't want to get soap or shampoo in them meant that it was an experience that you would rather not have to undergo too often.

Being in hospital, whether it be an ordinary one or of the psychiatric variety, means that your life will be organized by certain things at certain times throughout the day. Meal times are pretty much fixed and can be the highlight of the day. But it is medication times that are always the most important as far as the staff are concerned and their lives, if not those of the patients', seem to be controlled by them. Medication times were 9am, 1pm, 6pm and 10pm. This wasn't a problem for me because I have always taken my medication in the morning and the evening, and the times would normally be about 9am and 9 or 10pm. I have several things that are taken in the morning, a couple that are taken at night, and one which requires me to take one tablet in the morning and one at night. I am so familiar with my medication that I can get it all together and sorted out in about 30 seconds. I know that the staff have to make sure that they give each patient the correct medication, in the correct doses, but taking 5 minutes to get my four morning tablets ready for me to take was just a bit on the slow side. On top of this, the staff said that for the first three days of my admission my 'obs' would need to be done too. This meant that it took about 10 minutes to deal with me, and as there were an average of 13 patients on the ward during my time on it, it gives some idea of the length of time that the morning medication took to do. The other medication times were not so busy because most patients only had medication in the morning.

Life on the ward was pretty boring. There wasn't much to do apart from watching television, but I hadn't watched any television for weeks because I just couldn't be bothered and having to sit and watch MTV all day was not my idea of entertainment. So I read my book, and because there was nowhere comfortable to sit and read, I ended up lying on my bed reading. Fortunately it was a very thick book, otherwise I think I would have been crawling up the walls with boredom within 48 hours.

Regular readers will know that I am known to smoke cigarettes from time to time. I seem to be able to stop them fairly easily, but I find that when I get very depressed that I start smoking again. Although mental hospitals were originally exempted from the smoking ban, it now applies to them too. It is a fact that it is more than likely that 60% or more of the patients on a mental ward will be smokers. But on the ward that I was admitted to, one couldn't go for a cigarette when the need arose because we had to be escorted to the garden for a smoke. I had smoked quite a few cigarettes while I was waiting around at the first hospital while the inept nurse tried to get me a bed in the wrong hospital. When I arrived at the unit to which I was admitted my first need was something to eat and, more importantly, to drink. While Dr Hugh was making his notes he asked whether I smoked or not, and when I replied in the affirmative, he actually offered to accompany me down to the garden so that I could have one. Bearing in mind that this was something like 10.30pm and the patients were not allowed to go for a smoke after the night staff came on duty at 9pm because there were not enough staff to allow it, Dr Hugh's kindness and consideration was illustrated again.

I was to remain on this ward for nine days, even though the information sheet said that I would only be there for a couple of days until I was admitted to my permanent ward. When I was moved to the second ward, I was given 10 minutes notice and moved at 8.30 in the evening. I was told that I was being moved then because a bed had become available on the permanent ward, but when I arrived there it was apparent that this was a lie because there were two empty rooms in the female corridor when I arrived there and they had been empty for a couple of days. I believe that I know why I was moved so swiftly, but that is a story for another day.

To be continued.


Anonymous said...

I would hate that - the alarms going off in the night and the cessestion of smoking in the evening. If I can't have my pre-bedtime smoke (the only one that really matters to me), I'm even less lkely to sleep. I know I'd be hanging out the window for a puff (which I don't imagine are openable).
well done you for sticking it out as long as you did. The boredom would kill me. I'd probably end up doing a Picasso or a Marquis de Sade - painting and writing on the walls/bed sheets in my own blood or worse. And I shouldn't imagine that kind of thing would shorten my stay.
Glad to hear you're back to the knitting. I'm making felt brooches today. Hard to get started while I'm in a funk but soothing once the first few stitches are in.
Keep at it.
Love K.

Anonymous said...

Mad, your series of posts on this topic brings back such memories...

-of every-15-minutes bed checks, all night every night

-of bright lights left on all night every night and patient rooms that had to be left open all night long

-of staff talking in normal speaking voices all night, right outside of patient rooms, and sometimes just yelling down the halls

-of the arbitrary and rigid meal times (if the lunch trays came up at 11:30am they sat until the official lunch time of 12pm, so that hot food was cold and ice cream was melted--it was lovely)

-of the random way they moved patients between wards and between rooms, quite often very late at night or very early in the morning)

-of the never leaving the ward ever for anything. no smoking AT ALL (i don't smoke but this was hard on people who did)

-of the inane TV choices allowed patients and the lack of any place quiet to sit and read or journal or any other quiet pursuit

-of the way everything revolved around meds, everything...meals, group, doctor time, etc.

sigh...good times, good times. :)

Your series is very enjoyable, i look forward to each new installment. and the little knitted things are awesome.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Thank you for writing this series, would you mind if I linked to it on my blog? I think it's a really good insight into what it's like to be admitted.

Hope today is a good day. lots of love, BG xx

madsadgirl said...

Thanks BG. More than happy for you to link to it on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Those alarms in MH are a nightmare especially in the middle of a night and staff come running from here there and everywhere!

Ahhh the medication routine... hanging around waiting to be called morning, evening and night for me waiting for tablets! I hated that especially the last one at night when I would rather be tucked up in bed asleep!

Watching MTV, yes can relate and it was always so loud... and the worse thing was those who wanted it on disappear and never came back but if you changed the channel they would reappear and put it back on MTV!

Now smoking was allowed although I don’t smoke... the ward I was on had a garden of its own and so most people smoked in there, but because of this I couldn’t enjoy the garden in the nice weather because of the smoke. I wish however I got a £1 for every time I was asked for a lighter! I am guilty of having the odd cigarette when I got a little stressed out too much, been known to have the odd one when I am out drinking, often like the smell... so on occasions I would sit out there inhaling the smoke!