Day 2 of painful detention in San Diego, the new Cuckoo’s Nest nightmare scenario?

by Stephen Cobb on June 8, 2012

As I start writing this, at 3PM Pacific, my wife is still detained in a secure psychiatric facility where they are not only withholding medical treatment, but alternating between ignoring her pleas for help and harassing her with requests to sit up and get out of her room and participate in activities with others.

What part of “I am in too much pain to sit up” the nurses don’t understand, I don’t know; but San Diego’s self-proclaimed healthcare leader, Sharp Rees-Stealy, is crawling lower in my estimation by the hour. The process of engaging an attorney has begun but I am fearful that a Friday afternoon is not a good time to find an attorney and I am also fearful Sharp will force Chey to stay in there until Monday.

As I said in yesterday’s post, some of the people staying in the facility seem to be deeply troubled, but heck, I am deeply troubled by what is going on. You get to be a reasonably respectable professional in your late fifties, you probably don’t believe it is possible to be treated like this.  Imagine how getting locked up for the weekend in a place that some people refer to as the mad house would impact your answer to the question: Are you considering ending your life?

Helpful Tip: 9 words you should never utter in a medical facility:  I don’t want to go on living like this.

Ironically, a medical facility is one place you may feel like saying: I don’t want to go on living like this. Unfortunately, if someone on staff hears you say that, you can find yourself on a suicide watch, that is, someone watching you so you don’t commit suicide, even if you try to explain that’s not what you meant. That’s not exactly what happened to my wife this week, but it happened a couple of years ago.

So why would you say:  I don’t want to go on living like this? What does “this” represent that could be so bad? If “this” equals suffering chronic pain 7×24 with no hope of relief from that pain, then the sentiment is surely understandable. If you have no way to work or participate in society, if you wince with pain when your partner hugs you, if you’re grinding your teeth with pain, and you have no hope of getting adequate pain relief, then “living like this” if frankly not something most people would want to do.

In fact, my wife went on living with inadequately managed pain for years, but through the practical application of her very considerable intelligence, driven by her dogged persistence, she achieved a pain management regimen involving the following:

  • Breathing techniques
  • Dietary changes
  • Meditation
  • Medication

This last item is what her Sharp Rees-Stealy primary care physician cut off, leaving Chey out of pills and, as it turns out, very much out of luck. Here is what she had been taking:

  • 40mg of OxyContin a day (2 x 20mg pills)
  • 40mg of Oxycodone a day (8 x 5mg pills)

These pills have basically the same ingredient but OxyContin is an extended release so she takes one in the morning and one in the evening, then manages “breakthrough pain” with the other pills on an “as needed” basis. To put this in perspective, 40mg pills are not the largest OxyContin pills (it also comes in 60mg and 80mg) and the FDA allows prescription of  up to 640mg per day.

To get back to the nightmare currently unfolding, my wife has been “allowed” just two 5mg tablets of Oxycodone since Monday, one yesterday evening and one this morning. That’s 5mg when she had found 80mg was the minimum necessary. And by necessary I mean so she can get out of a bed, sit in a chair, walk a few blocks with the dog, and get back to the chair, lie down and recover.

Update 1: Was able to contact a Patient Advocate through, I am not making this up, Jewish Family Services. He seems to have drawn some high level attention to my wife’s situation It is now about 5pm and I am going over to the facility to see what more can be done.

Update 2: Now close to midnight. Just got back from Grossmont Hospital. Chey will be there overnight and coming home tomorrow. Still no pain assessment, still no adequate pain relief, and clearly some serious violations of ethics, protocols, and patient’s rights. Tomorrow I will try to lay out the timeline so people can see what happened and how an upstanding citizen suffering from chronic has been treated worse that a convicted drug addict, and still has not received prompt medical care and treatment.

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