A woman from Utah was visiting a friend in New Orleans when they had some sort of a falling out. For reasons unknown to me, this falling out resulted in her being committed to the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) at Charity Hospital, where I was spending a month to learn more about psychiatric emergencies. I was told that her three-year-old son was taken into protective custody when she was committed to the psychiatric unit.
As I talked to her, it was impossible to really understand what had happened to her. Nothing she told me made any sense and she contradicted herself as well as the reports I received from the ambulance personnel and nurses. She had Borderline Personality Disorder. “Borderline” doesn’t mean “almost a problem” but means more like “almost completely nuts.” There was no effective treatment for personality disorders so it was not clear to me what the psychiatrists were going to do for her. She was still in the CIU when I finished my shift and went home.
When the patient’s mother in Utah found out the patient had been committed to the psychiatric ward, she called the local leader of her church and asked him to intervene to win her daughter’s release. A friend of mine, Doug, was an ophthalmology resident at Charity Hospital and a member of the same church. He was asked by the local church leader to go see if he could get the patient out of the psych ward. When someone was willing to take responsibility for the patient, the people in the CIU were only too happy to let her go. Doug took her to a mid-range hotel not far from the hospital. He used church funds to pay for a room and gave her additional money for food and incidentals. Once the mother knew the patient was free, she bought a ticket for her daughter to fly back to Utah. The patient was told that someone would come and take her to the airport the next morning.
Later that night, while at a dinner at the church with his family, Doug got a call from the manager of the hotel. He was told the woman had taken the money she was given and had purchased booze with it, which she was using to try to seduce any man who passed by as she swam naked in the hotel swimming pool. The manager told Doug the woman was no longer welcome at the hotel and he needed to come pick her up.
When Doug got to the hotel, the police were there but refused to take the patient into custody because the hotel manager was not interested in pressing charges. The only thing that Doug could think to do was to try to get her back to the CIU. When it was clear that the police were not going to hold her, she told Doug to “F— off” and set out down the street, with clothes on, I believe.
I have no idea what happened after that. It certainly made me appreciate that Doug was willing to do so much to try to help her. It also made me very empathetic for the mother and left me to only imagine what kind of grief this crazy woman had caused her family because of her mental illness. As I have said so many times over the years, “Mental illness is just the worst.”
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