Doctor’s Blunder — My Living Nightmare
By Leigh Ann Worley
Introduction and Epilogue by Mickey Dunaway
Before you read Leigh Ann’s story, I want to introduce to you, if you do not know her, my former student, my colleague in the pursuit of better teaching and learning, and my very dear friend.
I met Leigh Ann Worley for the first time as I was teaching an off-campus master’s class in school administration for the University of North Carolina at Porter Ridge High School in Union County, just southeast of Charlotte.
I was new to Porter Ridge but well acquainted with classrooms of graduate students—usually, teachers who wanted to take the next step in their careers—and as always, I was excited and a bit antsy to begin our first class together.
Our classroom was just off the lobby, a few steps from the school’s main office, and this group of graduate students was taking a summer class: Fundamentals of Educational Leadership.
I didn’t know anybody, but that would soon change. I would go down the rows and ask each person to tell me a few things about themselves: (1) UNCC Name to ensure I had the same name as the university’s computer-generated list. (2) Preferred Name. (3) Experience and current job. And (4) Goals—immediate and long-term.
I always got roughly the same responses to my introduction questions from every class I had taught, and this summer class’s response fit that mold, except for one student. As we went down the rows, it was not long until the next in line to introduce herself was Leigh Ann Worley.
Leigh Ann told us she was an elementary teacher at a school I don’t remember. She gave us the usual long-range goals, and then came the surprise. I asked about her short-range goals, and this was her response as best I can remember, “My husband is serving in Afghanistan and will be home soon. So, my short-term goal is to ‘get knocked up’!
We got married by a preacher on a beach in the Caribbean, and I want to get properly married by a priest when my husband gets home. It’s time to make it legal and quit shacking up.”
I was a longtime high school teacher and principal, so not much could surprise me. I was my son’s principal as he reached the dating and car driving age of 16, and I decided it was the appropriate time to impart to him some of the wisdom I had learned along the way as he was preparing for a first date. “Son,” I said gravely, “with all my years as a teenager myself and an assistant principal and principal, I have either done it, seen it done, or caught somebody doing it, so behave yourself tonight.”
After all my years of being surprised while working with high school teenagers and teachers, Leigh Ann still surprised me that summer afternoon. It would not be the last time during our many hours together in classes as she pursued her master’s degree.
That is Leigh Ann Worley. Smartass to the core. Leigh Ann grew up in Charlotte, but since her mother was one of seventeen children, Leigh Ann became a farm girl during summers on the family farm. She knew about growing, cutting, and hanging tobacco to cure in the tobacco barn on her family’s farm. She picked corn fresh from the field and tended the farm’s horses. Farm girls are notorious smartasses—not much they have not seen growing up—and Leigh Ann did them proud that day.
Leigh Ann was a teacher broadly experienced—having taught 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th grades and having been honored twice as Teacher of the Year in her school.
I didn’t know her history in that first class. Still, in teaching Leigh Ann several classes during her master’s program, I found a thoughtful person who wanted to learn everything so that she could take her extensive knowledge as a teacher and add this new knowledge to her understanding of teaching and learning to be an educator who could tackle any issues.
A semester or two forward from that first summer, Leigh Ann needed to inject Lovenox, a blood thinner, in her side fatty belly area to prevent clots and potential strokes while pregnant. To give herself the prefilled injection, she had to unzip and lower the waistband of her pants to get to that area. Being totally unwilling to miss anything going on in class and totally lacking in bashfulness, Leigh Ann would take a prefilled syringe and ease to the back of the room, pull down her jeans until she could give herself the injection in her belly, pull up her jeans, and ease back into her desk having missed nothing!
That was also Leigh Ann Worley. Today Leigh Ann has two wonderful boys, a successful marriage and family, and has moved upward in her career to become Dean of Students at her school. Becoming a principal down the way is squarely in her sights.
The story I am about to share with you below is in Leigh Ann’s words from her journal and began soon after the birth of her second son with a routine visit to her OB/GYN. I read it first on Facebook and knew that, at some point, I wanted to help her tell her story to a broader audience.
In the pages that follow, Southern Exposures brings you a sad and often harrowing story from Leigh Ann Worley’s journal. It continues to drive chills up my spine each time I read it.
Doctor’s Blunder — My Living Nightmare
By Leigh Ann Worley
This chapter of my life began ten years ago, with the birth of my second son in October 2012.
On October 12, 2012, I gave birth to a very energetic little boy. I also had a 14-month-old son at home. After a few months of being a mommy to two, I felt anxiety building. I talked with my doctor about feeling so drained and anxious and just “not myself.” It seemed to be getting worse rather than easing with time. She and I determined I should take medication for post-partum anxiety. I was prescribed Pristiq at its lowest dose. It took a week or so, and miraculously I felt like ME. It was incredible being myself and having so much love for my two boys.
Things were going great until the last week of February. I could feel that late winter sinus pressure. I took my usual sinus relief medication (which WAS safe for use with Pristiq). It didn’t help. I had fevers at night and knew this must be a sinus infection. So, I went to the local clinic, where I was diagnosed as having a sinus infection. It was so severe that they also tested for strep. I was given Amoxicillin and went home.
I began having horrible nightmares, which I have always had whenever I have had a fever. This time the nightmares were different. They were about my new baby being possessed. I knew (in my dreams) that he was possessed because, in those dreams, I felt no love. He had no “soul” in his eyes, and I put a crucifix around his neck at one point, which burned his skin. I always knew these were dreams and not reality in any sense.
I had the dreams Thursday night, again Friday night (the day I was diagnosed with an infection), and Saturday night.
I didn’t have the nightmares on Sunday night, only because I was afraid to sleep because the dreams were so disturbing.
I made it through the weekend, and on Monday, March 4, 2013, I went back to work— exhausted. I told the teacher next door about my dreams, and she advised me to call my OB, and I agreed.
I went back to my OB the same day after school. I told her about the fevers, the infection, and the dreams. She asked how I had been doing on the Pristiq lately, and I told her everything had been fine until now. She told me she was concerned because she didn’t know if the dreams were because of the fevers, that the Pristiq wasn’t working properly, or a combination of the two. Since it was nearly 5:00 p.m., my doctor suggested I get my husband to take me to the hospital to see a psychiatrist there. Otherwise, it could be days before I might get an appointment with a psychiatrist’s office.
I came home, and my mother, husband, and my principal were waiting for me and the news from my OB. I told them what she suggested. My mom took care of the boys while my husband took me to the hospital ER. We checked into the ER, and I was given a bed in the hallway of the ER, where the staff pretty much ignored me for the next hour. After what seemed like hours, I finally got into a room in the ER, and the nurse gave me a medication that she said would “Help me sleep.” I took it, along with my nightly Pristiq, and tried to rest.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Later during my time in the ER, I learned the medication was Risperdal, an antipsychotic drug. After far too long in ER, they moved me upstairs and admitted me for observation. It took me about 10 minutes to realize I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I was in the hospital’s psychiatric unit for a fever, infection, and bad dreams.
I was in a room with my personal belongings locked away by an attendant, no TV, no phone—nothing, I assumed, I could use to harm myself or others. I had a sitter—an adult sitting in a chair at the foot of my bed and ensuring I didn’t do anything dangerous.
A bit later, I met the doctor on call. He interviewed me twice: once with my husband and once by myself. This doctor told my husband the plan was to keep me there for observation and then make decisions about my care a bit later.
I tried to sleep. My husband had to leave. My babysitter stayed.
The Real Nightmares Begin
I don’t remember the first night in 6B—The PsychiatricWard—but I slept hard. I do remember some of the next day, but only vaguely. It seems the Risperdal they were giving me pretty much made me a confused, sleepy person all day long. I remember finding a sitter in my room. She told me she was a sitter and was there to monitor me and ensure I was safe. She was there for a short time, perhaps an hour or two, and then a different sitter joined me. I slept most of the day. When I woke, this new sitter was on the phone with her daughter. The Risperdal made me so sleepy that I could only stay awake long enough to eat my meal, and then I quickly fell asleep again. I could not stay awake and was very disoriented with what I assumed was an overdose of medicine.
At some point on Tuesday—I don’t recall exactly—my husband and I met with Dr. F. He asked me about my personal history, family history, and what brought me here. When he asked me if any member of my family had ever had any form of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, mood disorders, etc., I told him I had three family members with mental health issues. My grandmother and two aunts. Keep in mind that my father is one of six children, and my mom is one of 17 (YES-17!) I figure those numbers I told him are probably “average” for a family of our size.
He asked me if I knew why I was at the hospital. I told him of the dreams, the fevers, and the medicine, and my doctor wanted me to talk with another doctor about it. He asked if I thought of acting these dreams out, and I said, “No.”
I told him I knew they were dreams but were merely vivid and scary dreams. He asked if I had thoughts of harming myself. I told him “No,” and I hated the way I was feeling with the Risperdal that he had given me and that I wanted to know why I was having those dreams.
The dreams, by the way, had not reoccurred since Saturday night (2 nights prior). Dr. F told me point blank that I would be on the Risperdal for a long time and needed to stop breastfeeding immediately. I was very upset by this, as I had great success with pumping and believed it was important to provide my son with my milk.
At some point in the day, the staff determined that I didn’t require a sitter, and I was left alone in the room. That evening I was given my Amoxicillin and another Risperdal, even though I told the nurses I did not like how it made me feel. I do not know if my observation about the dose to the nurses was considered in my care by the doctor.
The Risperdal did its job, and I spent the next day in a fog and slept most of the day away. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was crying because this doctor was not listening to everything I was telling him. It seemed he heard only what he wanted to hear. I expressed my concern about the Risperdal several times to several people with no result that I could see. I decided at that point that this doctor was up to something, and I became much more aware of my medical care. Subsequently, I refused to stop pumping breast milk. So, I “pumped and dumped” to keep my supply up because I knew I was not going to be forced into a medication that was not good for me, and I would cleanse my body of it and continue to breastfeed.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I was still disoriented because of the medicine. At some point in the early part of the day, Dr. F came to check in with me. I do not remember much of his conversations or those with my husband and my mother. He asked me several times if I had had these bad dreams again, and I replied that I had not had any since Saturday—today was now Wednesday.
Dr. F said he wanted me to move me to a more appropriate facility, but that it was not in my hometown. My mistake was that I did not have the frame of mind to ask where exactly he planned to send me. In my mind, I was convinced that I’d be going to a post-partum treatment facility where I’d meet other overly exhausted moms who had been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. I was so wrong.
Later in the day, the doctor told us he was having me transported by the Sheriff to an inpatient facility about an hour and a half from home because there were no openings anywhere closer. My husband asked why he couldn’t take me and why it had to be a Sheriff. The doctor just said it was his decision, and at this point, we had no say in my treatment.
After dark Wednesday evening, two sheriff’s deputies arrived to transport me to the new medical center, and they allowed my husband to follow us. Remarkably, I was alert in the deputy’s car. We had conversations about speeding and other deputy responsibilities. We made small talk the entire trip, and the deputies told me that the patients they transported usually behaved abnormally, and some were even violent or aggressive in the back of the car. They seemed surprised to be asked to transport someone who seemed to be, as they said, So with it. Obviously, because I was normal and with it!
I was admitted to the medical center’s South Campus around 9:00pm. My husband was with me in the lobby, where two men gave him a brochure about visitation and phone calls. Then they took me and my bag away, and I told my husband goodbye because my husband was not allowed past the front lobby of the facility.
A staff member took me up to unit 3-West, where the admitting process began. My vital signs were taken, my bags for my clothes were inspected, and all my possessions went into a secure locker, except for a few articles of clothing without strings or hoods. A staff member removed shoelaces from my shoes and then put them in my bag to go in my locker. A staff member escorted me into an exam room and told me to remove all of my clothing to ensure I was clean and so that they could document any injuries or scars on my body. There were no injuries, and the only scars were from prior surgeries. To add insult to injury, they took my clothing to be washed and gave me two hospital gowns.
I returned to the nurses’ desk to sign forms documenting things they put into lock-up. As I made my way to the nurses’ desk, I noticed a couple of patients walking laps around the hallways and counting their steps. I later learned this was their only form of exercise, and they were exercising on their own. I didn’t speak to other patients. One nurse advised me to “Keep my dreams to myself.” Because a particular patient would be upset with the content of the dreams.
Just after midnight, I finished the check-in process, and I was given my Amoxicillin but no Risperdal. They said that Dr. C, at the medical center, did not want me to take the Risperdal. I asked for some Ibuprofen to help with the pain of ceasing pumping breast milk. (Remember, the doctor at the first hospital said I had to stop).
I went to bed. Fell asleep in a strange hospital room. The doors were cut off at the tops, the windows were enclosed, and the bathrooms were locked—you had to ask permission to use the restroom. Closed circuit television at the nurses’ station monitored everything.
My roommate was a lovely lady with severe dementia.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Taking vitals started for all patients around 6:00am. They did all the typical checks and checked my blood sugar, and delivered my Pristiq. I was only taking my Pristiq now. No longer taking any Risperdal. Finally, I felt alert and aware—almost back to myself.
The small tub of “personal belongings” provided to me included two pairs of sweatpants with the drawstrings cut—for my protection, two tee shirts, two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear, a bra, and my tennis shoes—with the shoestrings removed—for my protection. Do you sense my sarcasm?!
They confiscated my toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, contacts, shampoo, soap, deodorant, and other toiletries because they could be used in an unsafe manner. Instead, I was issued hospital toiletries. My favorite was the comb, clearly safer than my hairbrush. You know the kind—one of these combs that photographers used to give you on school picture day. At this point, I should have just been grateful they even gave me toiletries, but it took almost two hours just to comb through my wet hair.
I walked down to the nurses’ station and asked permission to shower, returned to my room, showered, dressed in my now clean clothes, brushed my teeth, and made my bed. I went to a dayroom to watch TV while waiting for breakfast.
For breakfast the next morning, I found out that all patients lined up and were escorted to the cafeteria. It was then that I noticed obvious characteristics of the patients in Unit 3-west. Five patients were paranoid schizophrenic or having real hallucinations. There were a few patients who just seemed depressed and cut off from reality.
My roommate seemed to have severe dementia and did not know what was happening around her. Another patient was obviously on the Autism Spectrum but otherwise seemed normal. MY observation of my fellow patients would turn out to be my Turning Point Day. That day I realized God put me here for a reason. That reason, I’d later realize, was to make mental health a common discussion in households nationwide.
The cafeteria process was interesting. Our meal portions were very small. The cafeteria workers called your name out, handed you a Styrofoam to-go box, and you sat at your assigned table. No speaking to patients from other units, moving seats, and no additional servings. The grown men could not have been nutritionally satisfied and were likely still hungry.
The absolute worst part of meals was not the food. It was that the cafeteria had a patio and big, beautiful windows beaming in the gorgeous sunlight; however, you were not permitted to go outside, even though a very tall brick wall surrounded it. It was not like we could escape.
After mealtime, it was time for our meds. Remember that scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when they were dispensing medications? Yep, just like that.
I had made some friends in Unit 3-West. One was a schizophrenic named L—a funny guy. He knew he hallucinated, and he wasn’t right because he said he stopped taking his meds.
There was a man named H, who I saw on the news a week later, arrested for an armed robbery. Yet, he was the kindest man in the facility, though he showed signs of being over-medicated—he reminded me of my sleepy, confused self from a few days earlier.
B was a female patient there for manic depression, and sadly she was seeking voluntary ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Yes, it still goes on,
There was a teenager, M, who was there because he had recently learned he had autism and was hating himself for it.
This day was also the day I met the other J—the 20-something who believed he was sent to Earth to rid us of all evil. J was the patient I had been warned about who would want to exorcise the evil from my dreams. I would come to learn, in conversation with him, that the only way he could do exorcism was through extreme physical violence—in the name of the Lord—of course.
I spent this entire day talking with patients, finding out their stories, why they were there, and how they saw their future.
This day, I did not meet my doctor, as the staff had told me I would. Instead, I met the doctor’s assistant, who asked me the same tired questions I had answered over and over about my dreams. I told him I wasn’t in the right treatment facility and watched him document my file as denying any hallucinations or ideated thoughts. Of course, I denied it. I was not experiencing them.
This was the day I learned about the ridiculous rule about two phone calls per day. If you didn’t have the number memorized, too bad. If you called and the person didn’t answer, too bad. If you tried to make more than two phone calls, your chart was marked as defiant.
It was not a rule like the phone rules, but when you asked questions about your treatment, you were told to talk to your doctor—the one you seldom see.
Friday, March 8, 2013
After dinner, I was moved to what the staff told me was a more appropriate unit. I was relieved that it was finally clear that I had been assigned to the wrong unit. I moved down to the 1st floor with recently suicidal and actively suicidal patients.
Most of the patients on this floor were bipolar or manic-depressive. My roommate was S, and she had been there for months. I felt her terrible loneliness.
As soon as I got to the first floor, I decided I hadn’t been on this Risperdal (the medication unsafe for nursing babies) in a while, and my breasts were engorged. I wasn’t taking anything risky for breastfeeding, so I told the nurses I wanted a breast pump. As I expected at this point, they met my request with hesitation. I told them I knew I had the right to feed my baby, and even though the milk I pumped while there would have to be discarded, I wanted to get my production back up for when I finally got to go home. After what seemed like an eternity, they finally had a breast pump sent over from the maternity department of the main hospital across the street.
I concluded, after my experiences with the staff, that the nurses were on one of two sides. There was a small group of nurses who realized there had been a gross misdiagnosis that led to my involuntary commitment after a routine trip to my OB. These nurses helped me get things like properly fitting breast pump accessories, lanolin, and breast pads, and they gave me privacy while I pumped by turning the closed-circuit cameras away from directly pointing at me in my room.
And then there were the other set of nurses who acted like I was just another annoying patient, and every time I needed a breast pump, it was the end of their world because I had disrupted everything they had to do on their shift. For those nurses, I opted to pump every 2 hours just because. They marked my chart for refusing medications as directed because I asked for some Advil for the pain from re-generating milk production. They offered me an 800mg tablet that I said it was too much, and only took half of it.
On this floor, they made it very clear to me that if I intended to leave this hospital, I had better follow the rules. I already knew of the two-phone-call rule, but there were other rules, too.
- Act happy, even if you are terrified about your situation.
- Make friends and socialize. If you don’t, you’ll be charted as unsocial and isolative.
- Allow nurses to search your belongings, especially when you leave for your 30-minute visitation.
- During a 30-minute evening visitation: No children. Two visitors max. A guard and a camera to watch you. The guards had no interest in your privacy.
- You must participate in group sessions. These were not therapy—which I thought everyone here needed—instead, we colored, watched Madea movies, and talked during group sessions.
- If you stand up for yourself and ask a question about your medical care, you’ll be marked for misbehaving.
- Punishment for misbehaving, according to the patient liaison, was a shot and the time-out room. The time-out room was a padded room where you could stay for as long as they deemed necessary.
I finally met my doctor on day five in the late evening. Dr. C was not personable—no eye contact and she asked the same repetitive questions. However, when I asked her questions to help me understand my confinement, such as “What does my chart say?” “What is my diagnosis?” Or “How long do you intend to keep me here, “she would reply, “I’m not talking to you about anything on the first day I meet you.” So much for transparency.
Following my visit with Dr. C, I complained to the liaison, who suggested I just behave so Dr. C doesn’t decide to keep you longer. My liaison also informed me that I had the right to represent myself in court to determine mental stability after 72 hours of involuntary commitment. I found that ironic since this was my fifth day.
The patients I met on this floor remain dear to my heart. They needed individual medical help but were getting no more than medications and meals.
Of the dozen or so patients in this unit, I was one of only a few who were not receiving ECT. According to the patients, some were receiving ECT against their will. After ECT, patients would often return disoriented and often lose bodily functions. I remember one man having such issues. He couldn’t get the nurses to open the bathroom quickly enough, and he soiled his clothes. When he also soiled his bed, the nurses acted like it was an ordeal to give him clean bed linens and a hospital gown. With his condition after returning from ECT, he was out of clothes because we were only permitted two sets of clothing. My husband brought him new clothes on my Visitation Day.
Mealtime on this floor was eye-opening. I watched as patients got their blood sugar checked before the meal. Then they told the cafeteria staff that they were diabetic and couldn’t have off-site processed meals. The cafeteria staff denied them the appropriate foods their conditions dictated, and according to other patients, those diabetic patients faced blood sugar spikes and illness because their high blood sugar and medications made for a dangerous combination.
A very young girl, C—who was only 16 and was given involuntary electro therapy—asked me to start writing down everything I was witnessing and warned me not to leave my notes in my room but to keep them on my body because otherwise, they would be confiscated. I promised these girls I would tell their stories and my story and show the world what was happening in these facilities, and I would slip my husband my notes at our visitations.
The requests from the girls on this floor about their conditions and treatment by the staff are why I’m sharing this now.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
I woke, as usual, and had my vitals taken, pumped breastmilk (a whopping one ounce), and waited patiently for time to line up and go to breakfast. This Saturday, my brother sent art supplies, puzzles, and clean clothes to my fellow patients. The patients said it felt like Christmas morning to them. Of course, the staff inspected everything to ensure we weren’t trying to sneak anything in. The nurses kept the new word puzzles and coloring books behind their station and assured us we could have them a little at a time. One very kind nurse suggested she make copies of the pages so several people could color the same sheet.
I spent my whole morning on this day coloring. I played word games against other patients. This day my fellow patients opened up more to me. They gave me their names and phone numbers so that when I made my journal to the public, they might also want their stories shared.
I met Dr. C for the second time. I had waited all day to see her. And finally, she came. I was not surprised by her tardiness as some patients said she sometimes came when you were asleep and then documented your chart as not meeting with her. So, I told every patient and every nurse on that unit that if Dr. C came, they were to wake me. It did not matter what time of day or night it was.
I ate dinner, participated in my group session, socialized, and then went to bed with no sign of Dr. C.
Sure enough, at 11:05 P.M., Dr. C softly called my name from my bedside. I thought to myself, “I cannot believe you show up in the middle of the night!”
I thought to myself, “Thank God someone told her I wanted to meet with her, no matter the time.”
Our conversation was brief. She simply asked if I had had any other bad dreams. I told her I had not had any dreams in the last week.
She asked if I wanted to go home. I said, “Yes.”
“You can leave first thing in the morning,” she said.
And just like that, my involuntary commitment came to an end. I even received special permission to make an after-hours phone call to tell my husband to come to get me as soon as our kids finished their morning breakfast the next day. It pained me when I remembered that I was about an hour and a half away from our home.
Sunday morning, March 10, 2013
I had breakfast one last time at the facility and then waited for my husband to come and take me home. When he arrived, I was given my belongings and escorted from the building.
The first thing I noticed was how bright the sunshine was. The fresh air was sweet and tingled in my lungs. I didn’t know whether to feel happy for escaping or frightfully sad for those still there.
When I got home, I ran to my two boys, who held me close, and I held them—tightly. It felt like I had been away for months. They even looked different, older somehow. Even though it had been only a week, it was a week of their lives that I would never get that back.
I spent the rest of that beautiful Sunday relaxing and loving on my family. I could not get enough hugs.
Monday, March 11, 2013
I visited my OB, the sweet, genuine, kindhearted Dr. D. She asked if I had scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist. I told her what happened that night at the ER and how I spent the last week in a living hell.
She cried and said, “That’s not what was supposed to happen.”
She apologized for the injustice. She hugged me, and I told her I didn’t blame her. I still don’t blame her. I know she honestly had no idea these events would unfold.
After my ordeal, I weaned myself off the Pristiq and completed my master’s degree in School Administration.
These days, my family and I have a wonderful life. I do not have anxiety. I do not require medication. However, I also do not trust the medical system to have my best interest at heart as I once had. I remain sad about that. Maybe I was naïve. If so, so are most people. A step in the right direction would be to understand that physicians are like most other professions. Some are outstanding. Some are average, and unfortunately, some are awful. There is the old joke: What do you call the last person to graduate in their med school class? You call them doctor.
That year at my annual physical, I told my general practitioner about some strange physical symptoms I was experiencing—some that are normal during pregnancy, that had not faded more than a year later. I asked her to draw blood to check my hormones. She instead offered me Prozac.
I’m a little more in control of my own health these days, and I asked her how a mind-altering medication would help physical symptoms. I told her I don’t appreciate her assuming I’m just crazy and not listening to me as a patient. She reluctantly did the blood work, and guess what?
- My progesterone was significantly low.
- My testosterone didn’t even register on the chart.
- My Vitamin D was below the normal range.
I returned to my OB with these test results, and we began monitoring my hormones more closely. I’m taking a Vitamin D supplement. I suggest that you look up the symptoms of hormone imbalance. It will make you wonder as I did— How long has this imbalance been going on? Could this have been the root of it all, from the first sign of anxiety? I do not rule it out as the medical profession did.
Praise God, I made it through. And thank you to those that share a story like mine. I want my experiences to be public. I want people to stop being ashamed of a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. I want people to understand mental illness, and I want people to fight for themselves.
A bit later, on contacting an attorney, I discovered that a doctor can involuntarily commit a patient for up to 72 hours before they go before a judge if believed to be a threat to self or others. Ironically, in the criminal justice system, the police couldn’t detain an individual without actual evidence that rises to the level of probable cause.
The Doctor’s Blunder
I requested my medical records and read every page. I strongly suggest that you do the same for any procedure—even ones that seem minor. When I read my records, I learned that my first days at CMC included a major typo. Remember the dream where a crucifix burned my son, and in that dream, that was how I knew he was possessed? The doctor wrote down that I wanted to crucify my son.
Well, there you go. One person made a minor mistake, and my entire world came crashing down around me. How many others has this happened to?
Now that you have read Leigh Ann’s nightmarish experiences, go back and read her conclusions one more time. Leigh Ann simply did what we all have done (at my age of 76) hundreds of times. We gave God-status to physicians — those we may see on a regular basis — or in this case, the first one in the ER. Trust of one person by another must always be earned not assumed. It is a mistake not to question a physician’s decision we might not clearly understand or a medication we are prescribed, the reason for giving it, and its side effects.
Never be afraid to ask for—or demand—a second opinion. How the doctor responds will tell you a great deal about trust.
Until after I had edited Leigh Ann’s journal for the third or fourth time, did I realize that I, as a reader, did not have any idea of where the hospitals were where she was confined. I finally asked her, and I will not reveal them to you by name, but I will locate them geographically because I think their locations are integral to Leigh Ann’s story of her mistreatment.
Leigh Ann’s professional OB-GYN is in a county south of Charlotte metro. The hospital ER to which she and her husband went looking for insights on her postpartum nightmares was a small, 157-bed county hospital an ER. This is the hospital where the blunder in writing down Leigh Ann’s account of her nightmares was made. Would the same mistake have been made at a larger metro hospital ER? That is for you to decide.
When Leigh Ann was transported in the Sheriff’s car to a facility an hour and a half away from the hospital where the doctor made the big mistake, it was to another county hospital north of Charlotte Metro and its numerous medical facilities. This hospital has a behavioral health unit at a south campus a block and a half from the main hospital. The behavioral health unit has 81 beds.
I am not, nor should you jump to conclusions as to the quality of medical care in rural versus urban hospitals, but to ask questions about the quality of care being provided in a smaller hospital is not an unreasonable question to explore. Leigh Ann’s doctor made the decision to move her an hour and a half away to another facility. Was it because the unit she was moving to was known for its behavioral health record? Were the reasons explained to Leigh Ann’s husband before she was transported? As Leigh Ann noted in her journal, physicians can legally have a person confined against their will for 72 hours while evaluative and restorative services are being provided.
I am left with a few closing questions.
- Wasn’t Leigh Ann confined involuntarily for more than 72 hours?
- If so, what was the legal or medical rationale for her confinement?
- Was the treatment Leigh Ann describes in her journal—evaluative and restorative.
- Evaluative and restorative are my words, but my experience is that this is medical care at its most basic, whether in a GP’s office, an ER, surgery, or mental health facility.
A few years ago, I started my personal webpage/blog called Southern Exposures: Stories, Ideas, And Opinions — With A Southern Twist. You can find it at www.Southern-exposures.com, and most of the stories are humorous reflections on growing up in southwest Alabama. In those stories, I try to leave the reader with a bit to reflect on from their own lives, but in a humorous way.
There is nothing humorous about Leigh Ann Worley’s Doctor’s Blunder — My Living Nightmare. But there are many things on which Leigh Ann, and I, trust you will reflect from her Southern Exposures post. We started a list for you below!
Consider Your Relationships with all your physicians.
- Are they transparent?
- Do you feel free to ask questions, or
- Do you generally accept their recommendations without questions?
- Do you do your own research of accepted best practices.
- Can you ask questions by email or phone before to help you to decide about coming into the office?
Lessons my former student taught her professor about providing care for mentally ill patients with suggestions for reducing the potential for mistreatment.
- Treatment should begin with an open-minded evaluation by more than one physician and end with transparent clear explanations for the patient and family.
- Treatment must be obviously restorative to the patient and family rather than controlling.
- The physician in charge of treatment must have frequent, comprehensive, and transparent discussions with the patient and family about how treatment will improve the patient’s mental health before any major decision on commitment is made.
I want you to know that Leigh Ann Worley was never psychotic, schizophrenic, or in danger of harming herself or her newborn. She went to an ER at the suggestion of her OB in hopes of sitting down with a physician competent in postpartum depression and anxiety who could help her understand how to prevent further nightmares.
I am honored to be able to present to you her story of perseverance in the face of ignorance, blunders, and arrogance. More importantly, I am pleased to be the platform for Leigh Ann’s story and that of her fellow patients, and she and I trust that you will share it with others as a signal flare. Nothing would make her happier. Of that, I am very sure. -MD
The Worleys Today
I hope she sued all the bastards and now is the happy owner of a inpatient facility not hell bent to pandering to the politicians and doctors with God complexes.
Thanks for the comments. Leigh Ann is quite a mom and wife. She talked to an attorney but decided she wanted to return to a normal family life that bringing suit.
I saw first hand just how people with truly, crippling mental issues could be labeled and pidgeon-holed in organizations of the 60s and 70s. It wasn’t pretty, excruciatingly sad. I’m glad she was able to get away from that situation.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Leigh Ann is a happy mother, wife and educator. Remarkable person.
Unfortunately, Leigh Ann’s story sounds all too familiar. Our oldest son dealt with mental health issues that led to alcohol and drug addiction. There were numerous facilities with stays normally lasting 21 days since that was the insurance limit. Please help me understand how someone can be helped to overcome those kinds of obstacles in 21 days! And why the State of Alabama continues to reduce funding for mental health! Arrogance and apathy seem to rule the day both in the medical community and the State Legislature. Our son finally died from a drug overdose in October of 2008.
Andy, as an Assistant Principal at Baker in Mobile, I remember this one kid. His name Dowan and he was constantly in trouble with marijuana in and out of school. His parents put him into a facility for two weeks. The first day back, I caught him again. My advice to parents an wits in was to find the right church for Dowan and the family because he was beyond rehab. He was smart enough to get an early release.
I truly believe that the Almighty is the only power with strong enough rehab to work. For your situation, I have no answers except to say that one of my basic philosophies I lived by was that all kids grow up—some much later than others into their 30’s. Thanks for sharing about your son. That was the purpose of posting Leigh Ann’ story.