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A Hope Xchange Bipolar Mentoring and Advocacy Case Exposes a Complete Lack of Compassion by Healthcare Professionals for a Mentally-Ill Young Woman In Desperate Need of Help
Post by Kerry Martin, CEO, Christina Huff, COO, and Kristin Molinaro, Volunteer Program Coordinator, Hope for Mentally Ill mental health advocacy program), Hope Xchange Nonprofit. Note: hospital names have been excluded and the woman’s name changed to protect her identify and safety.
A Young Woman with Bipolar Disorder in Abusive Relationship Reaches Out to Us For Help. Despite Extraordinary Efforts, We Couldn’t Do Enough to Fight System Devoid of Compassion. We Now Need Your Help to Shine Light of Hope Into the Darkness.
Sara is a 24-year-old, intelligent, young woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder who was living with an abusive, controlling boyfriend. Her only social life was when she was working for a few hours a week at her job stocking shelves at a local grocery store. Sara had a “Master” in a dominant/submissive relationship in addition to her boyfriend. Her family did not approve of her lifestyle, in part, because it did not conform to their extreme religious beliefs.
Over time, her presence in the abusive environment caused her to fall into a deep depression when she couldn’t eat anything and she developed extreme anxiety. She sought out her mother, expressing her desire to get better and to lead a healthy lifestyle. It was her mother, ironically, who led Sara to Hope Xchange.
Sara Reaches Out to Hope Xchange and We Respond With Both Compassion and Free Assistance: Bipolar Mentoring And Mental Health Advocacy
Twice, Sara reached out to Hope Xchange via our Facebook page looking for help to get her life back on track. Twice, we responded encouraging her to sign up either for a free bipolar mentor or a mental health advocate or, if she needed immediate help, to email our CEO, Kerry Martin, directly.
She finally reached out to us. With Christina Huff, our COO who oversees our HOPE for Bipolars peer mentoring program, she discussed the possibility of trying to work with her mom and repair their relationship since she was making steps to return to a more healthy lifestyle.
Christina spoke with her mother to confirm that she was wanting help, working toward getting better and serious about her health and wellness. Her mother took Sara to the general practitioner where she weighed in at a paltry 70 pounds. She was then referred to a psychiatrist who immediately sent her to Hospital One where she hoped she would be properly treated.
No Hope At In-Patient Psychiatric Hospital One and Sara's Own Parents Exit the Life
At intake, Sara adamantly expressed she wanted a feeding tube as she couldn’t digest food but wanted to be able to eat again. She was denied her request at the hospital because she was considered underweight but not yet critical. She was then sent up to the behavioral health facility.
Mom at that point stated to Christina that she wanted to offer to tell her daughter she could come back home to live and do a partial hospitalization program (PHP). She conveyed that message to her daugher over the phone and Sara was excited about the offer. Her parents visited Sara that evening at the hospital and informed her of the arrangement but also told her about their terms.
The next morning, Sara’s mom sent Christina a text saying that, after their visit and thinking about it further, they were rescinding their offer because they didn’t believe Sara was really serious about getting better. The mom never told her own daughter this, so the heartbreaking news was left to Christina to deliver.
At this point, both the parents and the hospital were failing a young woman crying out for help.
Our Team Searches for Care and Compassion for a Young Woman Literally Begging for Help
Because Christina happened to live in the same city where Sara’s hospital was located, and given the dire nature of the case, the very abrupt change of heart of the parents and wanting to get to the bottom of things, she decided to go visit her. Upon arriving at the hospital and seeing her for the first time, she wanted to tuck her into her purse and take her home.
“After seeing Sara at the hospital, and knowing her parents would not be calling that night, I called her before they turned off the hospital phones and told her ‘I’m just calling to say goodnight because I knew you could use it.’ She was so floored by this, that a total stranger would do that for her. I still continue to call her every night to say good night. Also, living in the shelter, she doesn't have many friends so I play Words With Friends with her through the day. These gestures may be small but she appreciates them more than you can imagine. Tears come to her eyes sometimes. I get tears myself because these little things are things I take for granted,” said Christina
Christina tried to convince the doctors a feeding tube was desperately needed as a cracker a day is not adequate and Sara was unable to keep down her newly prescribed medication for depression because it was too rough on her empty stomach, but pleas fell on deaf ears. Sara’s case manager informed Christina that because her vitals were okay, she couldn’t transfer her to the hospital ward.
Our team couldn’t help but wonder, are they waiting for her to pass out before they move her?
The doctor who made the weekend rounds popped in to see Sara and decided she is not just depressed but is also bipolar, as Christina and Sara had been telling the weekday doctor all along. The doctor finally got her on medication that made sense given her disorder. However, this was all for naught because she couldn’t keep the medication down because of her eating disorder.
Despite this, once we rolled into the week, they were fine discharging her because she was seen as “noncompliant” because she is not taking her medication. Her insurance will not cover “noncompliance” with medication, so she had to be discharged.
While this chaos was going on, the behavioral unit was forcing Sara to eat full meals and locking the bathroom door on her to ensure she kept her meals down. Of course, locking a door does not lock one’s stomach. Yet, they were not making note of any of this in her chart or records. Sara’s records do not indicate she is unable to keep food down.
The behavioral program said, on more than one occasion, they had no such eating disorder program and seemed to treat her like a petulant child, not a human with dignity. Sara, understandably, requested to be transferred to a facility that did have a program that would address her issues, which Christina did on her behalf.
Is this health “care?”
Perhaps our US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, needs to be a little bit more emphatic when he states “compassion is our most powerful tool in the treatment of mental health conditions,” as we are clearly not seeing any compassion here.
Insanity Continues As We Try and Get Sara Into an Eating Disorder Program and a Shelter
Our Advocacy Coordinator began hunting down facilities quickly as Sara was facing homelessness and the possibility of no treatment. Sara’s restrictive insurance would not allow many places and one place needed her to keep a full meal down first.
The healthcare system that was supposedly put into place to help young women like Sara was simply letting her down time and time again.
We continued our search and found another behavioral health facility that had an eating disorder program. They required her paperwork from Hospital One before they could accept her. That painstaking process took two days with phone calls to both hospitals, case workers, and everyone else you can imagine. We used three-way calling for the conversations so Sara was on the line as immediate authorizations were required.
For three days she was told she was being discharged that day, but was not. She was kept in a state of anxiety and fear of when she might get out and the looming possibility of homelessness was only making her symptoms worse. When she was finally discharged, she was in the waiting room for intake for almost three hours at Hospital Two only to find out they were now claiming they didn’t take her insurance and that she would be in an outpatient program, not inpatient, and it was not going to be an eating disorder program after all.
On the phones again we frantically fought the clock to help our client after the healthcare system had failed her again. After tireless hours of our Advocacy Coordinator, Christina, and Sara calling and researching, she finally had a place to rest her head at night, and thanks to someone who donated to our HOPE Emergency Fund, we were able to pay for an UBER to get her safely from the Hospital Two outpatient program to the shelter placement we had found for her.
Meet Sara's New Family - Hope Xchange
Sara is in a domestic violence shelter so she cannot be found and is safe from her abusive boyfriend. She now has a bed and is attending an outpatient program during the week, but when she left her abusive environment she left everything, including her clothes and belongings. She has nothing -- except for some old clothes that Christina had that she no longer needed -- and is starting over without the support of her own parents.
Hope Xchange is now her family.
We are so pleased to share that Sara is now finally able to eat a little more -- eating half a turkey sandwich on her first day at the shelter, which was much better than the five crackers she managed to hold down in the five days prior -- but her battle is far from over.
Her parents have shut her out and left her with little-to-no resources. Over the next two weeks, we are going into our HOPE Emergency Fund to pull out $300 to cover UBER rides so she feels safe getting to the outpatient facility program and back to the shelter each day. We set up this fund for those we advocate for because sometimes being able to give a little can make such a big difference to those in desperate need and now we are seeking to shore up this fund as our program rapidly expands to help others like Sara.
A Note of Gratitude Sent to Us from Sara
"Hi there, my name is Sara and I’m 24 years old. At 16, I was diagnosed with bipolar, ADD, and anxiety and made many unhealthy choices. I reached out to Hope Xchange a month ago and they have helped tremendously by utilizing everything they have to offer, including the mentor and advocacy programs.
Compassion and Hope Urgently Needed So Those Seeking Help Can Find Their Way Out of the Darkness Into the Light
Our fear is that there are too many Sara’s out there in need of help. And, we know given who else is reaching out to us for help in our HOPE for Mentally Ill program -- the subject of our next post -- there are too many parents struggling to find proper care and treatment for their children with too little insurance and financial resources. There are too many parents trying to get their children into too few psych beds. There are too many parents trying to get their adult children out of jail and into a mental health facility where they can receive they care they deserve.
We feel Saras should not be abandoned or left alone, nor should parents. Too many people are being let down by our failing mental health care system. And, ironically, while some parents are heroically stepping up, some are stepping out of the lives of their children, even in cases like Sara’s where she trying to turn her life around and needs love and support in her darkest hour.
We simply must shine a beacon of light -- one of caring, compassion and hope for people who are lost -- so that they can find their way out and so that they can recover and go on to lead happy and healthy lives.
In this particular case, while Sara is stumbling around trying to find the light switch, doctors, case managers, health insurance companies and even her own parents are leaving her alone in the dark.
This is unacceptable.
Can You Turn on Light Switch for Someone Like Sara So She Can Find Her Way Out of the Darkness Into Shining Light of Hope?
Please consider making a donation to our HOPE Emergency Fund, HOPE for Mentally Ill mental health advocacy or HOPE for Bipolars mentoring program. Be the switch to let someone shine. We are all stars and deserve the right to twinkle and shine brightly.