“Everyone up and hit the showers, now.” screamed a female nurse’s aide.
Moaning was heard up and down the long hall way which held thirty women in fifteen double occupancy rooms. Some women got to share a room with a half way decent human being but some of the women had to room with someone whose mind was almost gone.
Janet Summers looked up at the ceiling and whispered to herself, “Another day at the loony bin. I hate getting in the shower with another woman, but rules are rules. At least she isn’t ugly or too old. I don’t know if I could handle an 85 year old sagging all over me.”
Both woman got up and automatically made their beds and mechanically went to their dressers, which faced their beds, and got clean clothes for the day. Both women placed their items on the taunt spread and went into the bath room. Beth her room mate reached into the cracked tiled area with black mold growing more each day in between the tiles and turned on the shower while Janet pulled down two towels from the open shelves. There was no bathroom door. Privacy was left behind in another world. It was 7 a.m. and another day of the supposedly insane began. Two shower heads hung on opposite walls which gave them some privacy; at least they didn’t have to look at each other while they showered. They had fifteen minutes to shower and dress before the aide came by their room to inspect them, as well as their beds, before they could go to the dining room for breakfast. This was just as bad as prison except there were no rusted bars to look through.
In the room across the hall Janet noticed one of the patients was being washed in bed by a nurse tech because of her catatonic state. The patient would stare in one direction for days. No matter what position you put her in she would remain fixed. Janet noticed the patient was helped into a wheel chair and wheeled into the shower by another nurse tech. The techs’ voice was so soft one could barely hear her. The patient supposedly killed her husband and two children of six and eight because a voice told her to. Janet turned her attention to finishing dressing. A tap on the open door warned them to get to the dining room.
Upon entering the dining room the patients were required to walk up to a four-sided cart that held their individual trays. Each side had numbers to designate the rooms and an A or B for their bed areas. “A” meaning door person and “B” meant window person. They had to obtain there own tray and find a place to sit. Most patients sat in approximately the same area or seat each day marking their territory.
After getting her tray and sitting in her usual seat, Janet picked at her food, barely putting anything in her mouth. She knows she is not insane, just caught up in some stupid political agenda. She and a hundred some other inmates from prison were sent to mental institutions across the United States for the criminally insane to lessen the census and open the doors for new criminals. At first she was glad to get out of that rat hole, but as time went on she realized things weren’t any better in a mental institution.
Across from her sat her new room-mate of two weeks. One would have thought her roommate was a man. A large nose nestled above firm slender lips that rarely sputtered out anything worth listening to. A shaven head reflected the over head lights of the dining room while piercing slate blues orbs glowed in her direction. A four inch scar on her left cheek reminded Janet this individual was not someone to upset. Large hands grasped a fork which jabbed at eggs and sausage provided on the plate in front of her. A tattoo of a skull clenching a black rose adorned the left upper arm.
“What are you looking at girl?”
Janet’s trance was broken by the harsh words which she did not have an answer for, so she remained quiet.
“I said what are you looking at girl?”
“Ah, nothing, I-I was just daydreaming.” stuttered Janet, now looking at her plate of scrambled eggs and waffles.
“I don’t think so girl. Just keep your eyes off me because you are not my type. We might have to share a room together but that is about all.”
“I wasn’t looking at you, I was just thinking.” Janet said nervously while she grabbed her fork and began slowly to put food in her mouth.
Blue orbs darkened as they pierced vehemently at her and she continued to stare at the food in front of her.
The allotted time for breakfast was forty-five minutes. Five minutes before the breakfast hour was up Janet picked up her half eaten tray and delivered it to the cart where she had taken it from. Walking through the small hall way that lead into the patient lounge she felt someone bump into her. She tried to turn around but a strong arm was now around her neck tightly making her gasp for air. Her left arm was stretched behind her back causing the top of her shoulder to sear in hotness.
“I told you to stop staring at me. Now you’ve ask for it.”
Janet felt another muscular arm wrap around the front of her waist and wrench it to the right, and then her body slammed into a near by wall several times. A flash of white rushed over her field of vision and she felt herself slowly sliding to the carpet floor. Her head throbbed and voices faded fast.
A cool rag on the side of her head dripped into her ear and she heard a masculine voice softly humming an old tune. She couldn’t open her eyes no matter how hard she tried. The voice soothed her. Was it Ben? She felt hands caressing her face while the humming continued. She knew that song but couldn’t remember the name or the words. A warm muscular body lay beside her the humming louder now.
Finally her eyes opened and her room came into focus. No one was near her or in the room. Silence reigned. Attempting to get up, a searing pain crossed the left side of her temporal area. Nausea slowly escalated and she didn’t think she could make it to the bathroom. Inhaling then exhaling the air out slowly, she managed to control that dreaded feeling. Her left hand reached up to her temporal area and she felt a soft egg shape that made her nausea return instantly. With her right hand reached for the call bell and nervously she pressed the red button.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“I need something for nausea and for the pain in my head. I also need someone to tell me what happened.”
“Someone will be right there Janet.”
Janet decided she better remain in a laying position before the pain made her fall off the bed. It wasn’t easy for her to move her body as the pain seared in spasms. By the time a nurse entered the room she had dosed off again.
****(Above already sent to Mary)
After receiving something for her pain, Janet was able to get up with minimal assistance. An aid helped her ambulate to the lounge where all the other patients were gathered. At this time the patients would congregate with others. Some would be seen by a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, or their social worker. All would be overseen by the nurses on shift.
Janet Summers watched the other patients in the patient lounge. Some sat and stared at nothing, no blinking noted. Another patient sat in a wheel chair drooling all over herself and moaned constantly. A group of four women had gathered at a round table whispering and pointing their fingers at each other. Over in the smoke room, enclosed with safety glass on two sides, sat several other women that chain smoked. It was hard to distinguish their features through the heavily smoke filled area they were in.
A tiny wrinkled woman used both fists to pound on the smoking room door calling out,
“Let me in, I need to smoke. Please, open the door.”
A nurse gently escorted the tiny woman to a seat. Janet over heard the nurse,
“Mrs. Smith, you know you do not have any smoking privileges. You will need to talk to your psychiatrist to give you permission to smoke. Dr. Morgan should be in to see you and the rest of his patients in the next few hours. Come to the table and I’ll get you a deck of cards to play some solitary.”
Janet recognized the doctors’ name; it was her doctor as well. She thought to herself, “Hmm, so I will finally get to see this jerk who decided I needed to be in this institution. He’ll get a few tongue lashes from me.”
Quietness reigned within the unit, a mild buzzing from others talking quietly to each other. She started to dose off, the pain pill taking full affect.
“Ahhhhhh…grrrrrrr.” Thunderous stomping behind her caused her to jolt awake. She turned her head just in time to see one of the female patients running down the hallway naked chasing no one she could see. Pairs of nurse on the scene ran after the patient, coming from all directions.
“Get the restraints Joe. Maggie, get a hold of one of her lower limbs and Bob, help Maggie by holding down the other lower extremity. Sara, June…grab her upper extremities while I give the 5 mg of Haldol injection in her vastus lateral.”
A pair of arms that flailed in the air were grabbed and subdued while a pair of feet ended at one of the nurses’ shoulder and the other foot smacked into another nurses hands. Strategically the nurse pinned the woman to the floor and slid her slacks down to her knees. Immediately the nurse that called the code gave the injection where she stated she would. The patient was held down for at least two minutes to make sure the medication was taking affect.
As the patient began to relax her extremities became limp, then each limb was slowly released by those hold them down. Sara and June assisted the patient to a standing position and escorted her to the seclusion room where she was placed on a cot.
Policy was that the patient in a combative state was to remain restraint free after receiving a chemical restraint for thirty minutes. During those thirty minutes if the patient would become more combative then four point leather restraints were to be applied and more medication was to be administered.
Patients resumed their previous activity. Television was being watched by several women and one man. An old time “I Love Lucy Show” was being shown. Janet did not want to join that group; she preferred to be by herself for the moment, her head throbbing.
Thoughts rushed through her mind, “Was Ben at my bedside last night?” It was hard for her to tell in her condition. “I guess time will tell. If he was really there, then I know he will be back.”
A bell rang loudly and everyone knew there was an announcement to be made and they had to be quiet.
“All patients please go to the dining area for exercise. Please take a seat in the circular area. Thank you.”
Everyone got up from their areas and began to walk slowly to the dining area. Janet decided she would wait to get up because she didn’t want anyone to push her. From experience in this place in the past few months some patients were out to get her, or anyone else they didn’t like. She watched as the others trickled into the other room reluctantly. “Why did they have to exercise, especially those of us who were injured?” she thought to herself, wondering how to get out of it.
Turning her head just a little too fast the room began to spin. She grabbed on to the arm of the chair as if that would stop the spinning. Well, it did stop. Slowly she got to her feet and shuffled her way towards the dining room. The palm of her right hand cupped the side of her head as if to prevent it from falling off. A nurse softly asked if she were alright.
“Not really. My head fills as if it is going to fall off. And I am getting dizzy. Do you know what is going on with me?”
The nurse advised her that she should go to her room and lie down with her assistance. The more she moved the worse she felt. By the time she got to her room her stomach was turning.
“Let me help you get into your bed Janet. That bruise on your head is making you nauseated. You have a nasty injury which will take a few days to clear up. I’ll get you something for the nausea. Just lay still and I will be back.”
The room was moving in waves as she clenched the bedspread in hopes to alleviate the movement. She felt sweat particles erupt on her forehead and trickle down into her ear. Just as it seemed the room was beginning to settle the nurse was back.
“Janet, I am going to give you an injection of 10 milligrams of compazine, it will help the nausea. I need you to slowly roll on to your side so I can administer this in your rump.”
Janet slowly picked up her right arm and right leg to assist in the roll. The room was beginning to spin again and her stomach felt like a bowel of quivering jello. The throbbing in her head refused to let up. She felt the prick of the needle in her upper right buttocks and her slacks being replace.
“You can roll on your back now.”
“I’ll just lie in this position. I don’t like that feeling.”
Everyone was back in the patient lounge while Janet sat on her bed staring at the wall deciding on whether to go to the lounge or to just sit in her room. Knowing that she might get into trouble sitting alone in her room she decided to go to the lounge. Walking slowly out of her room as not to make herself get dizzy she noticed the open door way on her left down from hers had a new occupant. She was a thin woman in her mid-thirties with long straggly mousy brown hair that hung over her face. Her clothes hung loosely displaying a skeleton. The woman unpacked her clothes from a brown paper bag into neat little piles. Janet decided to continue her walk to the patient lounge.
As she entered the lounge she scanned the area for a place to sit, preferably somewhere away from her room mate. She spotted a seat by the nurses station separated from the others. As she made her way over to the chair more activity erupted.
A tech stood in the middle of the room observing all within the room. A tall man sat in a recliner chair to the left of the tech. As soon as Janet looked at him he sat upright and raising his right arm he punched the tech in his left jaw. Other staff that had seen the incident removed the man and assisted the tech to the nurses’ station.
“Never a dull moment in this joint.” thought Janet. Finally reaching her seat and sitting down a woman with black dyed hair and a silver tone choker around her neck approached her.
“Listen chick, that’s my seat! So get out of it now.”
Looking up at the woman, “Listen bitch, you haven’t been in this seat in the past ten minutes, the amount of time it took me to get here, so you beat it. This is not high school and you don’t own anything around here. Go find another seat because I am not getting up.” Janet sternly remarked.
With nothing to say the black haired woman left with her head titled downward looking at the floor. Janet noticed she sat down across the room in a chair in between two husky women with shaved heads. She didn’t need this abuse right now, she had better things to think of…like getting out of here. She knew Ben was waiting for her not too far from this locked up crazy bin and she had to find a way to get to him.
There was a new employee in the lounge this morning. One got use to the regular faces, so it wasn’t hard to pick out a new one. She noticed the new girl didn’t say much to anyone and she looked as if she would blend into the walls easily. It was easy to tell the new girl was a new nurse since she wore her whites, so crisp and neat.
Every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday the psychiatrists, medical doctors and social workers gather in here in the lounge to observe their patients, then they all went into a sound proof room to have a conference with their patient. Of course today was one of those days. Since she had not been summoned the other day she was sure to be summoned today. What these doctors and social workers wanted she could never figure out. They treated you like something from outer space, a slimy creature from the lagoon. She didn’t know where they got their information about each patient, but sometimes they were way off base. Then they only got ten to fifteen minutes to defend or tell how they themselves felt.
She sat and watched others get called over to the sound proof room to be evaluated as time sped forward. It was almost lunch time, so she knew she would go after, if she would go at all. She hated this time of day, the waiting, and the non-communication with anyone normal.
She watched where her room mate took her tray and sat down. She was determined to get as far away from her as she could. Sleeping in the same room with that bitch was one thing. The beds were far enough apart that they felt safe in their own space. She never looked at her room mate in their room nor tried to converse with her. Hey they were forced to shower together and that was bad enough.
Half way through lunch, at the far south side of the room a half top door opened and a nurse called out the patients’ names one at a time. They were expected to walk up to the half door and take their medications in front of the nurse on the other side of the door. There was always another nurse that stood out side the half door watching to make sure the patient took all of their medications. Mouth checks were done before the patient could leave the area.
Janet watched others go up to get their medications. Most of the time it was a smooth transition, but occasionally a patient would refuse to take their medications and would start to scream and yell that they had rights. Yes they did have rights, the right to refuse medication if they thought it was the wrong medication, or if their doctor told them they were being taken off a medication and here it was in the little white cup. The nurse in the medication room then had to check the patients chart for any new changes. That meant she had to call to the front desk where the head nurse was and get the patients medication clarified. It was an easy process since the computer in the med room would provide her with the answers she needed.
They called the patient by room number and the bed near the door was always called first so Janet knew she would be called shortly. She wasn’t going to question her medications this time because she wanted to get as far away from her room mate as possible. Knowing that her room would be called next she edged her way towards the med room. “Janet Summers.” There was her name and she was right at the door with her left arm extended so the nurse could identify her identification band.
“That’s you Janet. How are you feeling today? I see you have a nasty bruise on your head, where’d you get it from?” asked the med nurse.
“I can’t talk now. Just give me what’s due to me so I can get back to my seat.”
“Here you go Janet. Did you need anything else?”
Janet just downed her pills with a whole glass of water. She placed the Styrofoam glass back on the counter and without even looking at the nurse standing beside her she rushed back to her seat. No one stopped her; they knew she would swallow all her pills.
1300 (1 p.m.) Break time
On her break hour that was granted to all of them, she decided to use the unit library. During this time she looked up the many drugs that she had to take. She had a plan. A plan to drug some employee sucker, dress them in her clothes and then change into the nurse out fit and leave the joint. Ben was waiting for her, she knew he was, and time was running short.
She went down her list of medications she requested the nurse give her. She looked in the medication reference dictionary under A for the first medication. Amytriptoline let’s see, she took 100 milligrams two times a day. She read that with high doses above 50 milligrams it could cause sedation and nausea and vomiting. She started to giggle because if she gave someone her 100 milligrams of Amytriptoline that would knock them out. Hmm… how would she get someone to take the pill? Instantly she realized that she could dissolve it in a liquid such as a soft drink. Yes, it could be done. She thought of what other pill she took that she could mix with the Amytriptoline to make a potent potion. She now looked under H for Haldol. She took 50 milligrams twice a day…why was she on this drug anyway… “Hallucinations, combativeness…” And what were the side effects, she looked for them quickly, her eyes scanning the page, her heart beating faster. A cold sweat broke out on her forehead and behind her neck yet she felt flushed. Was she actually getting excited about her mission? She thought so. This was the most alive she has felt in a long time. Both her medications were covered with a hard covering so she would have time to pouch one of them, the other at the next meal time medication pass. She knew she could get away with it because she had a flap of skin on her left cheek along side her molar where she could push the pill into. As soon as she would get back to her seat she would spit it out in a piece of her napkin and stick it in her pocket. It would be child’s play. Smiling to herself she closed the dictionary and while putting it back on the shelf she found herself humming an old tune.
Others that were incapacitated were taken to their rooms were they were changed since they would be incontinent of bowel and bladder. Sometimes showers were given to these needy patients if necessary. Then they were laid down in their beds for a nap for a few hours. Theses rooms were monitored via television screen to observe any changes.
It would soon be 2 p.m. and everyone had to go into the patient dining room for art therapy on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Janet hated doing anything but she only went along with the charade was so that she could figure a way to get out of there. The bell rang for all to go to the dining room and she left the library happy for once.
Previously she had been working on a dreary morbid picture of death. That was what she felt as most of the patients that were aware of the world around them. Others only scribbled because that was all they were capable of. Then there were those that did nothing but stare. She asked for another sheet of paper and asked that the one she had been working on be destroyed.
“You know we can’t do that Janet. We have to put your drawling on file along with you other work to show how you have progressed.”
“Oh. I guess I forgot. Well do what you have to do and I want to start on a new picture.”
The nurse handed her a clean 11 X 14 white heavy gauge paper through the half door on the north end of the dining room.
“Do you need new water colors?”
“No, I am good. Thanks anyway.” Janet said smiling.
The nurse immediately noticed the change Janet’s mood and marked it down on her check list.
For the remaining art therapy of two hours, Janet painted a fresh colorful picture of green grass and many different flowers.
At 1600, (4:00 p.m.) the first shift of nurse and all the doctors had already left at 1530 and the new shift of nurses was on. The same old faces except that she noticed the scrawny new nurse was still here. Feeling mischievous and brighter than she had been she decided to go up to the new nurse and introduce herself and feel her out.
“Hi, my name is Janet. You’re new here, when did you start?”
With eyes cast at Janet’s shoes she mumbled just audibly, “I’m Bonnie. I just started today. I am going to be doing 12 hour shifts, rotating days and nights. This week I am on days and next week I will be on nights, so you won’t see me until 7p.m. next week.”
“What made you decide to be a nurse in a place like this?”
“I was tired of all the med-surge nursing and wanted to get into something less bloody.” Bonnie stated as she continued not to make eye contact.
“Well there are some bloody moments around here, let me tell you!” Janet laughed to herself.
“I was told that, but it will be nothing compared to the other type of nursing.”
“Why do you keep looking at my feet Bonnie?”
“Ahmm, I don’t know.” Bonnie tried to clear her dried throat.
“Well if you don’t look at your patients how can you evaluate them?”
“I know. I have been told that before.” Bonnie slowly raised her head and looked into Janet’s eyes. She saw warmth and caring in the light brown eyes before her.
“Well look at you. You’ll have to keep your head up and take a look around you. There is a lot going on here you could miss if you keep those baby blues to the ground.” Janet smiled at Bonnie. She knew she had her victim, as long as she played it cool.
An announcement for dinner was made and the group wandered in the direction of the dining room. Places were taken after each took their marked trays from the food cart. Midway through the meal names were called, as during lunch, for those that had medications to be taken at that time. Others remained seated and talked to their buddies. Some continued to stare. Some needed to be fed as they couldn’t manage to comprehend how to do this task themselves. Extra techs were on hand to help with this chore.
For most of the patients this was a time for movies. A movie was decided on each day for the previous evening. Janet felt this would be the perfect time for her plan to be most effective. She could lore the scrawny new nurse in to her room after she saved up enough of her medication. The medication would be dissolved in a nice cold juice that Bonnie liked and then she would have Bonnie come to her room for a private talk. This of course would take a while, getting her medication, and of course gaining Bonnie’s confidence. She knew it would work, she could feel freedom in her bones. Now the waiting game began.
During these hours the last of the day’s medications were dispensed. This time a window from the nurse’s station was opened and names were called according to rooms. After medications were given patients and allowed to continue to wash television or visit with company. At 2100, (9 p.m.), visitors had to leave. At 2200, (10 p.m.) patients had to be in their rooms, dressed for bed and lights out by no later than 2230 depending on how long it took for patients to get their medications. Other factors that prevented patients from getting to bed on time were of course if one of them had a violent outburst and had to be put in the seclusion room.
Janet knew that another good time for her plan would be around 2345 because the new shift would be coming on and they would be trying to read up on the patients at this time. A distraction would work out nicely so that she could sneak out with the new nurses’ keys. Next week when Bonnie worked the night shift she would ask Bonnie to come in her room since she knew her room mate would be sound asleep. She would ask Bonnie to get two cranberry juices and when she brought them to the room she would ask Bonnie to go back and get some cold bubbly ginger ale to make a cocktail. While Bonnie would be gone she could mix the crushed drugs in her cranberry juice. She would act as if she were just opening her juice when Bonnie arrived, that way she wouldn’t get the drinks mixed up.
“Yes. What a grand idea. I will be free by next week.”
Janet laid awake most of the night thinking about her plan and how she would execute it. Smiling to herself she finally fell asleep past midnight.