She was diagnosed in August of 2011 with bipolar disorder, however it wasn't until over a year later that she had her first hospitalization. As luck ,or divine providence, would have it, I was out on stress leave from my teaching job so I was able to be available throughout her entire stay.
In October of 2012 my husband and I were attempting to get our daughter ready for school. For whatever reasons she still had not transitioned back to school. She was having an extremely difficult time getting ready for school every day. We saw a lot of aggression and self- injurious behaviors during this time. Finally one morning, I made the dreaded phone call to our local police to ask for assistance. I truly was hoping that we could eventually make it to school that day. The officers who came out that day didn't really know how to help us, but they were able to diffuse the situation. My child calmed down enough so we were able to transport her in our vehicle to an Emergency Room not in our city, but still close by. My daughter was seen by the triage department before being taken back to the ER's psych ward. It was a scary place for sure.
At the time we had insurance through my work that was pretty amazing. We only needed the doctor on call to approve hospitalization for my girl. For all of her future hospitalizations, she was on government insurance. We had to jump through many hoops to get approval on each of those occasions.
The problem we had this time was not with getting someone to agree that my daughter needed hospitalization, rather it was finding a bed. The hospital we went to didn't have a place for an eight year old with mental health issues. We had arrived at the ER around 10 a.m. that morning. By 6 o'clock that evening the nurses still hadn't found a bed in a neighboring city. I finally spoke up and asked what the hold up was. It was then that I discovered that they had only been looking in the county that we live in. I implored them to look into other counties. Finally at 9 p.m. a bed was found in different county over 100 miles away. I didn't care, I was elated that one had been found. My husband and I called our therapist who then called the facility to make sure it was a quality hospital. Once the decision was made, we signed tons of paperwork to pre-admit her. I think it was almost midnight before we were told that the ambulance that would be transporting our daughter had arrived. At this point my child was calm and almost angelic. The ambulance workers strapped her in and buckled her in just to make sure. This was a new and terrifying experience for all of us so I rode in the back while my husband followed behind in his car. I recall that it was about 4 a.m. when we arrived at our destination. It was eerily quiet and dark in the hospital corridors. When we reached the youth unit, we signed more paperwork while the nursing staff took our daughter's vitals. Normally, when a child is admitted to a hospital, the parents are allowed to see where there child will be staying and in most cases, will be offered a bed to sleep on. In behavioral health hospitals, this is not the case. We were ushered out while our precious baby was whisked off behind a set of locked double doors. That first experience that morning was not as traumatic as it might have been because my daughter was tired and ready for bed. As we were escorted out the front door of the building we were told the normal visiting hours. We were also told that since we'd traveled quite a distance, we could see our girl in a few hours.
As we stumbled out into the pitch black darkness of the early morning hours, numb and in shock, I looked down at my watch. It was 5 a.m. I still hadn't slept a wink and was suddenly overcome with exhaustion. My husband and I had no clue where the nearest hotel was. We both looked up at the same time and noticed one right across the street from the hospital. It was a godsend, an expensive godsend, but a godsend nonetheless.
After we checked in, we promptly fell into a fitful sleep. I woke from my slumber sooner than my husband so I went down to get a breakfast. Then I brought my husband up something to eat so that we could see our cherub as quick as possible.
I don't know why I thought it would be easy to see my daughter that first morning. It was one of the roughest days I had ever experienced up until that point. As the double doors closed at the end of our visit and we left, our beloved child cried gut wrenching sobs. I knew that she was where she needed to be. I knew she was safe. Still, it was hard.
The hospital staff encouraged us not to visit every day so we went back home. Over the course of the next 10 days we saw our daughter as often as we could. I talked with her social worker every day. When she was discharged, we couldn't find an outpatient program close to our home, so my daughter and I stayed at a nearby motel. On the first weekend, we were advised by our private therapist to stay close to the hospital instead of making the trek back home. Our therapist felt that our child might not be ready for a home visit yet. She also thought that if she needed to return to the hospital, being close by would help her return to the place she had been at. As it turned out, my girl was still unstable and required more hospitalization. She was accepted back at this wonderful hospital since she was in their outpatient program. She stayed for another 10 days inpatient before resuming their day treatment program.
While at this facility, the social worker acted as a liaison between myself and the school, and myself and the doctor. I later learned this is the exception, not the norm at most behavioral health hospitals. In fact we never experienced this level of care and concern again.
The entire nursing staff worked with our family and our child in a loving, but firm manor. At home, we implemented many of the coping skills that our daughter learned though.
It was rough, really rough leaving my pride and joy in the hands of strangers. At the end of my girl's stay there, they were no longer strangers, they were almost family.
In the years since this hospital stay I have come to realize how rare it is to come across such a wonderful behavioral health facility as this one was. For that I am truly grateful.
Look Mom! I found my smile
This picture was taken a few weeks before my daughter came home from her first hospital stay.