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|Life, Death, Madness - Page 6|
Dorothy is sequestered in a locked, barren ED room, on watch. She's a slight woman in her mid-fifties, her salt-and-pepper hair disheveled and her jeans street-dirty. They've taken her shoes; in her stocking feet, she paces rhythmically.
As I introduce myself, she spews a cascade of non sequiturs, accusations, and suspicions, interlaced with demands for water, another blanket, to go home, to call her lawyer. She's been here before. She knows the drill.
"You know why I'm here, don't you? Tell them—you're the robot!" she scowls at me. Actually, I do know Dorothy from numerous previous psychiatric admits. And I wager she does recognize me through her harrowing and debilitating psychosis. "You never liked me, I know," she growls. "You and the rest. When the washer is broken, the parts are sent here!" She thrusts a pointed finger at the floor. "You know what I mean, don't pretend!"
Psychiatry staff will confirm that Dorothy needs inpatient care, but what I can't bear to tell her is that our psychiatric unit is full. We may have to transfer her to another hospital, perhaps more than 50 miles from here. Worse, she may be transported by police, subjecting her to more stress. Our community still sometimes treats the mentally ill as inherently dangerous, or as potentially criminal. I object to this largely unfounded assumption and will try my best to avoid this fate for Dorothy.
I spare her the details. She's confused and afraid enough. As it happens, a bed will open upstairs on our psychiatry unit later in the day. Meanwhile, I try to reassure her, using her own language, trying to match her code. "Dorothy, yes, we'll fix things for you. Whatever's broken, we'll fix it. I'll find someone who likes you. We won't pretend."
I excuse myself and walk quickly back down the hall to the family room, where Cyrus's people still sit, weeping. I spend the rest of the night with them.