I like to write breezy, optimistic posts. I am generally a breezy, optimistic person. However, I also write this blog for my own stress relief. so readers are going to have to bear with me for this one.
Marie had a bad day at school yesterday. (Well, to say “bad day” is akin to saying wave when it was really a tsunami.) Marie had been doing very well this past year and we had not an ambulance run for a post traumatic stress episode since last February! She still had her moments of outbursts in school for which she was gently placed in “the quiet room”, but she had always managed to calm herself down without a need for restraining or other interventions. However, springtime is the anniversary of her removal from her birth mom. Also, we had spent the past few months finally discussing the abuse that had happened 5 years ago, including going to the police station and filing a report. (A warrant for the arrest of one of the men who had abused her had been issued, but the man had fled the country.)
Although we had always known that Marie was abused, it was only recently that she has felt comfortable discussing the details. Whether she only recently remembered them, or whether she only recently felt confident enough to tell is in question. Her pediatrician recently referred us to a center which has a wonderful program for individuals with disabilities and children who have been sexually abused, but I had not contacted them yet as I was waiting for a copy of the police report, (a requirement for service.) I fear my negligence at doing so right away contributed to Marie’s PTSD episode yesterday.
By the time I arrived at the school, she had been actively violent and dissociative for over an hour. She was not being restrained, but was in the “quiet room”, not so quietly destroying it. The staff watched from the doorway as she ripped tape off the blackboard (which had been taped with foam so as not to be harmful during a tantrum.) She threw the tape, then pieces of the foam and the blackboard, at the doorway. When she is like this, she has super human strength and could level any person with one swoop of her hand, which is why the staff was wisely standing in the doorway. I stepped into the room to try to calm her, but she did not recognize me. She came at me wild eyed, swinging and spitting. (Think Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.”) I retreated as her violence escalated, at which point 911 was called. By the time the police, ambulance and firemen arrived she had wrapped the masking tape tightly around her wrists to stop her circulation and had gone over and ripped the radiator cover off the wall. It took 8 men to subdue her, and several of them were kicked, bitten and punched. They had great concern because she was spitting at them, as blood borne pathogens are the scourge of all medical personnel. (HIV? Hepatitis?) Even as I was warning them not to, they tried to put a mask on her face. She has been through this before, and she is an expert at biting down on the mask, chewing on it and has at least one time, almost swallowed it. As she began to do so, they replaced it with a towel over her face. They used towels to restrain her arms and legs which were swinging with great force in all directions. She was then placed on the ambulance stretcher and whisked off to the ambulance. All this time, she was screeching with a guttural sound that one would associate with the depths of hell.
They asked me to follow the ambulance to the hospital, which felt surreal, like a high speed video game. It’s a good thing I have nerves of steel because we drove at high speeds through the streets bypassing red lights. At one red light, a car was in the middle of the road and the ambulance went around it on the left while I went around it on the right, just like you see on those high speed chases in movies. But it was me, a little old 55 year overweight mom, in the driver’s seat! If it weren’t for such a serious situation, it almost would have been fun.
At the hospital, it was routine. They knew her there. First it was the transfer from the ambulance stretcher onto the emergency room stretcher. This move takes a great precision as the hospital restraints had to be transferred onto her arms and legs. If this was not done quickly, an arm or a leg would become loose and would go flying for a swift, hard kick or hit. One worker did not duck and he was kicked on the side of the head. Once on the hospital stretcher, everyone backed away as the towel was removed from her face, and her spitting began anew. The security guards donned masks with clear shields on them, making it look more like a science fiction movie. She was thrashing about, banging her head on the side of the stretcher. They put a padding on the side, which she quickly grabbed onto with her mouth and began to bite through.
Fortunately, she was evaluated quickly due to the distress she was in. She was given a shot of a tranquilizer, and her fighting and spitting quieted. The wild look was gone from her eyes. She calmed down, blinked and huge tears began to roll down her cheeks. She looked around and was confused as to where she was. Her eyes pleaded with me to ask the doctor unhook the restraints as she can only talk with her hands because she is deaf. Because she was calm, they unhooked one hand so she was able to finger spell what she wanted. She spelled out p-o-s-i-c-l-e! (She had obviously been to this emergency room several times before and she knew what they had to offer.) She signed her throat hurt but she didn’t know why. (Maybe from all the SCREAMING she had done for the last hour?)
She was calm and her restraints were completely removed. A psychiatrist was to evaluate her, and I asked for a sign language interpreter. Five hours later she was evaluated. She proceeded to tell the doctor that in school she has a hard time controlling her anger inside and when she gets angry over the least little thing she cannot control the anger and she explodes. He asked why she was so angry and she thought about it a minute before she proceeded to tell him the story of how she was angry at her birth mom because she let men have sex with her, and she was angry at the men for hurting her. This was the interpreter’s first time on the job, and she expertly interpreted all of the sordid details. When Emily had finished with the story and the doctor left the room, the interpreter stepped outside the room. She was clearly shaken, trying to hold back tears. “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to do this!” she said. I reassured her that we use an interpreter often and this is the first time this difficult subject has come up. Next time maybe she’ll interpret for a wedding or a school play, definitely something less difficult.
Because PTSD can happen at any time, it is unpredictable. The doctor did not recommend hospitalization. (Marie LOVES when she is hospitalized…all the popsicles she can eat, doesn’t have to go to school or do chores, and everyone dotes on her because she is so adorable. What’s not to like?) We did discuss getting her into counseling with the center for abuse, and a referral was made. Because there are no counselors or social workers in our area trained in American Sign Language, Marie will have to have an interpreter for counseling sessions, not the preferable manner, but for now it is the only way.
Marie was in good spirits when we left the hospital. She was skipping and smiling. She had no memory of what had happened before she came to the hospital, and I was glad of that. I have that memory, though, and I get flashbacks of the screaming and the cold, wild eyes. Her PTSD has caused my PTSD!