I started to write this email, but never finished and never sent it. I was sending it to my little sister’s good friend, and her older brother:
Hey, [name redacted] and [name redacted],
Thank you, [name redacted], for sending this email. I really appreciate it.
I don’t know how much of the story you two know, so I’ll try to give you a quick overview of the current situation. I apologize in advance for how long this is. I’m trying to keep it as short as possible and not include every little detail while still providing enough information so that you’ll understand.
On the night of (or the night after, I am not sure) Thanksgiving, the manager of my mom’s apartment complex called the police because my mom was wandering around the parking lot unable to find her way back to her apartment. A few weeks prior to that I had added my mom and [name redacted] to my cell phone plan, and I guess [name redacted] hadn’t let the apartment manager know her new number. (And they simply didn’t have my number at all.) Since they were unable to contact anyone, they called the cops. Because mom was unable to identify the month or the year, or who the current President is, the cops “Baker Acted” her. They took her to Halifax for a CT scan and then immediately took her to Stewart-Marchman-Act, which is the only other facility in Volusia County other than Halifax where they can place someone on a Baker Act hold.
Stewart-Marchman-Act is basically, as far as I can tell, just a place where they stick cocaine and heroin addicts and the truly psychotic. They’re held there on a short-term basic; the average stay there is only three or four days. Because mom was scared to death, and I’m sure she was suffering from panic attacks, they started sedating her pretty much constantly so she wouldn’t be a problem. After the first or second day there, she was pretty much a zombie. I called to talk to her and the nurses and Sophia Mas, the social worker there, every single day. (I also started sending her cards and letters every day, too, including photos of my son and the family.) I learned that Dr. Caliendo is the doctor in charge of everything over there. He is also the doctor in charge of the Psychiatric Ward at Halifax.
After THREE FULL WEEKS we finally managed to get to talk to Dr. Caliendo on Dec. 21. He talked to us for about 20 minutes, and based on his analysis of the CT scan she was given right after Thanksgiving, he seemed to think that she had some brain atrophy, but there was nothing tremendously wrong with her brain, so he was just calling her condition dementia. He said it was incurable and we would need to find long-term care for mom.
When that phone call was completed, we immediately got a phone call from Sophia Mas, who explained that I had misunderstood Dr. Caliendo and that in fact what he was trying to tell us was that mom had suffered a major stroke at some point in the last year to eighteen months, and that she had suffered many “mini” strokes since then, which had caused irreversible brain damage. I was, of course, shocked and devastated, and more than a little angry that it took them three weeks to tell us this, especially since I called every single day, and repeatedly asked to be able to talk to Dr. Caliendo during those three weeks.
Sophia explained that she had started the whole process to get mom on a wait list for assistance with funding for an assisted living facility (basically Medicaid).
Mom became more and more like a zombie, eventually to the point where every time I called they told me she was sleeping. After about two weeks of that I became very upset and told Sophia that I insisted on speaking with Dr. Caliendo again, and that I wanted them to stop giving her so much Rispirdal (the main drug they were giving her).
On the 12th of January Sophia told me that Dr. Caliendo had agreed to stop giving her Rispirdal, and that they were going to slowly wean her off of it. By the 18th she was completely off of the Rispirdal and was able to talk on the phone and no longer seemed like a zombie at all.
Also on the 18th, almost a month after my phone call with Dr. Caliendo, I called Elder Source and C.A.R.E.S. to see what mom’s position was on the wait list. Both of them said they had no record of mom at all. When I asked Sophia about it, she admitted in an email to me that she actually had not done any of the things needed to get mom on the waiting list; she had forgotten about it. So I spent two days on the phone with multiple agencies to make sure mom was in line to get whatever funding Tallahassee decides to release this year.
On the 19th, the discharge coordinator at Stewart-Marchman-Act called me to tell me that they were transferring mom to Halifax so she could receive medical care. I was very, very upset that it took them almost TWO MONTHS to decide this, but I was glad because I have tremendous respect for Halifax Hospital and I knew she would receive better care there. (This was before I learned that Dr. Caliendo was in charge of both places.)
She was transferred to Halifax on the 19th and on the 20th a neurosurgeon named Dr. Garewal there ordered an EEG and an MRI to see if they could determine the cause or source of her dementia.
It is important, I think, to note that from the 19th to the 22nd, I had several conversations with my mom in which she sounded as lucid and competent as she had prior to the event in the parking lot. She was scared out of her mind, and understandably anxious and worried, but she was able to communicate that she understood she had had a stroke and that she was at Halifax where they would take care of her. She talked about the Patriots going to the Super Bowl and sounded infinitely better than she had at any point at Stewart-Marchman-Act.
The day after she was admitted to Halifax, I received a call from Constance Wade, the social worker there who would be managing mom’s case. She sounded much more competent and intelligent than Sophia Mas.