Before I was abused at the Baptist, I only occasionally had nightmares, and they were of the common-or-garden variety, like being back at college, and realizing that you had an exam coming up for a class you had not done the reading for. I was, in all respects, a very ordinary woman.
But the abuse and terrorization I was subjected to while I was a bedridden, head-injured multiple-trauma patient at the Baptist left me with a brutal case of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition to all of my other difficulties, I had constant nightmares about the physical, medical, psychological, and medication abuse I suffered while I was held at the Baptist. The first four nightmares below, I suffered in a tight rotation for the first year or so after the accident. I woke up screaming in terror from one of these nightmares three or four nights a week. None of the treatments or exercises my therapist gave me, though I did them faithfully, seemed to help.
In a particularly hideous version of this nightmare, I am sometimes at my gynecologists, whom Ive known and liked for years. I am sitting in his examining room, waiting happily for him to come in. But instead of my gynecologist, Dr. Basilico bursts in. He begins berating me, screaming at me, because he can see (and I then realize, too,) that I have begun menstruating, and there is blood on the examining table, and even on the floor. He is screaming at me: "I cant examine you now! Youve wasted my time! You should have known you were going to get your period, and not bothered me! Whats wrong with youcant you see that I have better things to do than take care of you? Youre going to pay for this!" This goes on and on until (all together now) I wake up screaming. . . .
Actually, this is a strange twist on something that really happened while I was at the Baptist. My period actually started ten days early, for the first time in my life, the very first day I was at the Baptist. I was extremely confused about this, until Dr. Rivkin explained that it was because I was so badly injured, especially, he said, from the impacts to my head. He explained very kindly that my body obviously couldnt sustain a pregnancy, and knew it, and so it was dumping the lining of my uterus to prevent that from happening. He said that if I had been pregnant at the time of the accident, I would have had a miscarriage. But having menstrual cramps in addition to all of the other pain I was in was really a bit much. And when I checked my medical records as part of the lawsuit, I discovered that this reaction my body had to the seriousness of the accident went utterly unrecorded. Was this part of the hospitals effort to minimize their documentation of the severity of my injuries?
This nightmare is actually almost a reproduction of some
of the worst events of Monday afternoon, when the hospital staff sat on
and failed to fulfill our request for my elbow X-rays, which my husband
needed to get before he could go to see Dr. Schweitzer* at Newton-Wellesley.
Gradually, the simpler nightmares of being chased by Dr. Karlson through the corridors of NEBH, or of frantically trying to reach Dr. Bell, began to be replaced by more complicated but just as frightening ones that took place in settings outside the Baptist. Both of these nightmares, though, still contain elements of the actual medical and personal abuse I was subjected to while I was an inpatient.
Most often, I woke up from these dreams crying rather than screaming, and suffused with such an intense sense of despair that it was all I could do to crawl from my bed into my office and curl up into a little ball on the floor. I didnt want to wake my husband every time this happened, so after a while, we moved an old TV up into that room, and some entertaining videotapes, and I would stay up as long as I could afterwards, watching late-night TV or videotapes. But it was often very cold in there, since the heat was off, and so my fractures hurt me. And, I was afraid to go back to sleep, even when I finally felt tired again.
Basilico and Karlson, and, oddly, Dr. Rivkin, are all there in my hospital room, and Im begging them, through my tears, for more pain medication, because all I am getting is Percoset. They refuse me, saying it could depress my breathing too much. "But you could still give me oxygen," I beg them, "Im having trouble breathing now." "Oh, no," Karlson says, patronizingly, "that might prolong your life and increase your suffering. . ." I tell them that this makes no senseif they gave me both morphine and oxygen, it would solve the problem, but either would be an improvement over where I am now. They continue to refuse, and turn and walk out of the room as Im begging them for help. I am left alone in agony and gasping for air.
I wake up crying from this dream, and so filled with dread that my chest hurts.
I am reeling through the corridors of a big teaching hospital, trying to hold onto several large file folders that contain all of my medical records and paperwork, even though my left elbow is broken and in a sling, and I am walking with a cane. I am going to a doctors appointment in this big hospital. I finally arrive at the office, and meet up with the doctor, who looks very much like Dr. Parazin (the friendly spine guy from the Baptist). He asks me if Ive met with the specialist I needed to see yet (I think its an oncologist), and I say, no, I couldnt find one who would treat me. And he says, "Mary Lou, this cancer is very curable if you catch and treat it early. You have to get on this."
He pays no attention to the obvious fact that I can barely walk, or handle the documents I am already carrying. I tell him that I havent been able to find anyone, and hes nice about it, but he just says, "Well, keep looking, because its important." But he doesnt help me in any way, like call anyone for me or anything (if youve read the Chronology pages of this web site, you will recognize where this incident comes from.)
Then he asks me if Ive started on the thyroid medication he said I should get from an endocrinologist, and I look at this green sheet sticking up from one of the folders, and I gasp with horror, because I realize that because of my head injury, Ive completely forgotten to do it. He says again, "Youve got to do this. Its really important!" I explain to him again that I havent been looking, because I totally forgot, but that if I did look, I dont think I could find anyone. And he tells me again that "You need to find someone...." And I am filled with despair as I realize yet again that he is expecting me to do all these things myself, even in my condition, and that he is not going to help me himself. I also begin to be terrified, because I realize that I am not going to be able to remember what hes telling me, and that I dont have a free hand with which to write things down (see Monday morning in the Chronology for where this particular aspect of my trauma comes from.)
At this point in the dream, I black out and fall to the linoleum floor, braces, casts, medical records and all (see the Chronology for Monday afternoon for the origin of this particular trauma). As I am regaining conciousness, I hear him and a nurse standing over me, and making interested remarks about my fainting to each other. Neither of them checks on my condition or even helps me up. Then they tell me that I should "Get that fainting problem looked into, too." and stroll away, leaving me lying on the floor with all my braces, documents, and cane scattered near where I am lying.
Often, I would wake up from this nightmare so traumatized that I couldnt even get out of the bedId just rock back and forth autistically with tears running down my face.
After all, if you feed a dog broken glass instead of dog food, and the dog throws it up again, you arent magically going to find dog food on the floor. Youre going to get broken glass and blood and chunks of stomach, and it wont be pretty. Thats what these nightmares are.