In A Medical Crisis, Knowing the Right Questions to Ask Is Key

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  • My cousin Robyn is a beautiful young girl on the verge of womanhood, with a quirky sense of humor, a curious mind and a sweetness that I pray she never loses. Just 14, she’s the spitting image of her mother, my first cousin, Sheryn.  Robyn is loved by everyone in the family–especially her parents and Cameron, her cousin and closest friend. A little over a month ago, Robyn and her family’s world turned upside down. This young woman with so much clarity and focus became someone completely unrecognizable.

    What could have happened to create such a change? Robyn had routine dental surgery to remove four wisdom teeth. Days after losing her teeth, she began losing contact with her world. After the surgery, Robyn went days without sleeping, but somehow she was still able to function. Though she was experiencing some confusion, she was clear-headed enough to go to the school nurse.

    But that night, her condition advanced to a level that warranted an immediate trip to the ER. Robyn, her mother and her father, Dar’rell, spent the night in the emergency room, but went home Friday morning after a psychological evaluation cleared her for release.

    But over the weekend, the confusion and fuzziness continued and Robyn’s parents took her back to the hospital on Sunday. While there Robyn declined rapidly, losing control over her thoughts as well as other body functions. Though she talked non-stop—a steady stream of non-coherent words and quotes from books she’d read, songs, scriptures, etc. – she could not communicate with her family to tell them she had to use the bathroom.

    Fortunately, Robyn’s Aunt Crystal and her sister, Robin’s mother Sheryn, were prepared to advocate on Robyn’s behalf. No strangers to hospitals, Crystal and Sheryn had years of experience advocating for their mother, who endured at least 6 back surgeries, post-stroke rehab and a kidney transplant until her transition a year and a half ago. Not only did they have a barrage of questions about what was being done for Robyn, they were trying to give her doctors answers, drawing a line from Robyn’s surgery to her deteriorating medical condition.

    But the doctors weren’t listening, performing a battery of tests, including a spinal tap, to rule out meningitis, while insisting the tests ruled out any possible connection to the dental surgery. That same day, hospital personnel told Sheryn and Dar’rell that doctors had the right to institutionalize their daughter.

    Her doctors believed a 72-hour hold in a psychiatric ward was remedied because they believed Robyn was a danger to herself and possibly to others. If her parents agreed, they would consider it a voluntary hold which meant that Robyn’ parents could visit. Because the admitting hospital didn’t have the appropriate facilities, it would mean transferring Robyn to BHC Alhambra Hospital which had a separate facility for adolescents.

    Thank goodness her parents agreed to the transfer. It was the step that began to unravel the mystery.

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