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A Balcony View: Hospital battle ends, but the war ensues

August 24, 2010

This is the final chapter in a series.

It is early Monday morning. As he had promised his son the night before, the father arrives at BHC Alhambra Hospital hoping to speak with the physician in charge of the juvenile unit. The 72-hour psychiatric hold has expired. The father is now trying to understand why the hospital has placed an additional 14-day psychiatric hold on his son despite verbal and written objections.

After trying unsuccessfully to speak to his son's doctor, the father has to settle for a nurse.

"I want my son released. I already know this can happen if I agree in writing that it goes against hospital recommendations."


The nurse shows the father a document.

"Your wife has faxed us a court order saying she has primary physical custody."

"True, but I have joint legal custody and I am exercising my right to refuse your services on behalf of my son," the father replies.

"That doesn't matter. The boy's mother wants him to stay. So we are not releasing him."

The father quickly realizes that getting angry with a nurse will accomplish nothing. He walks out.

Two days prior, the father began speaking with a new therapist for his son. The therapist had already agreed to meet with the boy in the hospital. He calls the therapist, who promises to meet with the boy and likewise meet with his doctor.

Three hours later, the therapist calls and says he had a very nice chat with the boy. He doesn't believe the boy is a threat to himself or others. The therapist is unable to talk to the doctor, but is told he would be in touch.

The therapist is also hopeful that the boy can be released soon. The father feels a glimmer of hope. Someone is in his corner and disagrees with his ex-wife's opinion.

When the father returns for visiting hours, there is hope in the boy's face — hope that his father has found a way to get him released.

"So you met with the therapist?" the father asks.

"I really like him."

"Did you talk to [your doctor]?"

"No one's talked to me yet," the boy says.

The father's eyes go wide.

"So you've been here another day without a doctor seeing you? In the four days you've been here, how much time have you spent talking to any doctor?"

"Less than 15 minutes total," the boy replies. "But [the doctor] is inside right now."

When the father hears that, he summons a nurse.

"I want to speak to [the doctor]."

"I'll let him know," the nurse responds.

"Am I getting out?" the boy asks his father.

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