Cayuga Medical Center

Name of Facility: Cayuga Medical Center

Location of Facility (City, State/Province, Country): Ithaca, New York, USA

Number of Stars: 3.5

Description of Experience: I was admitted that the adolescent’s ward in February of this year, and my experience was mostly positive. I was admitted for a gender dysphoria caused suicide attempt, and the nurses in the emergency room were very kind and polite. The questioning was long winded, but they managed to make it bearable. When I finally got into the waiting area for acceptance into the ward, I had all my current belongings checked (My shirt that said “If at first you don’t succeed, you probably just suck” was not allowed due to ‘rude messaging’ which I guess I understand) and I was given scrubs to wear for the time being. I waited for at least 5 hours alone to be moved.

When I finally got there, I was introduced to the nurse and tech, who were very nice. The schedule was filled with groups, but there was quite a bit of free time. We had two hours for schoolwork each day, and the school was contacted by the hospital for us. We met with the psychologist team everyday, and were given activities to prepare us for discharge. I stayed for about a week and two days, and my only complaints were that the staff yelled at me on the first few days for fidgeting via drawing, causing me to cry and breakdown. Their points system also meant that some nurses could give less points depending on if they liked you or not, which greatly affected what you were able to do. Also, we only went outside once, and it was incredibly claustrophobic inside the ward.

Type of Program (inpatient, outpatient, residential, etc.): Inpatient

Anything that might have impacted your stay? i.e. being LGBTQ+: Trans man, gay

Year(s) Your Experience(s) Occurred (i.e. 2015): 2017

Cayuga Medical Center

Name of Hospital: Cayuga Medical Center

City, State/Province, Country: Ithaca, New York, United States of America

Number of Stars: 3

Comment: My stay at Cayuga Medical was not long at all, in fact it was only a week, but that week has definitely left a scar. That’s not saying it was all bad considering, just a good majority of it.

First of all, the first thing they let me know was if I was compliant I would be let go much faster. This was during intake where I still had an option to leave since I had admitted myself. Before even getting into the ward the hospital was treating me as if I was already admitted even though I hadn’t even seen or talked to a therapist/psychologist/etc. who would be able to assess me.

Once admitted they told me I had to be put down as a forced intake due to insurance purposes. I understood, but then they had an officer come with us and berated me when I started shaking due to fear.

While in the ward I had to routinely explain my gender and pronouns to the same staff day after day. They refused to listen to my requests for they/them pronouns and berated me for refusing to talk about gender and sexuality as it pertains to my mental illness (seeing as it was a whole different facet of myself that didn’t correlate to my needing to be there now I had no desire to keep teaching them).

During my stay I had a roommate who would scream and cuss at night. I couldn’t handle that, partially due to past abuse as well as general anxiety. Their solution was to put me in a small room behind the nurses station on a gym mat for the night.

If I didn’t interact much during groups they would say I would be here for longer.
They forced me into monitoring my blood sugar levels more so than I usually was (5 times a day versus my twice daily) , since I am terrified of needles this was not okay to force onto me. When they started some of the nurses poked in the wrong spot of the finger leaving me with sore spots.

A nurse almost gave me lithium when I had not even gotten to see a doctor about medication. They questioned me when I said I wasn’t taking any lithium. I was and am usually conscience and aware enough to know what medications I should be taking.
Overall, most of the staff was uninviting and treated us like children who misbehaved enough to get sent to detention. The only redeeming one was a man who was very big and tall, seemed very imposing, but worked with us on feeling safe and secure and even told my mother that it was okay for me to cry when she told me to stop crying. He was willing to be a physically strong presence when I felt scared. He was nice.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Residential Treatment

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: Genderqueer, bisexual, autistic, and diabetic

Cayuga Medical Center

Name of Hospital: Cayuga Medical Center

City, State/Province, Country: Ithaca, New York

Number of Stars: 1

Comment: This was my second time having stayed in a psychiatric ward at a hospital. I was rushed to their emergency room for stitching on minor lacerations on my arm (self-inflicted) and dangerously high blood-alcohol levels. I didn’t understand why the ER felt the need to stitch me up — 27 stitches total — it wasn’t my first time in a situation of self-harm and I hadn’t cut any deeper than the primary epidermis.

After that was said and done and I finally began to sober up, the ER attendant who stitched my arm (seemed like a nice guy) brought up the topic of having me admitted to their psychiatric care unit at the hospital. My now ex-boyfriend was the only one with me at the time. I wasn’t sober enough to even remember consenting and signing myself over, but I doubt it would matter to anyone. I slept off the alcohol and was brought to the psych ward. It was the most useless way to spend 3-4 days of my life ever.

The unit was extremely underfunded and understaffed, and what staff they had was untrained and unequipped to handle the level of psychiatric care I needed. They did nothing for me. My regular medication was whisked away to be given out at a certain time each morning, and the nurses didn’t understand that I needed a ton of water and solid food to take with my anti-depressants — as with every manufactured anti-depressant, the capsule gets lodged in your throat and dissolves there, leaving you with painful, nausea-inducing acid reflux for hours. So yeah, I needed more than a 3/4 full dixie cup to wash down all of my meds.

I also needed attention for my stitched up arm. The bandages were caked in old dried blood and needed to be changed. I requested this at least once a day, the first day the nurse’s station had no idea what to do with me. They had no gauze or medical tape — I think they actually tried to see if they had a band-aid big enough. They had to go to another unit and take from other stock in order to accommodate me.

Their issue with staffing went beyond nurses to the doctors as well. The psych ward was far from full, as it took no time for a bed to open up for me, but they didn’t have enough psychiatric doctors working at the hospital to manage the number of inpatients they had. The doctor I saw (who I actually liked) was actually from my home town, and not from the Finger Lakes region at all. They had at least 2 or 3 doctors subbing in temporarily to cover their needs. That’s one thing you should know about Ithaca, Lansing, Cortland, even as far as Homer — there are over 100,000 residents, plus over 20,000 students, all of various different regional and ethnic backgrounds, and only ONE source of medical care. It’s a complete monopoly on the system. ONE hospital. And they didn’t have enough doctors.

The psychiatric doctors basically identified that one of the medications I was given by a (horrible) local psychiatrist was part of the problem for my sudden depressive episode and suicidal ideation. So they removed the medication from my pharmacy sheet and got me an appointment with a LCSW therapist in town. Other than that, we were fed horrible food, were left with zero personal belongings, and everything from cotton balls to shampoo bottles had to be locked up. We had zero stimulation in the unit. Plain grey and white walls. Stiff furniture. A TV that didn’t work. I’ll mention the food again only because it was so terrible I could barely eat, and I’m someone coming from a background with an eating disorder and severe malnourishment problems.

The window views were just of the surrounding building rooftops puddled with grey snow. My anxiety was skyrocketing from how caged I felt. Visiting hours were no more than two short, separate 2-hour intervals a day. I just wanted to be held by my loved ones for some comfort, but that wasn’t allowed in the unit.

I mostly kept myself occupied with a much out of date library of books. Your other choices were jigsaw puzzles with about twenty pieces missing or children’s coloring book pages with crayons and colored pencils that made RoseArt brand look good. We had something called “group time”, I think it was held in the morning after breakfast and again at night after dinner.

The night nurses were the worst. They were really young girls who clearly could NOT have cared less about the patients they were caring for and looked annoyed to have to be there. They sort of just made up the discussion as they went along in a very unenthusiastic manner, just going around the circle and asking us what our goals for the day were in the morning and if we achieved those goals by the night. Once the meetings started to dwindle in constructive conversation the nurses would start talking about their own lives and just joke around with each other.

It was winter in upstate New York, so I was also FREEZING, especially at night. One nurse was kind enough to supply my bed with a second thin, rough blanket and put two or three gel-heating packs under the covers around me. I had to act like I was better in order to shorten what felt like a prison sentencing. The only reason I got out as quickly as I did was because I was good at faking being okay and constantly pushed for a quicker discharge date. I hated it there so much. After leaving I honestly feel much worse off.

I was left with thousands of dollars of medical debt to deal with on my own, and it wasn’t until the following summer that I realized the two similar bills I was receiving in the mail were TWO separate bills, doubling what I thought I owed, because I owed to two different Cayuga medical offices. No one explained the billing process to me before I left. I’ll owe them that money for a few years. I can’t pay my bills currently and my biggest stressor and anxiety inducer is money issues at the moment. I can’t afford food and I have debt collectors calling me. I basically paid a couple grand to be put in a detention center.

The team at Cayuga taught me that psychiatric wards are completely useless in their current state. I don’t care how bad my depression gets again; if anyone ever tries to send me to another psych hall I will run screaming.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient

Any other identities/marginalizations (i.e. race/gender/sexuality) that could have influenced your stay?: None