Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In which I run away from the Army and get "sedated" by the Air Force

So...earthquake drill continued....

Day 3: Transport Day.
   On Tuesday the joint armed forces, medical personnel, etc. were testing the State of Alaska's ability to transport patients out of the state in the event of an emergency. From my observations, I'd say we're in trouble.
    The group into which I was assigned was mostly made up of nurses, plus me, Dr. Hyde. Needless to say, we've seen a lot of mental illnesses. So when they assigned us to various roles as mentally ill patients, we....well, we used our experiences to make it lifelike. Now, just for the record, there is nothing even remotely humorous about mental illness, and I am in no way making fun of such diseases or belittling them. But when you get a bunch of (mostly) health professionals tasked with being crazy, and they know all the tricks patients try, well, those professionals are going to have fun.

Oops #1:
  We were transported to the Alaskan Psychiatric Institute. This is supposed to be a totally safe environment; I wasn't even allowed to bring my knitting needles in, because a real patient might use them as a weapon. Explain to me, then, why they left out a bunch of office supplies in a box for us pseudo-crazypants patients to steal? It was like Christmas. Since I was supposed to be suicidally depressed, I snagged some thumb-tacks. From my observations on the subject, a real patient would immediately use these as self-cutting instruments. Another lady, pretending to be schizophrenic, grabbed a staple and a pen, and started threatening anyone who came near her, up to and including the observers of the exercise. Since she was yelling and threatening everyone, I figured it would be in character to go huddle in the corner. Which I did. And therefore got missed when they were doing the initial registration. I wasn't hiding, really, and I was cooperative, but acting depressed and scared out of my mind. (I was supposed to be a victim of domestic violence). I only let them put me on a stretcher because one of the national guards carrying it was a woman.

Oops #2:
  I'm claustrophobic. They put me six inches below the patient above me, and that only after I screamed "NO, no no no" about being put on the bottom of three stacked patients on the bus. They were promising me the world, we'll get you moved ma'am, really, we just need some people here until one of the soldiers came over and asked me if I was acting. Which I was; I'm claustrophobic, but I can deal. He said I totally fooled him; he thought I was about to have a panic attack. But the thing is, by staying in the middle row of cots, I could gradually remove my restraints, see if anyone was noticing, watch the guards, and then take off like a bat out of hell. One guard tried to block me. Went right through him. Made the dude chase me around the parking lot, around a car, down the other side of the parking lot, around a car, then let him catch me because I didn't want to slip on the ice. I mean, what would a real psych patient do? Get the hell out of dodge, that's what.

Update: I later found out that when I ran off the transport bus, another patient decided to take off the other way. So two of us were running for it at the same time. Nice.

Oops #3:
  I spend a lot of time in hospitals. I get a lot of hospital bracelets. I don't like hospital bracelets. I have small hands/wrists. Soooo....I kept taking off the bracelets. It wasn't until the fourth bracelet that somebody noticed. She said, hey, good job, keep it up, let's see how long you get away with it, so I promptly tore the bracelet she put on my arm when her back was turned and threw it off the cot (much to the amusement of the now Air Force soldiers caring for the patients). This was a bright nurse, though, so she came back to check on me, and put another bracelet on me. I took it off, of course, and, of course, the bracelet she'd just put on me was littering the floor of the aircraft hangar where we'd been transported. So she had my attendant put one on my ankle. Homegirl is flexible. I wripped it off my ankle. End of story: I walked out of there without out a single bracelet on. I got through at least five. I win.

Oops #4:
  I was a "compliant" patient, sort of, in that I wasn't violent. So no real restraints were put on me, just straps to keep me on the medical cot. Which I undid...then tried to get away (not very hard, honestly, there were a *lot* of big Air Force guys around, and I'd been told if I ran through the wrong door into the flight path I would be taken down by armed men with no sense of humor). End result, they fake-sedated me. Three times. Still managed to get the hospital bracelet they stuck in my shoe out, though.

I think some of the other patients were more dramatic...especially the one who "heard voices" and had to protect herself with a stapler and a pen and tried to pick a fight with another patient, but all in all a good time was had by all volunteers. Not sure how much the staff enjoyed it, but hey, we were supposed to show the weaknesses of the system, and boy did we ever. Only doing our public duty, after all.

Update #2: Just ran into one of the guys running the exercise. Apparently I'm notorious "upstairs" (i.e. where all the mental health people work). "Who's that tall skinny girl? We literally had to run her down....are you sure she's not really crazy?" My job here is done.


  1. Your service to our country is commendable. I'd commend it even more if there were footage to be had… :P

    1. I have some pictures of the massively bruised foot from day 2. One of the army dudes took pictures from all angles, had his camera on a slider so he could get different shots, etc. It helps that I already have massive scar tissue on that foot from surgery following a sports injury in high school, so it looked very believable. The make-up artists were good.

  2. Guffawing... You GO girl! And you went! I'd love to see video of the day. (Man, you had me going there for a moment with that email a little earlier--April Fool's was yesterday.)

    1. I put the link right there, so you'd know the context. Didn't quite realize how bad it sounded out of context, though.

  3. It's too bad you don't speak one of the Inuit languages. That would really have added to the drama. (Didn't your brother get to do that with a hurricane and a creole speaker?) I'm also thrilled to hear that you had the energy to cause so much trouble!

    1. 1000mg steroids shoved into my veins last week = energy for running away from the army. I do speak French, but that wouldn't be all that believable in Alaska. I agree, Y'upik would've been cool.

  4. My son Richard (everyone should have a Richard, right) served a Mormon mission in Alaska. He picked up a few words in various native languages, but the one he had to learn was Spanish. There were lots of Mexicans working on the pipeline, and when their current Spanish speaking missionary was ready to go home, the looked around and said, "Four years of French? You can learn Spanish in the next three weeks. OK?" So yes, that was the extra language he picked up in Alaska (besides saying 'eh' a lot due to his time in Canada.)