Gloria cannot see. Not at all. Not now.Imagine having to live with this unimaginable horror for the rest of your life.
Before, Gloria was living in a group home for people labeled “mentally ill.” At some point, the staff noticed she wasn’t showering. They arbitrarily decided that Gloria had stopped caring for herself and “needed” to go to the state hospital.
As we all know, there are many reasons for people to stop showering. My name is Julie Greene. A while back, I personally saw at least a dozen of my own neighbors, who were certainly competent and sane, forgo showers due to lack of adequate hot water in our building. A person lacking privacy in a shared home may fear showering, which is an intimate and very personal act that should be respected as such. Gloria often helped her roommate at the group home take a shower. She tends to be sweet and meek.
Did anyone among the group home staff even ask her? No. Because Gloria already had a “mental illness” diagnosis, the staff at the group home simply went ahead and assumed. They took her to the state hospital based on speculation only.
A state hospital doesn’t provide any care at all. It’s the end of the line for many people. The state hospitals aren’t like regular community hospitals where a person goes to have surgery or have a baby. They aren’t like the community hospital psychiatric wards, where the goal should be to get patients out and back to living their lives. I know because I was sent to one once. These places aren’t hospitals, but prisons.
All respect is gone. The patient is no longer even listened to. Whatever that patient says is completely disregarded. Why? They assume that since the patient is incapable of having any “insight,” as they call it, she must be wrong or delusional or lying whenever she opens her mouth.
Many patients endure the mental health system for years, or even decades, before this degradation and complete erosion occurs. We know this happens more often to certain groups: Racially profiled patients, those in the lower income brackets, non-heterosexuals, children, and those weakened by various medical situations tend to fall into this trap sooner.
Gloria had already faced the degradation and dehumanizing before she was attacked and blinded. She’d been in the state hospital for over six months. She is a danger to no one. She tends to be meek and polite, a bit reticent, quiet, and keeps to herself. I myself behaved likewise at the state hospital because I didn’t relate to the other patients, having nothing in common with them. I was lucky and got out. But in Gloria’s case, the staff misread her quiet demeanor as “incapable of social interaction.” They kept her there, not even asking or ever listening to her.
Gloria has no family. Her only living blood relative gave up on her years ago. But she does have a wonderful and caring boyfriend. Jeff and Gloria have been together for over 15 years. Through thick and thin, they are still madly in love. They are separated by distance and now by Gloria’s incarceration. I have spoken to Jeff over the phone and find him tender, sweet, and fully committed to lifelong devotion to Gloria.
I admit, tearfully, that their situation strikingly reminds me of my late boyfriend Joe. We, too, were inseparable, though never married. He died of a heart attack over eleven years ago. We had met in the smoking room of a psych unit in 1986, Thanksgiving weekend. This is one reason I am so committed to Gloria’s situation even though I have never met either Gloria or Jeff. I know that Love can do amazing things.
After Gloria was attacked, Jeff contacted Seth Farber, PhD. Perhaps you have heard of Dr. Farber, who has authored a number of extremely important works. He has spoken on national TV and radio. I heard about what happened through a public posting. I wanted to help and this is why I am creating this site.
Trenton State insists that they are not at fault. They knew this roommate had a history of violence. Why on earth they put her in a room with Gloria, a patient who tended to sleep heavily due to drugging and also struggled to be assertive? Not only that, but three hours went by and not one staff person working that night had done the required “checks.”
What is “checks”? Every hospital is required to do “checks.” This is commonly done at night by peeking in each room once every 15 minutes or half hour, or five minutes (depending on the patient) with a flashlight and viewing the patient to make sure she is okay. “Checks” are done during the daytime as well. It’s the law.
Were these night staff sleeping on the job? Were they busy watching TV or listening to ipods, unaware that anything was happening?
Often, night staff nod off. I know this because I have seen it in hospitals when I have had to wake staff up to ask them questions. Or they are deep into video games on their smartphones, wearing earbuds. I’ve even seen night staff who were listening to music on headphones so loudly they couldn’t hear patients calling out to them.
Trenton finally admitted that an employee was at fault and insisted that they had handled the situation internally. They insisted that this employee has been disciplined and that this employee was an exception. I personally don’t believe that negligence is the exception, but the overall attitude at every state hospital in the USA. And what about Gloria? Many organization use internal investigations in order to cover up the truth and to keep these stories from hitting the media.
Of course they are trying their darndest to keep this quiet. They want it swept under the rug. Nice and neat. Forgotten about. Like it’s nothing.
Perhaps you remember a time of deep loss. You lost a loved one or pet. Or you lost some aspect of your health. We grieve, do we not? We wish it never happened. We are sad, angry, or aren’t yet capable of understanding the reality of the loss. Sometimes even though we know the loss was permanent, we beg for the lost one to be returned. There may be truth to the statement that time heals. So does love.
All of us who care for Gloria can see the benefit of her getting proper education and training so she can care for herself once more. She needs a top eye specialist. As of now, the hospital has provided minimal eye care and Gloria needs far more than this. If she is a suitable candidate, a service animal will certainly change her life. She needs to learn the various assistive technologies that are available. Any person who has lost their sight is entitled to these things, and more, under the ADA. And we also believe that her heart and soul is with Jeff. But he must travel three hours one way just to see her, and their visits aren’t even private. The hospital is denying her basic needs.
I personally believe there is hope for Gloria. If you are reading this now, I would like for you to make some commitment to help out. If we all pitch in, we can make a difference. I know group effort can move mountains. I saw this happen for Justina Pelletier and attended the protests in Boston. The power of numbers can do this again for Gloria.
She needs the following:
She needs proper eye care by the best specialist we can find. She had to have one eye removed due to infection already. Gloria reports that in the one remaining eye, as of a few weeks following the attack, she has had intermittent sight. Yet Trenton State is denying her access to specialists in this type of eye injury. They claim she has seen “an ophthalmologist,” but this isn’t enough. Surely, anyone who has been through something like this needs a specialist! The state considers “mental patients” to be disposable and not even worthy of quality medical care. This needs to stop.
She needs legal assistance. It’s possible that she could gain a bit of funding by this means. Trenton State and the State of New Jersey need to own up to their wrongdoing and formally apologize to her, paying for damages as determined by the courts.
Media coverage will help gain visibility, as will calls to the state legislature.
Jeff and Gloria both will need protection and advocacy. The hospital is likely to retaliate if the public catches wind of this. Institutions do this. We saw this happen to Justina’s family.
Above all, Jeff and Gloria need to be reunited and free.
Let’s make this happen. We can do it.
Love, Julie Greene and her little dog, Puzzle
Canelones departmento, Uruguay