Thursday, November 29, 2007

#37 Justice is Not Blind

I would begin this post with an apology and a promise to write more, but at this point I am again living day to day, sometimes hour by hour so I will only say that my intentions are to write more. Since my last post so much have happened that I really don't know where to begin. This may need to be a multi-part post.

I begin then with my struggles with the justice system, though I have come to doubt the appropriateness of that title. Blaine went to court twice for his OVI. The first was just a pretrial, the second he pleaded guilty after waiting in court five hours for his public defender to make an appearance, and got a sentence of three days in jail, a program put on by MADD, a fine, and mandatory attendance of a drivers intervention program. We slowly checked off each thing on the list. The program put on by MADD only lasted a couple of hours and David actually seemed to take some good points away from it. The three days in jail went smoother than I would have imagined, but then we came to a brick wall. Blaine had a severe anxiety about the OVI school. He explained that in jail he didn't have to introduce himself or talk to anyone, but in the drivers intervention program he would be in a spotlight. We signed him up for a weekend in the summer. On the way he had a panic attack, sick at his stomach, clammy hand, etc. and backed out. Then we had to go meet his probation officer. The deadline was past for his attendance to the program so we had to go into court again and wait a couple of hours to get an extension; otherwise he would have a warrant on him. The judge gave him a month to complete the program. That is when the nightmare really began.

I worked feverishly to get him back into the same program he had been scheduled for in the summer, but their requirements had changed. I had to drive the two hours to get paperwork, then have it notarized, then drive back up a few days later to take Blaine to the hotel. He was a nervous wreck - that week he had cut his arm again and was just terribly agitated - I didn't want to make him go - but I knew I had to. I dropped him at the hotel and then started home. I was across town when he called to say he was not on the list and that they wouldn't let him in. I was furious - I had spoken with this people repeatedly, filled out all the paperwork, faxed it in on time! I was also frightened - would this send David into a tailspin? I left him in the car and stomped into the hotel demanding to speak to whoever was in charge. After repeating my tale to three different people, I finally was taken to the woman in charge - the one I had e-mailed and spoken to on the phone. By then I was almost crying - she didn't understand - David was mentally ill - he was on edge - she didn't know what effort it had taken to get him there in the first place - she just mumbled excuses - she was running two offices - short staffed - misplaced paper work. I didn't even respond - just left - I didn't trust what I might say.

David became even more pessimistic - sure he was going to go to jail - was going to fail college. His next probation meeting was on the day of one of his midterms. I called the probation officer probably at least twenty five times in the week and a half before his meeting explaining that David needed to go to his midterm - surely she could reschedule - David e-mailed her - she never responded. I told David to go to his midterm - I expected to finally get a message about a rescheduled meeting.

Meanwhile I got David into a different program down home - the day I dropped him off I was thrilled - finally we could mark this hurdle off. The next evening I got a call - David had a gran mal seizure and had been unconscious for ten minutes. Rushing to the hospital I just felt as if in a dream - how could this be? He had one fever seizure when he was little - but that was it - what more was going to be thrown at this poor boy? When I arrived he was alert, but scared - he had a bruise on his forehead and carpet burns on one side of his face. All the tests came back normal, except his potassium which was low. They gave him Klonopin to raise the seizure threshold and sent him home with an appointment for an EEG and told us to go see his regular doctor.

Luckily the woman running the drivers intervention was very understanding and David was able to return the next morning. So in the end he was able to get the program completed - but the relief I expected was replaced with a new worry.

We have seen the family doctor - he continued the Klonopin - which I'm not sure is great - and gave him a referral to a neurologist at OSU - we are still awaiting the results of the EEG. On top of all this and the running back and forth to Columbus - the probation officer finally left a voicemail on David's phone that suggested he had been a no show at his last meeting and must make the next or she would schedule a court date for breaking his probation. David told me it was the 28th and saved it so we could check the time. He spent Thanksgiving weekend with us and while here lost his phone. When I got his replacement Tuesday the 27th and checked his voicemail so I would know when to head for Columbus The next day - I found that the appointment had actually been on the 27th - he had missed it!

I can't even describe my reaction - I felt like I was in the middle of a hail storm and the hail was getting larger and larger, pounding me towards the ground. What was I to do? Had they issued a warrant? What would David do when I told him? Give up? Fail to go to his finals next week? Worse? I immediately began to call the probation officer - but as before she did not answer and did not call back. Finally after a sleepless night, I decided to try to reach her supervisor - he answered! I explained everything - David's illness - his anxiety - that I was the one that took care of his appointments and such - I asked if David could be switched to a probation officer who dealt with the mentally ill or at the very least if his current probation officer would at least call me to let me know what was going on and if she could schedule a new meeting. He took my number and promised to have her call - that was two days ago - and guess what? she still has not called - we are back on hold - living with the worry - not good for me or David. I have read before about families of the mentally ill dealing with a "blind" criminal justice system - but now I see how difficult this can be. Considering the number of mentally ill who end up having some run in with the law - there has to be a better way for families to communicate with the system that seems to fail to understand the magnitude of our loved ones problems. To Be Cont.