Trying to rescue David from the system.
When the rush-hour Parkway traffic ground to a halt, I called home to say we'd be a little late. That's okay, my father said. We'll heat up dinner when you get here. I hung up and we sat in comfortable silence. It was a surprisingly pedestrian coda to a weeks-long nightmare.
Two months later, David is still at our parents' house, and doing unexpectedly well. He cooks meals, runs errands and helps tend the yard. This, too, is a feature of his illness: the quiet interludes, between the torment, that help us to remember who he really is. In hopes of preserving this peace, he's now seeing a holistic doctor, who's found that David is allergic to wheat and sugar--substances that some holistic practitioners believe can exacerbate bipolar disorder.
Despite our hardened skepticism and past disappointment, my family's hope that perhaps this doctor is right--that David can finally find a measure of real stability--has become infectious and overwhelming.
In November, shortly before David's discharge, a Belmont caseworker admitted that my brother's situation was not uncommon in Pennsylvania: For various reasons, people wind up stuck in the system's hazy areas all the time. Just weeks before, in fact, a lawsuit alleging the wrongful death of Sandy Morgan had begun. In 2006, the schizophrenic Aston woman, caught stealing toys from a Boothwyn Wal-Mart, died in police custody of an unreported thyroid disorder. Nine days before her arrest, despite hearing voices in her head, she had been released from Norristown State Hospital.
In news reports, her jailers seemed disinterested in the proper care of a mentally ill inmate; her psychiatrist, meanwhile, appeared impatient to push Morgan back out onto the street. A degree of curiosity or genuine concern from either party might have brought about a different outcome.
Their hands, I suppose, were tied.
The 2014 Philadelphia Spring Guide
PW's Winter Coffee Tour