> No More Secrets And Lies: Doctor Joel Oberstar

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Doctor Joel Oberstar

A social worker at the State Hospital where I worked had been to the Minnesota State Social Workers conference and was telling me about the keynote speaker — Dr. Joel Oberstar. He said this guy has done amazing things with children at The University of Minnesota, and he told me I should consider contacting him to see if he could help Mary.

I thought this was a great idea, but I didn't think I stood a chance of getting this doctor to listen to me or to Mary's story. After all, he had three years of General Psychiatric training at Harvard, a two-year Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from the University of Minnesota, and an M.D. from the University of Minnesota Medical School. In addition to these degrees, he had received numerous honors and awards and had publications in law and medical journals. I didn't think I stood a chance of getting him to help me and yet I knew someone like him — whose primary research area was psychotic disorders in children and adolescents — was exactly what Mary needed. It was worth a shot.

I got up the courage to call his clinic one afternoon and I spoke with his intake nurse. I briefly explained what was going on with Mary — how many times she had been moved, how her problems were getting worse and continuing at her present placement, and how she needed something none of us on her team were able to give her. The intake nurse said she would pass this information on to Dr. Oberstar. I didn't expect to hear back from him.

But then one day while walking back to my car across the lawn at Forest Ridge, after visiting Mary at her cottage, my phone rang. It was Dr. Joel Oberstar. I was both excited and nervous to be talking to him, but he made me feel at ease and he seemed like an amazing person. I asked him about getting Mary into his clinic and he told me there was a long waiting list. Then he asked me some questions about her, and I told him the same things I had told his nurse — explaining what she had been through, the number of times she had been moved, and all the other things that had happened to her. He was alarmed by what he heard and he asked me about her medications. He then told me that, even though he doesn't normally do this, he was going to keep a bed open for her over the weekend so she could be admitted to his clinic the following Monday. He thought she should come in for an evaluation considering what she had been though, and added,

"Every time I see kids who have been in the system a while, like your daughter has, it's worth doing a thorough work-up to see what's going on with them. We'll keep her for 72 hours and watch her around the clock."

He told me to have one of Mary's workers call his nurse on Monday to arrange to have her brought in.

I couldn't believe this. He was actually willing to help Mary. I had finally found someone who could help my daughter, and I couldn't wait to tell Mary and her team. The next day I called Mary to tell her the news. She was as excited as I was and hopeful that she might finally get some treatment so she could get better and come home — or at least quit moving so much. I emailed the team and told them about this and mentioned that everything was set and all that was needed was for Mary's corrections officer (CO) to call the clinic on Monday and arrange a time for Mary to be brought in. I saw no reason she also wouldn't want this for Mary.

But she didn't want this for Mary. Monday came and went and I didn't hear from Mary's CO. Then on Tuesday she emailed the team to say that the placement at Dr. Oberstar's clinic didn't work out. She said the reason was because Mary needed a "med wash" and the clinic required this before they would admit her. She told us she didn't think it would be good for Mary to have a med wash at this time.

I was disheartened after hearing this and dreaded having to call Mary to tell her this didn't work out. But I did call her, and I told her, and she was as disappointed as I was, but accepted it well — better than me actually. She was amazing in this way. I felt bad, though, that I had gotten her hopes up only to have them dashed once again. This was the last thing she needed.

A few days went by, and the more I thought about her CO's explanation, the more I thought something about it wasn't quite right. I wasn't sure what she meant by "med wash," as this wasn't anything that had come up with Mary before, and I didn't think her CO should be making decisions about Mary's medications anyway, especially after Dr. Oberstar had told me her medications were fine. He had asked me all kinds of questions about her meds before he told me she could be admitted to his clinic. Something wasn't right.

The next day I called Dr. Oberstar's clinic and I asked his intake nurse what had happened and why Mary couldn't be admitted, especially after I was told she could be. Did I miss something? His nurse then told me that her conversation with Mary's corrections officer was one of the strangest she's ever had. She said Mary's CO told her that Mary needed a med wash — something she hadn't even heard of. She said she told Mary's CO that their clinic could handle any medication issues Mary might have and that she could be admitted the way she was. She also reminded the CO that they had kept a bed open exclusively for her over the weekend. But Mary's CO kept insisting that Mary needed this med-wash-thing first, and no matter what she tried to tell her, her CO insisted that she not be admitted to their clinic.

I was furious. This was the opposite of what Mary's corrections officer had told the team. She had lied to us. I emailed the team and told them about my conversation with Dr. Oberstar's nurse, and I asked them if they knew what was going on. As usual, Mary's attorney was the only one who responded to my email, and she also demanded an explanation from the CO. She was upset about this as well, and called the clinic herself and found out the same thing as I had.

Mary's workers never answered our questions about what her corrections officer had done, and Mary never got into that clinic — a clinic that may have helped her.


John Brosnan said...

Dr. Oberstar emailed me a few days ago to let me know he appreciated the kind words and for sharing a difficult story. No one else I mention here has thanked me yet. Hmm

Dsh said...

I am.glad you had a good experience with him. We had hoped to be able.to talk.to him because.of.our.horrible experience at prairie care but he wouldnt talk to us or see how badly.it had gone.

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