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Med Head
Med Head

ISBN: 0316076171
320 pages
8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers

Paperback for Teen Readers

The dramatic true account of one family's struggle with a tormenting medical mystery.

Cory Friedman woke up one morning when he was five years old with the uncontrollable urge to twitch his neck. From that day forward his life became a hell of irrepressible tics and involuntary utterances, and Cory embarked on an excruciating journey from specialist to specialist to discover the cause of his disease. Soon it became unclear what tics were symptoms of his disease and what were side effects of the countless combinations of drugs. The only certainty is that it kept getting worse. Simply put: Cory Friedman's life was a living hell.

Med Head

ISBN: 0316076171
320 pages
8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers

At the Edge of Madness

Chapter 4

WE'RE BACK in the supervisor's office, and he's just returned after leaving us alone for a few minutes to talk. My parents are having a really hard time deciding what to do. My father is usually fast with decisions, but this one is giving him trouble.

Finally, he takes a breath and delivers the words I've been praying for. "We don't think this is what we need for our son after all. We had a different idea of the hospital before we came."

I'm joyous inside. My father has done a complete about-face and is now going to fight for me. I want to hug him.

Unbelievably, the supervisor isn't taking my father seriously. He shakes his head as if he doesn't care what my dad just said.

"I'd appreciate you letting us out," my father announces.

He has to say it again before it seems to sink in with the guy.

"It's not possible for Cory to leave," the supervisor reports without any emotion. "Once a patient is admitted to the ward, New York State requires a minimum seventy-two-hour stay. It's the law."

"But we're not admitting him," my father explains. "We're going to leave right now, before he's admitted."

"He's already admitted," the man says more strongly. "It happened when he came through that door. Seventy-two hours, no exceptions," he adds, delivering what to him are just simple facts.

To me the number of hours—seventy-two—is like a death sentence to be executed in slow motion.

My father jumps up. "I want to speak to the hospital administrator," he barks. When the supervisor still doesn't react, he says, "Let me put it another way. I demand to speak to the administrator."

The supervisor thinks about it, then shrugs and picks up his phone. In a minute he hands the receiver to my dad.

My mother and I look at each other nervously. Everything is riding on this next conversation.

My father takes the phone and tells the administrator what's going on. He listens for a long time, and my mother and I don't know what's being said.

"There has to be a way," he says finally, obviously very frustrated. "What if someone came here by mistake, like we have?"

The debate continues, and he's beginning to lose his temper, which isn't like him.

"Even a criminal can post bond and get out of jail. What do you want me to do, call a lawyer?"

My father keeps going at the administrator. It seems hopeless. Then, all at once, he stops talking. "Yes, I understand. Thank you. I will." He hangs up and turns to us. "Maybe" is all he says.

Mom and I are both surprised when we hear who he's calling next.

"Dr. Meyerson! Thank God you picked up."

Dr. Meyerson is my current therapist. It's an absolute stroke of luck that he has answered his phone this late in the evening. We usually get his answering machine.

"We have an emergency here, and you're our only hope," my father continues.

The two of them talk for a few more minutes as he explains the situation.

After a while he lets out a deep breath.

"Say it just like that?" he asks. "Exactly that way?" He nods to us, then thanks Dr. Meyerson and hangs up.

My father turns to the supervisor and announces defiantly, "I request the release of my son AMA."

The man cocks his head suspiciously but doesn't respond. Not a word.

My father repeats the special code letters, this time as an order. "We are leaving the hospital with our son AMA. I'm told you understand what that means."

In a moment, the supervisor nods reluctantly, then gets on the phone again.

While he's talking to someone high up, my father explains, "AMA is an acronym for against medical advice. It's a legal code that allows the hospital to go around the law. It means that we understand the hospital advises against it, and it shifts responsibility to us—the parents—and our therapist.

It lets the hospital off the hook in case a patient . . . harms himself or something."

"You know I wouldn't do that," I reply, to reinforce his decision.

"It's the only way we have a chance of getting you out of here."

"And what if we'd never learned about AMA?" my mother asks. "Or if Dr. Meyerson wasn't around or didn't pick up?"

My father shakes his head. "We were lucky. Very lucky."

I study my father's face. He looks older than I've ever seen him. He's worn out. It's been as long a day for him as for me.

"Sorry, Dad."

He nods, but he isn't happy. "You know that we haven't fixed what we came here for."

It's not a question.

A long time later, the nightmare is finally ending. The supervisor is still waiting for whatever approvals he needs. My breathing has almost returned to normal.

Eventually someone comes into the ward with papers and the required signatures. The supervisor gets his key, and the thousand-pound door swings open again.

It's been five hours since we entered the hospital. I walk out the front door without looking back.

The ride home to New Jersey is silent. No one has the energy to say anything, and nothing we can talk about seems important compared to what's just happened.

My mother lets me smoke a cigarette, then a second one, and after that I fall asleep. In an hour or so, they wake me in New Jersey and I drag myself into our darkened house.

"I really mean it, Mom. I'm going to quit drinking," I tell her before going to bed. "I know I can do it."

I'm not lying. I really believe I can.

It's the middle of the week, and my resolve lasts until Friday night, when my body is again driving me crazy. After my parents go to bed, I sneak down to the basement and chug five or six big swallows from a bottle of vodka my father thought he'd hidden when he'd squirreled it away in the back of an armoire in the living room. In a short time, the bottle is only half full.

I fall asleep with my head reeling. Images of the psychiatric ward are getting hazier. I have a dim awareness that despite my honest desire to change, my absolute need to change, I won't be able to.

Something else is going to have to happen. And happen soon.

Copyright © 2010 by James Patterson

Med Head

ISBN: 0316076171
320 pages
8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
Little, Brown Books
for Young Readers

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