How to Get a Computer to Someone in Boston, with Difficulties
March 19, 2016 12:02 PM   Subscribe

Someone close to me has found himself in a psych ward at Massachusetts General in Boston, without a working smart phone or computer. If they decide not to let him out soon, I may need to get him a computer, or some other way of doing his student assignments. However, apparently I can't send him anything c/o the hospital.

Apparently it is not possible to Fedex him at the hospital; packages, we are told, don't reach the ward. I don't have any friends in Boston. He is allowed to have a computer.

Obtaining some sort of computer is not a big problem. His laptop is in New York; his father is unwilling to drive it to him, but might be willing to throw it in a Fedex. Or, theoretically, one could locate a used computer, or even an iPad and keyboard, in Boston -- he just needs the Internet.

But how would I find someone who could walk the computer in the door? Am I looking for some sort of social services? Or something like TaskRabbit? A messenger service?

Obviously the best people to do it would be the psych team who's evaluating him on Monday. But our conversation with the nurse doing rounds didn't give us a lot of hope of cooperation from the hospital staff.

What sort of person or service should I be looking for? Any thinking outside the box? Anyone had a friend or family member in a situation like this?
posted by Native in Exile to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (9 answers total)
I've had family member-ish people in the Boston area in the psych ward. If you could Fedex thing thing to someone in the area, it's a perfect thing for MeFi Jobs. Make sure you understand whatever the limitations are. The people I've known in psych wards in the area aren't allowed to have things with cameras. This may make whatever you're planning into a dealbreaker. You may want to see if there's an option for a plan B which might be a phone with no camera (maybe?) that they could at least text you from. Or something they could type on which wasn't a full blown computer. Once your friend is evaluated they should have a caseworker or some sort of contact who can give them advice on obtaining the things they will need for the amount of time they will be there.
posted by jessamyn at 12:11 PM on March 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Whatever you end up doing with regard to the laptop, I think the most important step is to have someone contact his professors to say, "John has had a medical emergency and will not be able to complete his assignments on schedule. He is unsure when he will be able to use a computer to contact you with further details, but will do so when he can."

This will give your friend some time to sort things out without having to worry about school deadlines, which are really a low priority right now.
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2016 [25 favorites]

Yeah, definitely check into the rules of the psych ward. I've heard about multiple psych wards that absolutely will not allow anything with a camera. You'll also probably want something with decent battery life because they may not be allowed free access to chargers. (These were definitely the rules at the Boston area psych wards I'm familiar with, but I don't know about MGH's psych ward in particular.)

If he's at all attached to his laptop or if it's an expensive laptop, I would send him a beater computer/tablet/smart phone instead. By design, you can't lock your room even if you're not in there. It's just not the best place to bring something expensive that you care a lot about.

Maybe a chromebook or something like that would work? You may also want to see if you can get some sense of what the treatment plan is. A lot of inpatient, acute psych wards want to get people out of there pretty quickly. Again, I don't have specific knowledge about MGH. There are a number of mefites in the Boston area, so definitely consider posting this on MeFi jobs once you work out the details.

One other option is if he has any friends in the area who you/he trust and who are aware of this situation. They could probably help bring the computer to him. Either way, you do want to make sure you check with the ward to find out when visitors can come by.

I think the most important step is to have someone contact his professors to say, "John has had a medical emergency and will not be able to complete his assignments on schedule. He is unsure when he will be able to use a computer to contact you with further details, but will do so when he can."

I agree with this idea and also this wording. This should definitely be a priority.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:44 PM on March 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

If he is allowed passes (ie to leave for short periods), you can send it to him via the closest UPS store. He will need ID and a little money to pay the pick up fee. (It cost me $5 to do this. I have no idea if the fee varies from place to place.) He does not need a mail box there. This is the UPS Store version of "general delivery."

However, having spent time in a psych ward as a student, I will Nth that there may be restrictions that you need to check. This is also a completely valid excuse for getting an extension on assignments or taking an incomplete. Furthermore, someone in a psych ward may well be unable to deal with their assignments. If they were there for open heart surgery, you wouldn't expect them to be doing schoolwork while hospitalized.

Please suggest to them that they need to contact the school and let them know they are hospitalized due to a medical emergency and will need academic accommodation for it. When you have a real medical emergency, school policies are pretty supportive, in my experience.
posted by Michele in California at 1:02 PM on March 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's great how you are trying to help your friend, but I have to tell you that people go inpatient because they need a time out to get themselves together. It's hard work, and really tiring. Some times there are med changes to deal with as well. If I had had to keep up with outside work while I was inpatient it would not have ended well. (As it was, I was not allowed anything other than books, and after a few days, some crochet.) If his care team says it's good for him, that's one thing. See what they say and then you can take some of the advice in this thread to get the computer to him. Otherwise, I imagine his school will be very sympathetic. I took a medical leave as an undergrad for Mono and it was a very simple procedure. Good luck.
posted by Biblio at 1:37 PM on March 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Does he need the internet to do these assignments? I doubt that he will be provided with unrestricted internet access, so that would be another thing to check with the hospital. Hospitals often have their own computers for supervised internet access, but I think it's less likely that he'll be able to get wifi on his computer.

I agree that the real answer to this problem is contacting the school to get an extension on his assignments. If he'll be able to return to school relatively quickly (<2 weeks) I doubt that he would even have to disclose that it's due to psychiatric issues; it will probably be enough to give them generic documentation from the hospital stating the days that he was admitted.
posted by fox problems at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

What your friends probably needs is the paperwork for a medical leave (or other accommodations) from the school. Try the disability services office first.
posted by SMPA at 1:53 PM on March 19, 2016 [7 favorites]

I agree that many inpatient programs don't allow electronic devices at all for many reasons. If the patient is in school, you could also contact the dean of student services and ask them to let the professors know of a medical emergency. I have done this for a family member, and they were very understanding and for the most part gave extended time to complete assignments, up to an extra semester in one case.
posted by tamitang at 2:46 AM on March 20, 2016

the most important step is to have someone contact his professors ...

At my university, the person to get in contact with would be the Dean of Students; probably his father/mother(/spouse?) would be the best person to have this conversation (I doubt that some friend would suffice, I don't know) if the student is unable to make the call. (Of course, if the student is able to make calls, he should be the one making the call if possible).

Once the Dean of Students is aware of the problem, their office then can email all the professors saying something detail-free and FERPA-compliant like "John is having a medical emergency and will be unable to submit assignments until XX/XX/XX" or even just "John will be unable to submit assignments until XX/XX/XX; please allow him to submit assignments then". (Or something; it's not my job and I can't remember what such emails said.)

The nice thing about these emails coming from the dean of students' office is that professors are (a) likely to believe there's a legitimate problem (unlike Grandmother's Funerals or whatever) and (b) kind of need to let the student turn stuff in late therefore.

(Honestly, even if the student is let out of the psych ward on Monday, it probably would be good idea to have this conversation with the Dean of Students' office so that they can intercede with professors and get the professors to cut your friend some slack. If things have progressed to the point that the student is in a psych ward, having this be on the radar of the Dean of Students' office is a good idea. They're good people and want to help students.)
posted by leahwrenn at 3:22 PM on March 20, 2016

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