By Alexa Johns
Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, May 8th, and this will be a very different experience for me than my first one last year. I’ve held off on writing about this topic due to some legal restrictions, but I’ve been given the go-ahead from my attorneys to tell my story, without last names, since I’m currently involved in a lawsuit against (Dr. Rob [REDACTED], his wife “Dr.” Ann [REDACTED]) and The [REDACTED] Pavilion center at [REDACTED] Hospital.
It was my first Mother’s Day. I should’ve been home, but I was locked up in a psych ward over-drugged, scared, alone, and longing for my baby Gracie. I’ll tell you what happened.
Ty and I met with a counselor, Dr. Rob [REDACTED], in December of 2020, with the intention of pre-working through the changes that our soon-to-be baby girl would be adding to our lives and specifically to our marriage. We had only one session in December, and then another session a few weeks before Gracie was born via Telehealth. Dr. Rob wanted to work with Ty individually and recommended that we see his wife, Dr. Ann, for marriage counseling instead of him. We were told she also had her doctorate degree but later discovered that was NOT the case.
Ty and I did a few sessions online with Dr. Ann, and something felt off to me. I have been seeing therapists and counselors since I was 13 and had never experienced someone who was as “bossy,” “condescending,” and “domineering” as she was. Therapy with Dr. Ann felt like playing “Simon Says.”
We had only done two sessions with Dr. Ann when I started noticing billing inconsistencies. Before beginning the sessions, I was asked to put down two methods of payment in case their system rejected my Amex card. It was evident that something wasn’t right when I started receiving insurance claims/billings for sessions that we never had.
They had us in their system for an appointment every Friday, but we could only commit to doing one session a month due to having a newborn. I notified Dr. Ann about this and asked to be removed from their calendar because every Thursday, I was getting e-mails with appointment reminders. It was annoying, but now I’m grateful I have all those e-mails as evidence. As I started looking through the Cigna files, I realized that my insurance company was falsely billing me for appointments every Friday.
I was so busy with Gracie, being a new mom, and doing it alone. I felt like I was by myself because I didn’t have any family help, Ty’s family was in Canada, and he had just taken a new coaching job, which meant he was traveling a lot. I kept asking him to check the finances with the counselor, and he kept putting it off. This caused further frustrations and upset at home, making it seem like we needed more counseling. Funny how by starting counseling, things at home just got worse. Our marriage felt like it had been lit on fire.
I thought maybe I’m just hormonal and paranoid; perhaps this is a perfectly normal way of handling insurance claims, and perhaps I’ve been too hard on Ty. “Rose-Colored thinking,” but my gut feeling was that something wasn’t right. Since Ty was too busy to handle it, I decided to do it myself. In our fourth session, I directly brought up the billing with Dr. Ann. She talked in circles trying to explain why it was showing extra billing cycles, and she attempted to assure me that it was just the process of insurance claims, that it would be all sorted out. She even went as far as to tell me not to worry about it for a few months because once the coverage kicked in, the insurance company would send me a reimbursement for any overages I was charged. Not true. When she said the word charged, I instantly thought of all the credit cards of mine they had on file.
Pre-baby, I was pretty on top of my finances, but becoming a new mom had me accidentally pushing aside all former responsibilities, so I could focus on Gracie. Unfortunately, paying attention to my credit card statements wasn’t a high priority… until it was. When Gracie was napping after our counseling session, I did some digging. I was exhausted from being up with Gracie the night before and was desperate for sleep, but I was determined to find what my intuition was telling me to find. Find, I did.
We had only participated in six counseling sessions, and I discovered that we were billed via insurance for over nineteen sessions. I pulled up my credit card statements and found that not only was I billed for all the pseudo sessions, but I was billed on BOTH of my credit cards that were on file. Ty was at work, so I began sending him screenshots of everything I found. When he got home, he looked through my statements and was shocked because he was also paying for the sessions. He assumed he was the only one being billed and had no idea that I was being double charged as well. My stomach was in knots when I realized we were being scammed.
On May 5th (Cinco de Mayo of 2021), Ty called Dr. Ann, and she asked to talk to me. When I was put on the phone, I called her out for stealing from us. I had a hunch to record our conversation with my other cell phone in case she confessed, and I needed it for evidence at a later date. I’m grateful I followed my inner nudge because that ended up being invaluable later on. In any case, I asked her why she was triple charging us and scamming our insurance company. “Are you even a real doctor? I looked you up, but ironically, I couldn’t find your “Ph.D.” profile anywhere. I also noticed all the billings through our insurance were under your husband’s name and that you go by a different name on your couples therapy Facebook page.” She was quick to reply, “Alexa, you are a new mom, you are hormonal, and you are being delusional. There is a process to insurance, and I think we should probably do a session right now since you are in such distress.” That pissed me off. I said, “No, Dr. Ann, or whatever your name is, I think, instead, we should contact Cigna and notify them of therapy fraud.” She paused and changed her tone. “Alexa, I wouldn’t do that If I was you… Alexa.” I replied, “Oh yeah? Is that a threat? Well, threaten all you want because, just so you know, I’m recording this entire conversation.” Click.
Since I had just showered before the call with Dr. Ann, my hair was wet, and I was wearing a nightgown. I had settled in to nurse Gracie while eating dinner myself, and then I was going to put her to bed and try to get to bed early as well. Just as I was cozying in for the night, I heard the knock at the door, and my dog Luna went wild. My stomach sank. I knew something weird was going on. Two policemen were on the front porch asking to see me because of an “emergency health care crisis call” they had received via Telehealth. They let me know that a Telehealth representative would be on her way, and it was in my best interest to comply. It was bizarre and rather stupid given the events of the day. I offered them coffee or whatever beverage we had at the time. I was watching a “Total Divas” episode about WrestleMania at the time, and they stood near the door watching with me. We laughed and had a casual conversation while waiting for the Telehealth lady to arrive. I had explained the situation to them, and they seemed to side with me, even going as far as to recommend that I make an official report with the police the next day. They were friendly. After getting to know me, they assured me that I would likely just have to answer some questions, and then they could leave… and leave me alone. If only that’s how it went.
Two hours later, the Telehealth woman finally arrived (yes, the cops stayed at my house the entire time), and she had four other policemen with her. We were told that the “doctor who called in” also ordered a mental health mandate, which meant it was a non-voluntary commitment to the hospital for a mental health crisis (Aka suicide watch). Finding out that Dr. Ann [REDACTED] had called using her husband’s name, Dr. Rob [REDACTED], who actually was a licensed Ph.D., absolutely infuriated me. I became upset and was frantically trying to explain the situation to the new people who showed up. They tuned me out as I urgently retold how the doctor who called was stealing from us, was using her husband’s name and credentials to even make the call. I even tried to get the four new cops that had arrived to watch my recording that I had taken just hours before and then walked in officer John. Within minutes, I absolutely hated him, but he turned out to be a friend and, ironically, an ally after all was said and done.
When he walked in, he was very firm and told me I had five minutes to gather my belongings because I had to come with them. I was holding Gracie, and I went into my bedroom. I refused to leave her. I had never been even thirty minutes apart from her before. I couldn’t help it; I broke down crying, which just seemed to piss him off more. At least I had nursing on my side. I yelled out to the hallway, “Leave me alone! I’m feeding my baby! This is a huge mistake! The woman who called did so under her husband’s name, and they were STEALING from us. I’m not coming out. I want to speak to my attorney!”
While I bought myself time nursing Gracie, I cried so hard my tears fell onto her little cheeks. I could hear Ty in the hallway trying to reason with the cops and explain to them what had happened, as well as trying to figure out the process of why they were there and where they wanted to take me. Finally, Ty came into the bedroom and pleaded with me. He said, “Babe, if we just cooperate, they said all you have to do is go to the hospital, take a test, and then you can come home. If you don’t, babe, they are still going to take you by force, and it will be a whole lot worse. Please, babe, just do what they say, and we can fix it all when you get home.” I could see the fear in his eyes, and it made me scared. I just kept thinking, “God, What the fuck Is happening?”
Then… “Knock, knock, knock.” “Mrs. Johns, we are coming in. Please make yourself decent.” Within a minute, I had over six policemen surrounding my bed as I held my daughter. I was sobbing and just clinging to every second that I could hold her in my arms. “Mrs. Johns, we’ve waited long enough. We have to do our jobs, so no matter what – we have to take you with us. Now, how easy this will be is up to you. Like I said before, you can have a few minutes to put on some different clothes, but you ARE going to come with us.” Ty leaned in to take Gracie, and at that moment, my heart shattered. It was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever gone through. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was like a movie scene – the kind where a bomb goes off, and all you can hear is people talking in slow motion, accompanied by a high-pitch ringing. That’s how it was; waves of the deepest, saddest ache I’ve ever felt sank down to my bones, and a longing for my Gracie set in – far before I had ever left the room.
I somehow managed to put on my cartoon space sweat pants underneath my nightgown, and then I slipped on my white Sperry’s. Ty gave me his Canucks sweatshirt (Editor’s note: Boooooo! Go Kings Go!), and I pulled it over top of the rainbow, transparent plastic fanny pack I had been wearing around my waist. I put it on earlier that day so that I could more easily travel up and down the stairs since Gracie’s nursery was on our top floor and our bedroom was on the main floor. It was filled with protein bars, lip gloss, hair ties, bobby pins, and acupuncture needles, which I used for the breast meridian point to help with lactation. (Imagine me having to explain THAT to the hospital intake nurses. Hahah – but seriously… not funny).
I slowly made my way out of my bathroom to be escorted by policeman John on my right and policeman Jarrod on my left. I saw my sister sitting on the couch as I was walking out into the kitchen area. Ty had called her the second he found out that I would be taken, and she came over to help take care of Gracie while I was gone. Tears poured – just rolling down my face as I was being escorted in front of her. “Nat, take care of my Gracie girl. Please take good care of my Gracie girl.” My head was spinning with all the things she needed to know. How to change her diapers, what her sleep schedule was, how to soothe her, how to bathe her, how to burp her, and how to feed her. I was still nursing, so I was literally Gracie’s life supply, and yet I was being torn apart from my baby, with nothing as a backup plan. I begged, but they wouldn’t even let me quickly make a list of her needs, routine, and bedtime ritual. We didn’t even have the formula to feed her while I was gone. It was beyond cruel, and I have practiced forgiveness every Friday since, but I’m still having trouble letting the anguish and injustice I felt go.
“Nat, have Ty show you how to put on her lullaby. Please, please, please just take the best care of my girl. I need you, Nat. Please.” “I will. I promise,” Nat said. Tears had been falling from her eyes too. She looked shocked, almost ghostly pale. To walk into that scene had to be startling, I’m sure. Fuck, it was more than startling for me, too, as I’ve said. It was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever gone through, and I’ve had some intense experiences that were pretty high on that list. However, nothing truly compares to being a new mom of four months and being violently ripped away from your baby.
As I walked down the steps of my front porch, Ty was standing in the doorframe behind me, watching me go. I turned and looked at him as he mouthed to me that he loved me. “Love you too,” I mouthed back. I was then grabbed by the wrists as we walked onto the grass towards the cop cars. “I hate to have to do this to you, you being a new mom and all, but it’s part of the protocol for this type of situation, and I have to do my job,” Policeman John said while cuffing me in my front yard for my entire neighborhood to see. I was then put in the back seat behind the metal cage. My hands were tight behind my back, and I remember just looking at my house with all the lights on through the cop car window. Driving away was agonizing. It’s been almost a year, and I’m still crying over that single memory. The ache my spirit felt was so unbearable. My heart was screaming, and all I could do was cry… and pray. So, that’s what I did.
It was just me and policeman John in the car. He started in the with small talk. I could tell he felt sorry for me. “So, Mrs. Johns, I’m sure I’ll be able to take you back to your family tonight. All you have to do is answer their questions. Just comply, and do what they ask. The easier you make it, the faster you will be back with Gracie.” It felt good to hear him say her name – instead of just referring to her as my baby.
I slowly nodded while making eye contact with him in his rear-view mirror. Some time went by, then I asked, “Do you have any kids, John?” He smirked. “Yeah, I have five.” That made me smile. “Wow, your wife must be a superwoman. How did you guys do it?” “Well,” he said, “My house looked 100x worse than yours. We had a lot more of a mess than just a few piles of clothes on the floor. That’s for sure. (He was referencing me wanting to clean up my house because I was embarrassed at having “unwanted guests” over to see the mess I had) He continued, “And my wife, well, she didn’t get a lot of sleep. Hardly any, and actually spent most of the time looking a lot like you look right now.”
He smiled kindly through the mirror at me. I felt the warmth of his compassion, but I also felt slightly embarrassed at my appearance. I wasn’t wearing any makeup, my hair was still drying, my clothes were mismatched, and my fingernails weren’t painted. “You know, Alexa, we just did what we had to do to get by. You’ll figure it out. The first one is the hardest. So, just get sleep when you can, and take it a day at a time.” His attitude towards me had completely softened, and I felt like I was having a conversation with my uncle, not with the dickhead police officer who had just cuffed me and taken me from my Gracie.
Then, we pulled up to the hospital..