Although Mr. Agerton had no suicidal or homicidal thoughts, his wife added an extra locking mechanism to a safe containing a pistol. “That he could harm himself or me or the kids hadn’t even occurred to me, but that’s an entirely different element of fear and protection that starts to surge through you,” she said.
Emergency room doctors ruled out a brain tumor and sent him home with sleeping pills. But after he slept, “the delusions picked right back up where he said good night to them the night before,” his wife said. “It was progressively worse. It was something new every 10 minutes.”
Ms. Agerton, a health care administrator and part-time graduate student studying organizational leadership, desperately sought psychiatric help for him. Finally, her nurse friend found space at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.
On the ferry to Seattle, Mr. Agerton imagined a FedEx truck driver was hacking their cellphones. At the hospital, a wrong-number call to the phone in his room rattled him. “It was this snowball effect,” he recalled.
“When he came to us, he was very psychotic,” said Dr. Zantop, who focuses on intersections between medical, neurological and psychiatric issues at the Swedish center. “He was having a really hard time functioning with these constant thoughts that he’s about to get picked up by the police or thrown into jail.”
He asked his wife to inform two photographer friends, explaining his absence from their text group.
“Ivan is a very self-aware, in-control-with-chaos guy,” said one, Vincent Laforet, who contacted anyone who might help, including the firm leading the Red Sea expedition, OceanX. “When that type of person reaches out to you through his wife, it’s almost like sending out an S.O.S. broadcast of ‘I’m losing control.’”
Vincent Pieribone, OceanX’s vice chairman and a Yale neuroscience professor, spoke with Mr. Agerton’s doctors. He said it was crucial that Mr. Agerton recognized he was in trouble and was not ashamed to seek help.