It’s about Power, not Medicine (Part I)


My friend is some big shit in computers.  I know he’s a big shit because (a) I don’t understand a thing about what he does, and (b) his job title doesn’t make any sense at all.  It doesn’t have any nouns in it—he’s not anything like an operator, analyzer or coordinator.  They called him into the front office and gave him his new job title.  He took it back and gave it to his group.  His group said, “But what do you do?”  He replied, “I do whatever I want to do; you guys do everything else.”

            My friend wears form-fitting jeans to work.  This doesn’t mean they are tight; this means that he’s worn them so long and with such joy that each thread has become fitted to every particular lump in his ass.  They are soft and faded to almost-whiteness and he likes them a lot.  Matter of fact, he took the job because the guy who interviewed him was wearing jeans.  “If I could wear my jeans, then I knew it would be an all-right place to work,” he says.

            My friend spent a year working on a project that went from one disaster to the next.  It was his boss’s pet but it just wouldn’t work right.  One weekend he sat down and did a particular analysis of one microscopic bit of the project, then he wrote a long memo explaining what was wrong.  He e-mailed the memo to his boss and a bunch of other relevant people in the company.

            Monday morning his boss called him in and read him the riot act, consisting in large part of telling him he was a terrible human being and he’d better never again in his life send a memo like that to the boss’s colleagues.  My friend came to lunch, bleeding profusely from serious wounds in his psyche and, looking hurt and uncomprehending, he asked, “Why is he kicking me?  Why isn’t he trying to fix the problem?”

            Because there are two ways to make a problem go away.  One is to solve the problem.  The other is to prevent someone from telling you there is a problem.

            I am now the possessor of certified letters from three different doctors, each kicking me out of their practice.  Two of them go beyond kicking me out of their practices and actually kick me out of their groups.  One of them, in fact, is signed by a medical director and kicks me out of an entire medical complex—a teaching hospital, no less.

            And what have I done that is so onerous that I may never darken their doorsteps again?  Have I failed to pay their bills?  Nope.  I’ve kept my insurance intact and they’ve been paid in full and in time.  Have I failed to keep appointments?  Nope.  I appear at the right time on the right day, reliable as clockwork.  Have I been abusive—sworn, spit, thrown things, called their mother’s names?  Nope.  Do I owe doctors anything else?  Not that I’m aware.

            So why are they kicking me?  Why aren’t they trying to solve the problem?

            I don’t know.  I don’t know what the problems are.  Doctors are not required to tell patients why they are being kicked out.  Really.  Honestly and truly.  A doctor is required to send a certified letter of notification, but not a reason.

            And here’s what’s struck me—what made me think of my friend, the big shit computer guy who wears faded jeans to work.  The doctors are kicking me out because they are the bosses.  It’s not about medicine; it’s about power.

            I am a very smart person.  A brilliant neuropsychologist tested me and said I have a “very superior” intelligence, and my board scores were high enough to get me into medical school.  Consequently, I can see and understand the flaws in the medical system, and the errors made by the physicians in the system.

            And I point them out.

            I take the medical industry on its own terms and point out its own problems.  When a doctor makes a mistake, I tell him so.  Recently I went to a doctor who accused me of seeing some other doctor in his specialty while I was seeing him.  He said, “You saw me on May 20 and you saw her on 4/22.”  I pointed out to him that 4/22 was April, not May, and I had terminated with her before I saw him.  No matter—he neither acknowledged his error nor apologized for it.  (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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