My Right Arm and Your Paycheck (Part I)


            Okay, this story’s crazy, like the time it cost you—my neighbor-taxpayers—$60 to have a splinter removed from me.  As I tell the story, I’ll look at solutions along the way.The story starts with a statement I wrote on September 8, 2010:

My name is Anne C. Woodlen.  I reside at . . . Syracuse, NY 13210.  I am 63 years old, have been permanently disabled since 1991, and use a power wheelchair.

I have been a customer of HSBC Bank’s University branch, 1004 E. Adams St., Syracuse NY 13210, since approximately February 2009.  The branch has a concrete wheelchair-accessible ramp, but no press plate on the front door.  It has been a constant problem.

On Saturday, September 4, I went to the bank and used the ATM in the lobby.  Getting out of the lobby is the problem.  It has a glass door that opens to the right and has no press plate.  My wheelchair has its controls on the right.  Therefore, the only way I can exit the building is by kicking or pushing the glass door open as far as I can and going through as fast as I can [with my right hand on the joystick].

It is not possible to do it safely or conveniently.  On this occasion, the inside door handle hit me in the right upper arm.  The pain was extreme.

When I got home and took off my sweatshirt, I discovered an inch-long abrasion on my arm, surrounded by an inflamed, swollen area about the size of an orange.  It hurt every time I moved my arm for two days, then it turned into a black and purple bruise the size of a grapefruit.

I showed the injury and reported the incident to the manager on Tuesday morning, Sept. 7, when the branch reopened after Labor Day.

I am sick and tired of buildings being halfway accessible.  If you’re going to put in a wheelchair ramp, then—damn it—put a press plate on the door!  Don’t beguile me into thinking you welcome my business when you don’t.

*Solution:  Disability training for HSBC’s architects and engineers, to wit:  every time you put in a concrete wheelchair ramp and a wheelchair-accessible ATM then you also have to put press-plates on the doors.

So my arm hurt real badly, then not so bad, then got alright.  I no longer had any pain and I went on about my business, including banking at HSBC, which I now hated and feared.  Otherwise, I forgot all about it.

A couple weeks ago—a month removed from the bruise—my right bicep started hurting.  I’d lost normal range of motion, and every time I tried to move my arm up or back I’d cry out in pain.  I couldn’t figure out why.  There hadn’t been any injury in recent memory.  Every day, I’d try to figure out what had changed that was causing the limitation and pain.

            Then last Thursday morning I woke up and it hit me:  the bank injury.  Was it possible that, a month after the fact, I was having pain from that?  And if so, shouldn’t I get a little physical therapy to fix the problem?

            The first obstacle here is that I no longer have a primary care physician.  Every time I went to see him, he kept me waiting at least an hour. 

  • Solution:  Have doctors do reality-scheduling.  If they are always running late it is because they are scheduling patients too close together.  Be honest about your schedule and leave catch-up gaps in it.  Seriously, would it kill you to let me wait in my living room instead of your waiting room?

Powerlessness—which is what sitting in a doctor’s waiting room is—triggers my bipolar depression.

  • Solution:  Retroactively be conceived by a father without bipolar disorder.

            Absent a primary care physician, I called Northeast Medical Urgent Care (“If you can’t get in to see your physician, you can visit an Urgent Care Center,” BlueCross BlueShield) and asked what time they opened in the morning, then I called Medicaid transportation and asked for a pickup up at 7:00 a.m. Friday.

            At 7:15 they picked me up and took me to Urgent Care where I got checked in, triaged, and seen by a nurse practitioner.  She spent about five minutes listening to my problem, poking my arm, hearing me yell, and telling me that she would order an x-ray and ultrasound.  She said she was pretty sure it wasn’t broken and I didn’t have a blood clot, but we would check.

            I was surprised, but comforted.  Neither a break nor a clot had occurred to me, but wasn’t it nice that we were going to make sure I didn’t have either one?

            The x-ray process took about half an hour, then I was transferred across the hall to St. Joseph’s Imaging.  The ultrasound started at about 9:10 a.m. and took nearly an hour, after which I went down the hall for a cup of coffee and an apple tart, then I returned to Urgent Care treatment room #8, which was being held for me—not exactly held against a heavy tide of patients.  There were only three of us in residence.

            After reading my murder mystery for half an hour, I went out and asked how long it would take to get the test results.  “An hour,” I was told.  It was at this point that I began to get restive and less than satisfied with the process.

  • Solution:  When stuff is being ordered, tell the patient how long it will take.  The distance between expectation and reality is the measure of frustration and anger.  Give the patient realistic expectations.

I don’t know when I started calculating costs, but I did.  Wouldn’t you?  (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
This entry was posted in American medical industry, Depression, disability, Government Services, Health Care, Medical care, Medicare, Mental Illness & Health, Poverty, power wheelchairs, Powerlessness and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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