St. Joe’s: Discrimination on the Basis of Disability


This guy is driving out in the country and he comes to a field that contains a donkey and a sign that the donkey is for sale. The guy’s always kind of wanted a donkey, so he stops to talk to the farmer, who assures him that the donkey is a good one and will follow voice commands without a problem. So the guy buys the donkey, takes it home, and tries to work with it.

It won’t work. “Walk,” “whoa,” “stop,” and “go” have no effect; the donkey just stands there, so the guy takes the donkey back to the farmer and complains about the problem. The farmer reaches into the back of his pickup truck, pulls out a two-by-four, and smacks the donkey over the head with it.

The guy howls, “What did you do that for?”

The farmer replies, “First you’ve got to get his attention.”

One morning in the hospital I called four attorneys. That day four doctors came to see me.

First you have to get their attention.

Fifteen years ago the term “hospitalist” came into use. A hospitalist is a general physician who only sees patients who are hospitalized. My first one technically showed up when I was admitted to an inpatient med/surg unit, but the person actually working with me was physician assistant Jennifer Boland. Ms Boland was thoughtful, thorough, patient, and took a lot of time really trying to figure out what was wrong with me and what to do about it. She wrote the lengthy chart note that the hospitalist signed. After seven twelve-hour days, they went off duty for a week.

The next hospitalist was Dr. Parvaiz Naseem, who was on the case for three days and whose only memorable contribution was a discussion of his flower garden, which includes dahlias and marigolds.

On the fourth day of the second week, I got Dr. Sravanthi Ravulapati. While under her care I took four doses of insulin, had a bad reaction, and stopped taking it. Roughly speaking, it was an allergic reaction. I am allergic to all medications. Nobody knows why. Nobody will try to find out. It may be consequent to being poisoned by unmonitored lithium for seven years. Dr. Ravulapati said she’d never heard of anyone reacting to insulin.

I replied, “And you’ve never treated anyone who took antidepressants every day for twenty-six years, then stopped, or has been poisoned by lithium, either. You don’t know what kind of drug damage I may have suffered.” Dr. Ravulapati refused to accept it. She offered no alternate explanation for my reaction, ordered no tests to evaluate the problem, and refused to request consultations with any other specialists. She did continue to insist that I take the insulin that had hurt me.

So, as directed, in the morning I told the floor nursing manager that I did not want Dr. Ravulapati to be my physician anymore; I wanted a new doctor. That afternoon Dr. Christian Andrade walked into my room and told me he was discontinuing the catheter and discharging me to home.

I asked if he would listen to my side of the story.

When you make decisions about people without their input, knowledge, or permission then you have just created an adversarial relationship, which is exactly what Chris Andrade did. It is a doctor’s job to figure out what ails the patient and then make recommendations for treatment. It is the patient’s right to decide what treatment to accept. The patient has lived in her body every minute since she was born. She has information about herself that the doctor doesn’t. She knows what works best for her. The doctor is an informed advisor, not a commanding officer.

The doctor who makes decisions about a patient without ever meeting the patient is a fucking asshole.

Andrade, who appears to have been Ravulapati’s supervisor, had absolutely no knowledge of the home circumstances to which he was discharging me. I sleep in a hospital bed, travel in a power wheelchair, and have an aide two hours a day to give me showers and do my cooking. Andrade’s plan was to discharge me home without any food in the refrigerator, no way to get any, and no aide to cook it. And we’re not even going to talk about the Foley catheter issues except to say that before I got it, I was suicidal. He’s okay with me going back to that.

So Andrade and I talked, which is only to say that we both said words out loud. I kept saying, “You can’t discharge me with a glucose level of 475!” That led to multiple exchanges about the insulin, with me trying to bring the light of knowledge into the darkness of his already-made-up mind. Then we got to the real bomb. I said I had a bad reaction to the insulin and he said it was “psychiatric.”

No man calls me mentally ill and walks away with his balls intact.

Dr. Christian Andrade is not a psychiatrist. He is not qualified to make psychiatric judgments (and this was not a diagnosis; it was a judgment). No physician is legally allowed to work outside his specialty. Your gynecologist is not allowed to treat your bad heart and your cardiologist is not allowed to operate on your Achilles tendon and your podiatrist is not allowed to deliver your baby. But somehow every stupid son-of-bitch who graduated medical school thinks he knows enough to treat psychiatric illnesses. Every M.D. out there is prescribing tranquilizers and antidepressants that they are not qualified to prescribe. Most antidepressants are prescribed by primary care physicians. (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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4 Responses to St. Joe’s: Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

  1. anonymous says:

    you have CLEARLY got issues, psych or not…I believe that you don’t want to get discharged from st. joes cuz what on earth are you going to blog about ???? NOTHING….and who gets suicidal because of a foley catheter ??????????? omg, only a mentally unstable individual if you ask me…..GET A LIFE, instead of worrying about getting your wi fi, have someone stock your fridge so you have food when you get discharged from the hospital….clearly, your priorities are not where they should be. Step back, read ALL you’ve been bloging about, and think for a minute…..does all that sound like a mentally stable person ???? I DON’T THINK SO….

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Dorkhead, I didn’t say I got suicidal because of a Foley catheter. I was suicidal because I hadn’t slept more than two hours at a time for ten years. I was suicidal because I was so tired. The Foley catheter was the solution. And have you read all the blogs I wrote before I went to the hospital? Hum-m-m-m, seems like there’s always something to write about. You’re a narrow minded person who makes judgments about other people without understanding them. Wheel a mile in my chair. How’ve you been sleeping? Know what it’s like not to sleep?

  2. deborah button says:

    dear Anne, I appreciate your email but I do not appreciate filthy language. I pray and believe the best for your health and am interested in more emails about your farm- it sounds like a very healthy lifesyle. May God bless you with better health. It helps alot to read and meditate on the Bible. I am truly sorry for all the problems you’ve had. I have a sister who lives in a group home and has been on psychiatric meds since she was 19. My parents did the best they knew how but influenced my sister’s behavior greatly.

    • annecwoodlen says:

      Dear Deborah,
      I think it contained two swear words. If you can’t tolerate that then you need to read “Speaking My Language, and the Good Guys” (posted on or about August 16). The farm was torn down about ten years ago and replaced with townhouses. The past was a nice place but you have to live with what is real and what is now. I expressed anger. You need to accept that, figure out what’s causing the anger, and do something about it instead of trying to make me not be angry and not express my anger. Do you visit your sister on a frequent basis and try to understand her world, or have you dumped her the way my sisters dumped me? Your sister is undoubtedly angry, too. She has a right to be since you’ve decided to leave her in an institutionalized setting instead of accepting her into your home. P.S. It helps more to read and meditate on the Bhagavad Gita, which, actually, is where meditation began. The Gita is a warrior’s manual.

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