What Is Going to Happen?


So God says “Come on home,” and my mother shows up in my dreams to help me pack, and then it occurs to me:  all I have to do is stop drinking.

An incompetent psychiatrist kept me on lithium long after I was showing signs of toxicity:  she didn’t get it.  When I finally got away from her, I had nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, which is a rare kidney disease.  It is usually caused by bad doctors.

If you find yourself without liquids, like in the desert or on Rt. 81 during construction, your hypothalamus will send messages to your kidneys to conserve fluids and your kidneys will stop sending so much urine to the bladder.  Normally, when plasma runs through kidneys, they draw out most of the water and recycle it; this is how you get “concentrated” urine.  This also is why, if you’re not putting new fluid in at the top then there will be less fluid running out at the bottom.  Your body holds on to water so you won’t dehydrate.

Because of the damage done by the psychiatrist prescribing lithium, the parts of my kidneys that are supposed to draw out the water and recycle it don’t work.  The hypothalamus says “Stop” and the kidneys just shrug.  They’re not going to do it.  This means that I’m dumping enormous quantities of urine—about eight liters a day (normal is two)—and for years I’ve had to drink—um, well, about eight liters a day—to keep from dehydrating.

Now, all I have to do to die is stop drinking.  If you stop drinking, you’ll remain conscious for at least three days; me, not so long.  And I have a Health Care Proxy that says they can’t insert an IV and rehydrate me.  So last Thursday while I’m contemplating the implications of not drinking, the home health care nurse calls to say she’s coming.  I don’t remember who said what to whom that precipitated her visit, but she tells me that she has called Bobbi Dallas, my case worker in Onondaga County’s Long Term Care Unit and that Bobbi will be calling me. 

So Friday morning I am laying in bed with my auto BiPAP mask on when Nurse Sharon arrives.  I take off the mask and a couple minutes later Sharon puts the finger-thingy on to measure my oxygen level.  It is a splendid 98%, which only goes to show that the auto BiPAP really is working well.  If I’d gotten out of bed and watered the houseplants, what would it have been?

Steve, who holds my Health Care Proxy, and I have been trying to figure out how to get me a medical alert thingy—“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”—since I live alone and can’t work my cell phone.  Well, actually, Steve and I decided I needed one, but it’s up to him to figure out how to get one because I can’t manage complicated things now.  So, when I mention it to Sharon, she says, “Bobbi Dallas can get that for you; tell her when she calls.”  [It is now a week later and Bobbi Dallas has not called.]

So Sharon is giving me all kinds of information and asking me all kinds of questions and she’s doing it in energetic, rapid-fire, nurse mode, and I can’t keep up.  I’m lying on my back in bed with my eyes closed and getting seriously overwhelmed by things I don’t understand and can’t remember.  Finally, Sharon says something that’s just too much and I snap at her.

She responds by lecturing me on how to be nice to her.

Well!  She’s been in my home ten or fifteen times in the past year, and we’ve had some good conversations.  We have had a friendly relationship and she bloody well knows that I know how to behave nicely, nevertheless, she keeps on lecturing me:  “I’m being nice to you, aren’t I?” she says.  Yeah, I think, and you’re on your feet while I’m flat on my back, and you’ve been sent here for an emergency evaluation because I’m doing so poorly.

I ask her to leave.  She keeps talking.  I tell her to leave.  She does.  A few minutes later I get a call from Anger Banger.

I don’t know what this woman’s name is.  She is middle-management at the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA).  I’ve talked to her on the phone a couple of times—all calls that were frustrating and useless—but I’ve never met her or seen her name in print, nor is she listed on the VNA web site.  Her name is something like Amor Banco, which would suggest foreign birth but she speaks without any accent.

So Anger Banger calls me and tells me that the VNA is terminating my case.  She goes on at great length about terms of termination—Sharon will still come next Monday to change my catheter, but 30 days and blah blah blah.  I am shocked that I’m being terminated and totally confused by the details of it.

I finally interrupt Anger Banger to say, “May I please tell you what happened?”

And she says, “No.”

WTF?  She has no intention of listening to both sides of the story?

So I hang up on her.  I’m not understanding what she’s saying to me, and she’s not going to listen to me, so what’s the point?

That was on Friday.  Over the weekend I spend some time lying in bed thinking about things and one thing that becomes very clear to me is that Sharon is supposed to come a week from Monday to change my catheter but I don’t want Sharon anywhere near me.

Picture this:  one person, called “the patient” is alone in her apartment, lying flat on her bed, naked from the waist down.  Standing over her are two uniformed people called “nurses.”  The operative one is so angry at the patient that she has refused to ever speak to her again.  That nurse is going to stick a foreign object into the patient’s body, so the nurse orders the patient to spread her legs and relax.  Yeah, right.  Not going to happen.

So what is going to happen?

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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