And the sun rises on a new day at Crouse Hospital. My view is the medical school on the left, the old Memorial Hospital unit on the right and, in between, Rt. 81, the steam plant on the Southside, and lots of green trees climbing up to Onondaga Hill. Somewhere out next to the reservoir there’s a big orange construction crane on the horizon. The day dawns golden and green.
Inside, I push my call bell around 6:00 a.m. and the nurse comes in bearing a pitcher of water (no ice) and a cup of juice, then empties my catheter bag. This is only my fourth morning and already the staff have gotten in step with my needs. The morning is quiet, broken only by cheerful murmurings at the nurses’ station and the occasional toilet being flushed.
I have no roommate this morning. There’s a story behind that, but one I will not publish at this time. When I was at St. Joe’s, I wrote about my roommate, Lucy, who was dying. I wrote respectfully and compassionately, but I wasn’t really writing about my roommate: I was writing about the failure of the hospital and the church to provide appropriate care to a dying person. (https://annecwoodlen.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/lucy-in-the-sky-is-dying/ )
“Either let the government pay for spiritual care in hospitals, or make weekly spiritual classes mandatory for physicians. If you are referring the patient out to God, then have a specialist in place to handle the transition.”
St. Joe’s got their panties in a twist and the next morning I woke up, called up my blog and got a big red STOP sign and the notice that my blog was “malicious.” Nobody at St. Joe’s ever talked to me about my blogging; they just shut me down. And when I requested a conversation about boundaries and appropriateness, they refused to meet with me.
Here at Crouse it’s different. In the first place, I know Bob Allen, who is Crouse’s vice president for communications. Bob and I met over their H2 parking lot—literally. My apartment overlooked their scenic parking lot and they were bringing in bulldozers, front loaders and dump trucks to remove snow in late January. This is Central New York; this is what we do—I know that—but they were doing it at 3:00 a.m. Sheesh. They had all weekend to do it. So Bob and I met.
Our most recent discussions have been about dorkheads using the H2 lot as a public toilet. Everybody who owns a parking lot on The Hill rents it out for games at the Dome to make a quick $3000. I get that. What I didn’t get was why I was waking up on Sunday mornings and seeing large dark ovals on the parking lot surface. Then one day I looked out the window on Saturday afternoon and saw a man peeing, and I got it! Every time you combine men, sports and beer, you get dark spots on the parking lot. Sheesh. Can you guys be any more jerkish? If you people want to know why you no longer can have tailgate parties in the parking lot at the corner of University and Harrison, it is because every time that you do, ten or fifteen guys unzip and pee.
And Crouse Hospital’s vice president for communications thinks this is pretty gross. So do I. We share community values. And when Bob learned that I was in one of his beds, he came to visit me. I introduced him to some people and discovered that he doesn’t like to go around calling attention to the fact that he’s a vice president, so now I just call him the vice president for parking lots, which puts him in his place.
Bob and I talked about a lot of stuff, which included this business of St. Joe’s blocking my blog. Bob’s position is basically this: (1) people have the right to speak freely; (2) if I write bad stuff about Crouse then (a) they have to take the hit and (b) look at what they’re doing wrong; (3) patients, particularly when they are at their most vulnerable, should be protected. I write good and valuable stories about people; I think my messages are important and I’m not being abusive.
St. Joe’s, which is a derivative of the Roman Catholic Church, has no notable commitment to free speech; the church wants the party line to be delivered; the priests and nuns talk to the people and the people do not talk back. And I should not be writing bad stuff about St. Joe’s—they’re very sure about that. And they are not particularly keen on looking at what they might be doing wrong.
Bob tells me that sometimes, when a patient has a really bad complaint about being mistreated at Crouse then they will have the patient, the nurses and/or other relevant people, sit down together and talk about what happened—what went wrong. I think that’s a pretty special approach—face-to-face; no written complaints necessary.
So Bob and I are talking about my right to speak and his need to protect, and he ends up looking down at his hands with a troubled expression on his face. He is not looking at me, telling me what I can and can’t do. He is not staring at the wall and quoting legalisms about boundaries. He is looking at his hands, with a troubled expression.
Between 86% and 93% of all human communication is nonverbal. Texting is fine for “Meet me at the theater at 7:30.” Email is fine for “Pick up a quart of milk on your way home.” Behavior easily can be communicated in print. For the more complicated matters of human thoughts and feelings, you need, at least, to use the phone where nuances and tones can be transmitted. At most, human communication should take place with face-to-face contact.
I woke up this morning, wanting deeply to share with you the story of my roommate and the lessons learned, but I see Bob sitting next to my bed and looking troubled. That’s human communication. We didn’t have to draw up a legal contract or get into a power confrontation. All we had to do was see each other while we talked.