Catheter Care
In my home of origin, I carried my catheter bag around by its hook and hung it on the magazine rack, napkin drawer or wherever. I had no shame; it is what it is. When I went out, I put it in a nice tote bag that hung on the arm of my power wheelchair.

In the Iroquois Nursing Home—which they tell me is my home now—they deem my catheter bag to be offensive. Do they put it in some specially designed catheter tote, which exists on the market? No, they wrap it in a pillow case. What shouts shame louder than a catheter bag wrapped in a pillow case?

Then they hang it under the manual wheelchair where it gets run over and you never know if it’s just the pillowcase that’s being run over or the bag itself, and are you about to have a crisis of urine running all over? And people ask why you’ve got that piece of sheet or whatever under your chair. When I used a proper tote bag, nobody had any reason to ask.

In the world, all the doctors told me the catheter had to be changed once every thirty days in order to avoid infection. In the Iroquois, they tell me that catheters are only changed every ninety days. What’s the plan—that we should get infections and die? Maybe it’s for the best.

Perry Como, Again
In the dining room, there are six tables for six. Fran and I sit together for breakfast. Perry Como is playing on the CD player. Afterwards, about a dozen residents, including Fran, are left parked in the dining room until lunch is served.

I leave the dining room, put an Alan Jackson CD on my computer and work for an hour, then get a shower and shampoo, then go back to the computer to work, this time with Pandora radio playing a mixed selection of folk, Broadway, Bette Midler, Harry Belafonte and others, then I go back to the dining room for lunch. I comment on the Perry Como music that is playing.

Fran spits and snarls. She and the others left in the dining room have been listening to the Perry Como CD repeat nonstop for four hours.

Bedtime for Cora
They bring Cora in at 8:00 p.m. and put her to bed. She objects repeatedly and asks why she has to go to bed so early. They do not answer her. NYS child day care regulations state that “Children must not be forced to rest for long periods of time.”

As they get Cora ready for bed, she cries out in pain over and over again. The female aide says, “You’re all right; you’re all right.” From the other side of the curtain, I say, “How can you say that when clearly she’s not all right?” The aides refuse to acknowledge that Cora is in pain.

A while after the aides leave, Cora starts calling for the nurse. I ask her what she needs. She says she has wet her pants and the bed. I tell her that she’s wearing diapers and cannot have wet the bed. Then she repeatedly asks for the nurse, saying over and over again that she’s wet her diaper. There’s no point in calling I want to scream.

At 8:30 p.m. the nurse comes to see me. I tell him Cora is calling that her diaper is wet. He stands by my bed for a long time. I do not look at him. He says he will tell her that she’s just been changed. I suggest that first he check to see if she’s wet.

He leaves the room. When he returns, he goes to Cora’s side and repeatedly says that she better not be lying like the last time. Cora has dementia; the nurse calls it lying. Then I hear the sound of him changing her diaper.

I am told that if I want to go outside, I must ask in the morning. I do. They don’t take me outside.

At the last meeting I said I’d like to go outside twice a day. Two days ago I told the nurse manager I’d like to go outside. She acted as if it was a new idea. I was not taken outside.

Yesterday I again asked to go outdoors. She asked the aide why I wasn’t taken out the day before. The aide replied that I was asleep. I was not given a time when I would be taken outdoors. Apparently I had to remain awake and alert at all times for the rare moment when an aide would come to take me outdoors. You only get one chance for fresh air.

Yesterday they took me outdoors for thirteen minutes.

In NYS child day care centers, “outdoor play is required for all . . .”

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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