Yelling at Mark


It is September, the day after Labor Day. Children are back in school, parents’ vacations are over, and it’s time to hunker down and get back to work. So where are we at?

So far today, I have had several conversations with people at the NYS Dept. of Health. They advise me that soon there will be an on-site investigation, particularly regarding my use of a power wheelchair and my roommate’s inability to use her call bell.

I have been very busy this weekend filing complaints about Cora and her call bell, and this morning I finally talked to someone at DOH who told me (a) that my complaint had been denied; (b) I had been told that, and (c) the reasons for it.

Now the fact is that what I was told by Alice from DOH, who is not half as smart or powerful as she thinks, was that the complaint was denied: she did not give me any reasons, nor did she tell me WHICH complaint. I have filed a lot of complaints. DOH does not advise of the case number on the complaint UNTIL THEY CLOSE THE COMPLAINT. At which time, sweet little Alice, in the letter she sends you, DOES NOT STATE THE SUBJECT OF THE COMPLAINT.

Honest to God. “Your complaint #890345-7120-8 has been investigated and denied.” Not a clue what the complaint was about. Little Alice did not go to the who-what-when-where-and-why school of letter writing. So, anyway, her boss—or perhaps her boss’s boss—actually read me the reason why the case on behalf of Cora was closed: the Iroquois stated that Cora had a specially designed call bell.

Well, yeah, but what the Iroquois DID NOT TELL THE DOH was that Cora is demented and hasn’t got a clue where the call bell is, what it is for, or how to use it. Now, here, I gotta tell you something funny. You-all have been following this business of Cora and the call bell.

Last night, Rup, who is one of the kindest of the kind Bhutanese aides, put Cora to bed and at the very last, as he was settling her down, he leaned down to her ear and told her all about her call bell. He quietly, gently, explained to her where it was and how to use it. They had a little chat about it and then he turned off her light and went on his way.

Cora immediately activated the call bell. Rup came back, turned off the bell, ascertained that Cora didn’t need anything, and left again.

And Cora rang the call bell again.

Rup came back and so forth and so on, while I laid in the dark on my side of the curtain giggling my head off. What if we had just created a monster who would NEVER STOP CALLING? Could the Iroquois possibly be allowed to remove her call bell? Cora, bless her 98-year-old heart, had learned HOW to use the call bell, but hadn’t the slightest clue WHY.

Well, of course, by morning what Cora had learned had been extinguished and she was back to mo-ther, mo-ther, mo-ther. Try waking up with that every morning for a month. Consider your cat sitting on your chest, or your toddler climbing on your bed, then consider Cora calling for her mo-ther, mo-ther, mo-ther. By the time the nurse comes in with my morning meds, I’m pretty damn hostile.

So, anyway, I called all these people at DOH and just keep repeating PLEASE TRANSFER ME TO YOUR SUPERVISOR. That’s what you do and how you get your civic needs met. One woman, halfway up the line, HUNG UP ON ME. O-o-o-o, seriously bad move. These people—these hideous Civil Service morons—think that they are absolute power. If they don’t want to work with you then they will cut you off and that’s the end of that.

HA! They never see it coming. They never, ever, think that the caller has the brains and the persistence to find their boss and file a complaint against them. They don’t believe it until the boss walks across the room and says, “Did you just take a call from someone named Anne Woodlen?”

Yepper, yepper, yepper.

So I get this boss’s boss, Mark or whoever, and he keeps saying, “WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?”

Because Alice is a moron and Donna is a moron and Cora has been begging for her mother and I’ve been listening to it several times a day every day for a month AND IT’S YOUR JOB TO FIX IT.

That would be the reason.

So he insists that Alice has told me all this stuff and read me all this stuff—which she hasn’t—but he finally reads to me the results of the DOH’s “investigation.” Some investigation. The way Alice works in the nursing home Case Resolution Unit appears to be this: Alice takes my complaint, asks the Iroquois for their version, THEN ACCEPTS THEIR VERSION WITHOUT CHALLENGE.

The way it should work is this: Alice gets the Iroquois version and then calls me back and says, “Does this hold water?”

In fact, what Mark reads to me is the Iroquois statement that Cora has a special call bell and therefore is connected. Fact: Cora HAS NO CLUE about how to use the call bell. Mark starts writing all this down. He makes a clear, cogent statement about Cora having dementia. Hello? Have we finally got it now?

And Mark says that sometime—like tomorrow—there will be an on-site investigation at the Iroquois of Cora’s circumstances.

And I have stopped yelling. I am speaking calmly and quietly because someone is finally listening.

And I explain to Mark that if Alice or Donna had done their jobs right then he never would have had to listen to me yell at him—but I don’t think he gets it that he is responsible for his subordinates. Maybe his boss will get it.

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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5 Responses to Yelling at Mark

  1. John Frantz says:

    YouYouget four out of five stars. Why? Because I wouldn’t want to be Mark.

  2. Jack says:

    a-haha!
    GO ANNE!
    Whenever God calls Cora home.. she will no longer be confused and will know.
    And she will LAUGH her Bippie Off as well.
    and she will smile peaceful thanksgiving into your heart for caring AND for doing.

    These have become my favorite stories now Anne.
    Please keep them coming – The Cora Collection or something.
    Stories of how (and not in a mean way of course, but laughing at how sometimes we as people just ‘don’t get it’. and i Don’t mean Cora!
    But those around her attempting to teach her something New to have it back-fire or well you get the picture. 🙂 Yay Cora!

  3. Jack says:

    Oh.. stating the obvious..
    just because they give her a “Special” type of call bell…
    AND make sure it is close to her…
    Has No Helpful Effect or Usefullness if she Doesn’t KNOW What It IS Or What It’s There For!
    I measn esp. if it’s Alsheimers ion which the mind looses all knowledge beginning with the Newsest Thing Learned. Making the very idea they can Teach her what it is/how to use it Incredibly Ridiculous!
    They’d be better off to put an item that looks like an old-timey telephone or something from her youth or early 20’s to up her chance that knowledge is still there for her – Not some New-Fangled Looking thing that she’s Never Ever Seen Before! ( Now, If they Believe she suffers from another form of dementia that does Not fit the Alsheimer’s pattern, well then pleasse forget that part!)

    Regardless of the type of dementia –
    The Only Real Options they have in these situations would be to:
    1.) Check on her Freq. and 2.) Placing her as Near to ans in the most direct view of The Nursing Station, so as to keep a better Eye and Ear on what she needs help with.

    But What DID They Do? They placed her as Faaaaaaar down the hall and awaaaaaay as humanly possible! Yup now THAT’S Nursing, esp. in a penny-pinching economy.
    And just saying here, I know you have a heart and of course would take on her needs whenever you can. That’s what makes some of us human and others well, not-so-much.
    But in a hospital, where All Patients there are in need of rest, some assistance etc…
    Simply placing her in a room with another patient, (i.e. Using the room mate as some form of security alarm system) is just Not friggin Appropriate.

    Although I Am so very glad to know that you do whatever you Can Do for her.
    Like you, she deserves respect and dignity and the same quality of care given to everyone else.
    And being that Cora is 97 and so painfully confussed, perhaps she deserves even more.

    Mercy is so Highly Under-rated

    • annecwoodlen says:

      The telephone-like call bell is a good idea. Cora has dementia, not Alzheimer’s, but I don’t really know the difference. The Iroquois has ceased to view her as human in pain; she’s just a broken machine, best ignored.

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