When His Pain Becomes My Pain


The Iroquois Nursing Home, Fourth Floor, Palliative Care

When I came out of the bathroom at 5:30 a.m. a man somewhere on this floor was crying out for help. Over and over and over again, he cried, “Help me, help me, help me please, nurse, nurse . . .”

After ten minutes, he stopped. After another ten minutes, he started again. This time he cried out incessantly for twenty minutes. “Help me, help me, help me, please, nurse, nurse …”

I am told that “he has a bad bedsore and is nervous.”

What happens to employees who work in a place where people cry out in pain incessantly? Bedsores are preventable and treatable. Bad bedsores are something that the NYS Dept. of Health is supposed to investigate. Despite my complaints, there is no indication that they have done so.

Why isn’t the man being given sufficient pain medication to silence his cries? Why isn’t he being given anything for his “nervousness?” A pill, a hand to hold?

What happens to other patients who hear someone crying in pain and can do absolutely nothing? It is one of the circles of hell, this business of hearing a fellow human suffering and not even being able to go to his bedside.

Finally, I respond with numbness and depression. I sit and stare internally. There is nothing I can do.

I call for my pain medicine. It will put me to sleep and I will not hear this. I know of nothing else I can do.

Frieda, who dined at my table, died last Monday. Then Doris and Dave died. Alice, who sits across from me at table, has severe melanomas on her face. I look at that every time I eat. I am cognitively competent and living in a death house.

The Iroquois says I am on the list for a room change. I want the room change to go to Cora. Fact: in the past week there have been three room vacancies created. None of them have gone to either Cora or I. We are cast out to die in the desert of the Iroquois’ uncaring. The Iroquois administrators have no intention of relieving the suffering of either Cora or I.

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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2 Responses to When His Pain Becomes My Pain

  1. John Doe says:

    You are a horrible person evil woman. I do nt have any sympathy or remorse for u at all.. u degrade individuals then have the nerve to want sympathy?????? U ever think the iroquois was givin u everything u deserved 🙂

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