Crouse and Anne, St. Joe’s and Cora


Madonna, singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” is on the player and I guess I kind of feel like that: don’t cry for me. I’m healing. A master psychotherapist once told me that hurting comes from bad human relationships, healing comes from healthy ones, and a therapist is supposed to be a healthy person, therefore able to enter into a healing relationship.

Well, we’re still working on getting me together with professional healers but, meantime, so many of the healthy Crouse Hospital employees have been contributing to my healing. It started the first morning when Nursing Assistant Anitra preached the gospel to me. You know, us children-of-God types find each other. We have our little code words we exchange to say that the message would be welcomed. Deep healing there in the first, worst moments.

Then Joyce, the nurse who comes around and gives Reiki. One day she stayed after-time and we exchanged stories. A couple times it’s been Bob, the night nurse, who comes in the darkness, holds my hand and listens. The fourth floor of the Iroquois had the darkest energy I’ve ever beheld. The second floor was okay—better than okay, it was good, but the fourth floor . . . um-hm. The administrative attitude behind the Palliative Care Unit was inhuman.

The first problem was the malicious reason why they put me on Palliative Care, which is not where I belonged. Second, they illegally took away my electric chair, thereby confining me to bed. Then there was Cora. The bedside aides were kind to her but administrative policy put her beyond the reach of the aides most of the time.

Listening to other people suffer but not being able to help them is one of the circles of hell. I guess I was there to provide an amplifier so that the outside world could hear the suffering. Where there is suffering, there is supposed to be comforting. Mother Teresa would have been furious about the Iroquois. So would Jesus. Six weeks there nearly killed me. Thursday morning the board meets and some of the board members are looking pretty grim.

I am out of there, and recovering, but I keep thinking about Cora. Did they leave the other bed empty so no one would hear her? Or put in someone who is deaf and can’t hear her? Or equally demented and unable to respond? Who is taking care of Cora now that I am gone? Have they moved her? Has God seen fit to take her? The Dept. of Health inspector was in there a week ago and she said she interviewed Cora. I would like to know what is going on at the Iroquois now but all I do know is that I did the best I could; I did what I believe God put me there to do.

Back at Crouse for the third time in four months, I ordered lunch and Marie came in to deliver it—then stopped and did a take, then a double-take. She’s now delivered to me on Crouse’s fourth, fifth and sixth floors. The care provided on each floor is of the same quality; I haven’t found a dark, secret floor at Crouse; it’s all the same high quality. So I told Marie that I’m a secret, undercover quality control investigator and we laughed. Anyway, she laughed.

At Crouse, they shuffle you off the ambulance stretcher and on to the Emergency Department stretcher, then they wrap you in a blanket just recovered from the blanket-warmer, which is a blessing. Then you can lay there and look at the ceiling that has one big square that is painted with other squares ranging in size from large-sponge to postage stamp.

They’re painted in various shades of blue and green and are surprisingly pleasant to look at whether someone is digging in your wrist for a vein or whether you’re just whiling away the time waiting for the lab tests to come back. It takes so little to make things nice—a good idea, an open mind, a couple high school volunteers, $5.00 worth of supplies. Creativity. People have it but it needs to be nurtured and approved.

I never know when a random observation will trigger horrific memories of the Iroquois. That last morning, I vomited violently and copiously. I cried out for relief but nobody came. I knew how Cora felt. When I needed help to get to the toilet for a bowel movement, I pushed the call bell. The nurse came, ignored the vomit, and told me I had to wait because the aide was late. I couldn’t. I fouled the bed, once and again.

When the aide came, she ignored me and got Cora dressed and down to breakfast. Cora had heard me and tried to tell the aide. “She was crying,” Cora said; “Why was she crying?” Cora knew my pain. The aide ignored Cora’s words. They have her labeled as demented so they don’t even try to listen to her. Then the aide went to work on me.

She stripped me naked and left me shivering convulsively while she worked. Why couldn’t she just have uncovered one-quarter of me at a time? She called the young black male aide to hold me on my side, and he found me naked. I had vomited into my hair but she did nothing to clean that up. She made me wear briefs. Because she was late in coming to help me, now I had to wear briefs. That’s the Iroquois way.

I am very sad. Why is there so much meanness at the Iroquois? If Crouse Hospital can paint a square yard of the ER ceiling, then why can’t the Iroquois keep me partially covered? Is this so hard?

It is an act of the heart and if the heart is hard . . .

Crouse is co-owner and co-director of the Iroquois. How did Crouse Hospital let the conditions at the Iroquois Nursing Home become so awful? And what of the other co-owner and co-director, St. Joseph’s Hospital? They have lower standards of care, but Crouse—Crouse, I trusted you.

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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