With God as Our Defense

So the hearing was scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

At 9:00 a.m., I was informed that Dr. Stahl, the chief medical officer, had given the order that no Crouse staff members were to appear at the hearing. I was devastated. Ninety minutes before the hearing starts and he shoots me dead.

In the past four months I have spent ten weeks in Crouse Hospital. They have washed me, fed me and medicated me. They have kept me warm and dry and safe. Nobody knows me better than Crouse—and nobody from Crouse is allowed to be there to talk about it? W-h-a-a-a-t???

I was way beyond upset. Why would Dr. Stahl, whom I have never laid eyes on, do this to me? Crouse? Which has taken such good care of me? Abandoning me now? And wouldn’t you think that since I’m in their bed, and they’ve had to eat the cost for more than two months, that they would have some enlightened self-interest in having their staff in the room to know what’s going on?

The hearing was about whether I needed skilled nursing: who would know better the hospital I’m living in? Hospital is the place where doctors decide what you’re up for and then discharge planners carry it forward. And Chief Medical Officer Ron Stahl had decided that no one from the hospital would testify for me.

So I did what I always do when someone messes with me: I called his boss, in this case, Crouse Hospital President Dr. Kronenberg. He was in meetings all day so I left a message asking if Stahl’s decision was made with Dr. Kronenberg’s knowledge and approval.

I told Stevie, the Wonder POA (Power of Attorney) that we would only be accompanied by God and that would be enough, then we headed down to the board room where the hearing would be held. The board room was exactly what you would expect from a multi-million dollar corporation—high ceiling (why do we equate high ceilings with power and authority?), lots of hard wood, and a big long table surrounded by chairs. The judge, in shirt sleeves, was arranging things around the table when we arrived.

He ushered me, in my wheelchair, to a place across the table from him—and I refused to take it. It would put me directly next to Susan Greer, nursing supervisor at the Iroquois, and the person who has been the most unfair, untruthful, unreasonable and unkind to me. I had a visceral reaction against her, so some other woman whom I did not know offered to trade seats, which I accepted.

I moved up to the table; Steve took the seat on my right and noted that the seat on his right creaked—God taking third-seat. At 10:35 a.m. Judge William Lynch put on his coat and the hearing started with introductions. We had been expecting four or five Iroquois administrators and their physician; what we got was the Iroquois Administrator Sonya Mosher, Director of Social Services (whom I’d never seen or heard of before), Discharge Planner Mia, Nursing Supervisor Susan Greer and perhaps one other person—and lawyers. Not one but two. No physician but two lawyers.

Susan Greer was sworn in first and the Iroquois lawyer started to question her. Most immediately, Greer stated that I’m psychotic. I gasped, shocked and horrified. It certainly was an effective strategy to put me off my game. Greer was smug about it. She and the other Iroquois administrators had a prior conference with the lawyers in which they prepared for the hearing. Stevie and I had . . . um . . . a couple of hit-or-miss conversations in person or by phone.

Much later, when I finally got to cross-examine Greer—I could not make any statements, such as “You are a stupid, venomous old bitch and you better take that back!”—I started by taking her through the last hearing. The gist of the dialogue was this:

Me: You swore to tell the truth?

Her: Yes.

Me: And you testified that you had sent a Discharge Notice?

Her: Yes.

Me: And the judge, after questioning me, my Power of Attorney, and the hospital representative, found no evidence that you had done so—so it appears that you committed perjury, didn’t you?

Her: [Something inconsequential.]

Having established that nobody should believe anything Greer had testified to, I asked, “You said you had a two-year nursing degree?”

Her: Yes.

Me: How does that qualify you to make a diagnosis of psychosis?

Her: [Something inconsequential.]

Greer had testified to all kinds of untruths, for example, that I had made multiple trips off-campus to see doctors, that I had played ball outside with some children, that I made extended trips to my old apartment, that I had told a lot of Iroquois employees about my blog, and so forth. I made notes (which are currently out of distance from my reference).

It was awful. Here were these enormous lies establishing what a horrible—and healthy—person I was, and I could not directly counter them. I could not shout liar, liar, pants on fire; I only could ask, how many trips did I make to the doctor? She said she didn’t know. Did you see me play ball? No, someone told her about it. Steve was repeatedly whispering to me to ask if it was in the Progress Notes: if it wasn’t documented then it didn’t happen.

I was working on Greer’s credibility: how did she know this? Did she see it? Wasn’t this basically Whisper Down the Lane? How much time did I spend at my apartment? A lot, she said. How do you know, I asked? Well, she would have to check the log for when I signed out and back in. But that would only tell you how long I’d been out, right, not how long I’d been at the apartment?

I am recalling that on one of these trips I spent a long time sitting by a pond drinking mudslides with a friend.

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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