A Little Touch of Reality (Part III)


Then an email comes from the judge that he’s having a conference call with my POA and the Iroquois’ lawyer. Why not me and Crouse, I ask him. Because it’s too many people on line, he says. So on Friday, 10/11, he has a half-hour conference call in which he is reported to be surprised that the Iroquois has not come up with a discharge plan.

The Iroquois has produced a list that includes the psychiatric case management attempts, as well as things like “St. Camillus Day Program: Mia left message. No return call.” I was expecting—perhaps the judge was, too—something like “24-hour aide service can be supplied at home through such-and-such; so-and-so will provide a weekly nursing visit, monthly doctor visits from whoever.” Instead, we get ‘The discharge planner made some phone calls and left some messages that weren’t followed up.’ Great.

Steve has been told by multiple management people at the Iroquois that my Social Security check, which I had to sign over to them in its entirety, has been returned to the Social Security Administration along with a note, which they showed him. We make some phone calls and try to find it and get it re-directed back to my bank account but are unsuccessful. Steve brings it up in the conference call.

Janet Callahan, managing partner of Hancock Estabrook law firm, ex-chief of its Litigation Unit, and attorney for the Iroquois, tells the judge that the check was sent back when I was discharged. The judge announces, as he did at the hearing, “She is still your resident.” She was not discharged; stop with the crap. The Iroquois issued a Discharge Notice; I appealed it, and the judge upheld my appeal. I still am a resident of the Iroquois. Then he orders Callahan to find my Social Security check. Within hours, she emails that it is still at the Iroquois.

Then the matter comes up of Crouse Hospital not getting paid for what is now a one-month stay. Callahan says “Of course they’re getting paid.” She knows nothing, absolutely nothing. She is a lawyer, and most certainly an extraordinarily well-paid one. Rich lawyers can’t even conceptualize poverty.

Some time ago, the Onondaga County Dept. of Social Services—in particular Chief Welfare Attorney Zachery Karmen—illegally denied me Medicaid transportation. In the period of about a month I missed appointments with the cardiologist, pulmonologist, and multiple et cetera physicians. After being denied treatment, when I finally got back to a doctor, he immediately said that I needed to be in the hospital.

When I went to one of the free lawyer consultations in the “Talk to a Lawyer” project sponsored by the Onondaga County Bar Association, the lawyer basically said I was screwed and there was nothing I could do about it. As I wheeled out the door, the lawyer asked, “If you couldn’t get Medicaid transportation, why didn’t you just take a taxi?” Because, duh, people who are receiving Medicaid are living below the poverty level.

At the time, I think my income was about $750 a month. If you can’t get Medicaid transportation then you stay home from the doctor and get on with dying. Being an activist in the face of corrupt political practices is, literally, a life-threatening occupation. And rich lawyers haven’t got a clue what it means to be poor. Callahan lives in a world where everybody has money, money buys insurance, and insurance pays for everything.

Callahan, by the way, has become a committed reader of my blog and, from that reading, has notified the judge that “she [meaning me] has gone out to dinner with friends.” I can’t remember that happening—at least not in recent history—nor can I find any reference in current blogs. All I remember is that one day my young friend and I went to Marshall Street, bought pizza and ate it sitting outside on the retaining wall.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the picture Attorney Callahan was trying to draw for the judge. “Gone out to dinner with friends”—wouldn’t that be lovely? I am reminded of going to the Genesee Grande and having steak and wine with friends . . . a long time ago. Such a long time ago. Tonight, meatloaf and mashed potatoes in a hospital bed.

I wonder what and where Callahan is eating tonight? This week’s hospitalist has brought me coconut ice cream; last week’s hospitalist brought me wine for the attempted treatment of distress. Six weeks ago, I was sitting in the Iroquois across from a woman with cancer spreading all over her face, watching her spend six minutes trying to get one forkful of food to her mouth.
[Sigh.] These times are hard and complicated. So where were we? Crouse wasn’t getting paid and Callahan said of course they were. Then the judge told Callahan she had two weeks to find out for sure and get back to him.

Fact: The next two weeks at Crouse will cost $125,000, for which they will not get paid. As of today, my unpaid bill at Crouse Hospital is well over a quarter of a million dollars. I know hospitals are rich and can afford to give some patients free care but this is ridiculous. And when I told one of the directors about Callahan’s callous and uninformed response, the director’s response was “So now [Callahan] is an expert on hospital financing?”

Naw, just an arrogant attorney who thinks she knows everything.

So what are we going to do? Well, since the judge has ruled that I am still a resident of the Iroquois, and since the conditions at the Iroquois are so substandard as to be unlivable, then will you join me in petitioning the judge to have the Iroquois pay my bill at Crouse Hospital? I mean, fair’s fair.

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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6 Responses to A Little Touch of Reality (Part III)

  1. MaryC says:

    Anne, you are a wonderful writer, but I find it hard to believe that Iroquois is such a bad place. Especially since you want to go back there. I wouldn’t go back there if I were you, I don’t think they want you there.

  2. MaryC says:

    substandard? unlivable? Don’t 160 people live there? Why hasn’t the state shut them down or cut off their funding? I heard they were the best in Syracuse, a five star rating…..hmmmm, makes you wonder who was doing the rating….Anne, I must ask, is this the only long term care facility you have been in? Have you got something to compare it to? I, thankfully have not ever been unfortunate enough to require long term care but my parents may someday soon, as they are into their 80’s….how do you find a perfect nursing home?

    • annecwoodlen says:

      The fact that 160 people do live at the Iroquois does not mean that they want to. They are placed there and forgotten. I suspect that when the Iroquois opened, it may have earned it 5 stars; now it is just coasting. Well, no more. It’s up and on DOH’s radar now because of the complaints I filed. On the Palliative Care Unit, I did not see or talk to anyone who was happy being there. Imagine hating your home but being unable to move.

      I have been in two other skilled nursing homes but I do not compare the Iroquois to them. I compare the Iroquois to the standards set by the Dept. of Health. That is the level at which the Iroquois is supposed to be providing services.

      You don’t “find” a perfect nursing home. You do research on-line, talk to friends and other people in the same situation, follow the on-line check lists, and make site visits. Then, after you place a person in a nursing home, you make frequent follow-up visits, always paying attention to whether services are being maintained at a quality level. It is your job as a citizen to constantly pay attention to how your tax dollars are being spent.

      Thank you for this reasonable conversation. I recently have been abused by someone who just wanted to yell at me. Unlike you, she did not have a genuine desire to learn or understand.

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