Colleen and the Kool-Aid Gang

Last week I had an unexpected visitor from Crouse Hospital’s Spiritual Care Unit. Typically, people who volunteer to provide spiritual care in hospitals tend to be Catholic and retired, so what was unexpected was that this spiritually caring person was twenty-three years old and a Muslim.

Ahmed and I had a splendid conversation about a great many things (he is a graduate student in chemistry and thinks he might change to something that more clearly is about caring for his fellow humans) and one of the phrases that came up was “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Neither of us was entirely sure what it meant so I checked Wikipedia: “‘Drinking the Kool-Aid’ is a metaphor commonly used in the United States that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. It could also refer to knowingly going along with a doomed or dangerous idea because of peer pressure.”

I was reminded of that this morning when I talked to Colleen, who works in the NYS Dept. of Health, Central New York Regional Office. She is the hospital nursing services consultant who investigated my complaint against St. Joseph’s Hospital. I do not have a copy of the complaint that I filed with the Dept. of Health (DOH) but you can get the gist of it from the complaint I filed against Dr. Roger Levine:;;

I was discharged from St. Joe’s on May 6, filed the complaint that week, and got a reply on October 16. It took just a short five months for the local branch of the DOH to spring into action, investigate St. Joe’s, and report back to me—except they didn’t exactly “report back to me.”

What I got was a seven-sentence letter stating that St. Joe’s “was not found to be in violation . . .” The letter won’t re-print here, but all it said was that they’d investigated their asses off, I was wrong, and if I had any questions then I should call Colleen.

I had some major questions, so I called Colleen at CNYRO (Central New York Regional Office). First, I wanted to see a copy of my complaint because I’ve been moved six times since I filed it and I’ll be darned if I can find anything. Second, I wanted to go over the complaint item by item and learn how it was possible for me to have been so wrong. All that bad shit that happened to me? And the hospital didn’t do anything wrong? Come on now, show it to me; explain it to me. Make this thing make sense.

And you know what Colleen told me? She said, “We don’t meet with complainants.”

Say what? Why not?

“Because,” Colleen said, “it’s a rule or regulation.”

Why, I asked.

“Because it’s a rule,” Colleen said.

No, no, no, I said: WHY? WHY is it a rule?

Colleen just went on repeating the same stuff so I asked her about getting a copy from the DOH of the complaint I filed with the DOH, and Colleen told me I had to FOIL it. For those of you who are innocent and unaware in the world of Big Government, FOIL is the Freedom of Information Law. “FOILing” means writing a letter requesting information from the Government. I am the person who gave the information TO the Government but I have to write a letter asking for a copy of the letter FROM the Government. And the letter has to be hand-signed. And I am in the hospital without a printer, envelope or postage stamp. And after you send your FOIL letter? Then they have something like three weeks to decide if they’ll let you have your letter back.

All those of you—like my friend Melia sitting in the corner of my hospital room—who think this is crazy, please raise your hand. You give your words to the Government and they won’t give them back to you? At least not without a bunch of hoopla and waiting a month or so?

So I howl at Colleen “WHY???” and she says—are you ready for this?— she says, “I don’t know—THERE IS NO ANSWER.”

Colleen and her coworkers have been drinking the Kool-Aid. I’ve had LOTS of similar problems with CNYRO. Remember Karen Vendetti, the woman who said she IS the supervisor and she doesn’t HAVE a supervisor? They are not engaging in “critical examination”; they are “going along with a doomed or dangerous idea . . .”

Down at CNYRO, Colleen and Karen and the others are swilling the Kool-Aid like nobody’s business. They hold the unquestioned belief that they are not answerable to anybody for anything; they ARE the Government.

Come and meet with you? Some time ago I filed a different complaint, got a different CNYRO person, and asked the same question: “Can we get together for a meeting?” This was a business meeting—her business—and I imaged that we would meet at her office, although nice people who recognized how difficult it was for me to travel would offer to meet in my apartment. Either way—her place or mine—I was asking for a meeting, and you know what she said to me?

She said, “I won’t meet you at BURGER KING.” Honest to God, that was her idea of where she wouldn’t meet me. I was dumbfounded. WHO, ACTUALLY, ARE WE SENDING OUT TO INVESTIGATE PHYSICIANS AND HOSPITALS? Dummkopfs with a Burger King mentality? No wonder no complaints are upheld! Teenage girls with zero self-esteem are being sent out to question arrogant doctors and OF COURSE they bend the knee and accept whatever those with higher public standing tell them. Well, guess what?

I have the highest public standing of all: I am a citizen.

Congressmen meet with their constituents; it’s how they get re-elected. Petty bureaucrats like Colleen refuse to meet with citizens because they believe that Civil Service regulations protect them from being fired.

We’ll see about that.

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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