The Christmas Presence


All I want for Christmas is to be moved to a semi-private room. I have lingered in punitive segregation for 99 days.

The world has turned enough that the sun now is between the end of the physicians’ office building across the street and the education building at the end of the block, so I get direct sunlight for a few hours each morning.

On Monday morning my glucose was 571 so I took 12 units of insulin and a shower, then it was over 600, which put me in coma territory. My appointment with Upstate Medical Center’s immunologist was scheduled for noon. I asked for a Crouse nurse to accompany me, but was refused. I asked for my transportation to be upgraded from wheelchair to stretcher, but was refused. Then the hospitalist came in and announced that I shouldn’t go to the immunologist because I was medically unstable.

I replied “I have been here three months and you have done nothing to help me. I will go to the immunologist if it kills me.” And I went, and the immunologist ordered 21 tests and referred me to his hospital’s neurologist and endocrinologist. Crouse has refused to refer me to a neurologist, and the endocrinologist won’t acknowledge my emails in which I ask questions about CFIDS and glucose.

On Monday afternoon, the doctor from Employee Health came and did acupuncture for the third time in 99 days, despite my doctor’s recommendation for 3-4 times a week. The hospital’s doctor is an American Buddhist and says he is doing acupuncture as a favor. Perhaps I may have asked him some challenging questions about what it means to care.

The psychologist also came on Monday afternoon, after an absence of several months. He looked around my solitary cell and said, “This is just wrong.” We didn’t do therapy, except that simply having someone to talk to is therapeutic; we did update-and-problem-statement. He says he will work on getting me out of this punitive segregation.

Yesterday—my birthday—Wally came to talk to me. Wally is a very interesting man, and the nurse investigator for DNV, the accrediting agency for the hospital. Wally and I sat behind closed doors for an hour and half and talked about punitive segregation, denial of treatment, and refusal of appropriate medical evaluation. Let us now pray for Wally as he reads the rest of my chart and talks to his boss about what to do next.

This morning my blood pressure was 154/111, which is really not good. I asked the nurse to follow up with the doctor to figure out why it’s so high. Also, I am having frequent bad bowel movements; the nurse practitioner suggests a workup for C. diff, a contagious bacterial infection in the colon: “Illness from C. difficile most commonly affects older adults in hospitals or in long-term care facilities . . .” You catch it from your hosting facility.

The next thing that happened was that Joyce Appel, the Reiki lady, arrived in my room for a treatment. We talked, as nice ladies will—she lives in a village so small that it has one traffic light and sewer pipes, but they’re not connected yet. The Reiki treatment was loving and healing and oh, so very nice.

Reiki means “mysterious atmosphere” or “universal life energy” and is a way to focus the healing powers of the universe on the patient. It begins with the Reiki master offering a prayer to God to be present in healing, and then the patient simply lies around while the master lays hands on and focuses the energy. Joyce is teaching me how to do this for myself. Today, we also got to talking about homeopathy and Joyce referred me to a woman she knows in Camillus.

A couple years ago, an almost-regular doctor ended up in my hospital room. He first started a yoga center, then went to medical school because he really wanted to know more about the mind/body relationship. He does not do homeopathy but he has read widely in the literature about studies of homeopathy’s effectiveness. It works. He says that you either have to acknowledge that it works, or take the position that controlled research studies do not work: scientific fact precludes believing both.

Then I got a phone call from Nancy at IPRO. Nobody ever really understands IPRO (formerly the Island Peer Review Organization) but “IPRO is now under contract with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve health care for people with Medicare in New York State.”

IPRO is weird. On the one hand, they have recommended that I be put in a geriatric psychiatric facility and medicated over objection. On the other hand, ten days ago they decided my plight was so egregious that they overnighted the complaint form to me by FedEx. Crouse opened the mailing, put it in “my” social worker’s mailbox and left it there . . . but she was on vacation for a week.

So now Nancy, who identifies herself as my advocate, calls me up this morning to verify information. We talk. I add more information. Then two of my favorite nurses prance in, all smiles and stethoscopes, with a new Foley set to change my catheter. So Nancy and I wrap it up—she says that because I am in the hospital she will get on it right away, as in “immediately”—and then I get a new catheter installed in my undercarriage.

So here’s the thing: who’s doing the most best for me—traditional medicine or alternative treatments? My hospitalist announces that he is an atheist and doesn’t believe in anything that doesn’t produce test results. My other hospitalist only knows how to say no.

I believe in the mystery. I believe that scientific America knows very little, and that the ways of healing are many and varied. We are all linked by many means and in many ways. There are many non-pharmaceutical paths to healing. Accessing alternative healing methodologies requires not only an open mind but also an open heart. It requires the capacity to tolerate ambiguity and perhaps that is why American medicine cannot embrace the curative methodologies that are available.

Or maybe it’s all about the money.

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
This entry was posted in American medical industry, drugs, Medical care, Medicare, Pharmaceuticals, physician, Spirituality and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Christmas Presence

  1. maieliiv says:

    Good one Anne. May your Christmas wishes come true. Prayers for you as always, Maie

    WordPress.com

    annecwoodlen posted: “All I want for Christmas is to be moved to a semi-private room. I have lingered in punitive segregation for 99 days.

    The world has turned enough that the sun now is between the end of the physicians office building across the street and the education”

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