The Unsigned Letter

[A true facsimile of the original.]

Your care. In our hands.

Anne Woodlen
501 South Crouse Avenue #xxx
Syracuse, NY 13210


Dear Ms. Woodlen:

Crouse Hospital and all our staff have a mission to provide the highest quality of care. An important part of fulfilling this goal is the desire, cooperation and efforts of the patients themselves to improve the status of their health.

In the current situation it is difficult to achieve this goal since your repeated absences from the unit prevent staff from rendering prescribed care. Additionally, your unauthorized actions present a risk to yourself and we want it known that Crouse Hospital in no way can be deemed liable for your care and/or any untoward incidences during these absences.

We have been and continue to be unable to provide the necessary type of care because of your actions of leaving the floor and/or the hospital to attend to personal matters. Not only is this type of behavior disruptive to our plan of care, but can result in personal harm. Thus, we request that you modify your behavior and no longer leave the hospital.

If you continue with unauthorized absences from the unit you will be deemed discharged against medical advice from the hospital.


There is no signature on the letter.

It was delivered to my room around 3:45 p.m., Dec. 23, by Nurse Manager Laurie Fegley, Nursing Supervisor Betty O’Conner, and the director of Risk Management whose name I did not get.

So what’s wrong with the letter?

First, it is addressed to an apartment which I have not inhabited in seven months. Crouse Hospital knows exactly where I am: on their 5th floor med/surg unit.

Second, staff do not render any prescribed care. They do a glucometer check and vitals around 7:00 a.m. and dispense a single dose of Tylenol around 9:00 p.m. Other than that, there are no prescriptions for any kind of care for me. I could be gone fourteen hours a day and it would not interrupt any “prescribed care.”

Third, my “unauthorized absences.” What “unauthorized?” On my first or second admission to Crouse Hospital, I asked and a nurse told me that I was free to leave for up to two hours. Thereafter, I would be technically discharged and have to go to the Emergency Room to get re-admitted, which I would not be able to do because I do not have any condition that is sufficiently acute to justify admission.

I was told to tell the nurse when I was leaving the floor, and to be back in two hours and that is exactly what I have done every single time I have left the floor.

The fact is that Crouse Hospital’s patients routinely leave the hospital to go across the street to smoke. Further, some patients, pushing IV poles, walk two blocks to the nearest drug store to buy cigarettes. I am not a smoker and do not engage in this behavior.

Social Worker Karen Mauro has repeatedly sat in my room and told me that they are working on a written policy—which they never have had—that will be “very restrictive.” She rolls the words “very restrictive” around on her tongue, savoring them like a child with jelly beans on Easter morning.

Upper echelon executives of Crouse Hospital, including but not limited to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Stahl, have told me that I am not in isolation: I am free to come and go as I choose. So which is it? Am I prisoner in Room 5008, or am I free to travel?

Fourth, they say that they continue to be unable to provide care because I am not here. I demand that Crouse Hospital provide three instances in which they were unable to provide care. Name two. Name one. It has not happened.

Fifth: “. . . Leaving the floor and/or the hospital . . .” So now I am not allowed to leave the floor OR the hospital? I am functionally restricted to my room—the isolation room that I have been in for 103 days and have fought to leave.

Sixth: “. . . To attend to personal matters.” One of the personal matters to which I attended was going to a chiropractor. Crouse has steadfastly refused to provide me with any of the alternatives to pharmaceuticals that I need. I went out to see a doctor because Crouse wouldn’t treat me.

Seventh: “. . . prevent staff from rendering prescribed care.” There is no prescribed care. I am on ALC—alternate level of care. They feed me, bathe me, empty my catheter bag and ignore me. There is nothing prescriptive.

Eighth: “If you continue with unauthorized absences . . .” At no time has anyone at Crouse ever told me that I needed authorization to leave the floor or the hospital. I have not violated any directive previously given. I have done what I was told to do, and then been blind-sided by three top executives.

Ninth: “. . . You will be deemed discharged . . .” I have no home, and now Crouse is prepared to kick me out on the street in my wheelchair. In typical Crouse fashion, there was no prior discussion. Nobody ever came to me and said, “Anne, we really don’t want you to go out.” Nobody ever said, “We are going to set some limits.” Nobody ever said, “I know this will be hard for you, but we really think . . .”

All I got was three executives lined up across from my bed telling me that if I go outside again then they put me out in the cold and let me die.


Two of my friends and I were planning to go to a nearby hotel for Christmas dinner. Now I have to sit alone in my room while the hospital executives wine and dine with their friends and family.

Crouse Hospital has imprisoned me for one reason only: so they don’t have to pay if anything happens to me. They have no problem with torturing me until I am insane, just as long as my physical body remains intact.

It is Christmas–Immanuel, God with us.

Except at Crouse Hospital.

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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2 Responses to The Unsigned Letter

  1. kyle williams says:

    You are god damn retarded. If you are always leaving how in the world would they be able to care for you. Especially if you refuse everything. I personally think you need to get your head out of your ass and get off you high pedestal. Stop trying to make everyone feel bad for you as you are an absolutely terrible person.

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