The Night After Christmas


So back in Upstate Medical Center’s emergency room, after the attending psychiatrist leaves, I lay around waiting for Godot or Santa Claus or heaven knows what. I get no insulin, which I’m expecting, and no antibiotics.

When I was admitted on Christmas Eve, I was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. I agreed to treatment but asked that it be one-half the normal dose for one-half the normal duration. My hypersensitive immune system pitches fits but it also heals twice as fast as normal. At one point I had a bad respiratory infection—possibly pneumonia—that absolutely had to be treated so Dr. Ghaly prescribed a Z-pack, which is an antibiotic package that starts with a double dose. I took the double dose and within hours was asymptomatic and never needed the rest of the package.

So on Christmas Eve, I agreed to an antibiotic on condition that it was half the normal dose, or a pediatric dose. The nurse came with a very big pill and the second time I asked her; she grudgingly admitted that it was a full dose. I asked again for a smaller dose, she left to ask the doctor, and that was the last I heard of it. There was absolutely no follow up by the doctor. Ever.

Now it’s Dec. 26, I’m back in the ER, and I again ask for an antibiotic, half-dose, to treat the urinary tract infection. And the physician who is head of the ER tells me that he cannot and will not prescribe less than the full dose. He could lose his license if he failed to prescribe what all the studies say is the appropriate dose for an adult with this particular infection.

Which is total bullshit. Every doctor is expected to modify and adjust his prescriptions based on the patient’s age, general condition, and other co-existing medical problems. What this stupid doctor cannot do is wrap his head around the idea that the patient has an immune problem which contra-indicates medications.

He simply can’t let the concept into his medically schooled brain. And he, like all the other doctors, insists that FIRST, YOU HAVE TO TAKE INSULIN. I repeatedly tell them all, FIRST, YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM PROBLEM, and then you can treat the diabetes, the kidney disease, the UTIs and so on and so forth.

They don’t get it. All these doctors are absolutely blind as a bat when it comes to the immune system. I had one doctor tell me that he’d learned more about the immune system from trying to treat me than he’d ever learned in medical school. Driven by Big Pharma, medical schools teach how to prescribe drugs, not how to heal the patient.

So I’m not getting an antibiotic and I’m not getting insulin and when I ask what the heck I’m lying there waiting for, they tell me I’m being discharged. WTF??? What happened to the psychiatric admission?

Nobody has told me anything, but I snag the attending psychiatrist as he walks by and—standing out of sight behind my head—he announces that I’m not being admitted because there are no beds, and they would not be able to help me. What this means in Real-Speak is “For you, there will never be a bed and we cannot help you because we only can help people who are docile, compliant and don’t talk back to doctors.”

So now I’m being discharged. The only problem is that I have no home to which to be discharged. They say I have to get on the phone to someone who’ll get me a bed in a shelter. They use this to get me off the stretcher and to get all my belongings onto the wheelchair. I’m being given the bum’s rush and I know it.

So I get on the phone and explain to the woman that I have multiple medical problems including an indwelling catheter, and I use a power wheelchair. No homeless shelter is going to take me; I know that. A couple years ago I advocated for a man at the VA hospital who had an ostomy. The VA shipped him off to a shelter and the shelter shipped him right back: no room for a person with medical appliances.

So the homeless shelter lady, after talking to me, tells the social worker that there are no available beds in shelters in Onondaga County so the social worker starts calling other counties. Meanwhile, the nurse orders me to sit in the waiting room. I need two naps a day—remember, I have chronic FATIGUE immune deficiency syndrome—but haven’t gotten any, and it’s nearing on midnight. My bedtime was 9:00 p.m.

So here’s what’s going to happen: I’m going to sit in the Emergency Department’s waiting room while the social worker calls other counties. She will not find any shelter that will take me, so I will be left sitting up all night. In the morning I will be sent back to the Dept. of Social Services to sit in line and begin the whole process of finding a home.

Meanwhile, one of the nurses tells me that I have a lease on an apartment three blocks away. Yeah, I say, and it has no heat, light, emergency telephone service or furniture except for a bed. According to the great state of New York, which did the paperwork, I am so sick that I belong in a skilled nursing home, and the great Upstate Medical Center is sending me out to die on the streets. Yesterday was Christmas: DID WE LEARN NOTHING?

So I shout FUCK YOU ALL and wheel out the door. You do not know what it feels like to exit a building and have no place to go. Shall I turn left or right? It doesn’t matter: there is nowhere.

So I go back to Crouse Hospital. It is up a steep hill from Upstate, and I burn out a lot of my battery. It’s three blocks from Upstate to Crouse and it’s below freezing. Despite my hooded winter jacket and lined gloves, I’m freezing. I’m shivering.

I wheel into the Emergency Department waiting room while the admitting lady is busy with something else and park in a corner where she—and, hopefully, the security cameras—can’t see me. I watch a guy playing with two kids while they wait for their version of Godot, and try to figure out the next step.

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, Government Services, Medical care, physician, Poverty, Powerlessness, Values and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Night After Christmas

  1. annecwoodlen says:

    Be nice or I won’t post your comment.

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