Dead and Dying at James Square Rehab

James Square stole my power wheelchair—I think that’s what really broke my spirit. During the night, they took my chair out of my room while I was sleeping. They took it down to Maintenance, removed the charger and the batteries and damaged the circuit breaker, then brought it back and put it in my room without telling me. I got in the chair and it wouldn’t start; that’s how I found out. They had no right. But nobody cares enough to do anything about it.

Last week three people died here on 3 South, the short-term rehab unit. How is that possible? People whose physicians deemed them in need of a few weeks of rehabilitation and then discharge to home—instead they came to James Square and died. I’ve filed dozens of complaints about the inferior care here—NYS nursing home hotline, Onondaga Dept. of Health, NYS ombudsmen—local, regional, state—they all say there is nothing they can do. Medicare, Medicaid, state, federal—nobody does anything. They all list problems and write reports but nobody does any enforcement.

The first person who died here was in the bed from which I was transferred ten days ago. The second person who died was in the bed in the room next to mine now. Death is coming closer but can’t find me.

Soon, soon. The United States doesn’t care about its old folks. It wants us to die and stop taking up resources.

The only thing to do is have children.

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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