I wake feeling bad, wrong. Weak, watery, something. I press the call bell and ask the aide to check my blood pressure. She says she’s too busy. Then says she’ll pass it on to the nurse. Fifteen minutes later nurse Anthony comes and asks what’s wrong. I don’t know what to say so I just ask him to please check my blood pressure. It’s 136/86, which is perfectly fine. He stands and looks at me thoughtfully, then suggests that I have breakfast and then he’ll check it again. I say okay, having no appetite or any idea when breakfast will come.
According to the James Square guidebook breakfast is between 8:00 and 9:30, lunch is 12:00 to 1:30 and supper is 6:00 to 7:30. When I told a couple of aides this, they were shocked. They had no idea that there were actually scheduled times. At home, I always ate breakfast at 8:00, lunch at 12:00, and supper at 5:00. [As I watch now, a black helicopter very slowly inches toward and onto the landing pad at Galisano Hospital. The pilot apparently never has landed there before and is scared to death but he cozies down and makes the landing.
[Actually, he doesn’t. The helicopter rises, goes out and circles, and tries a second time. This time he puts it down.] (Meanwhile Don, the skinny guy from Maintenance, comes back again to check out the venetian blinds that they’ve been checking on every day for a week. The windows have three blinds; the one on the left is totally jammed and cannot be moved.
(It has to be moved because they’ve turned off the air conditioning. My windows face south and the sun beats in here mercilessly. An hour after sunrise, the left blind has to be closed; around 11:00 a.m. the middle blind has to be closed. Mid-afternoon the left one is opened; around suppertime the middle one is opened to the sunset. Except that the left one has been jammed for a long time. Well, anyway, the man from Maintenance installs a new one.)
So breakfast comes after I wait a while. One slice of toast, two sausages, and an egg— so-called “poached,”—one egg cracked into a small Styrofoam bowl and “cooked” until it is hot and hard. Juice. Apple, cranberry or orange. You get juice three times a day. Three different juices. Same juices for two months. Can you imagine how desperately I long for orange-pineapple? Red grapefruit?
So Anthony never comes back to check my blood pressure again. The aide—a Jamaican women whose name I never can remember—comes to weigh me. I don’t want to be weighed but decide to be cooperative. The aide says the nurse needs to fill in the box on her chart. I do not say anything nasty about nobody actually giving a damn about me, just about filling in the boxes. It’s been two hours since Anthony checked my blood pressure. Should I ask again? No, I shouldn’t bother him.
So, with much fussing and fiddling, the aide and I get the catheter bag emptied, pants on, slippers on, the walker, the wheelchair, me out of bed and into the wheelchair and us down the hall to the weighing room. There’s no place to hang the catheter bag—not on the wheelchair, not on the side of the shower chamber, not on the side-rail of the scale—so the aide will hold the bag while I stand up, turn left and put both hands on the grab bar beside the scale.
Except that my knees buckle, I scream and fall, and land on the floor. The aide briefly leans down to check me, then runs for help. She comes back with Kate, the temporary nurse manager, who hasn’t understood the problem until she walks in. When Kate sees me on the floor, her eyes bug out—falls are offenses that have to be reported to the NYS Dept. of Health—you know, the place where I’ve filed dozens of complaints?
Kate then lectures the aide on her failure to weigh me in the wheelchair, noting that I am getting worse. Really? And how did she know that? I asked for blood pressure because they never do it here. I asked for re-newed glucose checks; they aren’t doing them. Routine weekly lab work has been stopped; I don’t know why. Once a day, they check temperature, which is usually low, and oxygen, which is 95.
So how does Kate know I’m getting worse? Because I told her? And how did Kate communicate to the aides that I needed to stay in the wheelchair and not try to stand up? Answer: she didn’t. Nobody told the aide and now she’s getting yelled at for failing to do what she hadn’t been told to do. I’ve been here two months, supposedly—but not actually—with weekly weigh-ins. Today we did what we always had done—but this time I fell.