Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Want to Stay Home Today...

I don't write very often about intensely personal experiences here...for reasons I've expressed before, because I was raised to be private, and I don't feel it is appropriate, or dignified to display one's entire private life for public consumption. With me, a PDA comes from a swell of genuine emotion, when I forget where I am, and the world fades into the background. It means I can't resist your charms. I'm an extrovert, but that does not mean everyone should know, or see everything I do, or think, or feel. Sometimes, though, I can break my own rules...rebelling against myself now, it had to happen sooner or later.

I work for a not-for-profit health care organization...I work in intake so I have the chance to speak with providers who thanks to HIPAA can't discuss their cases with anyone other than people like us who are also bound by its provisions. So I'll say what I can.


What was enacted to protect the privacy rights of patients has now been perverted to be something that gags medical professionals from speaking out about the abuses of this illegitimate administrations handling of the VA, and undisclosed numbers of wounded veterans. I have a memory that is nearly photographic, and has been described as cyborglike (still unsure if I'm insulted by that). I'm also quite good at critical thinking, and deductive reasoning. So simply put, what I see sticks with me, and I can connect the dots. Some bright staffer saw this little known-outside of the health industry law, as both a shield, and a cloak of invisibility.

It's been made stronger, and stronger, to where leaving copies on the printer too long is a violation. We all know the maintenance staff has that sideline in selling stolen medical records. Very, very few are like that of the celebrity who had a ________ , and _______stuck up his ________, by his ______. Now I know why he was walking that way on the Tonight Show!

What has shocked me...are the crying doctors. I had never experienced doctors with real feelings for the plight of their patients until they began calling me. Scary. I'm scared by our health care system: the PCPs are in agony over it. These people are trained to be dispassionate, to project authority. What is even more gut-wrenching are the families...these days though, both are in the same rudderless boat, both feel powerless and adrift.

I have been dealing with some sort of critical health situation since I was around ten. My Uncle Frank was a huge smoker...forty years of it caught up with him abruptly. He spoiled me. I was the only child in both sides of my family until I was nine. My first and second cousins are eighteen to twenty-five years older than me. They could be my parents. I was, as I've said before, precocious. I knew he liked kids, but I also realized that one of the reasons he doted on me, was because he had none of his own. Frank had been my father's best man, and was the sole person alive who could make my father's sister, my evil Aunt Gloria, behave properly. Well, somewhat. I digress. Smoking caught up with him.

This was the first time I was routinely dragged along to hospitals by my parents. In the early eighties, they were a lot less designed, a lot less colorful, stark-looking and clinical. Scary. Especially the floors that my uncle was on. Several times, my dad sweet-talked the nurses, he was tall, and quite handsome, and had what my mom called a line of bullshit big enough to circle the equator.

My first real impression of doctors, and their bedside manner, came as I listened from the hall. They were so different from the comforting MD's on TV. As they spoke to my uncle, and the family fluttered in states ranging from thinly veiled anxiety, to full-out Daffy Duck fit. The latter was my Aunt Gloria, though she has Daffy Duck fits in the supermarket, so I wasn't exactly fazed. Scared by her routinely, as a small girl, but by ten or eleven tuning her out. The men in the white coats seemed so...cold, I could make out the words "little chance of recovery."

Frank turned his face quickly away, towards the windows, as they spoke. Ten years later, I would see my father make the exact same head movement, only then, the doctors' prognosis was incorrect. None of the adults had noticed I had crept close enough to see, and hear a bit. I only moved away, when my uncle sent them out to talk to the family.

You would have thought they were giving a lecture...or reading the evening news. Then they just left, very casually. The adults then proceeded to convince each other that everything was really all right. They calmed down. But none of them entered the hospital room where the patient sat...alone.

Why weren't they going in there? Didn't they hear what I had heard?

I grew very angry, but I didn't say anything. I just turned and quickly slipped in the room. Then they noticed me, trying to get me to leave as I sat in the chair next to my uncle. I pretended I didn't hear them beckoning from the stark white hall. I took out the cards I had in my purse and started to play with him. He smiled, and unsteadily picked up his hand, and I pretended I didn't see that too. He wanted to know if my batting was improving, and if I was still gambling at recess in Lincoln Park, and fighting after school.

"Yeah...I guess."

"Do you win?"


"Good. Always try to win."

"I promise."

" What do you do when you cook the pasta?" Frank was born in Naples.

" Put oil in the water."

" Just a little."

" Just a little..."

I don't know how long I stayed, but it seemed, and still does a long time. No one else came in. Nobody dragged me one dared. I was what one might call willful. I knew somebody had to do it. Sometimes the kindest thing one can do for someone is to listen to them, and let them know you really hear them.

I had a really hard day yesterday...I hate a lot about the chaos of my job. I hate the stupidity of a few people I work with. Yesterday, I had the workload of three people, and wanted to burst into tears when I was still there at 9:30. I cry when I'm intensely angry. I barely controlled my temper. I can give a long list privately if asked. I really would like to stay in bed today.

I won't.

1 comment:

Dave B. said...

Though later in my life, I have had similar experiences. Funny how things like that scar, scare, and in some ways inspire you for longer than you'd expect.

Thanks for sharing that.

Hope your day is / went better.