Needham 7, Some other place in Cambridge, MA, and Thank the Lord for 2018
I warn you; if you’re aging out and have a fall, it might not be the fall that kills you; it could be the care you receive. Should I call it care?
Just don’t fall.
I just made it home on Friday after a stint regarding the repair of my knee. My knee was too bad to do stairs, and I barely had access to food. My Primary Care’s office convinced me to go to Mt. Auburn’s ER. I expressed the thought that I was nearly through with medicine. But I went. I spent about 24 hours in the ER and was finally admitted on the dreaded Observational status. A very kind and dedicated social worker cajoled me into trying this course of action in order to get into a rehabilitation facility.
The staff in Needham 7 were kind and compassionate. The menu rivaled that of a restaurant. The food was so good; I had a hard time eating it all. The care of the staff rivaled the food. I mean—both were exemplary.
On Needham 7, Brittany, Elsa, Jasmine, Mohammad, Kelsey, Hazel, Janisa, Dr.Hillary Gallin were there for me. Just a few kind names I’ll mention. There were more.
Brittany chose nursing as her calling. She told me of her meanderings toward biomedical but changed gears. I told her later that perhaps I don’t give nursing its due and congratulated her on her choice. I told her she looked like a Mary Beth--a dislocated farm girl. I often called her that.
A young woman whose real name I don't remember (sorry) looked like a Tiffany. Her face was delicate and beautiful.
'Tiffany?" She exclaimed. "Like a stripper?"
I assured her I meant no offense.
Mohammed had been a surgeon in Afghanistan. He works currently as a Personal Care Assistant—or is that a Patient Care Assistant? When I asked him why he didn’t try to certify as an MD in this country, he said the most important thing was to become a citizen. He expressed the thought that he was too old to go through the rigors of requirements to recertify to become a physician here. It seemed to be his driving force. I salute him.
I’m trying to discern whether it’s harder to be a patient or a staff person on a medical ward. I’ve been self-reliant for the vast majority of my life; yet there I sat in a hospital bed, which was alarmed to prevent me from rising from it. When I did rise from my bed, it was into a chair which was similarly alarmed. I couldn’t win. Or could I? Staff was always present to insure the floor, and I didn’t meet up. I tried to explain to some that the floor and I are friends. With Multiple Sclerosis, floors are a reality, and the able-bodieds' disdain for it is clear.
A final thrust I made against the alarm (I wanted to be viewed as responsible enough to follow the instructions of staff.) came on my final day when Brittany came in to help me into my bed. She flipped the alarm on as she left.
“Did you alarm my bed?” I queried.
“Yup,” she said with a grin on her face.
“Bitch,” I said, and we laughed together.
The Saga goes on. A fall I experienced while chasing a story may have morphed into a possible torn meniscus. A five-star Orthopedist, Minos Lampros, told me in no uncertain terms there was no arthritis in my knee. He told me he would order an MRI. I knew I was to be transferred to another facility the next day, and he promised to get it done before I left. The next morning he visited me and informed me the MRI had been canceled.
At the other facility, staff sought time to celebrate living over the holiday weekends while death hovered in the hallways of our building. I was one of the lucky ones. I didn’t need to cry for help when it came time eliminate waste. I just wheeled my way to the accommodations when I felt the need. As a private joke, I would do as I was told and push my call button; make my way to the bathroom; finish my business, and cancel the call button on my way back to sleep. No one ever showed up.
My roommate (we’ll call her Jane Doe) was older than old. She begged to be released, offering to pay anyone who would get her out. Her pleadings fell on deaf ears. Did she have money? I didn’t know, but I do know whatever she had was not enough, or she had relinquished control. The rich rest comfortably with care at home, while those of us relegated to government insurance thank our lucky stars when we are lucky enough to languish in rooms in which people can fade away. I wondered—will Jane die here?
This place was essentially a reservoir for the dead. If one had the strength and mental capacity to participate in the recovery process, they were golden. If confusion and weakness took over, one was relegated to a wheelchair or a bed. There is simply no time for staff to do more than changed diapers and bedding. Cleanliness provides comfort for those journeying towards death.
Jane hated the food that was provided. Granted—it wasn’t the best—but it was food. Jane preferred a nutritional supplement she had taken to using at home. The facility decided she would eat no matter what. She declined. Family members and I urged staff to give her what she wanted, but hey—deaf ears again. Jane won the battle but lost the war.
By the time I left, my roommate, Jane, did not even know her name. She lay curled up in her bed with the mind of a babe wrapped in a body. When she would attempt to get up during the night, I would push my call button, then throw myself into my wheelchair and venture out to find anyone before she fell out of bed.
My ninety-four-year-old roommate did not seem to have the volition for life. She seemed to be starving herself to death. I expected to be sharing my room with a finalized corpse at any moment.
They had gotten her to put her John Henry on a DNR. She wasn’t going anywhere.
I heard them instruct her as for how to sign it.
“Sign here.” One staff said. “No, no—that’s not your name. Your name is Jane. Write Jane here.”
I asked one of their certified nursing assistants about Jane’s care.
“I have to support my family,” she said.
Yes, folks—that’s what it boils down to—a paycheck.
In the last few nights, I was there; a new alarm had been installed on the inner wall of the unit. It alerted staff to the opening of the door during the hours of 9 PM to 6:45. During shift change at 11 PM, staff meandered in and out of the door. It was how they entered the unit. Some ventured in, hugged and kissed colleagues, took off their coats, then punched the code into the keypad to shut off the alarm. The alarm was so loud and shrieking; sleep was impossible during these times. I’d love to see a decibel read on the alarm. If I were sleeping during these times, I would burst awake as if we were being nuked and forego sleep. I took to dozing during the day.
Staff often found cubbies to catch a few ZZZZs during the night shift. I bet they didn't like the alarm either.
When it came to my knee, there were all sorts of opinions: There’s arthritis here; there’s arthritis there; there’s no arthritis; if I had arthritis it would be in both knees; the knee was suffering from overuse. Arthritis requires movement; injury requires rest. What to do?
Have you ever heard that adage “practicing medicine?” I decided they could damn well practice on someone else. I was told I couldn’t go home until a wheelchair was ordered and arrived. I relented and waited for delivery—then was told that if I left, it would be Against Medical Advice (AMA).
The social worker said, “You’ll have to sign it.”
“I don’t have to sign anything,” I said.
The supervisor’s and social worker’s eyes grew wide as they commiserated on just what to do. The social worker decided they would just fill in patient refused to sign on the signature line.
I was then informed that checkout time was 11 AM. I was told it was like a hotel. I would have to vacate my room. My ride was not due until 7 PM. They left me in my room until a bit after 3 when they booked a new patient into my room and booted me out. I wheeled what I could out of my room in the new wheelchair, using the one they had provided me with to propel it. A nursing assistant helped with the rest.
I had never heard of such a thing. Have you?
I told them I would sit in their foyer with my belongings. There were three “patient belonging’s bags,” a suitcase, my shoes, my coat, and the wheelchair. I was told I could sit in the dining room, but I wanted to be able to see my ride when he pulled up. And I was through with feeling like a body filling a space on the unit. I wanted nothing more to do with them. I tried to get my ride to come earlier, but he didn’t arrive until 6:45 PM. I sat patiently and out of the way, and I was successful for the most part. When people inquired as to why I was sitting there, I simply told them I was waiting for a ride. A staff member told me I must give them my son’s phone number (my ride), so they could be sure of my assertions.
I said, “No.”
“No?” she queried.
“No.” I reiterated.
They wanted me out so bad they booked alternate transportation in case my ride didn’t show up. I hope they paid for it because I was gone before it showed up.
I’m recovering from my rehab now. I left in more pain than when I went in. It was two weeks of hell. It took three nights before sleep became comfortable. I am grateful.
Now it’s not all bad. I have an exuberance for the future. I will not allow myself to crumble. My mind is strong and willful. I have plans. I am moving. I have the rest of January to pack. The cleanout crew is booked for February 5th. My new digs are beautiful. And there are no stairs. My old place required I do flights of them. I am both happy and apprehensive. I was entrenched in my old place for thirty-one years. But I will adjust. A New Year is here, and it will be better. I welcome 2018 and put 2017 in the rear-view mirror.
Change is Constant. It always has been.
Copyright 2017 Joyce Bowen