challenge the wrong without ending up on its casualty list."
My 'intake interview' with the staff physician was delayed until the third day of my hospitalization. Up to that point, I had only been semi-concious, and a medical intake had not been possible.
As we enter the MD's office, I am struck by the personal furnishings, and the intimate atmosphere of the space surrounding me. When I comment with surprise and appreciation on what appears to be his 'private sanctuary', I sense the doctor's pride..... a nod of approval is coming my way.
He shares with me, that at his last job, he had not even been granted the use of an office........rather, he and a colleague had to resort to sharing one shabby metal desk.
I am sitting in a chair, and the doctor approximately 12 feet away, and across from me. He is talking...speaking in my direction, but all I am able to take in is the sight of his lips moving. The only incoming sound originates from the water fountain situated closely behind my chair.
The harder I try to hear, the more anxious I become...the louder the drippings of the water fountain.
I don't know what to do...my mind is racing.....how can I solve this problem without hurting the doctor?
At last...and after what seems like an eternity....I decide to do the only adult thing I can think of. I would gently interrupt the man....apologize....tell him the truth.....then politely ask him to please turn off the water fountain. Surely, he will understand that I am the patient, and........
When the words are finally out....the man freezes.
He grasps the armrests of his chair tightly....his entire body tenses. His head turns redder by the moment. He desperately tries to hold on to control .
Eventually, he succeeds in calming down enough so he can stand up. He appears to be shaking, yet there is no movement.
Neither one of us says a word....
In the end, my relief overshadows much of the remaining apprehension. We have a 'New Beginning'. I can no longer hear the sounds of a water fountain. The doctor has settled back into his chair.....the interview has begun once again.
......when to my absolute horror, the same thing happens all over again. I see his lips moving..... but all I can hear this time....it's coming from a place to the right where he is sitting....... it's a radio. It is set between two stations.....screeching painfully.
This time , my internal distress is intensified. I feel completely helpless, and at the same time responsible for taking care of this doctor's feelings. Eventually, I resort to the same solution as before. I must do the only mature thing I can think of. I am the patient, and I am not well. I have no power or control over my inability to hear him. What else can I do? If I do not tell him the truth and instead let it go, he will invent a reason why I am not cooperating, and this may set him off further.
But in-spite of my sincere, and repeated apologies...... the damage is done. I instinctively respond to the doctor's increasing agitation by becoming more and more alert, calm and focused myself. My panic and fear have for the most part separated from consciousness. They have been well trained to know when it's time to leave.
He is now hovering above me.......a man in his sixties.... with a large, broad frame.....about 6'4 tall...long , grey hair down to his butt, but tied in a ponytail...horn rimmed glasses....striped suspenders....jeans.....striped button down shirt........and ready to explode.
Hatred is written all over his face...... I am awaiting the first blow of his fist....
It occurs to me, that the office is in a separate wing from the hospital unit....deserted...except for him and myself.
Once again, he is able to regain control of himself, but only to a point, where he does not physically assault me........he backs off in disgust.
"Is there anything else I can do for you? Does the little lady want me to turn off all the lights?..... close all the curtains?....... because, in that case, this will be the end of our interview!" ..... The words are spit out with murderous sarcasm.
From here on, I am able to hear the doctor perfectly. The radio has been turned off.
The remainder of the session is limited to verbal attacks and endless monologues. He becomes more and more infuriated by his own incompetence.
I have become both our therapists....instinctively sensing the potential danger I am in.
"You have no problems! .....you are healthy as a horse!....the only problems you have are 'Moral Problems'!.....you have no right to be here and take up valuable space!....you are responsible for killing the whole world!....you should never be allowed out of prison!"
I am aware that we are running out of time, and I must yet address an urgent matter.
When you have insulin-dependent diabetes, being deprived of the hormone your life depends on readily elicits feelings of deep worry.....then panic.
The nurses have by now repeatedly tried to impress upon this physician, that he must write insulin orders for me. They are helpless to provide the care I need without his written, or at least verbal permission. The doctor, in turn, has been unavailable.....he has not answered his calls. I am the only patient on the medical unit.
For the sake of time, I will spare you the details that follow my bringing up the subject......
In the end, the doc throws up his hands and exclaims almost shouting at me: "How the hell should I know that you have insulin-dependent diabetes?"
I call that progress!
When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against
you, argue the law. When both are against you, attack the plaintiff.
The community I live in hosts three hospitals. Around the time of my admission, a major lawsuit involving the two larger hospitals was dominating the local news on a daily basis. Along with this endlessly detailed and boring debate, the remaining everyday topic of the day revolved around our national healthcare crisis in general. Intimate reports covered the personal horror stories of the poor and the homeless, and their lack of access to medical care. A strong message directed at the sub-concious of the 'middle class' tried to elicit guilt and responsibility for the 'death and dying' in those who could barely attend to the needs of their own families..... as all they did was work and work.
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