Friday, February 11, 2011

it's there. people just don't say it when they can see you.

A few months ago, two people in the span of a week told me that white people are becoming a minority. One in person to my face, and one on Facebook (where each Wall Update is a direct message to me, naturally). I was pretty confused by this because hello, look around. The latter discussion was about how racism is still around, but in very subtle ways. I just couldn't think of an example off the top of my head.

Today, a frustrated employee in a different department transferred to me this lady who I assumed was old (but actually isn't too much older than my dad). She didn't want to accept that X-Ray image quality on a disc is just as good as on huge, inconvenient, expensive sheets of film. She was trying to get her records from another facility to bring to our hospital and was told that the request her physician put in for was never made. Instead of asking her doc to re-request it, she put the entirety of the blame on that (city) hospital, and then made a really racist remark about the people who work there. I didn't catch the meaning at first because generally people don't say derogatory stuff about brown people TO a brown person these days, so I'd only ever heard that particular turn of phrase on TV. And I certainly never would have heard it in real life if she was talking to me in person.

So it didn't sink in until she added, "And you know what I mean."

I WANTED to say, "No, I don't, you racist beeyatch. Just WTF DO you mean?" But she was already on to the next complaint. And I am a professional. After about 20 minutes of gentle explanation I had helped her with her problems. Unfortunately it usually takes me that long to think of a comeback.

I'm still a little rattled. Is this what people believe deep in their hearts but know not to say? I keep thinking about CC and how people can't necessarily tell what her heritage is, so she hears stuff I wouldn't when I'm out of the room. From people we know. People we thought we knew.

So, yeah, like I told those people, this stuff is out there. Every day. I just hope that people let go of it before my future children have to deal with it. Maybe, if these statistics are foretelling the truth, they won't have to for very long.


I saw that patient's name on the list today, and I made sure I would be in the vicinity when she showed up. In fact, I got myself involved in her situation so she would hear my voice, see my name and also *see* me. She was a meek-looking little woman who snapped up information and held it like a bear trap, not willing to listen to reason. Obviously someone along the like was trying to get her off the phone and said a generic answer (that doesn't apply to her specific case) and she was proclaiming it as law. The lady nearly turned the whole place upside-down with her arguing and inability to accept what four of us (all from different departments) were trying to explain.

And later when I called to make sure the disc situation was straightened out, the girl remembered getting reamed out by this patient a few months ago so she triple-checked that the lady's stuff was correct. Obviously this woman has issues. She told the technologist that the "reason she is the way she is" (unapologetically) is that her daughter-in-law died unexpectedly "because she fell through the cracks" of the healthcare system, so she wants to be sure no one she loves will experience the same thing, including herself. And that is a tragedy. I wholeheartedly agree that patients should take the initiative to understand and speak up about their/their family's care. But at some point, you have to step back and trust that the professionals--who have been highly trained--will do their jobs.

She's coming back to pick up her films tomorrow. Great.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

on the telephone

Often when my brother calls me, he doesn't really talk. He will ask what I'm doing and then has nothing to add. I'll follow up with 14 questions, to which he will have essentially the same answer: "Not much." Then I will start telling random stories, wondering if he is watching TV instead of listening. Sometimes I think he's been so conditioned to my rambling all these years that the white noise of it is sometimes soothing. Then I tire of hearing myself speak and let him go.

A few months ago, he called while we were watching the Dexter finale. If any of you have seen the show, you know that a WHOLE LOT OF CRAZY always happens, especially during the last episode. I let the call go to voicemail to call him back after I had calmed down (I'm always terrified on behalf of the hero). I figured that because my brother was in Houston for work, he must have scored tickets to the Rockets and was calling to tell me.

When I called back, I found out that my brother was in the Emergency Room. Remember that spurting blood thing he had going on with his leg? He already had surgery to fix it, but the problem had re-started at the ankle. It started spewing after he took a shower, and thankfully a coworker staying at the same hotel brought him to the hospital.

At this point, I started losing it. What kind of horrible person chooses to watch TV over answering the phone when her baby brother is bleeding profusely in some strange hospital a thousand miles away? Jon was trying to convince me that I am not a horrible person, but it still felt like it. I tried to be calm, because if I freaked out audibly, my brother would regret even telling me about it. He forbade me from telling my parents under the threat that he will never let me know what's happening again, and assured that he was fine. He was going to make an appointment with the doctor who did his other vein surgery when he got back to Mobile.

My brother's new phone thing is when I ask him a question he claims a) he's already told me the answer, b) I never pay attention/remember/listen c) that he won't repeat himself. And then he says I'm just like dad (no offense, dad, you're great). No one on Earth can get under my skin as much as this boy. And he takes sadistic pleasure in driving me batty.

So I never could determine if he had met with the surgeon again or if there was an upcoming procedure. He didn't want to tell mom, and he kept saying he'd already answered that question. I fired back that he's certainly not important enough that people take notes every time he speaks, and anyone who thinks so is on drugs. He said he'd tell mom I think she's on drugs and hung up.

Then he told mom that he was having ankle-vein surgery. The next day. And when she found out I had known about this whole situation, she was upset. For obvious reasons.

I think part of the reason my brother moved so far away is because my parents and I are consistently hovering over his eating, sleeping, partying and medicine-taking habits. It's selfish, really. We have grown fond of the little brat and would like to have him around for another 50 years or so. But my brother was taught at a very young age to live in the moment. If he wants to go to a bar and do shots with his buddies, that's what he's going to do, no matter how many cardiologists recommend against it. It makes my parents absolutely crazy with worry. But that stubborn part of his personality is likely what has helped him stay alive.

My mom got over her anger. We'd rather someone know what's going on with the kid than all three of us to be in the dark. But we spent the day of his procedure feeling a little out of sorts. We weren't there. We didn't know what has happening, hell, we didn't even understand exactly what they were doing to him. It's a blessing his roommate took the day off work to take him home and watch over him. That Mark is a good guy.

Shortly after he woke up and was able to keep graham crackers down, the phone calls began. The only upside to surgeries is the absolute hilarity of talking to my brother when he is on powerful drugs. The usual phone habits are out the window, and he's downright chatty. Unfortunately, he's also saying all kinds of brazen and ridiculous things, such as proclaiming to be able to take down a male nurse five times his size in a fistfight, or demanding an explanation from his heart surgeon as to why such a rich doctor drives a Ford Taurus. Who knows what he had said to the hospital staff this time. He called me at work about a dozen times. Later, I relayed a few tidbits of what he had been saying, and the response was, "Oh no. OH NO." It wasn't too embarrassing, but it was entertaining. But it's nice to know that--even while he was high as a kite and not making a lot of sense--he still wanted to talk to me.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Digging out

It only (ONLY) took 3-4 hours to get the driveway passable. And the whole time I wanted to throw the shovel down and jump up on that size-of-a-house mound with the neighbor kids.

-- Posted From My iPhone--everybody needs an editor.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

that poughkeepsie church is right: whoever is praying for snow, please stop

For as long as I can remember, whenever it snows my dad never fails to bring up 1979. As in "Oh, well this is NOTHING compared to '79." Or  "I was the only one on Ogden Avenue in '79. There was so much snow, you can't even imagine it!" Or "We got stuck in a drift and I didn't have something in the car, so I had to dig out that big Oldsmobile (Delta '88) out WITH MY BARE HANDS." Or "You were just a baby in the carseat, you didn't know what was happening." And "Yep, this is nothing like '79."

The newscasters say today's snowfall beat '79 by several inches. I am so glad that I can finally have something that will trump that. But I think '79 is so etched in my parents' memory because they had only recently experienced snow for the first time in general, let alone a blizzard. Nothing will probably top that one for them. But this is a doozy.

The hospital had warned us to "come prepared to stay," so yesterday morning I had a bag full of overnight stuff, books and snacks. Because of my old career, I get sort of excited whenever disaster looms, so I had been looking forward to hunkering down with books, granola bars and first-aid kits to be useful during an emergency at work. So when I was sent home at 3 p.m.--before the snow REALLY started to come down--it was disappointing. They told me to be back there by 7 a.m. to relieve the people who had stayed.

By 9 p.m., the workplace was on lockdown and leaving was a terminable offense. By midnight, they had shut down the city and by 3 a.m., no plows were even allowed on the road. My coworkers called at 6 a.m. and said not to come in but stay in touch. They are preparing to stay another night. HOWEVER, PATIENTS ARE STILL COMING IN FOR THEIR TESTS! There must be a lot more snowmobiles around these parts than I thought. 

So I am at my parents' house. My mom is actually battling the flu, so it's a plus that she can rest, because no one is allowed to call off on days like this (if we were able to come in). Jon and I talked on Skype for two hours as the snow was building and building. He has set up a time-lapse video of the balcony. But because my parents live in a loop, the effects are much more dramatic here. There's about four feet of snow piled up in front of our front door, and the drifts are up a quarter of the way past my sedan's windows.

Work called again, and some crazies I work with are trying to make their way there. The police have announced that if you go out in this, you are essentially on your own. And if you get stuck, you will get a ticket. Godspeed, my friends. 

This is the shot out the front door. We'd try to get out through the garage, but there's about that much snow in front of it, too--we know because the wind has forced in a good pile under the garage door.