Misery

Do no harm……to the year-end bonus.

I returned from an east coast jaunt in early December to find my friend Ben in the hospital, his life in chaos. As the doctors searched for the cause of his pain I helped get his affairs in order. To motivate him I said we should try to get him home by Christmas.

He probably wouldn’t have been able to care for himself so I offered to have him stay at my place for a week to transition. I suggested he carefully review Kathy Bates’ performance in Misery.

Reality soon overwhelmed planning and he didn’t go anywhere for Christmas. Last Thursday he was transferred to a skilled nursing facility. Although there had been talk that he would eventually go to one of these places, the move itself came about rather suddenly.

Ben called me around noon that day and was distraught. They were making arrangements to move him that afternoon. He was afraid it would be some “Tenderloin hell-hole.”  As a graduate of Boalt Hall he can be quite argumentative and contentious at times. He put up all kinds of resistance.

I ended up the go-between for Ben and the Client Relations Manager Rihana. They’d determined the sole cause of his hip pain was a bacterial infection and the course of therapy was an IV antibiotic for six weeks. This could be administered at a nursing home. Ben pleaded for one more night at the hospital and said he would go in the morning. Rihana said she would try and it was left at that.

That evening when I visited him at San Francisco Health Care and Rehabilitation Center he was a defeated soul. Plus he looked at me like my powers of advocacy had failed him. I put the best spin on it I could. At least he’d found out the treatment was six weeks, he’d already done two, he just had to ride it out for a month.

Then he told me what happened that morning. He’s had an untreated Sciatica problem for years. In addition to the hip pain he was having a lot of back pain. Another MRI was done at 10:00 am and they found problems with a disc. By the time he got back to his room at 11:00 the transfer had been set in motion.

Had there been a secret meeting of the ODP’s (Obama Death Panels) and was it determined that a second non-emergency surgery paid for by Medicare would not be profitable for Davies Medical Center?  One tries not to be cynical but…

Friday afternoon I went to see him at the home and noticed there was no IV. He hadn’t had any treatment in the last 24 hours. I didn’t have the energy to take on the new mysterious bureaucracy of the nursing home, I preferred the old bureaucracy that I did know. I went outside and called Rihana at Davies.

When I explained the situation she apologized. Then she said the facility was chosen because they could administer the therapy but Davies had no authority over what they actually did. I was flabbergasted. I accused her of being duplicitous and deliberately misleading Ben. I was upset that she had used me to help convince him to move based on her assertion that he would continue to receive treatment. It appeared Davies just wanted to free a bed for a more profitable patient. She kept repeating the “no authority” line so I hung up on her.

I walked around and ran some errands trying to think of a way to present this new development to Ben. When I returned to his room an hour later an IV had miraculously appeared in his arm.

To call this facility a hell hole is being kind. Ben says he’s seen bugs. When I visit he never has water. Nor do they provide pitchers I could fill with tap water. So I bring in bottled. He’s been there five days and has yet to have any physical therapy. They haven’t even helped him out of bed.

I could go on but all you need to know is that there’s one Russian doctor for the 168 patients. My guess is he’s a graduate of the famed Trump University of Ekaterinburg’s Med School by Mail program.

Who needs Kathy Bates to terrorize you when you have Medicare-fraud nursing homes to do it for you?

Happy New Year.

To read Ben’s story or to make a donation go to gofundme.com/ben-and-sydney.

Bitch Stole My Look

 

Me in the Chronicle Pink Section May, 1980

 

Miss Bates in 1990. When is the Academy going to recognize me?

A Caregiver’s Guide to a Successful Hospital Visit

Wear bright, bold colors and show as many teeth as possible when you smile. Phony cheerfulness can do wonders for the dreary ambiance of a hospital room. Listen intently to what the patient is saying. Somewhere in that incoherent mumbling they may be articulating a need you might be able to help with. Or not.

Be sure to to take advantage of the hospital’s free wifi and bring your phone. Small talk about the patient’s physical therapy can get old. Start texting to let everyone know which episode of The Crown you’re on. Or who you saw that tramp Bill with last night. You did your job by showing up at the hospital, now book a little “me time” and indulge yourself.

Patients often have weak or non-existent appetites so it’s no crime to stop by at meal times and pick at their trays. Those are your Obama-care tax dollars that paid for that slop, take back what’s rightfully yours. Patients are like zoo animals, they get regular feedings. Missing a meal here or there isn’t going to hurt them.

Decorum and a sense of self will get you everywhere in life. Never let down your guard.

*****

Ben continues to make slow progress. And, as should be obvious, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

Thanks to all of you who have supported Ben. If you are interested in reading his story or making a donation visit gofundme.com/ben-and-sydney.

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Or whatever it is that floats your boat.

 

My God-Diggity Dog Daughter

Although I have not been officially consecrated by the Church yet, my spiritual charge, Sydney, was taken at knifepoint a week ago today. Fortunately, she was found in the streets a couple of hours later.

Sydney belongs to a neighbor and friend, Ben, who has had a rather rough go of it lately. I have started a fundraiser for him to help him along. Click here to read about Ben and Sydney or to make a donation.

To those who have already offered support, thank you. To everyone, thanks for your consideration and enjoy the holidays.

 

Dear (Fill in the Blank):

I won’t be home for Christmas, Mother.

Pursuant to my previous post, the last McLaughlin sister, Aunt Betty, died in early December. She was 97. Her four sisters preceded her in death at the ages of 96, 95, 92 and 77. There’s a runt in every litter.

Grandmother was born in 1900 and was the oldest sister. Betty was the youngest, born in 1920. The sticklers out there may question my statement that the girls were all “college graduates by 1925.” Rather than do a detailed accounting of their schooling, I chose a pithy way to emphasize how unusual post high school education was for rural Indiana women in the early 20th Century. It’s what we in the Bullshit Business call poetic license. And I find poetry everywhere. Especially the words “get off my fucking back.”

Despite her inability to graduate from college by the age of five, Aunt Betty was the brainiest of the girls. Grandmother, with her love for Calculus and Trigonometry, came in a close second. After college, Aunt Betty did medical research and planned to pursue med school. Then she succumbed to the country custom of the times and sacrificed it for marriage.

All that intellect was focused on her progeny who were rewiring their house’s electricity by the time they were 11. It would be 50 more years before I could rewire a lamp. When her eldest son studied the french horn, an instrument I’d never heard of, I picked up the gauntlet and played it for the next seven years. And, because my birthday was around Memorial Day, my card always included a list of books to read that summer. Like Ivanhoe or The Hounds of the Baskervilles.

Her children wrote their tickets to college via scholarships. Upon graduation, a couple were swept up by the government to do top-secret work in New Mexico.

97, 92, 95, 96. Not pictured: 77.

Like Grandmother, Aunt Betty would gently challenge us.  When we came up with answers we were expected to justify the how and why of what we’d concluded. We were not trained monkeys robotically spitting out correct responses. We were Socratic simians unraveling the epistemology of the universe.

Grandmother started her family 10 years before her sisters so my Mother’s first decade was spent as the sole beneficiary of all that female power. One weekend when I was home from college, my grandparents took me to visit Aunt Betty’s farm. I hadn’t seen her in some time and had developed an exotic hippie look that Grandmother seemed to be proud of. As we walked into the house she teased her sister, “do you know who this is?” Aunt Betty smiled, “he has all of her expressions.”

Before there was email spam, before there were Ed McMahon’s sweepstakes congratulations, and even before there was xeroxing there were mimeographed Christmas letters. Aunt Betty made the mistake of sending them out a few times. Grandmother was appalled. To her it was the depths of bad taste. Being a dutiful grandson, I concurred.

But the chimp in me fostered a curiosity for people, especially accomplished people, who failed. There’s reasoning for both the good and bad in life, what is it? Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name?

With Aunt Lucille. Don’t even think of calling her Lucy.

The McLaughlin girls created a monster with a life-long fascination for the obtuse. I was thinking this year would be perfect for an impersonal personal Christmas communique: the instantaneous, phantasmagorical swollen lip; the explosive diarrhea and projectile vomiting of a campylobacter infection; traveling with 80 cents in my pocket through a major mid-western city; and being named the spiritual mentor to a dog–all seem ripe for a mass mailing.

But why duplicate effort. The blog is a perpetual mimeograph.

2018 will be the year I finally organize my papers, photos, wardrobe and salacious memories to donate to posterity. Fair warning, dear reader, there’s going to be a Dewey Decimal feel in the months to come.

In the meantime, as we celebrate the holidays let’s not forget one of the most important teachings of the Church: Bless-ud are the Blanks for they shall inherit the archives.