Saturday, August 4, 2012

Page 97 Hospital Groupies Part One

This is an absolutely true story

”First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me.” - Steve Martin

For years Willie has worked at The Methodist hospital with an employee population larger than some successful cities. It even had its own zip code. She never met with owners or presidents and folks were given performance reviews with little fanfare. Having spent her years in the Coast Guard and then Methodist, she had no idea about the private sector.

She had set her sights on working at the V.A. Hospital (Veteran’s Administration) in Houston. Actually, she felt entitled. She had been in the Coast Guard for ten years, mostly with a good record until she was put out because “she didn’t represent the C.G. in a uniform well. Yes, they actually said and did that to her. Ten years of faithful service, and she gained a little weight and she was out. I found that reprehensible. She had many stories of her time in the C.G. and she loved it there. She just couldn’t let go and spent every day of her life looking back instead of forward. I felt if she did in fact get the position she craved, perhaps she could let some of it go.

Her other reason she felt entitled I didn’t quite agree on. She was from the deep South and try as she did, she couldn't shake her history. She lived in an atmosphere of bigotry growing up in Alabama She felt the V.A. hired an inordinate amount of minorities to meet their EOC, (Equal Opportunity Commision).. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. I couldn’t’ actually say. I feel there is a minority of whites in Houston and so we will see that ratio in the work place. I do not think it is a hiring/racial thing, I just think it is availability. But every day I had to hear about it. When she was at Methodist, it was a big problem with her. She felt if she got hired by the V.A.she would be at a fair advantage. In the interim, she was going to work for a small organization. The irony of all of this is, I actually worked on the design of this particular V.A. and once it was finished and all the kinks worked out, I never thought I would enter those doors again.

She could never understand about my coming and going in business. I would work for a firm for 6 months to a year, mostly on contract, mostly repeat business engaged by my Engineering firm, Willie and I put together, MD Tech, it was a drafting/graphic’s art company. But there were occasions where I was “let go”. Though there were occasions they simply did not want to do business with me because WIllie would harangue them for payment, however, that is for another post. . I really for the most part, had and have a good business partnership with most firms, however,there were occasions that I was "let go" almost always for the same reason.

Discrimination. One of the very worst was Roy Harper and Associates. When I started working there, he was so happy, far beyond satisfied with my abilities. He was a friendly sort and would engage me in long conversations about family and the like. For my daughter’s high school graduation, he was going to come to my house and make crawfish for the family party. He was very excited about this and asked that I come to pick up his cooker the day before so he could just bring himself, and the food... He heard me speak of Willie, but apparently thought nothing of it. That changed quickly.

When Willie and I showed up at his house, he acted very strangely. Willie looks very butch with a flat top typical clothing of Polo shirt, jeans and tennis shoes or boots. He chose to pass judgement. He knew we had been living together for several years. But please, I was a valuable worker and a good person. You would have thought he was just told his house burned down. He took me aside and said he wouldn’t be able to make the party. My heart sank. I had folks from all over the globe coming. I immediately knew why of course, but felt certain that was the end of that behavior. When I came in to work the following Monday, he called me into his office.

“Dianne, please understand that what I have to say is no direct judgment of you as a person and employee”.

I gave him credit for the eye contact and the folded hands.

“You know we build many churches and we cannot afford to lose revenue for standing on principle” .

He continued with the yadayada, but truly, I actually understood where he was coming form. And this was not my first trip on a sinking ship. No, it happened at BDMI, (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and a few more companies that would take me to task for a certain hypocritical liability.

I actually stayed at Harpers through the week to complete an expansion on one of those churches. He trusted me enough to leave me there that Friday night. I finished up, turned on the alarm, locked the door and put the key under a rock where he told me. You would have thought this would have dissuaded Willie from getting a position where her boss was in her business every day, but she was determined. It was going to be different for her. So I created resumes and cover letter, faxing them to the several organizations she plotted. One of them was a dental firm, who actually hired her.

And then she got the opportunity to experience having to work with the owner of the company you are with,. It was full of gossip, cheating, stealing upstaging and aggrandizing and she seemed to thrive. She heard the tag line: Hate the sin not the sinner. She didn;'t seem to mind. Until she slipped in the laundry room on one of my negligee’s, one of the few times she was doing laundry, and busted her leg up pretty badly.

We spent hours in the E.R. at Houston Northwest Hospital. It was like the early days of Cook County in Chicago where there were no free rooms. They had to reset her leg and made things worse. It is called reducing. Yet, they never reduce anything and you can tell when a doctor is doing it. Everyone can tell, because in spite of the massive amounts of Demerol, there is some screaming going on. They did this several times. I got into it with the Doctor and begged her to call my orthopedic doctor who fixes everything pretty quickly and painlessly. But she refused. She was an intern and she was going to do it herself. I begged and begged.

Eventually someone must have called because over the P.A.:

“Dr. Know-it-all, Dr. Fitzgerald is on line 4 for you”. I pick four because that is how many times she “reduced” Willie’s leg.

Well Dr. Know-it-all was incensed “Did you call him!!! I told you not to call him!” (I guess doing what’s right is not as important as doing what’s profitable).

What…wait…WHAT!!! Is this China? Am I really not allowed to do this? I told her no I didn’t as she had done so much damage to Willie already I didn’t dare put Willie’s LIFE at risk. Her leg was already looking like a mangled extension of what it should be!

Thankfully Dr. Fitz told her to stop what she was doing. One reduction should have been enough. Two was already looking dangerous, three “WHAT THE HELL SCHOOL DID YOU GO TO ANYWAY???”

The nurse who called shirked sheepishly by and told me she made the call, then immediately begged me to not tell Dr. Know-it, and she said she used the term Doctor loosely.

After all, do you know what they call a doctor who graduates at the bottom of her class? “Doctor” . Even lawyers lose their ability to practice – well, to get a decent internship at a law firm if they don’t graduate at the top 5% of their class. And if you graduate at the bottom, you get a job as a “person with a law degree” I know this. I worked at an Engineering firm where one of the Mechanical Engineers quit his job all pompous and everything

"I'm going to Law School, I am going to move on up from all you loosers!"

…he returned. He graduated at the bottom of his class. Because he had a “law degree” they made him the Office manager. He did nothing but chew tobacco, spit in a cup and recite racist, bigoted and homophobic salutations. When I asked him where I could get a “Black’s Law Dictionary” for Devon, he gave me his. Still in the packaging.

So things settled down at Houston Northwest Hospital and Willie was allowed to leave with a temporary cast on her foot with an appointment to see Dr. Fitz the next day. And Dr. Know-it was put on probation. It seems that was her first day as the lead intern and what a bang-up job she did! Literally.

After seeing the Dr. Fitzgerald, she was slated for surgery the same day and she had to have several pins and a plate in her leg. This should have been a pretty standard conclusion, but we were not so lucky. When making the fusion, they needed to use donor bone. Which works very well in fact, if you don’t smoke? Willie was not going to quit, so an injury that should have rectified itself in 6 weeks dragged on for months. And then years. The little Dental firm she was working for could not oblige this and since they were not backed with the same employee morality issues as large firms, Willie was put out. She had worked her best, but the pain was too much.

The private sector job told her they couldn’t keep her. She was all “OH my God, I am gonna sue, they can’t do that etc. I simply smiled and said, yes they can, and yes they do. No need for I told you so."

“Fuck that, I am never going to work for any company smaller than ten thousand employees”. I.e. the government.

Willie had been out of work for some time. Her leg was too painful to even take her across the room. She truly enjoyed convalescence. She said It is the part that makes the illness worthwhile.

But she continued to smoke so the donor bone wouldn’t take. I told her I didn’t give a shit if she smoked, but secretly I hated it. Especially when we were in restaurants. My dad made a statement one time about smoking sections being like having a peeing section in a public pool. He was a lung transplant recipient and he always got a table at the demarcation line; i.e. the table next to him was a smoking table. Anyway…yes she continued to smoke. And being a cripple, I had to buy those cigarettes. So I was a little fucked myself. But I got her back, I never told her I bought them at the Indian Burial Ground convenience store down the street.

They finally re-operated, but that did not work either. After 8 months, and me being the primary bread winner, we finally found a renowned specialist in the medical center who operated yet again. The second operation they should have removed and replaced the hardware. They did not and yes, we tried to sue and no, nothing came of that.

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