My surgery was performed at East Orange General Hospital. This was no personal choice on my part, nor was I consulted on my opinion… this was the hospital attached to the office where I visited my GYN. Prior to the surgery, in fact as far back as the time of the biopsy that led to the determination this surgery was mandatory, I had been given advice to not go to this hospital (by someone I trust without question who happens to be a medical professional; but again…), and, her reasons for advising such quickly became evident. They were terrible! Let’s address this…
There are few instances in one’s life that highlight vulnerability like illness or the need for medical attention or intervention. Worry, anxiety and fear cuddle up to physical incapacities, limitations or pain. They become intimate and regard you as the interloper. They gather strength and conspire to manifest every. single. one. of the worst case scenarios the doctors may have shared, and you and Google may have concocted. Hope and Faith become names of girls you know (and quite frankly, hate) and not anything you possess. It is bad. Shit! It is in those moments, in an effort to stall the anesthesiologist, you wished you had paid better attention in Math class, so you could show off your ability to count backward from one hundred, not just ten!
But, you survive; and God allows you to forgive yourself for all you said about those heifers [hope/faith] and you restore them to their rightful place… alongside, trust. They wheel you to your room and truly, this is where your convalescence truly begins. I will not go through every infraction or disregard of their (the nurses’) oath to care for and heal, because truly, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” But I will speak of those that particularly stood out.
Approximately twenty-four hours after my surgery (I had spent the entire Monday after my 10:00am surgery in bed, on an IV drip and heavily medicated), the catheter was removed. After it was removed, I indicated to the nurse I needed to go to the bathroom. Her response, “It’s right there. Go.” Ahm… I was incredulous! I had not moved in twenty hours or so. I did not know how to roll over in bed, much less get up and out. And, I certainly did not know how to walk. All I knew was pain! I asked her to help me. She got me sitting up on the side of the bed, again told me the bathroom was “right there” and left the room. I sat there for half an hour, stuck and crying. Which did not help because every breath I took felt like I was being stretched and tortured. No one came back. I was finally able to contort myself, risking popping stitches, grabbed onto the end of my earbuds, drag my phone to me and called Peggie at work. She came; finding me still sitting there where the ‘nurse’ left me almost an hour before.
After midnight on the first night, two nurses got into a screaming-match with each other at the nurse’s station. I shit you not! Full on, so that in a drug-induced haze, with my door closed, I was roused from sleep. This went on for approximately twenty minutes or so… complete with f-words. The next night while she was offering up an apology for the “disturbance” I made the mistake of politely saying to one of the nurses, “I hope all is well now” to which she then launched into how it most certainly is as she is positive the other nurse will never make the mistake of stepping to her again as she now should know her boundaries, because sometimes you just have to “put people in their place.” Sigh.
My IV was unclipped to allow me to go to the bathroom. It was never restarted. My leg compressors were unclipped to allow me to go the bathroom. The ‘nurse’ says “let me show you how to do it so you can reattach it yourself.” Ahm… My sister is a doctor. Thankfully, whenever any of us are unclear, uncertain or afraid her bedside manner is impeccable. Throughout this experience she stayed in constant contact. She explained to me why I had to pee and poop before I left the hospital. I trust her, so if she says it needs to be done, I will stay and get it done. When it finally happened on day two, I informed the ‘nurse’ on duty so he could inform my doctor… so I could get the fuck out of there! His response, ‘Good; I will tell her. But I have to eat first, I am hungry, so will tell her after.” Ahm… I asked two ‘nurses’ why no one has checked my incision, for anything – bleeding, signs of infection, anything. One responded, “You didn’t look at it yourself?” Ahm… I was given 800mg of Motrin every six hours. I asked, “Shouldn’t I eat something first?” They responded, “Oh… you want something to eat?” Ahm…
I have subsequently looked at where East Orange General Hospital ranks, and it gets a one . As you should figure, that is not a Yay! Number one! That is a one  as in the lowest on the totem pole! Here’s the thing… I am very well supported by medical professionals around me, to whom I can turn for advice and comfort when things aren’t right; what about the millions who do not? How does one survive, both physically and emotionally, a place like that? How do people, charged with caring for the vulnerable, allow themselves that level of disregard? How do they reconcile the innumerable times they put my health and well-being in jeopardy?
So yes, I shit and I got out. Thanking God for that truly took on an entirely different connotation. They were negligent. Unprofessional. Impulsive. Untrained. Jaded. Lazy. They were dangerous. They should not be allowed around the sick, frail, elderly, vulnerable and afraid. I am strong. But I was found at the side of a bed, exposed, in excruciating pain, heavily drugged and in tears. Vulnerable.