Where’s the Mommy?

A Few Things I Learned During My Stay in the Hospital

1. Though I was in a “good” hospital, the industry, in all forms, aggressively seeks ways to cut corners for profit. The worst manifestation of these “ethics” include under-staffing. This made for decent-but-frustrated nurses and not enough support staff for patients. I have an anecdote about my 92-year-old roommate that involves her sitting on a commode with her back bare for 45 minutes during the day last Saturday, which is only one miserable example of what I witness (and tried to call attention to). Don’t get me wrong – the staff is quite willing but simply overstretched.

2. Many doctors examined and tested me, including an endocrinologist, neurologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, as well as a doctor who “oversaw” the search for a diagnosis. The ultimate lesson I learned is an old adage, “One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.” I advocated for myself, made sure records and results were reported to each, scheduled tests, etc, but still, I seemed to be of no interest when my results proved nothing noteworthy to each single doc. One neurologist jokingly put it best, “Your MRI and neck scan are remarkably unremarkable. We would have liked you to provide us with something of interest.” And they vanished into the ether.

3. The ultimate lesson to be gleaned from number two is that getting old must be very scary with this health care industry “looking” after you. I met with much resistance when advocating for myself. The preferred patient involvement is none. Zilch. Passivity. Unquestioning. Gratitude wasn’t even expected.

I had four roommates throughout my stay (one at a time), all who were over the age of 70. Their doctors came in and spoke with each, on average, for about thirty seconds. The last one was a retired nurse. I imagined she would at least, out of respect as a fellow practitioner in the field, be treated more considerately by her primary physician. In fact, she received the worst attention I witnessed. Her doctor left after a fifteen second ramble spoken well below her hearing level, and she told me how scared and confused she was. She explained that in his office he tells more dirty jokes than dealing with her health. She explained that she would prefer to go home and die with her family than to die in the hospital after a visit like that. She was, not so incidentally, an intelligent woman who had immigrated from Denmark in her twenties and spent her life attending others. She just happens to be “old” and a little hard of hearing.

Many of the elderly were infantilized by the docs while the nurses and PCAs tried desperately to make up for those dismissals. For health care providers, it must get very depressing to be stretched thin by duties while trying to attend to the human and emotional needs of each patient — and ultimately to find that you simply don’t have time to do so.

4. My worst experience with a doctor during my stay was with the endocrinologist on my first night of admission. I greeted him with, “Yay, the man of the hour!” because my doctor and an ER doc suggested that my symptoms may very well be caused by a hormonal issue. He responded, “I really don’t know why I’ve been referred to you.” Though he was looking at my chart, I explained my recent six-week bout, included all symptoms, and told him of my doc’s imminent referral to his branch of medicine. Again, he countered, “Well, I don’t know what question I’m supposed to be answering.” I couldn’t believe the blatant resistance. I asked, “Why do you think my doctor would believe my symptoms to be hormonal in origin?” Instead of actually analyzing my symptoms and speculating how they could relate, the bastard argued, “I really can’t imagine why another doctor reaches the conclusions she does. I can’t get into her head.” “Doctor, it sounds like you’re really not interested in helping me.” At that, he mumbled something about running a blood test to check my cortisol levels as he walked away. Literally. No exaggeration. I never saw him again. His resident popped in on the last day as I was packing to leave, much to my amazement. He was nice but powerless. After hearing of my disdain for his supervisor, he assumed I would not want to see the man again as an outpatient. He laughed as words like “prick” and “worst bedside manner” and “needs another profession” bubbled up from the depths.

5. A person really figures out and finds out who their friends are while whiling away the hours in a bed for days on end. Many thanks to those of you who called, visited, sent love and concern, covered my classes, helped find people to cover my classes, and just everyone I heard from. You’ve left an imprint and made the hours go by much more positively than imagined.

6. The Michael Moore film, Sicko, uses a few extreme cases to illustrate some of the health care industry’s problems. There are many more less dramatic revelations to be exposed that I have not touched on but got a glimpse of during my first-ever patient tenure in a hospital. I can’t begin to imagine the toll the system takes on those who don’t have money and can’t get top-shelf care.

7. I have the best gynecologist in the world. My issues are not gyn-related at all, and yet, one day during my hospital stay I received a phone call, “This is Diane from Dr. Gomes’ office. Do you have a few minutes to speak with Dr. Gomes?” “Um, yes…” He got on the phone during his business hours, asked to hear and listened thoroughly to my six-week history. He then asked specific questions about what precipitated what, how that symptom manifested at this or that point, etc. In other words, he listened. He then advised me to aggressively advocate for certain tests, to be careful if something I was being told didn’t sound right, etc.

This is a man who, during office visits, sits in his office with you — beyond the scope of simply doing an exam — and talks with you about your well-being and uses other words like “holistic” and “systemic health”. He does not sell unnecessary procedures and, just incredibly, spends time with each patient. I’ve never waited to see him when I arrive on time for an appointment, he has tons of support staff, he invests in advanced equipment (I was one of the first to get a three-D sonogram of my uterus), and most importantly, he does not seem in a hurry to rush a soul out of his office. He answers questions and isn’t running a gynecological-mill to fund his third or fourth house or to get back to another round on the most exclusive golf course in Long Island. Perhaps he seems too good to be true, but to date, he keeps proving himself angelic-like, above and beyond the call of duty. Looking for a gyn? Go to Dr. John Gomes.

6. While staying on the cardiac ward, one can only sneak cell phone pics in the bathroom as cellular waves are banned due to cardiac machines and their frequencies. I was careful and only got the one below off. Enjoy!

By the way, my Baltimore pal, Aimee Darrow, has a much more “rewarding” post about her recent hospital stay over on Caffeine Diary, and Geof Huth has a much scarier or graphic account over at dpap: visualizing poetics.


Who Thought of That?


** “The tooth-in-eye technique, pioneered in Italy 40 years ago …” [Blind teen to have parts of tooth, jaw inserted in eye]

** “The procedure used on McNichol involved his son Robert, 23, donating a tooth, its root and part of the jaw.” [Blind Irishman sees with the aid of son’s tooth in his eye]

**“The surgeons then remove the iris, the lens and the jelly of the eye that lie behind the cornea.” [Tooth used to save woman’s sight]

**“Former soldier Lionel James, 72, will be seeing in the new year for the first time in more than seven years – thanks to his eye tooth.” [Miracle operation restores grandfather’s sight.]


If we are so advanced, “What makes us so mean?” Ron Padgett ventures a guess in his new book, “HOW TO BE PERFECT,” in the long political poem:

What makes us so mean?
We are meaner than gorillas,
the ones we like to blame our genetic aggression on.
It is in our nature to hide behind what Darwin said about survival,
as if survival were the most important thing on earth.
It isn’t.
You know–surely it has occurred to you–
that there is no way that humankind will survive
another million years. We’ll be lucky to be around
another five hundred. Why?
Because we are so mean
that we would rather kill everyone and everything on earth
than let anybody get the better of us:
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Why didn’t he just say “Grrr, let’s kill each other”?
–The first stanza, of many, continued in HOW TO BE PERFECT by Ron Padgett


Save Yourselves.


Never get the flu shot. My winter break has been monopolized by bronchitis, then pneumonia, and just when I was feeling better yesterday, I let the doctor convince me to accept a flu shot.

Since I haven’t had the flu for more than ten years now, you may ask, “Why?” — as I am doing over and over again. Today, I suffer with more than a sore arm. And school starts back on Monday. Never ever again. Don’t get the flu shot. Get the flu.

2 Responses to “Save Yourselves.”

  1. Sam Rasnake Says:
    January 21st, 2007 at 1:05 pm eSound advice Amy. Sorry that you’re not feeling well.

    I enjoyed your work at the DC Anthology– Especially liked “I Want Your War”. Thanks for the link.

  2. Amy King Says:
    January 21st, 2007 at 3:30 pm eThanks, Sam! I’m a bit better today, but not all together. I still prefer risking the flu, and then fighting it if necessary, instead of the near-fainting episodes I’ve had. Of course, the doc on the weekend call service wasn’t sure the fainting was related, as though I nearly faint on a regular basis. But based on some rudimentary research via the internet, it seems that this denial of adverse effects is par for the course, one that docs are trained to parrot.

    Glad you liked the work too! Be well, Sam~

Winter’s Return


It’s cold today in New York City, finally, and that means some semblance of normality descends. Amen. I’ve been off the map, thanks to a bout with bronchitis-turned-pneumonia. Not to worry, four days into my antibiotic regimen, and I’m feeling on the mend. Treks to the corner bodega aren’t so easy, nonetheless, this vacation is a true one that finds me indoors, reading, relaxing, and just generally kicking back. I’d like to be out and about, taking in some shows and museum visits, but we can’t have every little thing in this life at all moments, no? Books and a warm dog suffice for now.

I’m also finally turning to some cds sent my way, primarily from Dan Coffey and Brian Howe, and am digging Richard Buckner’s “Meadow”, which is surprisingly upbeat and lovely, the latter being normal for this musician.

Anyway, to celebrate the new light and air beyond this wall’s perimeter, I thought I’d share a John Ashbery poem I love, for many reasons, but one stand out one is that it resonates with the distress I feel when people try to name God, describe that entity, and tell me what God wants. It takes a lot of audacity or myopia to speak for a being one deems supreme and ultimate. It’s like trying to say everything all at once. No one can do that. So let God be God and attend to your own intentions and the measures you take, I say. That’s enough to fill a lifetime. Say your piece about your version of god if it suits you, or you’re compelled, as many poets are, but don’t declare yours a universal truth, applicable to all. Peace be with you, brother, and the paths you take, the notions you endow, the truths you entertain, etc.



The failure to see God is not a problem
God has a problem with. Sure, he could see us
if he had a hankering to do so, but that’s
not the point. The point is his concern
for us and for biscuits. For the loaf
of bread that turns in the night sky over Stockholm.

Not there, over there. And I yelled them
what I had told them before. The affair is no one’s business.
The peeing man seemed not to notice either.
We came up the strand with carbuncles
and chessmen fetched from the wreck. Finally the surplus buzz
did notice, and it was fatal to our project.
We just gave up then and there, some of us dying, others walking
wearily but contentedly away. God had had his little joke,
but who was to say it wasn’t ours? Nobody, apparently,
which could be why the subject was never raised
in discussion groups in old houses along the harbor,
some of them practically falling into it.
Yet still they chatter a little ruefully: “I know
your grace’s preference.” There are times
when I even think I can read his mind,
coated with seed-pearls and diamonds.
There they are, for the taking. Take them away.
Deposit them in whatever suburban bank you choose.
Hurry, before he changes his mind — again.

But all they did was lean on their shovels, dreaming
of spring planting, and the marvellous harvests to come.

–John Ashbery, Your Name Here


3 Responses to “Winter’s Return”

  1. Jim Knowles Says:
    January 9th, 2007 at 1:56 pm eFun visual of the bread-loaf.

    The “seed-pearls and diamonds” is a particularly nice section
    for expansive meanings…the inference that there are
    perceptions into a dynamic reality that do not last.
    (changes his mind = different set of gifts, as opposed to not available?)
    The view shifts, the gifts shift…some are beginnings
    (seed pearls), some are finished (diamonds).
    Evanescent until you pluck them, then yours.
    Probably could be taken other ways, but visions speak to each of us.

  2. Jim Knowles Says:
    January 9th, 2007 at 2:06 pm eMakes sense from a nested Deist/Taoist point of view.
    My concept of a creator does not allow physical intervention,
    as my solution to the problem-of-evil: (what use is a real world
    when you control it? Might as well be in in your mind)..
    However…I speculate on the ability to slip people insights:
    the diamonds and seed-pearls fit well. The “changes his mind”
    adds a Delandean touch behind the curtain, not just in front.
    Not sure I have that sussed out, but it’s a neat concept:
    subtle law-shifts. Either that or time-local insights.
  3. shanna Says:
    January 9th, 2007 at 3:18 pm eyay! glad you’re feeling better, amy.