A New Roommate


Mr. Capote is long gone. An old guy with pneumonia came and went. Yesterday, a new roommate arrived, connected to some sort of oxygen machine whose decibel level is akin to a loud blow dryer up against your ear.

The entire room is filled with a shrill hissing sound that immediately rattles ones brain. When Max’s attending doctor made her rounds today, she confessed that the noise was driving her nuts.

Max doesn’t want to switch to a new room, now that he has the window. But what about the noise?!? It is constant, 24 hours a day, and it is bound to ruin his hearing.

The poor man attached to the machine is unable to speak, but his family came today and gave him some paper to write on. I then realized that he is a person and not just a nuisance devised to torture my son and me. I told the   family that I would try to look out for their father, even though it’s hard enough getting sub-adequate care for Max.

So far, since my last update, there has been a blood clot, an infection, and the discovery that Max’s right arm is broken. No wonder it hurts! No one will reposition him unless you ask, and even then there may be a wait. The patients are supposed to be washed every day; every 4 days is the norm, and sometimes longer. They have never once offered up a toothbrush. Not once.

The nurses like to move the bedside tray around two feet out of reach. They also like to come in and talk about Jesus. If you happen to be an atheist, you will need to keep your mouth shut, since they have so much power over your basic comfort, not to mention your actual life.

It has been nearly nine weeks now. It’s hard to know what to do to make life in this “hospital” more tolerable. My patient has no appetite and is resigned to the fact that no one will come when he pushes the call-button. If only I could trade places with him.

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37 Responses to A New Roommate

  1. Aja says:

    I think in situations like hospitals, people shouldn’t be forced to listen to any religious diatribe unless you personally request it. I think it’s selfish when people push their beliefs on others. I know they think they’re helping, but really (rolls eyes)?

  2. WendyB says:

    It just gets more horrible. Also, I miss Mr. Capote.

  3. arline says:

    All I can do is keep sending you good thoughts and energy. I hate hearing about such terrible care that is going on there.

    A toothbrush is not too much to expect!

  4. kansas says:

    does max, or you for that matter, need someone to come hang out and read atrocious tales of life in the outside world out loud?

  5. Leslie says:

    And this is supposed to be one of the best hospitals? I am appalled.

    I wish your son a speedy recovery. Hopefully he’ll be out of that shithole soon.

    I am glad to hear that Mr. Capote has recovered though (has he?).

  6. Susan says:

    So sad that this living nightmare is allowed to happen – I suspect that if you went in there screaming like the man in Munch’s painting (or the crazy wolf you are) no one would even notice. Might make you feel a little better though. Sometimes noise is necessary.

    Have you considered that nurses are also human, though probably working in sub-human conditions, with limited resources. And prayers are possibly their only way of coping with the situation they find themselves in.

    Sending positive, healing vibes your way x

  7. Sister Wolf says:

    Aja – I was appalled to hear about the Jesus crap. What if a patient is a Jew or Muslim?

    WendyB- Yeah, we all miss him.

    arline – Thanks, xoxo. (Teeth are not a priority, evidently)

    kansas – YES!

    Leslie – Mr. Capote did get better, but I believe he may actually be homeless.

    Susan – I have done more than scream. As for the nurses: They are supposed to be care-givers. I would like to see more of them live up to this definition. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

  8. Susan says:

    Okay, I agree about the care-giving. But I’m not with you on the Jesus thing. Oh yee of little faith. Surely, whatever ones religion or belief-system, denying someone their faith is tantamount to removing the meaning from their life, the very reason for their existence?

  9. Find a priest take him in get him to shout at the nurses.

    Alternatively take in a religious icon, preferably of Mary and wail for 5 minutes then when a nurse does come wail some more and tell them Mary came to you in a dream and told you to put her watchful eye on them so your son gets washed and cared for!

    Short of that call an ambulance and tell them the nursing staff broke his arm – how do you know they didn’t??!

  10. sarah.p says:

    I’m utterly stunned that he could have been suffering an unnoticed broken arm. I’ve not the least idea how you are maintaining your sanity, still less managing to reserve compassion for the others sharing his room.


  11. Moda says:

    Honestly Sister W that’s a horrendous state of affairs. I imagine you’ve probably already got everyone involved but I think you could set up a rota system of your friends and family to be there for Max. They could have a checklist of questions to ask each nurse that they see i.e. can we keep this table close enough so Max can reach it; when was he last repositioned.etc and just get everyone reinforcing the same thing so that you’re all more in their face. A complaint to the big-wigs about the call button being useless might make the nurses think twice about ignoring it? Keep up the pressure Sister.

    And the Jesus-y nurses? If I thought it would get better care then I’d just brazenly bring Jesus into the conversation with nurses.. Jesus is watching, Jesus needs you to look after Max, thank the lord for good nurses like you who never forget about our child Max. You might give Max a good laugh anyway!

    Good luck Sister Wolf. Fuckin broken arm. As if he’s not got enough on his plate.
    Anyway, vibing you & Max the best I’ve got.

  12. Mark says:

    Like sarah.p. I’m stunned about the broken arm. That is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever heard. Nine weeks with an untreated broken arm???

    Could Max wear those noise-reducing headphones?

    Ugh. This is all so heartbreaking.

  13. Ann says:

    I hate this situation more than words can adequately express. 9 weeks, countless x-rays and 2 different hospitals with an undiagnosed/untreated broken arm…really? Let alone all of the other bullshit that you both have endured over these months?

    Never mind the financial health-care reform that is currently being sought after, this country needs a humanitarian health-care reform.

    I love you.

  14. TheShoeGirl says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this. 🙁

    I sincerely wish there was something I could do for you other than sending good vibes.

  15. WCGB says:

    Your description turns my stomach. Time for a video camera. Time for postings on YouTube and elsewhere with name of place and description of care. I’m out of town this week, but this travesty needs to reach the ears of policy makers (on behalf of Max and his fellow sufferers at this facility). Bare minimum it’s time to call the JCHAO people or whatever monitoring agency oversees the facility. Such bullshit!!!

  16. Vee says:

    There is almost nothing more blood-boiling than hypocrites who spout religious platitudes and yet really know nothing about loving their neighbors. Blinded by their own fog of self-righteousness. Hmph.

    The feeling of dehumanization in hospitals is so awful. It makes one feel like no one cares about them in the world.

    But you are there for Max, and we (and I’m sure many other people as well!) are all here for you!

    Best wishes.

  17. 1Sgt Kasey Thornton (Ret) says:

    I find this type of treatment unsatisfactory. I didnt spend 20yrs as an Army Ranger for our citizens to be treated with such malice and lack of dignity. This is a disgrace for those who fought and died, only to have the very freedom of a caring society to be thrown to the wayside. Tell his Doctor an the appropriate administrator of the problems and document it with a handheld recorder. If it stays the same, go above their head. If still no change. You have all the evidence you need, sue them for neglect. At the very least you should have called the police for assault when you found his arm broken. Dont put up with this shit! Do something!!

  18. Kurt Stout says:

    I am praying for both you and Max. Unfortunately this level of UNcare is rampant in our medical system. I experienced it in the VA Health System. It makes me sad to hear of it. Keep the fight up and explore the possibilities of him having nurses at home. If I have to I would be willing to come sit with him 24-7 and raise hell constantly. I am a formidable avocate.

  19. This just sucks. Max is lucky to have you advocating for him. Pity the poor patients who don’t have friends and family to bring them a toothbrush and move their food tray within reach! I found this same level of non-care when I had my hip replaced, and had to have a family member there 24 hours a day just to attend to basic needs. Still praying for you and Max…

  20. Mark says:

    Every patient needs a team of advocates.

  21. Alicia says:

    This sucks. Ugh. I can’t imagine. The damn proselytizing just tears it.

  22. Andra says:

    Move to Australia NOW! Charter a plane if necessary. Cairns would be the best place.

  23. hoochiegucci says:

    Keep fighting the good fight darling.

    In the meantime I love you, and biggie.

  24. andrea says:

    I am so sorry that Max is not being cared for properly. If your complaints have gone unresponded to by the hospital, you MUST go to the state. I am in NY, and we have a state dept that is responsible for the proper running of hospitals and seeing that patient care is at, at the least, a minimum standard of care. I am sure there is something similar in CA. Once you go to the state- you will have to call, email, and send a hard copy, return receipt- the hospital’s quality assurance dept will have to do an internal review (the state will force them to), and the state will send its own people to do a review for quality of care. I know this because a) I am an RN, and b) I worked for the state doing reviews until I had my daughter, and I recently worked in the hospital doing internal reviews. Take all your anger and frustration and put it to good use. Do not give up. Go to the media if you have to. Every person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and has the right to expect a certain standard of care. It would seem that none of these things are being done here.

  25. OMGGMAB says:

    This is an example of the type of care you get when you have insurance and can “afford” the health crap – not health care, health crap. Unfortunately, under our current system, the insurance companies run everything. And like the Catholic Church, only two things matter to them: “power and money.” Their bottom line dictates all; therefore, they designate themselves as the dictator of your healthcare and in that arena, less means more. Costs less, more for the insurance co. shareholders. Thus, insurance companies have power over the quality of health care you receive. If it costs less for them, that’s what you get. And in the end you get what they pay for, which is shit caretakers who are undereducated, underpaid, overworked, and pseudo-Christians to boot. Sounds like a formula for success, doesn’t it?

    Dear dear Sister, my heart weeps for you and your dear son. What a horrible debacle in which to be. Can you not bring him home and utilize home health care? Somewhere exists a caring nurse who could nurture him back to good health. My sister is a nurse. She lived in CA for a while. She could be cajoled. . .

    And perhaps you need a good lawyer who could sue those idiots for pain and suffering due to a broken arm that he has had for how long? F’ers!

    Good karma, good karma, good karma.

  26. Andra says:

    I’ll pick you up at the airport. You can stay at my house!

  27. Sister Wolf says:

    Susan – Correct, denying someone their faith is bad. Therefore, when a nurse imposes Jesus on a non-Christian, she is DENYING THEM THEIR FAITH! It would be the same if a Muslim came into a Christian’s hospital room and demanded that they pray to Allah! See??? It is disrespectful to the patient who does not share their belief system.

    Make Do – Ha! Great idea. Re the arm: he is totally conscious and can speak! IF someone broke his arm, he would say so!!!!! It is from the original accident, but went unnoticed.

    Sarah.p – The sanity is kind of iffy.

    Moda- You and Make Do are on the same wavelength! We are all there, trying to make sure he is properly cared for. Some of the nurses and CNA’s are responsive, some are just mean and some are just incompetent.

    Mark – Hoping to get him out of there in 8 days.

    Ann – Hard to believe they missed the arm. He thought the pain was from the broken clavicle. Fuckers.

    The SHoeGirl – Good vibes are a wonderful gift. xo

    WCGB – There should be nanny cams in every room!!!!! I will go check out your link. xoxo

    Vee – Dehumanization, EXACTLY. Thank you, xo

    Sgt Thornton – Damn right! Don’t worry, I have spoken to everyone in charge there many times. I have gotten one doctor fired. I have gotten several specialists called in. I am a very squeaky wheel. Blessings to you for your indignation. xo

    Kurt Stout – You sound like the kind of man the world needs more of. Thank you for your compassion, xo

    Iheartfashion – Yep, I worry about them too.

    Mark – Correct!

    Alicia – YES, ugh!!!!!

    Andra – Ok, will try.

    hoochie – WE love you too

    andrea – Quality Assurance Department?!? In the case of this hospital, it sound like part of a Monty Python skit. Thanks for the info, though.

  28. Sister Wolf says:

    OMGGMAB- Oh god, he would be at home if only. Too many issues requiring acute care, so far. Soon as he can stand on the hurt leg, on to physical rehab and then home. Counting the days.

    Andra – This is sounding better and better!

  29. Jean says:

    Sister Wolf, I’m a CNA and I’d say at this point you should think about calling the Ombudsman. Nothing makes nursing facility higher-ups get their shit together like a state investigation. At the very least, it would probably result in the nursing staff getting some in-service training on basic patient care that they should already be doing, like the tray within reach, oral care, and repositioning. Also, they sure as shit should not be talking about ANY religious whatnot unless you instigate it; they could be fired for doing so.

    Arrrgh, I wish I could give you tips for coping in a “hospital”….1) The machine is called a concentrator, it makes oxygen out of air, and it probably is not only loud when it runs, but also makes a horrid beeping sound when it’s turned on and off. It would be better if that guy roomed with someone who was hard of hearing. 2) If Max is not able to get out of bed at all yet, he should be turned every 2 hours to prevent pressure sores. 3) CNAs sometimes have “regular” assignments, so it might be possible to request one or two CNAs to have Max whenever they’re on the floor. The better they know him and his needs/routines, the better care they’ll be able to provide.

  30. Sister Wolf says:

    Jean – THANK YOU SO MUCH. I have requested in writing that the roommate be placed with someone who is hearing impaired. We all know about the repositioning every 2 hours: They simply do not care. There are 10 patients per nurse. Most are very elderly, and in terrible condition. So they can’t complain about anything. I saw one nurse pick up a syringe full of saline that she’d dropped on the floor hours earlier, and then flush out Max’s IV with it.

    The religious shit is just totally our of order. It’s usually the night staff. Every single day, I fight several battles. I will find the ombudsman. And I am thinking of becoming a CNA, just to serve the helpless.

  31. Jean says:

    Fuck, 10 per nurse is pretty grim. When I was working in the Bay Area last year, our union contract specified a no greater than 1:9 CNA staffing ratio, and most places up here in Oregon are 1:7. The ombudsman number should be readily available (as in, up on the wall in big writing along with up-to-date state survey results.) Here’s what I found through google; the statewide 24-hour crisis line is 1-800-231-4024, and there’s local numbers for individual counties.

    Please don’t become a CNA, it’s hard on your back and the shoes are fugly. The helping the helpless aspect and the slightly better than retail wages are the only reason I’m doing it. Good luck!

  32. dust says:

    I have no clever advice and I serve the helpless. All I can do for you is make you a pretty dress, just send me measurements. And when Max gets better send him overhere to Holland for a long summer trip.

  33. WCGB says:

    I posted a link to this post on my Facebook page and WOW…what a discussion.

    The staff making references to Jesus is a prime example of “using the Lord’s name in vain.” Meanwhile, the title of this blog is not.

  34. cker says:

    Sister Wolf,
    I am a nurse of almost 17 yrs. Follow Jean’s advice but you may want to consider taking this to the state board of health and Joint Commission of Health Services. They oversee all hospitals and nursing facilities in the US. They write the protocols for care in facilities. Failure to pass a Joint Commission review can result in pretty hefty fines for the facility. It is worth looking into. I will ask some friends who the go to agencies are.

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Keep complaining. Loudly. Another approach is to kill them with kindness. A dozen donuts to the nursing staff (RN’s and CNA’s) can go along way in ensuring good care. I know it sounds like bribery and perhaps it is but the staff remembers that you gave them a gift and are more apt to take care of your son. The staff I work with is always jazzed to get food from families. A couple of bucks may buy you a bunch of humanity. Try it.

    I work in a neuro ICU. My patients are frequently comatose or unable to move of their own accord. I have to turn them every 2 hrs. Period. A decubitus ulcer (bed sore) costs about $20,000 in health care cost to fix if it bad. Much better to turn the patient.

    I will keep you in my thoughts. I am so sorry for all your heartache.

  35. Sister Wolf says:

    Jean – Thank you again! Your patients are so lucky to have you.

    dust – Oh, dust. I would love a pretty dress. I want one! I will even brave the horror of taking measurements. xo

    WCGB – Fuck! IS there more?? I will go and look.

    cker – You ICU nurses are the very very best. Max was in neuro-trauma for 4 weeks. Turned every 2 hours and most of the time treated so tenderly!

    I have brought not only donuts but Starbucks patries to the nurses station. Maybe they need lobster dinners?

    Thank you for being here, xo

  36. Donuts and lobster dinners for dirty syringes? God, the inhumanity. This is so appalling, my heart is going out to you every day he’s in there. And hoping soon he’ll be in PT and home.

  37. cker says:

    Ok, so you tried the nice approach. Now you need to talk to every regulatory agency you can find. Turn their butts in. They are violating so many codes it is too many to count. Don’t bring them any lobsters. Your son deserves more than this. I wish I could do more. Bring him to IL and I’ll care for him in my house. Hang tight, Sister. Keep the faith and I’ll ask some people at work this w/e who you need to contact. Ruffle some feathers and get what you need.

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