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There is nothing so simultaneously exhilarating and bizarre as running a marathon and realizing that there are people you don’t know cheering for you. There are thousands. They are pressed up against metal grates, leaning into the road rattling cow bells and party whistles. They are lounging on their front stoop in a lawn chair next to a case of beer with a sign that says, “This one’s for you!” They made you jello shots. They brought you pretzels and orange slices as if you were their guest at some strange party. They give you a dixie cup of beer at mile 23 and don’t deny you when you circle back for another. They’re your significant other who won’t protest too much when you cover them with sweat as you steal a kiss in passing. They’re still in their PJs, coffee in one hand. They’re tiny kids, 4 or 5 with their arm outstretched waiting for a high-five from the next passing runner. They let you stop and pet their dog who got all dressed up for the occasion in a tutu and a race t-shirt. They’re active duty in fatigues pacing you at the water stop so you don’t have to slow down. It’s a police officer who tells you, “lookin’ good” as she holds back traffic for you to pass even though you know you’re slow and far behind the pack.

If you ever want to feel like a rockstar, without really doing anything special, take a few months, do some running and sign up for a marathon – you’ll feel like a star but will soon realize that you’ve bought yourself front row seats to the best show in town. And while I am sad about the events at the Boston Marathon, and I am sad for the runners who worked so hard to participate in such an epic endurance event, my heart is broken for the spectators who were just there waiting and supporting the finishers. Those who are standing, waiting expectantly, cheering runners to the finish line. Who else would bear the brunt of this kind of attack?

As a newish resident of Ward 5, in Washington DC, I’ve been loosely following the race for our Councilmember as the September, 14th voting date comes closer. I’ve seen the number of street signs increase on lawns on my runs around the neighborhood. Months ago I became curious about Kenyan McDuffie and his stance on marriage equality and the recently passed approval of gay marriage in DC. I tweeted a question at him and after some back and forth due to technical issues, received a confirmation that he does indeed support same sex marriage (SSM). As I already knew that Harry Thomas had been an advocate of SSM this year when it counted, I knew that I had another candidate to at least consider. Recently I’ve been seeing signs for Delano Hunter. A little bit of digging revealed that he did not support SSM in any way and even went to far as to take money from NOM. Being a frequent user of Twitter, a few tweets revealed that he seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth, stating via his Twitter feed that

“There is much room in the SSM conversation for mutual respect and genuine open mindedness. What I’ve noticed at times is advocates on all sides that promote positions that do not take into account the complexity of this issue. There are ways in which we can provide equality and respect religious convictions and traditions. It’s just gonna take honest dialogue, openness, and compromise.”

As NOM’s sole purpose is to  campaign against gay marriage, guess who’s supposed to compromise? Delano Hunter says that he won’t move to overturn gay marriage in Washington, DC but clearly thinks that we’ve reached an adequate state of compromise. I find this curious as being married in the district still affords married, same sex couples little or no federal protections including social security spousal or survivor benefits, hospital visitation outside of the district, tax-free rollover for a non-spousal beneficiary for 401K retirement plans, etc., which are just a few of the examples of why localized SSM marriage laws are still not enough.

So based on this, you can imagine my surprise this morning upon waking to discover that the Washington Post has chosen to endorse Delano Hunter of the four candidates running for Ward 5 Councilmember. The article states,

Mr. Hunter is not a supporter of marriage equality, but he is not the homophobe his critics make him out to be, but rather someone who thinks there is a way to provide equality for gays while respecting the beliefs of religious groups. He said he would not seek to change the law.

It is this type of statement that truly drives home my second class status. I feel as if I am expected to respond by saying “Thanks for letting me live in this neighborhood with you fine, straight folks!” or be pleased that he’s going to be upset if someone tries to burn down my house because I’m gay. The message is really, it’s not okay to hate gay people, but it is okay to bar gay people from something that straight people don’t even have to think about. It is as if it is expected that I hate myself just enough to be grateful that I’m “welcome” and not question that an individual can represent my interests but not respect my right to love, to build a home, to raise a family and have that investment protected like any other couple. To know that if something happens to me I will be able to be seen in the hospital by the person I share that home with and I will be able to put provisions in place that protect that family in my absence.

Look, I don’t know anyone who enjoys mere toleration. Gay people live in Ward 5.  There are three other candidates for Ward 5 Councilmember. Harry Thomas, Kenyan McDuffie, and Tracy Turner all support marriage equality – pick one.

Today I left work early as I had a bunch of reading to do to prepare for a meeting tomorrow and hate doing that at my desk. My plan was get home, start some chili and read as it cooked. I arrived home about the same time as school was getting out. As I was about to unlock my door, two elementary school-aged kids from a few doors down walked over and asked if they could come in. The kids always ask about Oliver and the turtles because they can seem them through the window, so I assumed that they wanted to come in and attempt to play with Oliver. I told them, not today and moved towards the house. Then the little girl, said, “Our mom’s not home.” I looked at her brother who was walking decidedly towards me, and said, “Really?” He smiled and said no. “…and we don’t have a key.” Great. I asked if there was anyone else at home, and of course there wasn’t. “Well, let’s go inside!” I told them.

So there I was, needing to do work, planning on making dinner and was now host to two elementary school kids for an indefinite amount of time. As they ran into the house I tried to remember if there was anything laying around that shouldn’t be and played out disaster scenarios in my head like if their mom didn’t come home until late and I’d have to feed them vegetarian chili and they found it disgusting and I had to take them to McDonald’s or their mom would freak out when she got home because her kids were in a stranger’s house.

I only had to keep an eye on the kids for 20 minutes or so. During that time I gave the little boy a glass of milk and followed him around the house while he drank it and balanced a too-big-for-his-hands glass in just one hand as he tried to pet Oliver, and not trip over my yoga mat, and my running shoes, and the mail. They watched the Disney channel, called their mom on my cell phone, successfully petted Oliver a few times before he wisely retreated upstairs, “Can I go get him?” they asked, “Um…let’s not.”, harassed the turtles, ran the bathroom sink over and trailed armfulls of bubbles over the wood floors.

Altogether, they’re well-behaved kids. I learned that everyone at school has a cell phone and they use it all the time and found out where all the elementary schools are in our neighborhood. I was glad that they ran into me before they had to hang out on their porch until their mom came home or had to knock on every neighbors door until they found someone home, even with as safe as our neighborhood is. But honestly, they wore me out a little bit. In retrospect, had I realized that they were going to leave so quickly I should have stuffed them full of ice cream and soda and sent them on their way.

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to relay my experience at Washington Hospital Center on the December 20th-21st.

I was scheduled to have the 3rd step of my breast reconstruction with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Susan Otero, after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and undergoing two mastectomies at another hospital in 2007. Prior to my surgery date the WHC staff called me for my pre-op check-in and were also very attentive during the check-in process at the hospital. I was very pleased with the treatment and care I received prior to surgery and post-op during my recovery. Three nurses in particular, Birdie, Claudia, and Joan provided me with very high quality care. I was very pleased with the treatment I received in recovery.

However, the first major problem came when my initial recovery nurse, Birdie, called repeatedly to find me a room. My surgery was over between 2-3pm, and I recall being fully awake and able to be moved to a room around 5pm. Around 8pm I was moved to a different, larger recovery area and put under the care of Joan and Claudia, and told that I would be moved to my own room soon. After over a four hour total wait, I was finally transferred to my own room around 9:30pm.

By this time I had missed all the meal times and was hungry and tired and wanted to be in my own room, which should have been much quieter than the hustle and bustle of the recovery area. When I finally got to my room I was checked in and asked about getting food of some kind. I was told that the meal times were over. I pressed the issue as I was very hungry, not nauseous in any way, and definitely feeling up to eating a small meal. I was told that a boxed lunch could be ordered for me. In the interim, my nurse brought a large cup of juice.

Around midnight no food had arrived and it had been about four hours since I had received pain medication. Around 12:30 when my nurse, Jillian, came into my room I told her that my pain was increasing and asked for more pain medication as well as lozenges for my throat which was very sore after being intubated. She said she would order the medication and told me that no meal had been brought. She eventually found some cereal and milk for me, which was kind of her, as the food that was ordered apparently never arrived.

At approximately 1:30 I received throat lozenges. Around 2:30am I still had not received any more pain medication and my incisions felt like they were on fire. It was almost impossible for me to rest. I had not been seriously uncomfortable post-op until around midnight when I had asked for the medication and as I stated before, had been very well cared for. In recovery I was asked about my level of pain and the nurses responded appropriately. Therefore I went from being very comfortable to being in an unacceptable amount of pain for an extended period of time even though I knew that my surgeon had ordered Vicoden for me during my recovery in the hospital. I paged my nurse. She said that the drugs hadn’t arrived from the pharmacy yet but if they didn’t arrive in 10 minutes she would go check on them herself. About 15 minutes later she came with the pain medication, apologized and she told me that it would probably take me two cycles of drugs to really feel better since the drugs I had received so much earlier were almost completely out of my system.

Around 6am my surgeon arrived and told me that I would be discharged that day, which I had expected. My nurse followed shortly thereafter and brought another round of medication. I was feeling much better by then and was awaiting breakfast since I had yet to really eat anything. When breakfast did arrive, I discovered chicken broth, jello, and more juice even though I had already eaten solid food and had requested a vegetarian meal. I was not able to eat any of the food that was brought for me. I paged a nurse and a tech arrived. When I told him about the problem, he got the person who was delivering the meals and explained the situation. The delivery person said that he had an extra breakfast and would bring it to me. It never arrived. By this time I wasn’t surprised and simply wanted to get out of the hospital so I could recover properly.

I am amazed that I was able to receive both the best and the worst care I have ever had in a hospital at the same facility in 24 hours. My diagnosis has necessitated six surgeries in the past 14 months and I have never had to wait so long for medication or food in any hospital – especially things prescribed for me by my doctor and/or things that I could have had at home. I would have fared far better if I had left the hospital and gone home after my time in the recovery area, which is unacceptable. I am at a loss as to the reason why I was not able to get the medication prescribed for me, in the hospital. Considering that during previous recoveries in other hospitals I had serious issues with nausea and required far more pain medication, my experience at WHC does not make me feel confident that it could provide me with a level of care that would keep me well and comfortable. If it was so difficult to get the medication specifically prescribed for me, I can only assume that if I became nauseous or needed a non-prescribed drug right away there was no way I would have gotten it.

While I appreciate the kindness and dedication of the majority of the WHC staff which I came into contact with, overall I am appalled by my experience there. As portions of the WHC were rated among the US’s best this year, I have to believe that I experienced huge flaws in an otherwise well-functioning system. Nonetheless, I consider my experience to be unacceptable and I feel I would be remiss if I did not relay the details of my situation in the hopes that the system can improve and others can enjoy at least a modicum of good quality care that was missing in the majority of my experience at WHC.


yoda does christmas

Originally uploaded by l@in.

A shopping trip to 5 stores covering Annendale and Falls Church, looking for a small Christmas tree with clear lights resulted in a new turtle light, various paper products, various ornaments and other holiday accoutriments, a new pair of holiday slippers with penguins on them (for the hospital), 1 hello kitty stocking (for Oliver), 1 cookie monster stocking (for Joanna), and 1 Yoda stocking (for me) as well as the new season of Big Love.

Then we came home and ordered a Christmas tree and stocking holders online, because all the trees in the store were hideous, or over 6 foot tall, or intended for the outdoors. So much for 4 hours of suburban shopping.

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