|by Fay Jacobs
|Adding Insult to Injury
I felt like Yogi Bear. Hibernating. Bonnie had knee surgery June 12 and I spent a week telecommuting. Okay, the cyber commute from Old Landing Road to my downtown office isn't exactly a huge gas saver, but it helped being home to play nurse.
Relative to the hibernating, I loved it. For an inveterate flit like me, juggling dozens of tasks in multiple places, you'd think being homebound was akin to a sentence at Alcatraz. No, I loved it so much it scared me. Truly, not leaving the house for six days except to get the mail made me very very happy.
It gave me time to get some long-procrastinated tasks done for work and I was around to watch coverage of California's gay weddings. Frankly, the reporting was shockingly positive.
Watching 80-somethings Phyllis Lyons and Del Martin be legally wed in the U.S.and then seeing their smiling faces, in a photo 6-inches square, on Page One of the News Journal capped it. How I wish my mentors, Anyda and Muriel were still alive to bask in this. They became a couple two years before Phyllis and Del.
While the respectful coverage was a delight, it masked a scary new tactic of the homophobic rightthey are being nice. And saying things like, "We congratulate the marrying couples, but our fight is against activist judges." Yeah, right.
The positive coverage contrasted completely with our day in Philly for the surgery. First, we arrived at the hospital armed with a weighty folder containing every notarized piece of paper we owned, attempting to prove our spousehood. Second, Bonnie had to answer the insulting ritual question, "married, single or divorced?"
"Partnered," Bonnie said. The clerk smiled. A decade ago it would have been an accusatory look. Snail progress.
We arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m., set for surgery at 6:45 only to discover that the private hospital was missing a key piece of paper from the Veteran's Administration granting permission for the operation. My mate is a vet and due to our nation's health care crisis, the VA is her only health insurance. Thank God for that safety net. But...there are communication problems.
Bonnie was hooked up to the IV, wearing the little surgical hat, and surrounded by a flock of medical personnel, and we were on holdboth in the OR and on the phone with the VA.
"Just go over there, Fay," the patient said. "It's only a few blocks away."
"Wait," said a nurse. "You better take your documents, and maybe we should sign something telling them you're allowed to get the information. You know the HIPPA privacy rules."
"I know, we're not legally married. Crap." Whereupon no less than six doctors and nurses, all held up by the snafu, scribbled on a note pleading for me to be considered worthy of the patient information.
With a giant plastic bag filled with Bonnie's clothes and our voluminous legal dossier slung over my shoulder, I raced to the lobby and hopped a cab to the Veteran's Hospital. I will spare you the details, but I was shuttled around to three offices and on hold with several people as I frantically pictured a gaggle of expensive physicians and nurses loitering by Bonnie's gurney. Once I was on hold listening to an educational tape reciting the seven signs of a heart attack and I was having eight.
Finally somebody agreed to call Bonnie's surgeon and set things right. Heart pounding, I ran back downstairs and saw a shuttle bus parked outside. "Does that go by Penn Presbyterian?" I asked.
"Yep. It's for the vets. Are you a vet?"
"I'm the spouse of a vet."
"What's his name?"
"It's a her." Shit. What was I thinking? Toto, we're NOT in Rehoboth.
"Then you cain't be no spouse."
Bet me. I may or may not have said a very bad word, swung my big plastic trash sack over my shoulder and, channeling Lily Tomlin's bag lady, marched out the door and uphill the six blocks back.
Amazingly, the surgery finally happened a scant seven hours late and all went well. The following day, way too early for the woozy patient to be released, we headed home. Just let me say this about the past week. There's a reason I work in public relations, not health care.
I tried to be a good nurse, but it just isn't in my skill set. Bonnie came home with a 36-inch leg brace to prevent knee bends and the thing is held together with a thousand strips of industrial strength Velcro.
You have to be the Incredible Hulk to unstick it (which, I might become after spending a week in the house eating and watching movies), and when you do get the Velcro open it instantly sticks to everything in the vicinity. I've spent whole days peeling it off rugs, furniture, and pajamas. One time Moxie got up in Bonnie's recliner when the thing was undone and we thought she'd be spending the next few weeks dragging a schnauzer around by his beard. I stepped on a Velcro strip in my socks and took the appliance with me like toilet paper on a shoe.
Then there was the dressing to change and the needles to dispose of properly after Bonnie gave herself blood thinning injections in the belly. I don't know whether this house was more like House, ER or Nip/Tuck (me taking a nip of Grey Goose after tucking the patient into bed), but somehow we did all right.
I survived the nursing rotation, Bonnie started getting back on her feet, and no schnauzers were injured in the making of this column. Well, what's some fur snipped off to be free of the Velcro from hell.
But in our hibernation, as we watched the evening news and its giddy coverage of same-sex couples tying the knot on the West Coast, I unpacked our thick file of papers notarizing our coupledom. And I still had the scribbled emergency letter to the VA, signed by Dr. Kildare and his entire surgical team.
Hell, according to the front desk guy at the VA, I didn't have to go to the back of the bus, I couldn't even get on the bus. Which tells me we have a long way to go.
Understanding that, as Yogi Bear would say, makes us "smarter than the average bears." And twice as determined.Code Blue, voters. And stat.
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Fryinga Rehoboth Beach Memoir and Fried & TrueTales from Rehoboth Beach. Contact her at www.fayjacobs.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 08 June 27, 2008