Why I'm a maniac when it comes to my physical well-being

I've been fortunate for having wonderful doctors. Especially now at the healthcare center where I currently go. For the most part.

My parents felt the same way about their medical doctors. And swore by them. They felt they received the best medical attention money could buy. Twenty years ago, my father complained about having a heart attack. He was not in the best of health. Let's face it, the man had to drop a truckload of weight and he didn't exercise. Still, he insisted he had a heart attack and the doctors must've agreed for he ended up 10 days in the hospital. They wouldn't release him.

His primary care doctor said, "Art, just because you were a medical doctor during WW2 does not mean you know medicine today. It's gas and stress," and my dad was released.

Two hours later he dropped dead in front of my mother while crying out, "I can't take the pain."

I believe in taking responsibility for one's health. My father was responsible for neglecting his own. But this is where things get squirrely: his own doctor refused to sign the death certificate!

The morgue kept phoning us. "Where the hell is the doctor?

"How the fuck am I supposed to know?"

"We can't release the body until he signs the death certificate."

Being Jewish, we were under the gun to have services the following day. Without a death certificate, we had to hold off on everything.

My mother was traumatized. First, having the man she spent 40 years with dropping dead in front of her, then the fact that his doctor was incommunicado.

Days later, the doctor signed the death certificate. The cause of death was left blank.

According to my dad's wishes, we cremated the body without an autopsy. The doctor breathed a sigh of relief.

Five years later, while living in San Francisco I received a phone call from my sister on a Sunday morning. "Mom's in the hospital and non-responsive." My sister lived at that time in Vermont. I took the next flight out and phoned my office that I had a family medical emergency.

While I was flying, my sister drove 7 hours from Vermont to Long Island. I beat her to the hospital.

"Your mother has congestive heart failure," we were informed. To condense a long story, she underwent an extensive operation. Afterwards, during recuperation, we found out she was blind. Then she wasn't. Then she was.

The neurologists performed scads of MRIs and brain scans. "Your mother's pituitary gland is enormous and presses against her optic nerves," they informed my sister and me. "She only has a 20% chance of surviving this operation, considering her bad overall health. Even if we operate, there's not much we could do because it metastasized."

Mom moaned, "No more operations."

The doctors shook their heads. "Why didn't she go to a doctor?"

"She went 23 times the past year complaining to her primary doctor with symptoms," and I categorized each one.

The doctors, neurologists and cardiologists, exchanged glances. The chief of staff said, "But that's textbook 101 for pituitary gland. This is neglect, plain and simple. Your mother could've been cured by a simple medication."

Armed with this information, I met with her medical doctor at the hospital. "The woman saw you 23 times this past year. Why didn't you listen to her? She TRUSTED you!"

The doctor sighed. "Your mother didn't take care of herself. She was overweight, she smoked, she didn't exercise."

"But is that an excuse for ignoring her complaints? Yes, she was irresponsible with her body, still..."

"She's a middle-aged woman who complains a lot. She had so much wrong with her, her health overall was bad, it was too difficult to find out what it could possibly be."

That's when I went berserk. I threatened her in the midst of a hospital room with dozens of witnesses. Really bad threats. Invoking the name of God, death, you name it. She shook her head and moved on for she knew grief and how it manifests itself.

I became a maniac. Nothing was good enough for my mother. Finding her lying in her excrement in the hospital bed was the high point. I ran to the head of the hospital. In seconds, they wanted her out.

"There's nothing we can do for her," the doctors said. "She's a three person assist and requires rehab."

My sister, with young children, had to return to Vermont. I moved mom to a hospice to park her for 4 days so I could quickly quit my job in San Francisco, put my house up for sale, pack my belongings and ship them back to New York. I'm amazed I did all that in 4 days. Alone. Without sleep. Upon my return to the hospice, I found the door to the room closed.

"What's going on in there?" I asked one of the nurses.

"She's meeting with a therapist."

I pushed the door open to find a man hovering over my mother, still an attractive woman. He quickly withdrew his hand from her crotch and tucked his erect cock back in his pants. I shrieked. "RAPE!"

No one responded. Within ten minutes, they transported her back to the hospital. I spoke to the head of the hospice, the police, the district attorney's office, lawyers. It seems raping ill and older women is the mode. I got no response and no assistance.

I don't want to get into the nuts and bolts of what ensued later. I could write a book, but that would depress me further at the state of medical care in the US. And this was twelve years ago. As it turns out, I had the honor of watching a vibrant woman now reduced to pain, paralyzation and blindness. That was the beginning of her journey, something she dreaded her entire life.

"Should I ever become a liability to you," she often said, "just put me in the middle of the highway." I thought she was joking. Mom's greatest fear was the loss of her ability to take care of herself. "Promise me, Maura, that you'd kill me if you find that I'm a human vegetable," she said throughout my life. "I don't want to be stripped of my dignity." She said that over and over during the first few months of her recuperation. That was a promise I never kept and regret every day of my life.

Eventually, we moved her to Vermont to a clean hospice near my sister. I visited the first year and a half three weeks out of four. That petered out to one week a month the remaining year. She was blind, paralyzed and crippled. Before dementia set in, she begged me one last time, "Please kill me. Put me out of my misery." I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it. She tried several times to kill herself by throwing herself out of bed, out of the wheelchair, refusing food. When dementia set in, she sat there. She didn't know her name. But she knew me by smiling when I kissed her face and held her hand.

I was with her while she was dying from pneumonia. The head of the hospice approached me. "Please leave her to die peacefully. She feels your presence and you're only making her struggle."

I kissed her face for the last time and held her hands. In a blinding snowstorm, I drove 7 hours back to New York. The moment I returned, I received a phone call that my mother passed.

My parents were responsible for their deaths. I got that. They had numerous medical issues due to obesity. From an early age, I knew obesity was a killer and struggled as well with weight my entire life. My weight deviates 20lbs. Even so, according to my primary care doctor, those 20lbs are onerous for me. When I look around and see people 50, 100, 200 lbs overweight, I get upset because I'm jealous. I have to watch everything I ingest. I fear for what may occur to me if I don't take precautions.

My parents gave me incentive to take care of myself throughout my life. As a result, I exercise (all that mountain biking and kayaking!), eat healthy, don't do drugs and imbibe minimal to negligible alcohol. I've also been moderate in many activities as well. Having a fear of crowds limited me from attending concerts or going places where tons of people are in attendance. I took great pride in possessing the acute hearing of an airedale. I'm not a risk taker and never did sports that required a loss of limb or life. I guess I led a life of moderation.

So, here I am at 57 in 'perfect' health. And now contending with this weird neurological deafness. If I knew I'd have hearing issues and never had my eardrums blasted by loud music, I would've attended all those rock concerts. Life can be so unfair.

Most importantly, I've researched what I have and it scares the shit outta me. I don't have a disease, I have symptoms of a disease, many of them terminal. The good doctors gave me MRIs, scans, EKGs, stress tests, blood work. They found nothing: I'm deemed in excellent health. That I can't contend with. I'd rather know that I've cancer or heart disease, things I can wrap my head around.

My great fear is that any day now I'm going to drop dead and upon the autopsy, they'll say, "Shit, if we knew she had that, we could've cured her with one medication." I feel urgent pressure to write my books and get them out because the sword of Damocles may strike at any given moment.

Trust me, that's not a good feeling to have.

It's a fact that doctors don't listen to the complaints of middle-aged women. We're all aging kvetches. So, that's why I went ballistic with the antics of a recent encounter with a doctor when describing my neurological deafness and its ensuing impact on my life. It throws me back to dealing with my mother and her last years.

I admitted first off, "I feel as if I'm dead and all this is a hazy dream. I lack clarity of thought at times. I'm so overwhelmed with the sound in my head that I can't hear what's going on. Like someone stuffed my head with cotton." I apologized for my lack of medical terminology and, as a writer, descriptive with my sensations. "I went to a job interview a month earlier and the guy said, "You gotta be kidding. You're deaf, you can barely understand me in this conference room! How do you expect to do heavy phoning in the middle of a trading room?" That was my livelihood for 30 years.

In response, the doctor told me to "GET A HEARING AID!" Then she dismissed what I had to say, informing me, "Oh, you've been complaining about this for a year." She smirked, then added, "Get a job in a library." Very funny. Incredulous, I responded, "Do you know what's going on out there in our economy? How can I work without being able to use a phone and not be in the presence of people? It kinda narrows the field."

Over the course of the year, she told me NOT to get tested when I felt a sharp change in my hearing. "Why waste our time," she complained, "there's nothing we can do and no treatments to cure this." NICE, huh?

It gets better: I was told that my classic textbook symptoms are, in essence, psychological. She told me I should see a shrink, and get this, "GO ON DRUGS." I don't know how that's gonna help me contend with sound. It may make me feel better, but that's not the issue. Outside of my diarizing my symptoms since 2/17/11, she said never heard of them before. I should've sent her copies of the medical research reports by PhDs that are easily googled. Check out the word, "HYPERACUSIS." But then, that'll undermine her authority.

There's a lot more to this drivel. I guess when a dr is confronted with ignorance about a rare symptom they've haphazardly treated because it can't be treated, they have to take it out on the patient. What I do mind, though, is the DISDAIN. 

Disdain is what has me raging and ranting all over the place. I'm reduced to being a 57 year old complaining kvetching woman, dismissed for complaining and kvetching about rare neurological symptoms. Symptoms that render me powerless and unable to adapt towards interacting with people and returning to the job force.

I accept my lot in life. I don't accept the way I was treated. 

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PS: I'm still reeling that a doctor would say the things she said to me and the underlying subtext. I got the message, loud and clear: it's evident there's no respect going on here. But don't expect me to respect in return. If the name of the game is to treat me like a mentally ill basket patient, then don't worry about my blog postings. It's the meandering of a mentally ill basket patient and no import whatsoever. Right? You can't have one without the other. 

This is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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