Anger and indignation overwhelmed me when sycophantic nurses at the rehab hospital forbade me access to my file. Yet CNA’s not associated with me freely scrutinized the documents describing my case. They believed that my cognitive abilities were fried and openly gossiped about their findings in my presence.
CNA’s often went out of their way to snoop into a patient’s file. One afternoon two obese soap-dodging pork-monsters who reeked of cheap perfume waddled unannounced into my room. I’d never seen them before. One of them snatched the manila folder from my nightstand where a preoccupied doctor had left it, opened it and riffled through its contents. She moved her lips as she scanned each document for juicy information. One document captured her attention. Her eyes bulged while she turned to her colleague and like a grade-schooler noticing a classmate’s mischief intoned: “Awwwww, it say here he tried to kill hisself. That’s a sin against God.” She nodded her head to demonstrate her simple-minded pious authority.
On Sundays part-time workers and volunteers pinch hit for many of the hospital’s full-time employees. Most part-timers were medical students trying to score brownie points with the administration. Some of the volunteers were ex-members of infamous urban social organizations and former patients.
My first Sunday as a guest of the hospital, a streetwise volunteer made me his Junior Achievement project. He introduced himself and then bragged that he once held a distinguished position in one of the better-known urban social organizations. My self-appointed low-rent mentor hastened to add that he hadn’t been involved with any social organizations in years because he’d “cleaned up [his] act” and felt it his duty to ”give back to the community.”
A bumbling oaf often overdoes simple tasks to compensate for his inability to mentally grasp the more complicated aspects of a job. The tracheotomy string painfully dug into the back of my neck as the overly eager volunteer tightened it. He remembered a passage in the Volunteer 101 Handbook and repeatedly asked if he was hurting me; clearly self-absorbed, he ignored my grunts of distress.
I hadn’t had a shower in a few days and my hair vaguely shone with a greasy film. (By then I’d learned you couldn’t depend on others to help you maintain any semblance of personal cleanliness when they themselves infrequently used soap.) Rather than give me a shower, which would have involved work, my volunteer opted for an easy way out. He found a piece of white hospital linen and fashioned it into a do-rag, then wrapped his creation around my head.