Rehab Staff Treats Me Like a Disobedient Child

Roughly two weeks after my arrival at the rehab hospital, an orderly wheeled me to the wing where a surgeon would evaluate the drop foot on my right side.* Though my nurses chirped that such surgery would jumpstart my recovery, I found myself involuntarily wallowing in disorientation and nausea. I’d sat upright only days previously for the first time in more than a month, during which time I’d languished in a coma. When coupled with the fact that I wasn’t accustomed to sitting in a wheelchair, it became understandable that I couldn’t carry myself in what is generally accepted as a dignified manner. In the doctor’s wing, about halfway down the main hall, the orderly who pushed my chair suddenly stopped and scolded me: “Sit up straight and don’t look so sick. People be starin’ at me.” I can’t understand why she got her panties in a bunch; apparently she was oblivious to her whereabouts.

Eventually a faceless doctor—different from the one I’d met—performed the surgery. Afterward I had to wear a cast that extended from above my knee to the bottom of my toes. One week later, a different orderly wheeled me to the wing where I’d met with the surgeon; I had an appointment with a cast-removing-guy. She hurriedly pushed my chair up and then back down the main hall, then we returned to my ward. At the nurse’s station outside of my room, she reported to the nurse behind the counter that she looked everywhere, but couldn’t find the cast-removing-guy. The nurse took for granted that the orderly told the truth; she silently nodded and went back to her paperwork. I felt too nauseated to argue, and everybody assumed the stroke had rendered me just shy of a vegetable, so the nurse wouldn’t have listened to my version anyway. The orderly pushed me into my room, then trotted away.

A week later, yet another female orderly pushed me to visit the cast-removing-guy. Of course MD’s don’t remove casts themselves—the rehab hospital employed barely literate, easily manipulated young people to do the shitwork. My orderly handed some papers to the cast-removing-guy. He glanced at it the documents and moved his lips, then glared at me and used a surly voice to order me into his closet-sized office. Pieces of casts, tangles of gauze, and clumps of cotton littered the floor; fine white powder dusted everything.

The cast-removing-guy dropped onto a stool across from me, lifted my encased leg and examined it from all angles. The he reached down beside the stool and grabbed what resembled a jigsaw fitted with a circular blade horizontal to the body. He poised the saw over the cast at my toes and, without looking up, instructed me to bend my ankle to its “normal” position. I guess he forgot that I was wearing a cast, and that if I could bend my ankle into the “normal” position, I wouldn’t have needed surgery in the first place. I tried to explain this, but he angrily told me he didn’t have time to try and understand “peoples like you.” He twisted his face into a hyper-annoyed expression and again instructed me —this time slowly and loudly—to bend my ankle to its “normal” position. The reality of emotionally retarded imbeciles who only understand what they want to hear was just beginning to dawn on me. He warned me that, if I didn’t “copperate” he’d “kick [my] ass.”

After much cussing and fumbling—clearly, he was poorly trained—he finally managed to saw through my cast and yank it off. I suspect that doctors strive to surround themselves with dumbshits like the cast-removing-guy in order to make themselves appear superior.

* The surgery proved only moderately successful. Much later, when I lived in the warehouse, I took the initiative to insure that a specialist repair my ankle as well as was possible. The doctors that breezed through the warehouse and half-assedly examined residents didn’t suggest anything that might nurture anyone’s independence. If residents developed autonomy, the administration would become hard-pressed to manipulate them. And then residents might start leaving, which meant an end to allotted government funds. In private, Mr. Gold often blustered that warehouses are first and foremost businesses.

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