Friday, May 8, 2015

Final Curtain

       Courtney came to Oakhaven t visit me on December 19th, 2014. It was eight days after my 38th birthday. She had not come to visit on my birthday, but had chipped in with Ellen and Lesley to buy a large pizza for my lunch. It was a Papa John's limited time offered Philly Cheese Steak pizza which ought to be a regular menu item, if you ask me. Our visit was fun, but brief. I had been a night owl even though I had to get up and stay up that morning. By one o'clock or so when Courtney visited, I was one the verge of a nap. We said our goodbyes, and I nodded off probably before she rounded the hallway corner.
       I was awakened by my CNA, Tara, about an hour into snoozing. She asked me if I knew Courtney had been forced to leave the facility by Nicole T's replacement as Director of Nursing, Victoria. I obviously did not know that, Tara told me Courtney was forbidden from returning to the facility because she had been fired. I immediately declared Courtney was my guest, and federal law allowed me to have any guest I wanted without interference from the facility. I opted to complain about the matter. My first instinct was to immediately approach Paulette. Was this a good idea? I do not know. Maybe I should have learned from past experience to skip over her in important matters. But what is done is done.
       Paulette was not busy at the moment, so I had the chance to go right in. I asked if she could explain Courtney's status. She asked what I meant. I told her Courtney had come to visit me, but was asked to leave the facility. I did not believe my visitors should be treated in such a manner regardless of an employee policy. Paulette barely paused for only the briefest of moments before suggesting we go ask Brock. I agreed. Impulsively, perhaps.
       Brock was available at that moment, too. Paulette and I came into her office and sat. Paulette told Brock I would like to discuss an issue with her. Paulette word not utter another word for the remainder of the meeting. I was quickly reminded she was terrified of Brock's ability to fire her at will. The fear was stronger than her desire to advocate for my best interests. You know...her job.
       “So you have a complain about the facility or something specific?' Brock asked as she walked back to her desk from a filing cabinet and settled in.
       In hindsight, I should have been more specific about the matter. I should have said Courtney was here to visit me earlier in the day and was kicked. Brock knew Courtney had been given the boot, but did not know she was here as my guest. It might have softened our exchange. Probably not, but I have a compulsive habit of second guessing scenarios. Sometimes third, fourth, and eighteenth guessing, as well. But I kept it simple.
       “I would like to know Courtney's status,” I said.
       “Ah.” Brock sounded relieved my concern was easy to address. She did not know me very well, did she? “Courtney has been fired, so she is not allowed on facility grounds. If you want to visit her, you are going to have to do it off facility grounds.”
       Even on the surface, I could tell her answer was complete nonsense. A nursing home cannot tell a resident he has to leave the facility or order to see someone. It was a classless thing to demand from any resident, but I considered her response a particular insult to my intelligence. It was necessary to put out I was savvier on the issue than she was giving credit.
       “Well, federal law states I can have any visitor I want without interference from the facility. I can show you the specific statutes on my laptop, if you wish to see them,” I said.
       Brock shifted in her chair. She was clearly angry I had come back at her. “no, I don't need to see them. I have full access to them right here. Let me talk to corporate and see what I can do.”
       Brock picked up the phone, but just held it here. It was the third time she had pulled this trick on me. She would say she was contact someone regarding an issue immediately, then demonstrate unwillingness to do so while I am still in her office. It was her way of saving face by avoiding even the appearance she may be wrong about something. I went along with the gag, shaking my head in exasperation as I cleared the doorway.
       I went back to my room. About forty-five minutes passed with no word from Brock or Paulette. Since it was Friday, I began to suspect they were going to use the frequent tactic of leaving me with bad news at the end of the workday and hope I will forget about it by the time management returns Monday morning. /it had never worked in the past. I have the memory of an elephant, folks. But they are slow learners at Wilson Senior Care/Oakhaven. To my surprise, it did not go down in exactly that manner. Things did not go down much better, though.
       Paulette did come to my room after a reasonable time. She asked me to come to he office. I asked if she had good news. She smiled and assured me she did. When we got back to her office and settled in, she laid it out for me. I could have Courtney visit, but she had to notify management when she was to arrive and depart. We would be required to have a chaperone the entire time she was here. I was bewildered what Paulette saw good in the arrangement. I had spent five weeks with a staff member shadowing me 24/7. I knew the invasion of privacy a chaperone would be. The plan was unacceptable, and I told Paulette so. I explained the chaperone would be an invasion of my privacy. An invasion I did not believe federal law would permit. I requested a mediation by the ombudsman or DHEC to clarify the dispute.
       Before Paulette could do little more than make a disappointed expression, Victoria came into the office. She was there for another reason, but asks if I had heard the “compromise.” I told her yes, but objected to the invasion of privacy a chaperone would be. I told her we obviously have a dispute over the same set of facts, and told her I wanted either the ombudsman or DHEC to settle the matter. Before, Victoria could say anything, fate took a nasty turn and Brock came in the office. She was there for other reasons than to discuss the issue with me, and only relayed the “compromise” at the end while the same demeanor one scoops dog poop off one's shoe.
       Paulette and Victoria at least offered a chance for me to express my viewpoint. While it is difficult for me to describe here, Brock's irritated, condescending tone made clear the 'compromise' was the end of the matter. Even so, I should have told her I wanted mediation. It was a definite I was going to pursue it. There was no rational reason to not ask for clarification of the rules versus residents' rights. There would not be any penalties faced. We would all just know how to proceed from here. But Brock did not like to follow anyone's rules but hers. She found even consulting corporate on the matter galling. With there be no point in requesting mediation, I said the only thing I could think to say.
       “Are you going to cooperate with that?”
      I had been one the receiving end of Brock's condescending attitude and vitriol before, but she reached a new low this time. She slowly, angrily drew out her words. “Contrary to what you believe, I don't break the law.”
       She turned on her heals and stormed out in silence.
      “Just as arrogant and patronizing as ever,” I said as she exited the door frame. It was not a wise thing to do, but I was entitled after all the incredibly awful things she had said and done to me since my arrival. Interestingly enough, while I would remain at Oakhaven for another three months, Brock and I never spoke to each other again. I did not feel deprived, mind you. I only mention it to demonstrate how she dealt with nursing home residents for whom she was supposed to be caring.
       Paulette and Victoria stood in stunned silence. After a long moment, Victoria eased out the door herself. I did not say anything, either but looked at Paulette with a crooked, bemused smile. She grabbed a tissue and began crying. I was puzzled as to why. She only had one thing to say.
       “Take care of yourself.”
       I knit my brow. It was an odd thing to say. Given Paulette’s love of drama, it was difficult to ascertain what it might mean. “'Take of myself?' why? I Brock planning to do something to me? If she is, you need to tell me.”
       “No,” Paulette shook her head. “She isn't planning anything. Just take care of yourself.”
       “Did she say something to you? What did she say to you?” I asked.
       Brock frequently dressed down staff. Paulette had been on the receiving end many times. Several members of the nursing staff had heard her sobbing in her office after talking to Brock. I was confident she had been crying when she sought me out late in the day of my DHEC interview to inform me Caligula was no longer a resident. Had Brock chewed her out for bringing me to see her? Maybe. If so, it was difficult to sympathize since she had merely sat in silence the entire meeting. It was not the first time she refused to engage Brock on my behalf, either.

       More than likely, however, she knew Brock was fiercely angry. Angry enough to place me in her cross hairs. I assured Paulette I had not up until this point allowed Brock to abuse me and was not going to stat now. I told her if I had been known to contact DHEC immediately when they moved me in with Caligula, I would have come back at their plan immediately before anything bad happened. Brock had gotten away with too much already against staff, residents, and me with no one possessing either the ability or the will to hold her accountable. I did, and if she wanted to cross the line with me, then she must answer to the proper authorities.      

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