This is an absolutely true story Book Index(click on video to turn off music)
”First the doctor told me the good news: I was going to have a disease named after me.” - Steve Martin
For years Mel has worked at The Methodist hospital with an employee population larger than some successful cities. It even had its own zip code. She never met with owners or presidents and folks were given performance reviews with little fanfare. Having spent her years in the Coast Guard and then Methodist, she had no idea about the private sector.
She had set her sights on working at the V.A. Hospital (Veteran’s Administration) in Houston. Actually, she felt entitled. She had been in the Coast Guard for ten years, mostly with a good record until she was put out because “she didn’t represent the C.G. in a uniform well". Yes, they actually said and did that to her. Ten years of faithful service, she gained a little weight and she was out. I found that reprehensible. She had many stories of her time in the C.G. and she loved it there. She just couldn’t let go and spent every day of her life looking back instead of forward. I felt if she did in fact get the position she craved with a military institution, perhaps she could let some of it go. The other reason she felt entitled I didn’t quite agree on.
She was from the deep South and try as she did, she couldn't shake her history. She lived in an atmosphere of bigotry, growing up in Alabama. Mel felt the V.A. hired an inordinate amount of minorities to meet their EOC, (Equal Opportunity Commission).. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. I couldn’t’ actually say. I feel there is a minority of whites in Houston and so we should see that ratio reflected in the work place. I do not think it is a hiring/racial thing, I just think it is availability. But every day I had to hear about it. When she was at Methodist, it was a big problem with her. She felt if she got hired by the V.A. she would be at a fair advantage. In the interim, she was going to work for a small organization.
She could never understand about my coming and going in business. I would work for a firm for 6 months to a year, mostly on contract, mostly repeat business engaged by my Engineering firm, Mel and I put together, MD Tech,
MD Tech was a drafting/graphic’s art company. But there were occasions where I was “let go” were occasions they simply did not want to do business with me because Mel would harangue them for payment. However, that is for another post. For the most part, I had and have a good business partnership with most firms, however, there were occasions that I was "let go" almost always for the same reason.
Discrimination. One of the very worst was Roy Harper and Associates. When I started working there, he was so happy, far beyond satisfied with my abilities. He was a friendly sort and would engage me in long conversations about family and the like. For my daughter’s high school graduation, he was going to come to my house and make crawfish for the family party. He was very excited about this and asked that I come to pick up his cooker the day before so he could just bring himself, and the food. He heard me speak of Mel, but apparently thought nothing of it. That changed quickly.
When Mel and I showed up at his house, he acted very strangely. Mel looks very butch with a flat top typical clothing of Polo shirt, jeans and tennis shoes or boots. He chose to pass judgment. He knew we had been living together for several years. But please, I was a valuable worker and a good person. You would have thought he was just told his house burned down. He took me aside and said he wouldn’t be able to make the party. My heart sank. I had folks from all over the globe coming. I immediately knew why of course, but felt certain that was the end of that behavior. When I came in to work the following Monday, he called me into his office.
“Dianne, please understand that what I have to say is no direct judgment of you as a person and employee”.
I gave him credit for the eye contact and the folded hands.
“You know we build many churches and we cannot afford to lose revenue for standing on principle” .
He continued with the yadayada, but truly, I actually understood where he was coming form. And this was not my first trip on a sinking ship. No, it happened at BDMI, (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and a few more companies that would take me to task for a certain hypocritical liability.
I actually stayed at Harpers through the week to complete an expansion on one of those churches. He trusted me enough to leave me there that Friday night. I finished up, turned on the alarm, locked the door and put the key under a rock where he told me. You would have thought this would have dissuaded Mel from getting a position where her boss was in her business every day, but she was determined. It was going to be different for her. So I created resumes and cover letter, faxing them to the several organizations she plotted. One of them was a dental firm, who actually hired her.
And then she got the opportunity to experience having to work with the owner of the company you are with,. It was full of gossip, cheating, stealing upstaging and aggrandizing and she seemed to thrive. She heard the tag line: Hate the sin not the sinner. She didn't seem to mind. Until she slipped in the laundry room on one of my negligee’s, one of the few times she was doing laundry, and busted her leg up pretty badly.
We spent hours in the E.R. at Houston Northwest Hospital. It was like the early days of Cook County in Chicago where there were no free rooms. They had to reset her leg and made things worse. It is called reducing. Yet, they never reduce anything and you can tell when a doctor is doing it. Everyone can tell, because in spite of the massive amounts of Demerol, there is some screaming going on. They did this several times. I got into it with the Doctor and begged her to call my orthopedic doctor who fixes everything pretty quickly and painlessly. But she refused. She was an intern and she was going to do it herself. I begged and begged. Eventually someone must have called because over the P.A.:
“Dr. Know-it-all, Dr. Fitzgerald is on line 4 for you”. I pick four because that is how many times she “reduced” Mel’s leg.
Dr. Know-it-all was incensed “Did you call him!!! I told you not to call him!” (I guess doing what’s right is not as important as doing what’s profitable).
What…wait…WHAT!!! Is this China? Am I really not allowed to do this? I told her no I didn’t as she had done so much damage to Mel already I didn’t dare put Mel’s LIFE at risk by committing her leg to a vengeful lunatic. Her leg was already looking like a mangled extension of what it should be!
Thankfully Dr. Fitz told her to stop what she was doing. One reduction should have been enough. Two was already looking dangerous, three “WHAT THE HELL SCHOOL DID YOU GO TO ANYWAY???”
The nurse who called shirked sheepishly by and told me she made the call, then immediately begged me to not tell Dr. Know-it, and she said she used the term Doctor loosely. After all, do you know what they call a doctor who graduates at the bottom of her class? “Doctor” . Even lawyers lose their ability to practice – well, to get a decent internship at a law firm if they don’t graduate at the top 5% of their class. And if you graduate at the bottom, you get a job as a “person with a law degree” I know this. I worked at an Engineering firm where one of the Mechanical Engineers quit his job all pompous and everything
"I'm going to Law School, I am going to move on up from all you losers!"
…he returned. He graduated at the bottom of his class. Because he had a “law degree” they made him the Office manager. He did nothing but chew tobacco, spit in a cup and recite racist, bigoted and homophobic salutations. When I asked him where I could get a “Black’s Law Dictionary” for Devon, he gave me his. Still in the packaging.
So things settled down at Houston Northwest Hospital and Mel was allowed to leave with a temporary cast on her foot with an appointment to see Dr. Fitz the next day. And Dr. Know-it was put on probation. It seems that was her first day as the lead intern and what a bang-up job she did! Literally.
After seeing the Dr. Fitzgerald, she was slated for surgery the same day and she had to have several pins and a plate in her leg. This should have been a pretty standard conclusion, but we were not so lucky. When making the fusion, they needed to use donor bone. Which works very well in fact, if you don’t smoke? Mel was not going to quit, so an injury that should have rectified itself in 6 weeks dragged on for months. And then years. The little Dental firm she was working for could not oblige this and since they were not backed with the same employee morality issues as large firms, Mel was put out. She had worked her best, but the pain was too much.
The private sector job told her they couldn’t keep her. She was all “OH my God, I am gonna sue, they can’t do that etc. I simply smiled and said, yes they can, and yes they do. No need for I told you so."
“Fuck that, I am never going to work for any company smaller than ten thousand employees”. I.e. the government.
Mel had been out of work for some time. Her leg was too painful to even take her across the room. She truly enjoyed convalescence. She said It is the part that makes the illness worthwhile.
But she continued to smoke so the donor bone wouldn’t take. I told her I didn’t give a shit if she smoked, but secretly I hated it. Especially when we were in restaurants. My dad made a statement one time about smoking sections being like having a peeing section in a public pool. He was a lung transplant recipient and he always got a table at the demarcation line; i.e. the table next to him was a smoking table. Anyway…yes she continued to smoke. And being a cripple, I had to buy those cigarettes. So I was a little fucked myself. But I got her back, I never told her I bought them at the Indian Burial Ground convenience store down the street.
They finally re-operated, but that did not work either. After 8 months, and me being the primary bread winner, we finally found a renowned specialist in the Medical Center who operated yet again. The second operation they should have removed and replaced the hardware. They did not and yes, we tried to sue and no, nothing came of that.
Let me tell you as sweet and kind as Mel was, under the influence of narcotic drugs (and yes, she demanded and got a morphine pump) she was vile and mean. I would come from work, bring a change of clothes, suit, stockings, pumps, hair products, jewelry and patience. Many times I had blueprints with me to mark up. I slept on a leather chaise.
She would wake up at 3 am and put on the television. When I asked her to please let me get a couple of hours sleep she told me to “Shut the fuck up or leave, she didn’t care if I went or stayed.”
Of course I considered she was under the influence but illness was a way of life for her. She loved to stay in hospitals. She LOVED to stay in hospitals. She worked there. Yet, she LOVED TO STAY IN HOSPITALS. It was just like staying in a hotel with room service, which she LOVED even more…no, almost as much. The longer the hospital stay the better. Even though it was a hardship on the family. And she called everyone she knew to let them know she was going to be in serious condition and needed their prayers. Deep sigh….
Personally, I hate them. I get a weird feeling waking up in one. When the nurse comes in, it is creepy to think you are the beginning someone's workday.
Mel would ask her co-workers to come to the hospital to see her. And because she was under the influence, I had to give her a play by play of their visit. Repeatedly. She wanted to know how they acted and if they went to the nurse’s desk, if they looked at her chart, if they were concerned, what look did they have on their faces. As opposed to me who, when in the hospital, I could easily climb off the recovery room bed and hail a taxi. I hated hospitals. Subsequently, when I ended up in them something would happen and I would have to stay longer.
The doctor begged her to stop smoking. Finally he said the only way it was going to heal was if she stayed off of it. For a year and a half this went on. She had to have several more surgeries. Even though the commode was less than 10 feet away, she had to have a portable one that I had to empty at the end of the day. I am not good with those things and it made me very sick. I supported the family, at the time working directly for HCA Columbia Hospital System under a gay man. So that part of my life was not in the playbook.
Every day I came home to a messy house, screaming teenagers and a full portapoddie. I would be exhausted, but still made dinner, cleaned dishes and kitchen, threw in some wash, spent, then, whatever quality time I could with the children finally climbing into bed exhausted. It would be 10 pm or later. I needed sleep. But Mel wanted to watch TV and I never stopped her. I was too tired to, but there were times…
My dear sweet nephew Joshua, one of my sister’s sons, came to Houston for 6 weeks that summer. What a sweet boy he was. He waited on Mel hand and foot. And I truly thanked God, and my sister for his presence. Most boys this age would be predestined to avoid such a situation, but not Joshua. He was a gorgeous six foot tall blond and black haired boy with his hair two toned in the latest trend. He never met a stranger and my friends were immediately taken by his charm and tenacity. He had goals and anyone within hearing range would be subjected to the ins and outs of his latest hobbies and he had many. One of them was making motion pictures.
He had the time of his life just 15 years old with such promise ahead of him. He and his cousin, my daughter Devon were as tight as brother and sister. But Devon was away at debate camp, so Josh was the only child, except for the frequent visits from Brooke
who felt she had carte blanche to Devon’s bedroom.
Joshua was a wonderful young man with so much promise. And handsome with a weird little defect on one ear. This would one day be an issue. Not too noticeable, but to him, it was. He was going to be a director. He and I spent endless hours researching different favorites, one being M. Night Shyamalan. M. Night, had documented his film making from a young boy. Some of these films can be found at the end of his more famous endeavors, the Sixth Sense and Signs. When you watch the young M. Night, as serious as we would find him funny, you could see Joshua. Who, in fact, did not find the films funny at all, but as a guideline to what he was going to do with his life. He loved to make movies. And we were subjected to these films with all the raw humor a young boy can give. They were detective type stories, who dunnits.
During his stay we spoiled him. We got him a Nintendo for the TV, tons of fireworks for July 4th; Mel would sit outside in her wheelchair and watch him blow up everything in sight.
Joshua met a young blond girl who was a dead ringer for Brittany Spears, but also the personality and brainpower. Joshua liked the look but the mind made him crazy and eventually he let the girl down. He told her he had a love at home. He didn’t say much about her, but it was obvious she was someone special for him to turn this young woman’s advances away. After all he was a 15 year old boy with raging hormones. I always thought about his self-discipline.
Joshua earned everything we gave him. He emptied Mel’s potties, brought her food, and basically waited on her hand and foot. After all, He was just 15 years old, with all the spirit and drive one has at that age.
Mel took him out in truck with her leg in the cast and let him drive.
And he called home and asked to stay another 4 weeks. My sister Mary gave the ok. It was a blessing for me because when I got home, I didn’t have to immediately start taking care of whatever Mel’s issues that needed attending.
That was the last summer he spent with us.
Every time we saw him in our visits to Kenosha, he would wrap his arms around us like a bear. He was a handsome, big boy.
2 years later he would be taken from us forever.
My mother called and left a message on my answering machine: Dianne you need to call home it’s Joshua. Please call as soon as you get this.
By the way IISTG means If It Seems Too Good to be True