Monday, July 19, 2010

This is not a post to debate healthcare or poverty or immigration or peaches. I just felt the need to share this story.

One of the hardest parts of my job at Arkham are my translating duties. Not because I have difficulty finding word equivalents in both languages because I'm fluent in both equally. Well, I'm sure we can find other people who can out-Spanish me but, for the most part, I can handle any translating emergency. The hard part is actually having to witness the level of poverty some people live in. Not to say poverty is exclusive in Hispanic homes but those are the ones I see.

I've had to translate for little kids whose parents are too afraid of being deported to agree to necessary surgeries that may prevent future handicaps or deformities for their children. I've had to translate for parents who are kids themselves and try to make them understand why it's so important to keep gashes clean or casts dry or even keep their children from re-injuring their barely healing bones. I've had to translate for workers who were being taken advantage of by employers and being forced to do inhumanly things even after they severed fingers or even feet. On the flip side, I've also had my share of translating for people that are trying to screw the system.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm nobody, but I do my best to get the doctors' warnings or recommendations across. Most of the time, I can walk away and pray they follow the instructions they were given closely.

Sometimes, though, I find myself completely swept over by grief for people who are complete strangers. Sometimes, I wonder why, how people can be so evil.

A few weeks ago, the other Doctor, Mr. Rogers semi retired, in our practice came to the office late. It was his birthday and he was unusually crabby. When we went in with his birthday cake to sing to him, he thanked us and wanted to explain his foul mood. He said the reason he was late was because he had to do a consult at the hospital.

This wasn't an unusual thing since he often handles the ER calls when OZ is off. This time, he said, he was not prepared for what he saw. That statement in itself surprised us because the man has been a doctor for about 50 years.

He said there was a young woman who came into the ER with multiple stab wounds. After he was able to locate an interpreter, he found out her husband had been drinking and had wanted to have sex. When she denied him because he was drunk, he waited for her to fall asleep then got up to get a knife and proceeded to stab her repeatedly. When she got to the ER, they performed life saving surgery to wounds on her abdomen, arms, wrists and vaginal area. The reason Mister Rogers was called was because she was having issues moving her hands so the hospital staff wanted her examined before they discharged her. What Mister Rogers discovered is that her husband had also severed tendons, nerves, muscles in both her hands. He immediately called OZ to come back from his fishing trip and then had to fight the hospital staff to keep her in the hospital. As he put it, he could not be a part of the consult and sign her release if she wasn't taken care of. He said he knew the staff was under pressure form higher ups to discharge the woman but he could not, in good conscience, say the patient was stable enough to leave and then come back. His worry was that, due to her poverty, she would neglect to follow up with an Orthopaedic Surgeon and therefore lose mobility in her hands. Mister Rogers is well respected in that hospital. Before his semi retirement, he was an excellent surgeon and now teaches classes at a university. When he talks, people tend to listen which they did in this case.

He explained that he was just a bit disillusioned with the politics in hospitals, even though he understood them, because it really should only be about healing and helping people. After he finished his story, we made sure to thank him for fighting for this poor woman who had suffered such a horrible tragedy.

The reason I'm talking about it now is because I met her today. I really don't know what I was expecting. Maybe someone who resembled more of an indigenous Mexican woman, maybe I was expecting someone with a meeker demeanor? I don't know. What I encountered was a woman like me. That is to say, there wasn't anything about her that made you think "victim". And really, that was my own fault for having preconceived notions about what a "victim" would look like.

She spoke in a regular voice. Not timid or shy. She held eye contact when I asked her about the incident while I filled out her forms and answered all of them without hesitation. She wasn't demanding or bitter, she was just... normal. She was also the same age as my sister Nancy. So young.

She brought her dad with her. He silently paced the interview room while I asked for the intimate details of her attack. She kept glancing at him as she answered, his anger and sadness was palpable. She was trying to keep her voice even, probably so he wouldn't worry, and he was looking away as he winced, probably to keep her from worrying. I felt like an intruder.

Once in the exam room with OZ, I realized what the damage to her hands could have been. Her arms and wrists had horrible scars that made me think of a shark attack and had me wondering how she would be able to live her life with that constant reminder. I was also witness again to OZ's compassionate side. We, as his employees, never get to see it but the man genuinely cares about his patients so I should respect him for that. She brought up the subject of payment and he joked that he knew she didn't keep a drawer full of money for surgeries like this so her concern should only be about her therapy and getting better.

I'm hoping that she would have gotten the same care wherever she would have gone but the fact that she had kind Mister Rogers and obstinate OZ as her care takers will hopefully eliminate one concern from her traumatic experience.

More than ever I fear for humankind. What kind of a beast would turn on the person they swore to love forever with such brutality?


  1. ummm... this made me cry. Not because of the brutality of her husband (although it sounded horrific), but because of all the other caring human beings she encountered and helped her after that horrible incident.

    A ratio of one horrible person to at least four caring people (you, her dad, Oz and Rogers) gives me hope.

  2. This brings up so many things for me.

    Drew just got back from Guadalajara Mexico yesterday. He said the poverty was absolutely unbelievable. The people had to scramble just to find enough to eat. He, as an American, had to be careful and not leave his hotel so he wouldn't be kidnapped for ransom. He was instructed not to honk at SUVs driving crazy in traffic because only the drug lords drive them and they
    will pull over and kill you. I can't imagine living this way. What would have happened to the girl if it had happened there?

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  4. It is so dangerous there and I fear for my mom's safety every time she goes.

    She probably would have bled to death or he would have finished her off in the morning.

  5. That is heartbreaking, Bee. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

    I'm proud for that doctor, though!

  6. oh..Sorry to hear about your mom..I was so sad to read about your story. Thanks for the share.

  7. :(
    So sad Bee :( :( :(

    My Grandma used to say "Siempre hay un roto para un descosido." You know, there are women who marry guys in prison or who stay with child molesters, rapists, robbers...its' sad but there's something broken in them that makes them get together with guys like that.

    On the other hand I applaud the doctor for having a pair a doing what was right regardless of everything else.

    #1 reason I don't go to Mexico: Violence.
    My mami goes once in a while, I also worry a lot

  8. Wow. This is such a heart-breaking story Bee. I wish there were more doctors like this in the world to ensure women like her get the care they so desperately need.


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