… at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital …

I’d like to start this story back on the day I broke my ankle; at the intersection of me, my mom and the orthopedic doctor at Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital ER: “Fright Day”.

After waiting three hours for a nurse in the ER to assist a doctor in setting my ankle, he had another plan. The doctor decided that my mom, having birthed seven babies, had enough experience to help him set my ankle. So my mom helped him set it, he casted it, and we were on our way home. I’m sure that was not in the CIMH policy and procedure manual.

A week later at an office visit, it was no surprise to me that my ankle was not set properly. Although my mom was a brilliant chemist, her new certificate in Bone Setting 101 was revoked.

The doctor gave me two choices. 1) He could reset my ankle in the office, but he couldn’t give me anything for the pain… and I would most likely pass out. Or, 2) go to the hospital and have it done under anesthesia. Was there really a question here? Is Allen Funk going to jump out from behind the cast cart? I said, “Hospital, please,” like I was ordering an ice cream cone. Who would’ve thought the better answer was behind door number one?

Fright Night I at CIMH was being sexually assaulted by four doctors from Upstate Medical School.

Fright Night II at CIMH continued with both the nursing staff and the doctors assigned to my case. My OR time was on a Saturday morning, and kept getting bumped due to traumas coming in. (My case was considered an elective surgery.) By the time I got back to my room, dinner was served, but I was too loopy to eat. My parents left for the night. My friends Linda and Anne were there, and we played with the bed controls. The next thing I know it’s 2:00am or 3:00am, and my freshly broken ankle is screaming in pain… and I smelled pizza. I put on my call light and told the nurse I needed something for pain. She came back, after what seemed like an eternity, with a very sad, sad, sad story — sad for me!

My chart didn’t have any post-operative pain meds ordered, but good news — she could give me some Tylenol. I told her I needed something stronger than Tylenol. Then she asked, “You don’t want me to wake up the doctor in the middle of the night, do you?” I replied, “Yes I do!” But she refused to call him and gave me Tylenol instead. I asked her for a slice of pizza and she said “no” to that too. I told her I hadn’t eaten since dinner on Friday night, more than 24 hours ago. She gave me two packs of saltines and said good night.

I thought for a brief second about calling my dad, but you don’t poke a sleeping bear. My parents, especially my mom with her painful hip (would find out soon its metastasis from her breast cancer), had been up at the hospital for two days straight. Back in those days, you needed to take out a second mortgage to turn on the phone and TV in a hospital room. “Don’t use the phone,” I was told.

By the time “Dr. Sunshine” came walking into my room for morning rounds I was delirious in pain. The nurses were trying to downplay it and misrepresent my pain. I heard talk of sending me home after physical therapy for crutch training. I’m crying — “I need some pain meds to start working before I go anywhere.” Of course they didn’t listen and sent me to physical therapy, where I’m telling them, “I don’t want to go home.” Well, they started to open an investigation into abuse allegations in my home. Finally, I screamed, “I am in so much pain I want to chop my leg off! Can you understand that?” Those words stopped the abuse investigation, but not the crutch training. (I didn’t remember those words until writing this passage.)

The words, “I just want to chop my leg off,” would be echoed and revisited 30 years later when I was in extreme pain with a diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). CRPS was first documented during the Civil War. Surgeons would attempt to alleviate the unrelenting and unbearable pain, they would often amputate a soldier’s affected limb. The soldier would be left with more pain as a result. Current advice for CRPS patients has not changed. Amputation would increase the pain.

As a former surgical floor nurse, I can give you a good estimate of how many nurses and doctors failed me on Fright Night II:

  • Operating room or recovery room nurse who gave report to floor RN
  • Evening shift nurse assigned to me
  • Charge nurse on evenings
  • Night shift charge nurse
  • Night shift nurse assigned to me
  • Orthopedic doctor who did the procedure
  • Ortho residents/interns on evening shift
  • Ortho residents/interns
  • Three doctors
  • Six nurses

At least NINE medical professionals failed me after my surgery. That is a stunning amount of incompetence, betrayal of oaths, and wanton disregard for the welfare of a minor.

Fright Night I & II at CIMH — this is why I became a nurse! So no other person — adult or child — would become a victim of sexual assault, or be mistreated, have vital medications withheld — which is equivalent to torture, gross negligence, and dereliction of duty. Please realize, my room was right across from the nursing station — so they could “keep an eye on me”. That didn’t work out well for me during Fright Night I — unless one or more of the nurses were complicit with the four predators.

I understand why the night nurse didn’t want call the doctor in the middle of the night. He would’ve screamed at her, maybe called her names… all because of him not doing his job. But, she and the others had a responsibility to me. How many times in my 21 year nursing career do you think I got screamed at? Called names? Plenty of times! Would I do it again to keep my patients safe? Yes, I would!

I have never written about this part of my story before. I am so enraged my pen is almost ripping the paper. Forgiving this group of people is still a process it seems. God will judge them, not me. All would be 70+ years old now — maybe they are already dead, or maybe they died of Covid. Or… maybe they got hit by a Centro bus while crossing the street on their way to Varsity Pizza.

I’m leaving this raw and awful. This rage and hatred have been in my gut and in my throat and in my cells for over 40 years. It’s got to come out of you before you can heal. That’s why you need to re-commit to forgiving and healing… every day… every hour… some days every second… until it leaves you exhausted, but one step closer to … PEACE.