Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hospital Visitation Regulations Go Into Effect Today

Directly from the White House, I would like to break to you some great news!
Despite the fact that this is a celebratory post I have to warn you it contains some very sad, gut wrenching facts I decided to share to help illustrate how important and personal this is to Gil and I.


Our country just became a little bit more civilized today, you know, like Canada, Denmark and Spain for example.
This new law means that starting today any hospital that participates in medicare or medicaid will have to allow patients to designate who will have visitation rights and make health decisions for them, regardless if they are a family member, regardless if they are gay, straight, transsexual or a just a get the picture, you know, what should have always been done.
This is very personal to me, to us, to Gil and I because in the last 13 years living in this country I have had to fight tooth and nail to make sure I was with Gil or he was with me at a bed side in the few unfortunate times we had to stay at a hospital.
See, we don't have any family members living near naturally when I had a serious case of strep throat in 2002, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't breath, it felt like my throat had been cut hundreds of times with a razor...the pain was unbearable, I couldn't drive, Gil drove me to the closest hospital to our house at the time at around 2 am in a bitter cold New England night.
Arriving at the Hospital, we were stopped by a slutty vulgar looking receptionist with horrible bright red lipstick and strong extremely sweet perfume with a huge cleavage, chewing gum with her mouth open ( you get the picture).
Before asking my name or why I was there, insurance card etc... she stared at Gil from top to bottom, rolled her eyes and made a look of disgust before asking me...

Rude Triage Receptionist-Is HE your family member?
                                    ME-Yes, he is my partner of 5 years!
Rude Triage Receptionist- That is NOT FAMILY.
                                    ME- You are  NOT STOPPING HIM FROM COMING IN WITH ME, and if you think you can treat me like this I am CALLING 911, come on, it's 2002, there must be laws against this kind of unnecessary abuse!

It turns out WE ALL WOULD WAIT EXACT 9 years before those laws became a reality.
OK, You are probably laughing at me right now, but in my defense I wasn't thinking straight and I was trained to think the police is supposed to "serve and protect" right?
Gil was sweating and telling me he would go wait in the car while they admitted me into the emergency...
I got really mad because it was 15F outside and I shouldn't have to be by myself when I saw all kinds of people WITH someone next to them...
During my stand off with the Triage Witch a gay male nurse heard the commotion and came to our rescue, he grabbed Gil by the hand, pushed me in a gurney into the ER and told the Witch to shut the hell up.
I was really nervous and didn't know what was going on...the woman was threatening to call security and this angel nurse decided to buy this fight for us...
Do you see the picture by now?
What should have been a simple ER visit to treat a severe case of strep throat, some pain medication, some antibiotic or whatever they gave me to make me feel better turned into a dramatic, unnecessary event that marked me for life.
Now, every time I walk into a Hospital I am automatically waiting for someone to mistreat us, just because we are still considered 2nd class citizens.
Well, I wish I had paid discounted taxes all these years once I haven't enjoyed full citizenship because I am gay. I am only half a citizen.
White and non white trash straight people all over get married, have children, set up their meth labs, loose their children to the state and even those people have more rights than Gil and I.
We pay taxes like crazy and we still can't get married and we do not enjoy the same benefits straight couples do.
Back to our hospital subject.
My story was humiliating to say the least, it makes you feel less human, because of the simple fact that you DO NOT CHOOSE to be gay, you just are and people treat you poorly because of what you are.
However, our story is absolutely nothing compared to what happened to Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn at the HORRIBLE cesspool that is Jackson Memorial in downtown Miami, Florida.


This story absolutely broke my heart, made me mad and made the episode personal to me.
What the link doesn't make clear is that Janice and Lisa are not from FLORIDA, they were just boarding a Cruise Ship at the Miami harbor with their children in what should have been a pleasant vacation thru the Caribbean when Lisa had a sort of aneurysm before the Ship left the harbor, they had the bad luck to be closer to Jackson Memorial in downtown Miami, please pray YOU never end up in such place, even being straight.
I actually did speak with Janice Langbehn on the phone a few months after Lisa and her had their encounter with Jackson Memorial because she wanted me to be a part of an interview with the Miami Herald on the subject.
They were looking for other gay couples who had suffered some kind of similar situation at Miami downtown's Jackson Memorial.
I ended up not being able to help Janice for the simple fact that after my episode with the Hospital in New England, this time in 2004 it was Gil that ended up in the ER in the middle of the night.
We couldn't help because I lied to the hospital.
Yes, I learned with the bad experience in New England and when I ended up with Gil at the triage of the Jackson Memorial I lied and said he didn't speak any English and I was his translator. IT WORKED!
They didn't have any Portuguese translator and didn't want to bother getting one when I told Gil to shut up and play dumb that I was going to "Act as his translator", he played along and Hospital personnel panicked with the possibility of having a Portuguese speaking patient who couldn't describe symptoms etc...
Our plan worked...
It wasn't a walk in the park, Jackson Memorial is a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE place, it is the only public Hospital in Florida.
Florida, due to the mild weather attracts homeless people from all over the US, seriously, they just grab onto cargo trains and slide down to the sunshine state. We lived in Tampa for a couple of years and found out there are close to 8000 (Eight Thousand) homeless people living under bridges in downtown Saint Petersburg alone, imagine Miami, Orlando and other large Florida cities.
Florida also attracts Haitians who wash on the shores of South Florida clinging to precarious rafts and small hopes of a better life.
Long story short, Florida has a lot of poor, desperate people that flock to Jackson Memorial when they need medical attention, they have no option, see, no Universal Health Care here, this is not Canada or Spain, no, we are not there yet, unfortunately.
I never saw anything like that, people bleeding on the side walks, broken arms, broken legs, stabbed with knife, you name it, waiting for hours and hours, the Hospital constantly operates over it's capacity.
I ended up staying with Gil for 36 hours. I was so afraid of that place I didn't leave his site for one second, I stood next to him for the entire 36 hours.
They placed Gil in a temporary ER triage area on a gurney waiting for a hospital bed. His gurney had a small curtain that you could get a little privacy but when the woman on the gurney next to us threw up blood on my feet I realized that the curtains where above the knee ... sorry to share this sad details with you but I need you to understand what we went thru those 36 hours.
It was a HORRIBLE nightmare that I don't wish on my worse enemy.
If you saw our most recent Hospital  EPISODE with Gil's kidney stone, just for the record, I had to lie again and tell Hospital personnel I was his translator, that trick has always worked for us.
So, it is a huge relief to see the new law going into effect.
I won't have to lie again. It's not fun, it is humiliating, it is nerve recking but I did it to protect my partner of 13 years, (my husband since July 2nd 2010 thanks to Canada) and THANK GOD I won't have to lie again.
And most importantly if your kids turn out to be gay, you can now be sure they won't go thru what Gil and I or much worse what Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn went thru EVER AGAIN.
No more humiliation.
Thanks PRESIDENT OBAMA and DEMOCRATS, INDEPENDENTS and the few REPUBLICANS who voted OBAMA CARE into law, you just made our country a more civilized and fair place for me, my children and future generations of Americans.

President Obama signing Health Care Bill



Nina said...

thank god.... sometimes I thought the U.S.A was completely coming apart with progress in LGBT. After the loss in Wisconsin on gay marriage and common law (well in many many states). So glad obama was able to pull that off. congrats!

LGBT community has taken some blows during bush, I really should have triple major Sociology, gender and LGBT studies. But my university refuses to fund a real LGBT department. After the professors fought for years, it was finally forming. But during my last semester to be dismantled at the last minute. Incredibly.

I was a big blow to me, I am unsure about the university degrees about triple majors. But I know that I would have gotten a minor for sure.

Danielle said...

Congratulations! This is a big step in the right direction. It's not even a question of only gay rights. There are plenty of people that have lifelong relationships (friendships, too) with people who aren't blood relatives. I have plenty of friends who I would trust to make my life decisions and that I would want with me at the hospital over my relatives.

I'm so sorry that you had to endure those horrible experiences. Now they are history!!

Jana @ Paper plains said...

How WONDERFUL! I echo Danielle's sentiments in that this is a victory for all relationships on any level. I hope no one ever again has to endure such shameful inhumanities in the US!

Curious, how does it work here in Brazil?

Jim said...

This is wonderful.

As Danielle and Jana point out, there are many situations where this is a blessing. Especially in Florida, where senior couples live together rather than get married and see their Social Security benefits reduced.

Many years ago (15?) I had a lover who was slowly being taken from us by AIDS. One night we had to go to the hospital. He was going to spend the night. He was tired and afraid. Naturally I stayed with him. At one point I layed down in his bed with him, to hold him. That's when the nurse from hell came in and told me that if I did not keep both my feet on the ground she would have me removed from the hospital. (This was in San Francisco!)

I exploded. She didn't know what hit her -- but she came back to the room periodically to torment us.

Good for you that those days are over.

Gil and Ray said...

Good question Jana!

Jim, Danielle, Nina,

Do any of you guys know how it is in Brazil?
I have never tried/needed to be with Gil at a Hospital in Brazil.


Jim said...

Thank the goddess we have never had to deal with an emergency room visit... but with Luiz at the National Cancer Institute I have always been received/included without comment as his partner.

As is always the case - we would do well to create Power of Attourney documents for each other.

Luiz refers to it as "Power of Eternity" CUTE!

Gil and Ray said...


Thanks. I wonder if Sao Paulo is the same as Rio.
I will ask around and share what I find out.


Nina said...

In Paulinia, it doesn't matter who is with you (it could be jesus) their not allowed. We do what you guys did in Florida. I pretend not to speak Portuguese. Then they have no choice because no speaks English well enough.

Rachel said...

Wonderful! Finally doing something right here! It breaks my heart to hear that you had to argue while dealing with an emergency situation. Such bullshit! At least you can say it's all behind you now :)

Gil and Ray said...


That is scary to think that if we move back to Brazil we would have to deal with this nightmare again...
The good side is that at least in Brazil we have our families with us and that makes a difference already...
And Brazil usually copies the US in civil rights, let's hope this one is followed too...


Yes, having to argue while in pain is adding insult to injury in the most literal sense of the word.
Thanks to our wonderful President Mr.Obama and the Democrat leadership we are moving forward.