An Unholy Alliance

February 10 was a dreadful day in the great Tundra Land of upstate New York. It started out sunny but cold. Then it started to snow, then it stopped for awhile, then it started up again. It was windy, and the wind was icy. The dry powdery white stuff deposited a thin and deceptive dusting over the treacherous ice. Which inspires me to ask:

Why the hell don't you businesses, property owners and YEAH--churches (!) clean the @#$%^&$#@%^&* sidewalks in front of your properties? Do you want people to slip and fall and sue you???? Do you find it acceptable that mothers are pushing their babies in strollers in the streets all winter long because the sidewalks are treacherous??? Do you find it acceptable that disabled folks on scooters are riding those scooters down the streets instead of on sidewalks????

As I said, February 10 was a dreadful day. I had to buy something at the dollar store, so out I went into the frozen mess. As I hurried along the dry covered walkway in front of the shops, I saw a tall young man slip on the ice and fall in the parking lot. I watched him as he got up and I thought: I have to be careful out there. I didn't find what I was looking for at the dollar store, so I headed home. As I stood on the sidewalk waiting for cars to pass, I saw one of them do an S-shape on the slippery surface of the parking lot. This is the parking lot I had to cross to get home. About halfway across, I slipped and fell. The pain was immediate, in my hand, elbow, and tailbone. I got up and walked; limping to the sidewalk on the outside of the shopping center parking lot. I made my way home, three or four blocks away. I thawed out.

Two hours later, the pain had ramped up, way up; and when the owner of the building came home, I asked her if her daughter, an RN, was home so I could call her and get some free advice. When my friend saw how much pain I was in, she insisted on driving me to the emergency room. She'd have to leave me there, she said, but told me to call her when I was ready to go home.

I got to St. Elizabeth Medical Center at 6 PM. I was finally released at 10 PM or later. I walked through the doors on the emergency room with one sleeve on, one sleeve off. My boots, which my friend had shoved onto my feet, were untied. The pain in my elbow was off the charts, screaming out loud pain. On the smiley face scale of 1-10, it was a twelve. The techs x rayed my back and elbow but didn't bother with my hand. Ten days after the fall, it's my hand/wrist that hurts most, when I open a door or try to pick up something with that hand, or lean on it.

The nurse at St. Elizabeth wheeled me to the doors and sent me on my way with a sling, two Motrins--after I'd asked for them five times from five different staffers--and some folded up sheets to prop up my sprained elbow. The diagnosis: sprained joint/tear in ligaments.

Discharge instructions : Arrange for a follow-up appointment with my doctor in 3-5 days. St. Elizabeth's warm and friendly scheduler at the clinic gave me an appointment for the 21st--11 days later. Thanks a lot! You know who you are, Miss Friendly.

Other instructions: severe sprains often need 3-6 weeks of immobilization to heal completely.
I need both hands to do my job so this puts me out of work and out of money. A fall on the ice brings my already low income to zero. That was an expensive trip to the dollar store.

Now I don't know how much those white hospital sheets are worth, but I sure as hell wasn't expecting the bill that arrived promptly on February 20th, even before the pain has faded away. St. Elizabeth is a non profit Catholic hospital, and in 2006 it got a nice little chunk o' change--$350,000-- from the government, according to a Senator Chuck Schumer news release.

Brother, can you spare $74.63???

With no choice in the matter, I was born into a Catholic family, raised in the Catholic religion, well schooled in the life and times of Jesus, the man who dispensed free health care to the poor, who distributed free food, and said: "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to me."

This unholy alliance between a profiteering wealth care industry and a Catholic hospital bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Jesus I was schooled in, and I'll tell you this:

Get behind me, Catholic wealth care pretenders. You sent me a letter threatening to turn my $74.63 bill over to a collection agency, abill that started out $37.32, that you doubled after the fact! What was it that Jesus said to the loan sharks in the temple? Get the #$!! outa here, or words to that effect.

To the faithless, loveless Catholic religion I say: I rebuke you.

To my next of kin, and friends I say: when I'm dying, and breathing my last breaths, keep me OUT of hospitals, especially Catholic ones. Keep those black clad Catholic priests away--far away-- from me. The only religious figure I want anywhere near me as I prepare to leave this world is a genuine saffron or maroon robed Buddhist monk or nun. They don't need to speak English. Compassion is a universally understood language.

Unfortunately, so is greed!

In 1992, as I began my VISTA ( Volunteers in Service To America) year here in Tundra Land, Bill Clinton was running for president. In 1992, this upstate city was economically depressed, with a manufacturing base on life support, a large population of poor people, and a lot of low wage jobs.

It's now 2008, the manufacturing jobs are almost non existent, the boarded up buildings are many, the service and retail jobs pay minimum wage to formerly well paid factory workers. The county office building is crowded every day with poor people lined up for Food Stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance-- most of whom work for their poverty level incomes.

How in%#!! can a full time worker be poor enough to qualify for Food Stamp?? Follow the money trail. There are tax breaks for companies that hire the poor--and keep them poor.

Here's a thought: pay all workers a LIVING WAGE, tied to the cost of utilities, housing, medical care, day care, and groceries in the region they live in. Then they could buy what they need directly with their own money, and not have to go through third party poverty pimps to access health care, affordable housing, food, day care, heating fuel. Poor people in upstate NY stand in more lines than the folks in the former USSR.

This city, and my country are in a recession, whether BushCorp cares to admit it or not.

Things haven't changed much in 16 years; they just got worse.

You know you're living in tough times when WalMart, the "low price leader," jacks up its prices.
Bottled water is 74 cents this week, up from 68.

But, as a sign on a Teamster picket line said: "Tough Times Don't Last, Tough People Do."

"Go with your gut," said a young co worker.

I'm going with my gut (and the Teamsters). My gut tells me CHANGE is long overdue.

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