Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Living to organize, organizing to live

I've said this blog is not my journal yet the last two days-- last two weeks, really-- have been a more challenging blend of the personal and the political than I usually have to balance, and I'm going to write about some of that here. Maybe I wouldn't if I were the center of the drama, but-- to the degree it's possible-- I'm not.

So, checking in: I'm still unemployed.

Bad news: broke and sixty-two years old, but, as my younger daughter said to me once, "We're not poor, mom, just broke."

Good news: I have more time for organizing. We'll have our first elections with ward representation this fall, and Arise hopes to have a candidates' night with the NAACP for the at-large candidates for city council. All seems to be going well, we've got a number of good folks seeking office, and the word is getting out. We still have a lot of door-to-door outreach planned.

Most of my organizing time has been going into researching how Palmer Renewable Energy's proposal for a biomass plant in Springfield has gotten as far as it has. I'm finding it quite fascinating. What I can tell you right now is that apparently nobody in a position of authority was watching the store, on either a city or a state level, when it came to deciding whether or not this plant was a good idea for Springfield. Nobody was watching out for us, but why should that surprise anybody?

Did you know that Springfield is designated as an Environmental Justice Community, therefore requiring that we receive enhanced public participation when it comes to siting proposals that may have a negative impact on our community's environment? Well, neither did I. One of the questions we have to ask ourselves is, Why? I'll have a lot more to say about the Why later on-- just a bit more research to do.

For those of us who hope against hope that Springfield can turn around from its economic decline, why would we want a project that will pollute our air and further drive down property values?

Meanwhile, on the home front, my sister Liz, the economic justice organizer for Arise, had been plagued with weakness and numbness for some months. She was finally diagnosed with either an arachnoid cyst on her spinal cord or a spinal cord herniation, and she underwent a six hour surgery last Tuesday, where it turned out she had a non-malignant but highly invasive spinal cord tumor.

Her stay at Bay State Medical Center was less fraught with difficulties than is perhaps typical. Her neurosurgery ward was certainly the quietest ward I've ever visited or stayed at in Bay State, a pleasant change. "Only" two mistakes-- the nurses overlooked the doctor's orders for Heparin, a blood thinner, to be administered after surgery, and the doctor forgot to write orders for the other medications my sister takes, so she went two days without. The nurse-to-patient ratio on the floor was one to six-- a bit under what we might think for a ward where virtually everyone is recovering from brain surgery.

Liz needed rehabilitation therapy, best provided at a facility other than Bay State. A caseworker from the hospital told her there was an opening in East Longmeadow, and she, fogged with pain, accepted the placement with no questions. (Perhaps a family member should be present when these decisions are made, or perhaps the case worker should have provided more information?)

I travelled by car as Liz was transported by ambulance to the East Longmeadow Skilled Nursing Center, and it didn't take twenty minutes before it was clear we were in the wrong place.

First: incredibly hot; they said the air conditioning was malfunctioning. Second: no special wing for short-term rehabilitation; my sister's roommate was a woman well advanced with Alzheimer's whose side of the incredibly tiny room was decorated with plants and photographs. In fact, the majority of the wing did seem to be filled with people who would be there until they died. There was absolutely nothing about the place that said anyone was there to get better and go home. Third: not clean! My sister had been on oxygen at Bay State and an aide brought in an ancient piece of equipment covered with dust! Liz asked for a fan, and when the fan came, it too was dust-covered. Later, Liz told me, an aide came to clean feces on the floor of the shared bathroom, and then proceeded to change her roommate's diaper without changing her gloves!

"Get me out of here," my sister said through gritted teeth. It took several hours on the telephone the next day to do it, but we did. (Wouldn't you think that a health insurance company would have a list of facilities that accept their insurance?) She's now at Heritage Hall in Agawam, and while I'm sure no such facility is perfect, the feel of the place is entirely different, with a separate wing for short-term rehabilitation. I think she can get better there.

Last night I called my older daughter, who's vacationing on the Cape, to remind her of the Perseid meteor showers.

Last night I didn't cry in my sleep, as I had the night before.

And today I have time, I hope, to do a little planning for my own vacation, which I now believe is possible.

From a falling star,
a minuscule diamond
took shape.

From a pale twilight,
amazed and moved,
I contemplate the miracle.
Dominic Diamant (Romania)


Anonymous said...

There is another facility in EL just around the corner on Benton Drive. It has gone through a series of name changes, and I forget what it is called now. But I visited an acquaintance last spring, a person recovering from a surgery, and I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the place. They have a separate wing for rehab stays.

Jason said...

This is a great site that you have here. You should be proud. I have a debate site myself and I would like to exchange links with you. We have to stick together. Let me know. Jason

Lesllie Tripaathhy said...

god bless yu in yor noble mission for justice and help yu achieve yor dreams...

Brave Lady....

Mo Turner said...

Michaelann, have you seen that MotherWoman is looking for a new director?

Not sure if it's of interest, but in case, here's some info: