Some of you may remember that on May 31, 2016, I had the first (and hopefully only) on-road crash of my motorcycle. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital for evaluation of injuries.
I arrived at the hospital at 0550 and given an exam by the attending physician (called a “hospitalist.”) After X-rays and a CT, it was determined that I had…
…broken three ribs. The pain was growing more and more intense. I was given a narcotic for the pain, but it did nothing for me.
I had called The Spouse, but since he can’t drive and doesn’t handle emergencies well, it took him two hours to come to the hospital.
While waiting for The Spouse, I had gone through the imaging exams and was being treated for the pain, with careful attentive care in the E.R. Only one other patient was there.
By about 0800, the doctor told me that I should wait until the pain was under control, and since “we aren’t busy, just stay here for a while.” I was given another dose of another drug for the pain. It also wasn’t working. I was in agony.
The care remained gentle. That is, until The Spouse arrived.
Once they figured out that my Spouse was a man, the care I received changed from attentive to ignorant. (Did I say, by the way, that this was a Catholic hospital?)
At 0830, the attending physician came in to say that there wasn’t anything else they could do other than help me get the pain under control. Then she disappeared.
Another nurse who I had not seen before came in and said, “you have been released. Sign these papers.”
Under drug-induced haze, I signed the papers and accepted two prescriptions for pain drugs. The nurse said, “okay, time to leave.”
I meekly said, “the doctor said that I should get the pain under control. Can I wait here until at least he (pointing to my Spouse) can get these prescriptions filled at the hospital pharmacy?”
The nurse said that she would check and let me know.
She left the room, then was back in a minute to say, “The Charge Nurse says that you have to leave.” That was it.
I tried and my Spouse tried, but I could not get out of bed. The pain was too intense. The nurse found a wheelchair and two orderlies who yanked me out of bed and dumped me in the wheelchair. A hospital volunteer wheeled me to the lobby and left me there.
The Spouse went to the pharmacy to get the prescriptions filled. I was left there, alone, and crying. The pain was beyond belief.
Somehow, we made it home. Days later, I wrote a complaint to the hospital President, who replied in a couple weeks defending her staff and the hospital’s actions. She said that “the emergency room was busy, and incoming ambulances required us to have beds available for new patients.”
That statement didn’t ring true. When I was rolled out of there, the emergency room only had two other beds (out of at least 12) occupied. There was only one person in the waiting room.
Being very engaged with my community, I knew who to ask for records of ambulance runs on that day, so I obtained the records. My suspicions were proven correct — the next ambulance arrival at that hospital’s emergency room was at 1500 that afternoon. The hospital President’s statement was proved to be a lie.
Reluctantly, I engaged an attorney and threatened a lawsuit for discrimination against me as a same-sex married man, as well as for pain and suffering.
I had the hospital dead-to-rights. As the investigation continued with more letters between the hospital’s attorneys and mine, along with depositions of on-duty staff of the E.R., my case was made.
The hospital pled nolo contendere, meaning no admission of guilt, but they offered a substantial financial settlement.
I wasn’t out to bankrupt the hospital or make money. I accepted the settlement, even though my attorney said that I could probably get ten times that amount if we went to court.
Ultimately, I wanted to teach the hospital a lesson. That was done. The hospital staff were required to participate in training about fair treatment of gay people and same-sex marriages that I made a requirement of accepting the settlement.
The settlement check arrived last week. I paid the attorney, then last night, I donated the remaining proceeds to a local, Maryland-based charitable organization that protects and defends gay men and women from cases of discrimination. Look at that — proceeds of a settlement for a lawsuit against a Catholic hospital going to a gay rights non-profit.
Life is short: teach lessons, even if it is distasteful.