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April 15, 2017 / Sandra Bossert

Svent

It was another work day at Bellevue Hospital. My last question for my Patient was…are you interested in aftercare? A substance abuse rehab? Or maybe a long term residential program? Outpatient? Yes! The Patient exclaimed with enthusiasm. There is a place that I went to once and I want to return there.

Okay, great. I thought to myself. This is easy. A Patient who knows exactly what he wants.

“Svent. The Svent rehab in Rochester, New York. It is one hour outside of New York City”?!?!?

“Sir, would you please say that again”? I figured I had heard him wrong. First of all, Rochester New York is closer to Canada and nowhere near Manhattan. Second of all I have never heard of the Svent rehab.

“Svent”.

“Rochester, New York, right here near New York City”.

Where could he possibly mean?

I had him write it on my notepad. “Svent”.

Oh shit, this is going to be a long few days here with this Patient.

Of course, there was nowhere else that he wanted to go in case “Svent” didn’t have a bed for him.

I went and asked my colleagues with seniority. “Sandra, in my ten years at this job, I have never heard of Svent”. GREAT.

My colleagues brought it up at the morning meeting in my absence.  Needless to say, in all the collective wisdom of all the doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors etc… not one person has ever heard of Svent. I saw the minutes to the meeting. “Svent Unknown”. What a surprise.

For two days, the Patient insisted until finally he called me over.

“Sandra, I just remembered more information about the rehab that should help you”. It’s full name was SAINT VINCENTS and it is actually in Manhattan. Now THAT I have heard of!!!!

I never said Svent!!! I also never said Rochester. I whipped out my notebook and pointed out that in his very own handwriting he wrote Svent.

It was an abbreviation. Somebody kill me. St. Vincents. Svent.

(c) 2017

 

 

 

April 3, 2017 / Sandra Bossert

The Dumb Animals of Australia and Wells Fargo

A man (Patty) came into the detox. He was covered in huge red spots all over his skin. His hair was very long and he was unkempt. It took several days until he was healthy and detoxed enough to meet with me for his assessment. During our interview, I found out that this homeless man on the streets of New York City was a Veteran (a Marine), retired fire fighter and 9-11 Rescuer. He explained that he is like a local celebrity at all the police stations and firehouses. This is because if people need help he will not hesitate to call the police or even hold criminals in a choke hold until they are handed over to the police.

“Let me tell you a story”. I couldn’t begin to imagine what the story might be.

I was sitting in the park. A man came out of his high rise apartment and was headed in my direction. I asked him, “Where are you from? Ireland?”. “No, he replied. I am from Australia”. “Oh, where all the dumb animals are”. “Dumb animals? What do you mean the dumb animals of Australia?” Patty became very passionate and told me what he said about all the dumb animals. He told me the two men got into a 45 minute conversation about the animals and how kangaroos box, other animals are “strange looking”, which ones have big ears; you name it.

Tommy added…at the end of the conversation the man asked me to come with him. Having nothing else to do, I took a walk with him.

He brought me to…the Wells Fargo bank ATM.

I felt myself leaning in to hear what was going to happen next.

Were they going to rob the bank? Commit a crime? I had no idea where this story was going.

Patty raised his voice. Would you believe he took out $100 and gave it to me!?!?!

Then the next time he came out of his high rise and I said hello we talked again for a long time. He walked me to the ATM again and gave me $40.

“Sandra don’t get me wrong. He’s not gay or anything. He is married and all. It’s just that he likes me and he wants to help me”.

I am sure we will see each other again”.

He then went back to the last question that I asked and answered it as if he never told me this story.

Patty said that everyone tells him he needs to write a book about his life. From what little I know about him, I think he should too.

(c) 2017

 

 

 

March 4, 2017 / Sandra Bossert

The Mayor

It was another work day at the Bellevue Hospital detox unit. Two patients were standing outside in the hallway and were not in their respective rooms. One man saw me, saw I had a work badge on and he started on a rant. “You know…the food was not very tasty. It did not have a lot of seasoning!?! My sheets weren’t the most comfortable. How am I supposed to sleep? Oh, and then there is the medication. Don’t even get me started! I should be getting a higher dose of this and that and while I think about it a detox should have coffee, tea and a snack bar!?!? Why doesn’t your detox have a snack bar?

His voice was getting louder and louder and his demeanor more angry. In my head I was trying to think of an exit strategy without being rude to the patient. What does he think this is? A high end resort?

My biggest problem with this place is…I couldn’t even imagine what he was going to say.

We don’t get to stay long enough!?!??!

WHAT!!!

Until this moment I was sure he was going to end his rant with saying that he wants to leave and be given discharge papers immediately. His biggest complaint is he wants to stay longer!!!

If his rant wasn’t bad enough, now the other patient is joining in and sounding like a church choir member. YES! Amen! He is right! Oh, the food! Right on point! Now the second patient is starting to express his displeasure. Back to the first patient.

You know something? I think the Mayor of New York City needs to know about this place so he can de fund you guys and shut you down. Which is it I wondered? Is he mad that he wants to stay longer or does he want it shut down?

OH YEAH? Shouted the second patient. I DEMAND TO SPEAK TO THE MAYOR OF BELLEVUE!!!! I did a double take. Doing my best not to crack a smile and to try to take this entire thing seriously, I looked over and saw that both patients were actually serious. They want to contact Mayor De Blasio and a fictitious mayor of Bellevue that doesn’t exist.

After much negotiating, I was able to convince them both that a Patient Advocate is the right place to start. I gave them the phone number to our in house advocate and it seemed to appease them.

Sometimes I wonder where these people come from. One thing I can say. It is never boring in the heart of New York City and Bellevue Hospital.

(c) 2017

 

 

 

 

 

February 21, 2017 / Sandra Bossert

The Bellevue Birthday Party

At my last job at a small non profit, the owner of the company was throwing her spouse and our Vice President, a surprise birthday party. A birthday cake was ready on the fifth floor. We employees, in pied piper formation, walked behind the co-worker with his ukulele and marched out of the elevator singing “happy birthday”. For the most part, any workplace that I have been a part of has had some sort of variation of that birthday celebration.

Then, there is Bellevue.

My colleague, Ross, came and got me. “Come with me Sandra; we are about to surprise Kim. It is her birthday”. As the newest employee, it was my first time celebrating someone’s birthday at Bellevue. I was very pleased to be included. The employee lounge was decorated and the table was filled with all kinds of food. Colleagues were signing birthday cards, there was a bouquet of flowers and also a bottle of wine. More and more colleagues were entering the room until it was standing room only and people were out the doors. The atmosphere was very happy and festive.

It started off as any birthday party would. After Kim entered the room and the “happy birthday” song was finished, everyone started eating the food. Conversation started back and forth. After a short amount of time, I heard Kim say that she wonders if she is allowed to open her bottle of wine and share it. She didn’t open the bottle; we work in a detox unit for people with Alcohol addictions. However, I piped up and said…well, it is your 21st birthday! She liked that and told us that actually, this year she can join AARP and is officially a senior citizen.

Everyone was enjoying the party. Kim was of course, the center of attention. Then she started talking about how if she could go back in time, there is a lot of things that she would change in her life. She would have had her children later in life. Then there is that trip she would have taken and she would have delayed her marriage until she was older. “It was because I had strict parents that today would have been defined as abusive. I wanted to get away from them”!?!

A second co-worker started commiserating with Kim and that her childhood was the same way. A third co-worker’s demeanor changed from happy to sad and he started relating about how he would have redone things in his life also. Another and another joined in. There were tales of growing up with strict parents and even abuse and how people would do things differently if they could coming from every direction of the room. Mind you, nobody opened the bottle of wine and this was happening!

This is a birthday party????

Yet, everyone seemed to have happy looks on their faces like all the other birthday parties throughout my career.

On the up side, can I look forward to this comfort level with this group of colleagues in the future? Eh. Probably not.

Or am I missing something here?

I guess I just need to chalk it up to…it is a Bellevue birthday party. LOL

I am not so sure if I am looking forward to the next one.

(2017)

 

 

 

February 12, 2017 / Sandra Bossert

Married…Without Knowing It

It was a cold Wednesday in January and two days before the inauguration of our now President Trump. It was also my day off from work. I finally reached the amount of time at my new job that not only could I have various health benefits but Walter could also. All we needed was specific paperwork for New York City workers that could be obtained at the courthouse. I realized that it was the same day as my trade organization meeting. That meeting is also held in the courthouse building. So Walter and I made a plan. Several hours before my meeting, we would go get the papers. Afterwards, I would go to the meeting in the other part of the building.

When Walter and I got to the courthouse, we were directed to the office that we needed. Interestingly, it was also the office that marries people, gives domestic partnership papers…and GUN permits. It made for an interesting crowd. We got to the office and the line was out of the office and down the hall. It was being run like Motor Vehicles with one major difference. It was FILLED with brides, grooms and their wedding parties. We couldn’t help but wonder if the Trump inauguration had anything to do with it. A lot of the bride – groom match ups did not seem to be couples looking like they are in love. I will say that much. Hours went by and announcements were made. “F17 to booth 1”. “G100 to booth 2”. More and more brides and grooms entered the room mixed in with very few gun permit people. What a combination!!! We were half concerned that some of these brides and grooms would re enter for gun permits!?!? Anyway…after many hours, we finally got to the front of the DMV type line. We told them what we needed, showed them the documentation that I am a City worker and were handed a bag of additional legal originals so we can follow the directions of providing original documentation. We rushed out so that I would not miss the rest of the meeting.

After going home, I asked Walter to get me the papers so I could bring them to work the next day. “Sandra, I want to show you something”. Walter was smiling. I looked at the first document. It stated that we were…MARRIED!!!! WHAT!!!! I felt my face turn pale as a ghost and we all know I am as pale as a ghost to start with. Every document stated that we were married. WE WERE MARRIED BY ACCIDENT!!!!

Walter went back on Friday to correct the papers. He was told that the computers were down and they could not fix anything until next week!!!!  When Walter finally was able to go back, a different person helped him. She apologized profusely. She told Walter that the woman who made the mistake is one of those people who never asks questions when she doesn’t know something. Everything was corrected. The woman encouraged Walter to come and ask for her when it is time for Walter and I to get married. She would give us the right papers.

I told the story to one of my very best friends since the 2nd grade (Kelly Tighe-Viscosi) and she said that something like this happening in my life does not surprise her one bit!

(c) 2017

January 26, 2017 / Sandra Bossert

Apparently Flapping Your Arms Like a Bird Is a Universal Language

For legal reasons, you can not speak any language other than English at my job unless the language department clears you as being fluent. A patient came in and told me in broken English “I no understand I talk Spanish”. “Okay”, I said and nodded my head. One moment please”. Many of the people who work in my department speak Spanish. However, I do not know who is cleared to speak Spanish and who isn’t. I went into my work area and asked everyone in the room, “does anyone speak Spanish”? My colleagues said that “no, we don’t” why do you ask? I explained that all I wanted to do was to introduce myself as an Addiction Counselor and would the man leave the room to come with me to the telephone so we can speak through a phone interpreter. My colleagues know I would never impose on them to explain legal documents or anything like that. I simply wanted the man to know who I was and why he should come with me to the telephone.  A lady that I work with stated…”that’s all? Well I will come with you”. I felt relieved and grateful to her. We walked over to the man’s hospital room together. She knocked on the door, called his name and we walked in together. She lifted up her pointer finger, pointed at the patient and slowly said…”YOUUUUU….then she starts flailing her arms half like a bird and half doing the “come here” motion with her hands…”cummmm herreeeee” and she slowly started walking backwards towards the hallway. She did NOT speak a word of Spanish.  It was all I could do to not burst out laughing. The man got out of his hospital bed and he followed us. My colleague turned to me and said, “there”. “I got him out of bed” and went back to what she was doing. I was dumb founded and just did not know what to say. I guess I better pick up my pace when it comes to learning Spanish. Until I know it fluently, I now know that…flapping your arms like a bird is the universal language.

(c) 2017

January 19, 2017 / Sandra Bossert

Christmas Day In the Detox

This year I experienced Christmas day like never before. I was at work in an alcohol and drug detox. Due to there being a skeleton crew, I was the only Counselor working for a good portion of the day. For many reasons, there is one phone and all Patients take turns sharing the phone. In addition to that, long distance phone calls must go through a live Operator and assisted by a Counselor who has an authorization code. To be expected, a Patient approached me and asked if I would assist him with making a long distance call. “Miss Sandra, would you help me call my Uncle Otto? He lives in Alabama”. I would answer YESSSS Mr. So and So, I would be happy to help you call your Uncle Otto. In the back of my mind, I was a little bit concerned. In the initial interview, this very laid back, easy going gentle giant of a man told me that his Uncle Otto was the reason he relapsed in the first place. I helped get an Operator, completed the code information and told the Patient to give me the high sign when he gets through to his Uncle Otto. I waited to make sure he wasn’t disconnected and could get through. After getting the high sign, I was nearby assisting another Patient. I suddenly hear this man shouting at the top of his lungs SHUT UP !!!! SHUT UP UNCLE OTTO!!!!! Then he slammed down the phone. This was not good. “Miss Sandra I feel like leaving this detox and going to get high”!!!! NO NO NO you don’t want to get high Mr. So and So. Thankfully I was able to talk him down to his low key self. Then when the next Patient started in with “Miss Sandra, could you help me with a phone call?.” I asked each and every Patient if they were absolutely 100% sure that they wanted to call said family member. The “Ma” phone call sounded like this. MAAA…. but MAAAAAAH…I don’t think the mom let him get in a word edgewise. MOMMY! But…but…MOMMY…and he slammed the phone down and freaked out. During our initial meeting, he told me that he didn’t have any contact with his family. I asked him, “is everything okay after your phone call with your mother?”. He replied “oh, that was not my mother; that is what I call my girlfriend”!?!?!?

Some phone calls went well. Others did not. Another Patient sitting on a couch near the phone area looked sort of down. I asked if everything was alright. “I feel sad because there is nobody for me to call today and I wish there was”. Another Patient came around the corner. “Miss Sandra, I know it is the fourth time I have asked since yesterday but could you help me try and call my girlfriend? I am going through to voicemail every time and I have a feeling that she broke up with me”. YESSSS Mr. So and So; I will be happy to help you call your girlfriend. Again.

It was a long day. And an experience I won’t ever forget. I must say it is an honor to stand beside people who want to stay clean and sober so badly that this is what they are willing to do over the holidays.

(c) 2017