It’s our first day in the office. We are here for an unusual job; to do our part to save Maimonides. Our part is to gather data and listen to first-hand experiences of patients who want to share their stories of how they were treated there. It’s Wednesday morning, shortly after the weekly newspapers hit the newsstands and in all of them, an ad for our campaign is prominently displayed. We were expecting a slow start but before we had a chance for orientation, the phones started ringing persistently.
A flood of phone calls far beyond what we anticipated. All of those eager callers shared one thing in common: they carried their pain for way too long and they had to carry it alone. The relief in their voices was palpable, they no longer had to carry it alone. “I can’t tell you what it means to me that people are finally waking up to the reality of what’s going on at this hospital,” one caller proclaimed.
The stories they shared were far beyond what we could bear listening to. We all know how dire the situation is, some of us even have first-hand experience but we still couldn’t anticipate the severity of the neglect and the damage inflicted on so many families, some of them who still bear the wounds years later.
The stories revealed not just a hospital that is profoundly broken but of broken hearts and spirits. Families who are still grappling with grief and pain. Individuals who opened up about the trauma they had to endure in their moments of utmost need. In those arduous times when they desperately needed compassion, they encountered the opposite. Yes, we knew that patient satisfaction at Maimonides is among the lowest in the country but from those stories, and an even grimmer picture emerged. The low ratings, negative reports, and statistics of the hospital are too abstract to capture the oceans of pain and suffering inflicted upon so many of those who sought their help.
“I had to wait in the ER for 4 hours while blood was gushing from a wound” was one of the more trivial stories of the day. It was shadowed by horror stories of fatal neglect and lives lost due to incompetence. “I lost my perfectly healthy son after a minor procedure at the hospital,” one parent shared, holding back tears while recalling the details of the incident that we were able to independently verify.
The stories kept coming and they kept revealing a pattern of neglect bordering on abuse. From a cancer patient being confined to a sweltering hot room without air conditioning to malfunction of life-sustaining machines causing serious complications. If we had a doubt that action is needed, every phone call was another confirmation of the urgency of our work and the importance of our mission.
“If we only launched this campaign to lend a listening ear to those grieving individuals and extend some compassion, it would have been worth it,” one of the volunteers remarked as we concluded our first day in this campaign. That’s a good start, but anything less than Saving Maimonides would be too little for those families and individuals.
We will do it for them. Failure is not an option!