St. Joseph’s: The Perverse Pathology of Mary Corbliss (Part IV)

            Everything had to go through Mary, and Mary was not available to meet my every need.  She made sure to tell me clearly, impatiently, “Anne, you’re not my only patient.  You know that.”

            I went to the nursing station to appeal to the charge nurse.  She said she was too busy to talk to me then.  I asked her to talk to me at her convenience.  Mary again appeared out of nowhere, physically inserted herself between me and the nurse—who was both much younger and much less experienced than Mary—and insisted that I speak only to her.

            The nurse never found it to her convenience to speak with me.

            This hell continued for the rest of my stay on 3-6.  Mary, either directly or by her influence, would have things and privileges taken away from me every afternoon and evening.  Every morning, my doctor would come in and do everything he could to restore them.  I used to think that doctors decided what would happen to a patient in the hospital, then I met Mary Corbliss.  My doctor is good and decent and wise but he is not a politician.  He wants to treat his patients, not spend his time trying to run the inpatient unit.  With Mary taking the lead, the counselors are now running 3-6.  The nurses and managers let them.

            I often have to use a wheelchair.  After Mary’s intervention, staff members refused to push my wheelchair.  When I told my doctor, he looked at me as if the world had gone insane:  If a person is sick enough to be in a wheelchair, how can any humane person refuse to push it?  The staff said I didn’t have an order for the wheelchair, so he wrote an order.  They said there was no order for them to push the wheelchair.  He demanded that I sit in the wheelchair and let him push me down the hall.  If he could not order them to help me, he would certainly show them, be a role model, and clearly demonstrate his approval and support.

            Mary refused to push my wheelchair, saying I needed to learn to be independent.  She never asked why I was in the wheelchair.  She is not medically trained and neither asked for nor would listen to any statement about my multiple medical illnesses.  How can you teach weak muscles and arthritic joints to be independent?  Driven by ignorance and personal psychopathology, Mary Corbliss chose to ignore my medical problems and treat them as bad behavior.  She knew discipline, not medicine, and was allowed—without supervision or challenge—to decide how I would be treated.  She successfully manipulated the rest of the staff into following her lead.

            One night when I requested my CPAP, she came swaggering down the hall with it balanced on her hip.  When I went to use it, I discovered that she had mishandled it in such a way that the hoses had become flooded.  Breathing from a flooded hose is called “drowning.”  It takes hours to blow all the droplets out of a wet CPAP hose before you can use it for sleep.  In the process of discovering that the hoses were flooded, water was spilled on my bed and soaked the sheets.  I flew at Mary in a rage, telling her what she’d done.  She came to my room, sweetly insisting that she would help fix the machine and change the sheets.  I told her to leave me the hell alone; I would take care of myself.  Mary Corbliss, who said I needed to be independent, stood in my room and insisted that I let her take care of me.

            There was a second incident, details now forgotten, which involved Mary incorrectly administering a treatment with a lightbox that had been brought in for my seasonal affective disorder.  On 3-6, a doctor orders medical treatments and a counselor with no medical training does them wrong, sometimes dangerously, and no nurse listens to the complaints.

            One day I asked Kathi, “my” charge nurse, to sit and talk with me; she insisted that I had to talk to my primary for the shift.  I found myself trying to explain a complicated, difficult and frightening set of medical symptoms to a 22-year-old counselor with a one-year-old degree in liberal arts who was assigned to me that shift.  I was, at every turn, denied reasonable medical evaluation by the nursing staff.

The doctor whom I had seen on consult was of the strong opinion that my psychiatric problems are consequent to an endocrinological disorder.  He referred me to the best endocrinologist in the area but she was on vacation.  My psychiatrist’s intent was to hold me safely on 3-6 until the endocrinologist could get there.  Mary Corbliss’ treatment plan for me had no correlation with what my doctor and I were doing.

On Monday, I tried to open a conversation with Mary about this.  I asked her what she thought I was doing on 3-6.  She did not answer my question.  What the counselor did say was that I should leave St. Joseph’s—go home or go to another hospital. 

On Tuesday, when I told my doctor, he reacted as he did to each day’s news:  shocked disbelief.  Then he discharged me.  I no longer could stand the hell created for me in the hospital by Mary Corbliss.  Given the choice of the abuse on 3-6 or the risk of going home without correct medical diagnosis or increased home care, I went home.

            I am home now.  My cortisol and epinephrine levels have been assessed as abnormally high.  My FSH is postmenopausal but I am still bleeding.  My blood pressure spikes to 180/110 and my glucose drops to 54.

            In addition to severe episodes of depression and emotional instability, I have nightmares caused by my mistreatment in St. Joseph’s Hospital.  Not only am I sick and suffering, but also I cannot secure my safety by returning to the hospital where my doctor attends.

            I want Mary Corbliss fired.


About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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