Chapter 13, Part 2: Family Matters
Chapter 13, Part 2: Through Martin Shkreli, I met a wide spectrum of the federal prison population, including mobsters, gangsters, and fraudsters…and their family members.
The doctor, a thick-set blond woman in her mid-to-late 40s, wasn’t pleased to see me. In the exam room of a Brooklyn geriatric clinic, where I had been waiting for nearly an hour with an 80-year-old woman named Yvonne, the physician bustled in with a fake smile pinned across her face and a look of pure malice in her eyes.
“Hi. I’m a family friend of Yvonne’s,” I announced as I smiled at the doctor and looked reassuringly back at the elderly patient.
“We really should be told ahead of time if patients are going to bring non-family members with them,” the doctor replied irritably. “The patient has a right to her privacy. You are OK with this woman hearing your private medical information, Yvonne?”
“It’s..fine,” the elderly woman stammered. “I wanted her to come.”
“What’s that? You’re mumbling, Yvonne,” the doctor snapped. An image of Nurse Ratched from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” flashed into my head as I watched in increasing disbelief at how rude the doctor was to her patient.
Yvonne, a retired nurse, had been chatting with me amicably, sparkling with intelligence and dry wit, just moments before the doctor walked in. But the physician’s brusque and patronizing attitude had now rendered her childlike and almost mute.
“She’s…fine,” Yvonne said a bit more loudly.
The full story for why I was there with Yvonne would have been awkward to explain (yes, it involved Martin Shkreli, my then-incarcerated famous white-collar felon boyfriend). But the contextual basis was obvious enough. Yvonne was an elderly Black woman, a member of a demographic that was systematically abused and disrespected by the healthcare establishment. I was an assertive, professional white woman – a “Karen” on the side of good, as I liked to think of myself – a member of a demographic that was notoriously hard for doctors to push around.
Like many elderly people, Yvonne had a litany of health problems, including a poorly healed broken ankle and dangerously high blood pressure. She desperately needed a refill for her blood pressure medication but the doctor wouldn’t order a refill unless she came in for a visit. And she was petrified of going by herself because of how the doctors treated her. Her son, a former member of a gang based in an East New York housing project, who was also one of Martin Shkreli’s cellmates, had sought my assistance.
Before jumping in, I did my usual diligence…