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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Unfriendly Call with Lenox Hill Hospital

I am a pretty tough person but today I called Lenox Hill Hospital and for some reason I'm crying right now. I have been trying to get a list of medical interns at the hospital from 1980 to 1981 for a while and none of my emails have been answered. Earlier today I left a message for the Medical Affairs office in which I explained what I was looking for. I wanted to be honest, so I explained why. A few hours later I received a call back

"Hello" I said

A middle-aged female voice rich with irritation said, "Hello I am returning your call but you have the wrong number. We have nothing to do with sperm here and well, I am just calling to let you know that."

She did not even ask my name or provide her own, so it took me a minute to realize what the call was about.

I said "Oh, yes I wasn't calling about sperm donation, I was calling about a list of interns at the hospital from 1980-1981, which is public information according...."

She cut me off before I could speak "Well then you can get it somewhere else...I can't provide that information. I am just calling to tell you that you can't get that here, ok?!?!"

I started to think in my head "stupid, stupid, stupid........WHY did you let them know it was to find a sperm donor?"

I tried to explain calmly I only wanted a list and was by no means argumentative, but she got more aggravated and said "Listen I don't have the time to argue with you about this, ok, I can't violate peoples privacy like that. If you have a name I could tell you if he was here but a list, no, no, no...can't do that"

Why is it just assumed the donor's privacy far outweighs any right I have?

She raised her voice louder and louder and talked me down every moment I even made a sound. Then she hung up. The dial tone was like the sting after being slapped in the face.

I put the phone down on the counter and the kitchen was silent. I work from home and I could hear my blackberry vibrating with new emails across the room. I knew I had to compartmentalize. I had to put this away and get to work but I felt paralyzed. Literally..... frozen.

Sitting on the tile it was silent except for the hum of the refrigerator. Then, like the first sudden thunderclap in a storm, I burst out crying in the kitchen. Perhaps its that time of the month or something else, but I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I had to sit down and lean my head against the dishwasher. The crappy dishwasher.

It might be all the writing and research I am doing, all the stories I am hearing, all the frustration. I take it in and try to be a writer and journalist but it gathers inside and I feel the pain of the people I speak to. I get angry for them, I get disappointed for them, I get overwhelmed with emotion, and then I pull it together and go to work. This unexpected exchange just tipped the scale.

I pulled myself together a little and decided to come and write.

I don't know if I am angry or sad. The two feelings seem to mix together in this feeling of total frustration. There was something about her yelling at me, her nastiness that just makes me feel so deflated, so dumb. It isn't like I've never had someone be nasty to me, I live in NYC and work in technology sales, so trust me, I have a hard shell....but this was different.

It felt like a punch to the stomach. I think it was because I was vulnerable. I think she was striking at a piece of my life I keep close and hidden and I wasn't prepared to defend myself. What is more, I could not understand where the anger on her side came from. I was very polite and she could have acted like all the other people I called at Lenox Hill Hospital and just ignored me. Instead, something had fired her up. She had felt it necessary to call me up and tell me just how wrong my request was and how much it annoyed her. It felt personal. So goddamn personal.

Why is there so much animosity directed at those seeking this information? I've tapped into it before and I really don't understand.

Do you?

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