What it takes to care for the human body: Marianna Crane's "Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic."
14 February 2022
I took a break from reading about the horrors of management and bureaucracy to read a nurse practitioner's memoir about managing a senior health clinic in a Chicago subsidized housing building.
Mr. CR says I just don't know how to relax but the joke's on him, reading depressing nonfiction IS how I relax!
Oddly, although there are many depressing things in Marianna Crane's memoir, Stories From the Tenth-Floor Clinic, it is not really a depressing book. It is exactly what its title promises, a very straightforward memoir of Crane's experiences helping (primarily) elderly, very sick, and very poor people in Chicago.
"My mind drifted back to the day I had first met Stella. I had been alone in the clinic when she rolled her wheelchair off the elevator and stopped in front of the open door. She peered inside, saw me, turned around, and careened down the hallway. Where the hell was she going? I took off after her. She braked at the end of the corridor. Trapped in a dead end, she sat in her chair, silent.
I bent down so I could see her face. 'I'm Marianna Crane, the nurse practitioner. What can I do for you?' I said.
Stella concentrated on her hands gripped in her lap.
'Is something wrong?' I asked.
A dirty blond wig sat askew on her head. Only one leg, which was covered with a wrinkled cotton stocking, extended past the skirt of her housedress, and her foot was encased in a heavy black orthopedic shoe. She reeked of a sharp ammonia smell. Urine?
I remained crouched, determined to wait her out. Finally she raised her head, and said, 'I don't feel good.'...
I later found out that Stella had been a diabetic for many years. Because she didn't keep her blood sugar under control, she had developed peripheral neuropathy, a loss of sensation, in her legs and feet. She didn't realize she had stepped on a dirty tack while walking barefoot until her foot turned black. After she lost her leg, she was fitted for the prosthesis and then participated in just enough rehabilitation to be able to get around on her own." (pp. 144-155.)
There are a lot of stories like that in this book, which really is quite a fascinating read.
It's not quite as polished a memoir as I might like, it just kind of moves from one chapter to another without developing a real story arc, but it's very sincerely and well-written. I read the whole thing and I'm glad I did.