The Final Frontier: Nolo Contendere, Guilty, Part I of III

The Final Frontier: Nolo Contendere, Guilty, Part I
By Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.
September 5, 2013

Part I of III
Court reporters are a disciplined breed. This is reinforced as I move through my professional and personal world.

“The final frontier” is a metaphor. I was encouraged to write this as I trolled this topic past professionals, court reporters, broadcast captioners, CART providers, instructors, and students that I am tutoring and coaching. Guilty.

Court reporters listen with laser focus. I have listened to individuals, doctors, speak – a lot.

When specialists have finished long sentences, often I am asked “Have any questions?”

Often, I shake my head.

When I am asked why I don’t have any questions I have replied, “The good news is that the patient does not have the diagnosis that you thought was causing the problem. The bad news is that you don’t know what’s causing the problem.”

Not often, the specialist asks, “How’d you do that?”

Rarely, will I share, “Degree in listening.”

Often, I reply, “I listened.”

“The final frontier” I am referencing here is the late chapter in my mother’s life. Professionals repeatedly prep me for “the inevitable” as Mom has repeatedly gone to death’s door.

Recently, white coats, “She’ll die if she doesn’t have surgery; she may die from surgery.”

Mom, in her Texas southern drawl, “I know I’m going to die; I’m not ready yet. God is my roommate. He’s here all the time. My husband is with Him.”

I work to keep my court reporter posture as individuals gasp. (I gasp later in my car, sans witnesses.)

The final frontier … Dad’s health failed while he was taking care of Mom. Dad died while Mom was ill. I stepped forward and listened (on Dad’s path) as Dad worked to live. A brother now has dire health issues.

As Mom’s guardian and following her path, I am continually asked to sign documents that require a witness. Yet 99.9 percent of the time, when I am asked to sign, and when I ask for a copy, I hear, “It’s for our file.”

I do not sigh; I do not bang my head on their counter.

Slowly, silently, I count two Mississippi-s.

Softly I say, “Attorneys prepped this. You require a signature and a witness. I request a copy.”

Then I wait while a committee is formed to decide if I should get a copy. Guilty.

The final frontier consists of “avoiding stepping on toes.” (A common phrase.) I teased Dad (a man who had major medical background) while he was in hospitals, “Let’s do it; let’s get us real answers.”

Dad would tilt his head, smile, “No, my M.O. is to avoid stepping on their toes.”

I watched seven physicians round – many who did not read his chart prior to entering the room – and far too many times, his physicians were not consulting each other unless they happened to see each other in Dad’s hospital room at the foot of his bed.

The words “Guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere? Just answer the question,” have imprinted my thinking.

The day my mother had her latest major surgery, I witnessed quickened pace of the O.R., then frantic staff in ICU, intensive care. I was told, “It would be best if you come tomorrow …”

Since I had selected the surgical team I had to trust them do their job. Yet I knew we were in serious waters.

After my mother’s complete deterioration from ICU hospital acquired MRSA and pseudomas lung bacteria, surgery was the least of our worries. Mom was abruptly discharged. (That was code for: “Medicare won’t pay.”) No facility wanted Mom’s required isolation.

Repeatedly, I was told, “We’d need to pull a Medicare bed. That reduces our income.” I replied, “You’re kidding me, right?” Nope.

Later, the lead surgeon opened a room. Hospital social workers spoke off the record. “You need to contact the county ombudsman. It’s against the law to tell you …” I listened and focused on another gurney entering Mom’s room for transport.

Hindsight is a wonderful gift. Realtime is a shock, day after day.

When the ambulance arrived, Mom, on oxygen and hooked up to multiple machines, was crying. I needed to sign documents, “Hurry,” they said.

Head down, I read the first paragraph. The first reaction I hear over and over and over? Deep sighs. Then I heard, “Just sign it. It’s important.”

I read until I saw “Patient Arrested.” I pointed to the line. Ambulance EMTs who were gowned for isolation with gloves and masks, and nurses in the room, abruptly inhaled.

Me: “Arrested? Define, please.” An EMT: “We’re in a hurry.”

Part I of III is posted September 5, 2013, and

Part II of III is posted September 16, 2013, and

Part III of III is posted September 27, 2013, and

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As a 25+ year court reporter, CART provider, author of NCRA test prep material, and an instructor, public speaker, Monette Benoit has taught multiple theories, academics, all speed classes, and the 225 homeroom within NCRA-approved schools and a community college. She understands the challenges many adults now face in our industry and schooling.

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