Sunday, August 30, 2015

On Being Sick: Log Entry

by Sheena Rose (B'dos)

It is serendipitous that I have chosen today to come back to this series, since the title of the above sketch entitled 'Twice in an Ambulance' is once again apt. Since my return home nearly two months ago I have been escorted by sirens to the hospital on two dreaded occasions.

Feeling helpless is a central reality of being sick. There's not much you can do when you exprience a muscle spasm so painful you just scream till its over cuz there's no way you can get up to reach the muscle relaxant that will take 20 minutes to work anyway. Today was a bad day, as have been most of my days over the past few weeks and so I have decided to write and re claim some of my power to self define as resilient and a survivor in these dark days.

Roughly one year ago when I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes I spent significant time in the public hospital - twice - and was in genuine horror at how patients were being treated. I wrote it down. But I knew there were many gaps in my memory and the details evaded me, which ultimaely become so important to recalling your experience with the type of accuracy needed to recreate the feeling. So this time around I decided not to leave it to chance. I had to be able to share my experiences with others in a way they could understand the sheer madness that passes for health care in our country, so I asked my friends this time to pack me a notebook and pencil along with 2 sweaters to fend off the biting cold in the emergency room. I like to always have an extra 1 to offer, in case I see an elderly person freezing on one of the hard wooden benches or maybe someone without a spine, as I encountered the year before.

Talking about being sick has become important for me cuz ... it is my reality but I know that amdist talking about my own pain, there is a whole medical system functioning in this place that is so unjust it makes my stomach turn, increasing my already bad bouts of nausea. 

So here is my log + notes from my clinic > hospital visit a few weeks ago:

- muscle spams/palpitations in my left calf
-clerk in the st james clinic shakes her head at me disapprovingly when I tell her I have been using natural products to regulate my sugar because I did not have access to free medication while in Portugal 
- 1st nurse to see me was cuban who gave me a stern warning about smoking, told me my electrolytes were shot and there may be a chance of DBT (?) or blood clot
- after several hours I made it to the doctor's office who made several sexist comments such as, "Why your face looking scary so? If I saw you in the street and liked you, I would be afraid to talk to you." - directly after drawing my blood
- other 'conversations' included Him: What are those marks on your skin? Me: Mosquito bites Him: How do you know they are mosquito bites? What else could they be?
Me: I guess I will have to go to POSG? Him: Is that how you ask a question?
- in the corridior the woman sitting next to me gave me the privacy to cry [ I recalled the last time I was on that bench and how my mother screamed at me on the very day I was diagnosed from the emergency doors several feet away while I sat there with an IV in my arm ... I thought about the last argument with my (ex) boyfriend which left me vommitting - an event he never acknowledged. I never felt so alone in my life as I did then.] 
-I thought about my own emotional journey in dealing with having to walk with a cup of your own pee in front of other people
- I peed and forgot to put the cup (an unfortunate circumstance of over active bladder?)
- I saw a woman come in on a gurney and overheard that she was stage 4 cancer and unconscious
- a nurse told the ambulance attendant who arrived that there were a number of people who needed to be taken to the hospital
- he said he needed some time to "settle in"
- this included watching CPL cricket on the waiting room TV
- 2 hours later a nurse told us that there was an emergency case and we would have to wait
- the emergency case was the eldery woman with STAGE 4 CANCER who'd already been there for hours laying unconscious
- the ambulance vehicle had been in the parking lot the whole time
- this is when it became crystal clear to me that nobody gave a fuck whether we lived or died
- me and 2 others were 'loaded up' in the ambulance [this was the language used and I did feel like cargo] and the ambulance sirens came on
- I laughed one of cynical laughs that you only muster in times like these ... sirens ... lol ... like they were really in a hurry!
- I wondered why they put us in wheelchairs even though we were perfectly capable of walking. At first i thought it was all part of the charade [def: an absurd pretense] - then when I entered the emergency room I realized it might have a more practical function, since there is no where for patients to sit or lie down
- I saw the unconscious cancer patient roll past me in the emergency room
- I felt extreme distress
-  one of the attendants asked a nurse if he could give a patient some tea who had been sitting in the same place since yesterday and hadn't eaten (now after 11pm). The nurse said no.
- there is noone in/around/by the x-ray section to tell you what to do. i'd been sitting for at least 10 mins before I saw the sign which indicated I should have dropped my jacket in the tray
- I heard a patient's relative asking why they were taking said relative for more x-rays and didn't inform her of whats going on
- A proud man was being wheeled out of the x-ray department by attendants on a gurney and you could see that he was embarassed
- this observation was followed by his gurney being slammed against the wall due to the sheer wrecklessness of the attendants
- I ate a sandwhich without permission and was shocked at my diascan reading before and after 116/253
- saw a gay guy I knew with IVs in his arms and wondered if it was HIV related
- he was busy taking selfies and I was like ... are we fetishizing sickness now??? then i took one too
- the nurse that was attending to both of us and was quite pleasant began singing "we doh wha no chichi man boy-ah" by sanchez
- 1 doctor (very young) reccomended that I take my medication 3 times a day instead of 2. My dosage has already been doubled since last year. I told him I would think about it. 
- the last doctor I saw was supposed to order a final diascan but forgot/didn't do it. I didn't remind him. 
- he did however ask me what i did. when i told him i was a student he asked about my research interest: indigenous peoples of T&T and then if i could tell him something "cool" about indians so he could impress his daughter.
(9 hrs. later around 1am)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

On Being Sick - Part 1

Twice in an Ambulance by Sheena Rose

For two weeks I was more de-hydrated than usual. I typically drink a lot of water and this would vary on the amount I was smoking at the time or my physical activity. But this was different. I drank several glasses of water throughout the day and needed to have what escalated to a cooler full of water beside me at night and I would wake up intermittently to guzzle. Something was terribly wrong. Eventually I managed to wake up at 6am to make it to the clinic for 7am to sign my name on the list before the doors opened at 8am and wait a few hours to be seen. My house-mate at the time told me I should ask for a sugar test after the muscle in my right calf collapsed the morning after a night of dancing at the 3 Canal back yard jam. I had no idea what this meant but I dutifully asked the nurses to give me a sugar test, after they took my blood pressure and weight, as is customary of every visit. Without explaining the process to me they pricked my finger and put the glucose test strip into the machine. The junior nurse looked alarmed after the beeping indicated that the reading was ready, she looked at me and carried the machine for a more senior nurse. I was then told that they needed to take a second reading, just to be sure. I was again pricked and blood drawn. The beeper acting as my alarum bell, signalling something just as terrible as the three witches upon the heath. They showed me the screen ~ HI. “What does that mean?” I asked. The nurse said that my sugar was so high that the machine could not read it and I needed to see the doctor immediately. The doctor confirmed that I was indeed diabetic and needed to head down to the St. James clinic for further treatment right away. Wait … what? WTF does that even mean? Tears began rolling from my eyes and I asked if I could wash my face. I got up and began walking toward the sink and she said, “Oh, you’re using this sink?”

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Leslie the Lesbian Doll

Contributing blogger: To the Caribbean, With Love

What happens when you play traditional mas’ in a non-traditional way … Ole mas’ of course 
But this is provided you know your characters. Some of the more popular ones are the Midnight Robber, Jab Jab, Blue Devil and Pierrot Grenade. Less popular, but making a steady come back is the Baby Doll. 

"You is de one"
Parade of Traditional Characters on Carnival Sunday, Port of Spain 
 Photo credit: Austin Agho

This childlike character that carries a baby is desperate to find her child’s father. She is dressed in similar fashion to the dolls you played with as a child, complete with frilly dress, socks and bonnet, made up with white face and large rosy cheeks. Her performance like many of the other traditional characters is highly interactive, as she scans the crowd accusing various men of possessing similar features to her child, demanding that they claim paternity and hand over the money due to her with signature refrain, “Where the money fah de child milk?

Within recent years the baby doll has been used as an advocacy tool by cultural activist Entou Springer and performance artist Michelle Isava, among others outside of the Carnival arena to carry specific messages already associated with the characterThe Baby doll conventionally provides commentary on teen-pregnancy and responsible fathering and can easily be extended to other related issues such as breast feeding and child rights. At the competition level, baby dolls tend to use current social and political events, making their speeches relevant, witty and sometimes controversial.  This however did not prevent the looks of slight shock and discomfort I received back stage after telling two of the other dolls that I would be looking for my child mother and not father this time around. I guess some things remain taboo despite our Carnival’s history. 

Carnival was never meant to be a literal display (heterosexuality can be read as literal) but a mockery of what we were not. This is why the Dame Lorraine *dame being the French word for woman, which was originally played by men remains our first historic memory of cross dressing. In this year’s competition a man played both the Dame Lorraine and Jammet and not only did he 'out wine' the other female participants but gyrated his inflated buttocks over the head of a man in the audience. This display was only acceptable within the specific context of the masquerade.

Dame Lorraine performing in a street competition.
We can also see how various characters interact and mimic the social reality of a particular time. Even today baby dolls seek out white fathers for their babies, a tradition carried on from the legacy of bastard children that many of the American sailors left behind post US occupation of the 1940s. This relationship between sailors, women, prostitution, abandoned children and the like was well documented by many Calypsonians of the time, including the famous Jean and Dinah by the Mighty Sparrow but was most poignantly captured in "Brown Skin Girl" by the Mighty Terror which was later popularized internationally by Harry Belafonte.  

“Brown Skin Girl” Mighty Terror – Vintage footage of 1930s Trinidad
(Original Compilation)

The nucleur family as taught and celebrated is a myth  that has been perpetuated in the Caribbean, working against the reality of a very diverse set of familial networks, including single parenthood as the baby doll highlights and same sex partnerships. It was important for me to show the intersection of these issues outside of the intellectual and private sphere in a way that was non-confrontational and palatable to an audience in the form of entertainment. The way that LGBT Issues have been framed in public discourse allows the same actors to give voice to repititive and antiquated rhetoric, while dissenting voices are silenced. We have seen this first hand with the continued stalling to implement a National Gender Policy and the firing of former Minister of Gender Verna St. Rose-Greaves, as a result of her advocacy around the controversial issues of 'gay rights' and abortion. The character of Leslie was political but also an attempt to humanize the problems that arise from discrimantion and how harmful it can be to relationships where there is a commitment to love and family.


Ah lookin' for Nick
Ent you know who's nick?
Noo not Nicholas... Nikki
Ya aint see she?

Why yuh lookin so surprise?

AA Iz de 21st century
And allya still feel woman need man to make baby...

Doh mind de govament does make it hard fah we

And LGBT still doh have rights or a gender policy
While Kamla writing letters privately talking bout' an end to discriminations & equality
But shhhhhhhhh doh say I say
Cuz as soon as she reach back in Trini iz fus' she does shame we!
So we does find we own way ta make baby

Anyway, anybody see Nikki?
The baby look jus' like she
But why allya laughing?
Why the baby cyah look like she?
You feel iz only DNA dat does make famlee
How much woman out dere trying to tief man head and telling dem de baby does look like he

Look at those eyes

And tell me you cyah see Nicky
(sways baby)

I thought we woulda be happy 

Me and ya Mummy
She full up meh head with all kinna sweet talk 
Bout how she go convert spare room to nursery 
And  only saying "awww" at every baby she see 
So foolish me tek meh farseness and carry chile fuh she...

Now I under real stress

I cya go to no court house and file for child support cheque
No kinna redress

But why she leave me

Me and we brand new baby?
I wonder if she step father did get to she
He did always hate me
Calling up my phone and threatening me
Say how I bring disgrace to he family
Talking bout he go send police for me

 I feel is that scyamp Lerry

He did always promise to marrid she
But she was not the one with the swell belly
So why she had to worry
I waz the one barefoot and pregnant
How could she be suffering from cold feet

I not saying I ent want meh chile

 I is still she mudda 
But I woulda do tings different
 If I did know iz all dis effin drama

But so it does go when ya living this life child or no child

But I want the same things as any other mother
To find meh partner and de money fah de chile milk

So tell meh, where de money fah de chile milk?

Where de money fah de chile milk?

"Ah lookin fah she"
Parade of Characters 
Traditional Mas’ Competition - St James Amphitheatre 2013 

Over the past five years Baby doll has been my character of choice and I enjoy having the opportunity every year to re-invent myself and my message. Despite even my own nerves, the performance was well received by the audience and judges and I was awarded third place for  my performance.

Celebratory GIF!

Carnival is fast approaching in Trinidad & Tobago and I encourage all mas' enthusiasts to contribute to CODE RED's Caribbean Carnival blog, "To the Caribbean, With Love". Click here for more details.

You can also read On Becoming Jean, which documents my experiences playing an historic jammet (prostitute) through the use of sailor & baby doll.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I see a Jumbie

True Story

Everything happens for a reason. So the saying goes. The above picture was taken about 2 weeks ago on Divali night at what was formerly known as Sky Bar. Some friends of mine are running a flim night (no spelling error there) at that location on Thursday night and I was 'helping' to set up the projector. The image was the result of some fun experimentation, along with video also using shadows on the wall. I captioned it "Jumbie on yuh back". 

This was phase 1

A week later I was at a market at UWI organized by one of the Guild Faculty members Wesley Kanhai who started telling me and my girlfriend Candace about several of the para normal experiences he has had over the years. My response was, "Thank God none of that stuff has ever happened to me, I would be totally freaked out!" Later on that night I went to see a dear friend of mine who's mom had just died and he told me he was having trouble sleeping. On the way home Candace explained that he might be dreaming of his mother which would be very un nerving since her passing. Since she also dreams (and remembers) I said both of you are more spiritually connected than I am  and she asked why and I said because you are connected to the unreal through dreams. 

A few minutes later while driving into my street at about 2:30 am I saw a dark figure (like a shadow almost) turning the corner and said, "What is someone doing walking the street at this hour?" I live in a residential area that is full of retirees and very quiet. My girlfriend said, "I hope it's not a jumbie and is still there when we turn the corner." 

[Turn Corner] NO ONE IS THERE - the figure has vanished into thin air. There was nowhere for 'him' to go.  No house, no alley VANISHED

Needless to say I was freaked to fuck out but at least I knew I was not crazy because we had both seen it. I asked Candace WHAT ON EARTH made you say that? She just shrugged and said she didn't know.

I think the spiritual realm was sending me a message. Letting me know that they do exist.

OK I believe now. Please leave me alone in future. I just had to share my story. Please feel free to leave yours.