**this small preface ran in the Seattle Times** As a Lacey, Wash., woman found out when she was barred from seeing her dying partner in a Miami hospital, this is an increasingly anti-gay nation, to judge from all the mean-spirited amendments and legislation that have made scapegoats and boogie men of them in recent years.
Pitts: Joe? Janice? What difference does it make?
Your wife is dying.
One moment everything was fine. You were in your stateroom on the cruise ship — it was to be an anniversary cruise — unpacking your things. The kids were in the adjoining stateroom playing with your wife. Suddenly, they banged on the door crying that mom was hurt.
So now you’re in the hospital — Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami — waiting for word, and it’s not coming. They tell you, Joe (we’ll call you Joe) you can’t be with her. You plead with them, to no avail. No, Joe, sorry, Joe, we can’t tell you anything.
One hour turns to two, two to four, four to six. Your wife is dying and no one she loves is there.
Finally, in the eighth hour, you reach her bedside. You are just in time to stand beside the priest as he administers last rites.
Your wife is dead. Her name was Lisa Marie Pond. She was 39.
It happened, Feb. 18-19, 2007, except that Pond’s spouse was not a man named Joe, but a woman named Janice. And there’s one other detail. Janice Langbehn who, as it happens, is an emergency room social worker from Lacey, Wash., says the first hospital employee she spoke with was an emergency room social worker. She thought, given their professional connection, they might speak a common language.
Instead, she says, he told her, “I need you to know you are in an anti-gay city and state and you won’t get to know about Lisa’s condition or see her” — then turned and walked away.
For the record, this is an increasingly anti-gay “nation,” to judge from all the mean-spirited amendments and legislation that have made scapegoats and boogiemen of them in recent years, including Florida’s Marriage Protection Amendment, which passed last November.
Langbehn is suing the hospital for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In a hearing last week, Jackson Hospital asked a judge to dismiss the suit. A ruling is pending. Attorney Andrew Boese, who represents Jackson, says the hospital “absolutely” disputes Langbehn’s characterization of her encounter with the social worker. And as for visiting Pond’s bedside: “Our first duty should be to patients, particularly in an emergency room. The decision to allow someone into a trauma bay should be a medical decision. It shouldn’t be a question for a jury…”
All that notwithstanding, it strains credulity to believe Joe would have spent eight hours barred from his wife’s bedside as Janice was from hers.
Politicians and alleged religious leaders have routinely invited us to hate gay people and call it morality. They have taught us to frame gay lives in cloudy abstracts of tradition and values. But this isn’t abstract, is it?
No, it is Janice and Lisa, meeting in college and falling in love, 20 years ago. It is a “holy union” service in a local church, friends serving as maid of honor and “best man.” “We were dirt poor,” says Langbehn, “but we pulled it off.”
It is taking in foster kids no one else wants, drug babies, HIV babies, babies with fetal alcohol syndrome. It is adopting four of them and Lisa deciding she wants to be a stay-at-home mom and Janice saying OK, and wondering how the six of them will manage on a social worker’s salary. It is Janice, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and Lisa, bashful Lisa, becoming the family extrovert, cheering the kids at “toddler tumbling time” shepherding them to swimming lessons and story time at the library.
It is Lisa, who loved pecan sandies, the movie “Beaches,” and Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays With Morrie , stricken by an aneurysm. It is Lisa, for eight hours, dying alone.
It would be good if someone remembered her next time we are invited to hate an abstract. And remember Janice, who could not ache more deeply even if her name was Joe.
(C) 2009 THE MIAMI HERALD
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