I am sitting here with tears running down my face because LICH, a member of my family, has just bled to death. Remember when Princess Di married Prince Charles and foolishly believed that that was going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship only to find out it was a cynical ploy to create a few heirs for the crown? Well, we got into one of those relationships with SUNY—a merger in name only. This “merger” was obviously a ploy to help Downstate (a pension and salary-heavy institution where six people do what one computer could) reach solvency. No money was put into our facility for infrastructure; a modern billing system was never contemplated; no residents were rotated through us; and the new head of our department made less than five visits in three years to check out what was going on at our campus. No effort was ever made to engage us in any interactive activity or to include us in decision-making for our future. Quite a marriage!
I first set foot in Long Island College Hospital in December, 1981 when I was looking for a residency position. I was finishing up at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and I wanted to return to Brooklyn, because I had many friends here and family was close by. I could live across from resident housing and my infant son and husband could come visit when I was on call. Labor-and-Delivery used to be situated right across from my apartment and my son and I would wave to each other across Amity Street when I was working. I was also attracted to the small scale of the hospital and its friendliness. I loved the old amphitheater where we used to have Friday conferences. It looked like a picture from a nineteenth-century medical text. And the mix of upscale Brooklyn Heights types and poor immigrants from all over the world also appealed to me.
On my first visit to the hospital, a guy who introduced himself as Sandy Lederman showed me around and chatted with me in the L&D doctors’ lounge. He was very optimistic about the future of LICH and our department. This lounge was filled with sundry people’s wherewithal (shoes, backpacks, lunches, coats) and was used by attendings, residents and nurses. There was a small room off the lounge where residents and attendings passed out when they were too tired to converse. Men, women, old and young all piled into the same tiny room. It was very collegial. The night shift consisted of two nurses—Grace and Jeannie. There was no central monitoring. The monitors were all kept at full volume as decelerations in babies’ heartbeats were heard and not seen. Dr. Lederman extolled the virtues of the hospital and why I should join them there and he was very excited that a Dr. Comrie had recently come back from graduate school to join the staff. I had been to a few other interviews and met many residents. This day I met one of the first year residents, Andre Persaud. He was much warmer and more open than most of the residents I had met at other hospitals. I ranked LICH number one on my match form and I started my residency there in 1982.
Many of the nurses I started with are still working at LICH. Many were delivered or cared for by our practice. The guy who does the night shift cleaning (Billy?) always gives me a hug and kiss when our paths cross. He started at LICH when I was a resident and can recognize a fellow veteran. I love seeing that guy. I haven’t worn an ID tag when entering LICH for many years. When I was a resident, my son and husband were there so often that all the security men knew them, too. The day my daughter was born, my mom left to pick my son up from camp. When she arrived with him at a side door, the security guard took one look at my son and said to my mom, “Oh, you must be with Dr. Weinstock. Go right up.” My daughter was born at LICH and was delivered by that same guy, Sandy Lederman, in room two. When my son arrived with my mother from camp, Dr. Lederman cut him out a yellow gown just the right size for a five year old so he could see the new baby.
The next day the lady who managed the kitchen at LICH at night sent a 16” cake to my room. I wasn’t aware until that moment that anyone in the kitchen there could cook anything that anyone might want to ingest. The cake was delicious. I called all the floors I usually worked on and let out the word to come on over and help me eat my cake and celebrate. This felt especially good, as my father had died three weeks before and celebrating my daughter’s new existence was a wonderful change from the three weeks previous to her arrival.
A lot happened to me and to New York City during my stint at LICH. One day in September, 2001, I pulled into the parking lot which looks over the water towards Manhattan and saw a nurse I had known for many years watching the tip of the island. I had heard on the radio on the way over that a plane had hit a building at The World Trade Center. As we looked toward the Center, another plane came out of nowhere and flew into the second building. The nurse burst into tears and this was the first time it occurred to me that there were people in those buildings. I went in to do my rounds and when I came out from seeing my last patient, the unit receptionist said to me, “Oh my God, the building came down.” I was unable to compute. “What do you mean the building came down?” By the time I got out to my car, billows of grey and black smoke filled the air and I could hardly breathe. I had to hold a newspaper over my mouth to get to my car.
Long Island College is a lot like New York City. I love New York, but often wonder why am I living here? Why am I paying a fortune for rent? Why am I living in such a dirty place? Why am I living in a place where I have to pay to park my car or search for hours for a parking spot?. Why do I like a place where one often has to stand on line for a movie or a meal? At LICH, I often wondered why I was so attached to such a dirty, dysfunctional place. I can’t answer this question any better than I can the ones about New York City. Suffice it to say that once you get it in your blood, you’re hooked—kind of like falling in love. RIP, LICH.