Saturday, July 25, 2009

No room at Marriott's Inn

Marriott Hotels reservation people have a wicked sense of humor. Our recent jaunt to Jacksonville and our brief stay at the Inn at Mayo Clinic gives evidence to that.

You'd think that any hotel located on the campus of the Mayo Clinic would be designed to accommodate people with health issues. And, you would be wrong. Reading their propaganda online they describe their facility as having:

  • 78 suites with full kitchens
  • Beautifully appointed, spacious suites with living and sleeping areas

  • Fully equipped kitchen features stove, refrigerator, microwave, in-room coffee & tea

  • Cable TV, 2-line phone, hair dryer, iron/ironing board. Free high speed internet.

  • Includes 26 rooms with one queen and one full bed

  • Complimentary services: grocery shopping, Continental breakfast, campus shuttle, internet
Doesn't it sound like a lovely spot? Yet no mention of disabilities, handicap accessible. We're the ugly stepchildren they shove behind the door. Not good for their image to mention that they accomodate less than perfectly beautiful people.

Needless to say, I already carried prejudice against this particular hotel. It had taken me quite awhile to get over our last fiasco there. I have reached a certain age or maybe it is mind set about clean. A trip to any hotel makes me wonder about who was there before me, what they DID in that bed or on that bedspread and had it been cleaned? I know, I watch too many of those CSI type shows and have seen the semen and bodily fluid patterns floresce across the bedspread and carpet and let's just say that the last time at the Inn, I didn't need special equipment to see the offal left by previous inhabitants.

Derrol made the reservations -- spoke to two different people, one being Marriott's advocate for people with disabilities, he told me. They had assured him that the Inn had what he needed and he didn't need to go to any other hotel for the accommodations he requested.

Now, it is one thing to demand a king-sized bed or a room with a kitchenette or even smoking privileges But he needed handicap accessible WITH a roll-in shower. It wasn't a 'I prefer' kind of request. It was an 'I need.'

No problem, he was told. No problem. He believed them. He's gullible that way -- he always tries to believe. After all the Inn is located on the campus of the Mayo Clinic -- within a few steps of the Cannary Building's front door. A few more steps from their newly built state of the art hospital and Davis Building. A hotel accommodation in such a setting would be geared toward the guests needs.

I noted as we trundled (unaided) our oxygen tank, suitcase, bi-pap breathing machinery and computer down the hall to our room -- 207 -- that the Inn offered amazingly huge suites on the first floor close to the lobby. Those I suspect were reserved for the CEOs and wealthy clients who came to Mayo for their annual physicals -- paid for by corporate dollars. Or perhaps for the contributors and board members who kept Mayo endowed and one of the premiere medical facilities in the world.

Derrol wheeled past those, onto the elevator. You know the kind that have a sign that says "Use the stairs in case of an emergency.' Of course I wonder why a guy in a wheelchair is being sent to the second floor without an exit strategy to accommodate him.

I braced myself for a less than pristine room. But I was pleasantly surprised. When I swung open the door and before it came back to smack me in the face, I saw a well cleaned suite. A kitchenette, a little seating area, and a bed that stood higher -- to accommodate those who don't get up and down so well.

We struggled through the door that was determined to shut us out -- maybe we should have taken that as an omen. I noticed that the Inn definitely is overdue for an upgrade and remodel, but I can overlook shabby or ill use as long as it is clean. (If you read their online description, it is 'newly remodeled.')

Already I adjusted my opinion of the Inn upward and was just ready to relax and enjoy our little stay when I saw the bathroom. Yes Derrol could get through the wide doorway. Yes the sink was the kind one could roll a wheelchair under. And yes it had grab bars around the toilet and in the -- wait for it -- bathtub.

No roll in shower. A high, high bathtub shower combo. We stared as if hoping it would morph into the right accommodations, the one we reserved.

A phone call to the front desk told us that our reservations simply mean NOTHING. We can request all we want but if they don't have the room available by the time we check in -- we're out of luck. Happens that the ONE room they have at the Inn of Mayo Clinic had been occupied for several days. It was occupied at the time Derrol made his reservation. Apparently the Inn of Mayo Clinic has only one room with a roll in shower. One other handicap accessible room with a walk in shower and a total of five or maybe it was six rooms that are handicap accessible. That's all.

The desk clerk suggested we could move to a room with a walk in shower -- but it wasn't a handicap accessible room. That translated into 'he can't get his wheelchair through the door to the shower.' It meant -- no grab bars, no roll under sink, no high bed, no accommodations to his physical needs. She said she'd be glad to call around and find us a room elsewhere. At 8 p.m. after a long day of work and two hours of driving, we asked if she was nuts. We had to be at Mayo by 7 a.m. the next morning -- did we want to add drive time in morning traffic to that as well?

Not to whine, but have you ever considered what it takes to load and unload his life support equipment let alone getting him into the van via the lift and transferred to the driver's seat and .... We no longer jump in the car and away we go. It takes time and effort and a lot more stamina than we had at the moment.

We could make do. Derrol washed up at the sink as best he can since the stopper didn't work and the sink wouldn't hold water. He was just struggling out of his last stitch of clothing when the room filled with a horrendous shriek and flashing lights. I shrieked back and rushed to the wall to flip a light switch. A strange reaction to a blaring fire alarm, I admit. But I had heard when I tried the switch earlier a strange static crackling. Evidently it shorts out the fire alarm. That electrical switch also controls the plug in for the alarm clock. Thankfully neither of us have a heart condition. The desk clerk when I called said it was a false alarm -- as if she were waiting for the phone call!

By the time we got in bed I was wide awake, laying there preparing myself for the next nasty surprise. It didn't take us long to get dressed and pack up all of his equipment and get the hell out of that room the next morning.

I talked to the new clerk at the desk the next morning and told her our concerns about making reservations. She sighed with frustration and shook her head. "We all deal with this every day. We can't accommodate the needs of our guests and it bothers all of us who work here."

I asked if they're scheduled for a remodel? She brightened and said, "Yes, probably next year."

Unless someone alerts the powers that be at Marriott that The Inn at Mayo Clinic has a high number of people with disabilities as their guests -- the situation will not improve.

We spread the word at Mayo about our stay and the shortage of rooms at the Inn. If Mayo Clinic would put pressure on Marriott, perhaps that would go a long way to getting changes made. I also contacted Marriott after we returned home. No reply thus far. I made suggestions, offered our help in designing rooms, offered to name names of people who make it their business to know about accommodating people with limitations.

But the scary thing is making the reservations. We're planning a long road trip to Ohio and I don't know that any hotel can actually guarantee accommodations that meet our needs. What kind of nasty surprises will we encounter a thousand miles from home? What if Derrol is hurt trying to 'make do' without assistance? Our fun vacation is already turning into a nightmare.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Life and all its warts

One with outward courage dares to die; one with inward courage dares to live. --Lao-tzu

Life should be fair.
That's a concept I cannot shake from my personal belief system. I'm continually disappointed in a universe that picks on certain people who have done nothing to harm anyone or anything. I expecially find it irksome, irritating, infuriating that someone who is contributing to a better world gets targeted.

Recently I was requested to run information on my Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles blog about a project a group of quilters have organized. It is a miniature quilt auction to raise funds for Anna Millea. They call it Hearts for Anna.

Anna won one bout with breast cancer and if you see her art or her smile, you know she lives a joyous life. I don't know her personally, but I know a legion of women much like Anna who have served their families, loved unselfishly, created whole worlds and lives, contributed to the community good, and maintained and elevated the moral fiber of our country -- they all faced breast cancer or a form of cancer. Some beat it. Some didn't.

Now Anna faces a reoccurance of the cancer and it has spread into her bones. She needs 12 rounds of chemo, if I understand that right. She's ready to fight. Not that she really wants to, but she prefers to live her life, so she's ready.

It is unfair enough that she's facing cancer again. But like too many Americans -- she is facing it without the benefit of health insurance. She is listed as having a 'pre-existing' disease that they won't cover. If Anna needs toe surgery, heart transplant, or her knee replaced -- she's quite possibly covered -- but the one thing she has and the insurance company knows is most likely for her to have -- is cancer. For that her insurance will not pay one cent.

Anyone who says Americans don't need anything done to the health care coverage in this country are ostriches with their heads firmly buried in the sand!

I've asked people to leave encouraging comments for Anna on my blog, as well as get involved in the project: Hearts for Anna. One person, Lisa Quintana, simply wrote:
"Anna, 12 years ago I had a recurrence of breast cancer with bone mets, and I'm
still here and stitching. Keep your chin up and subversively fight! Many hugs."
Until I read Lisa's words there was a part of me that wasn't hopeful for Anna. My father had cancer that spread to his bones and at that time it was a death warrant. Times have changed, research has improved survival chances, the tools are there for Anna to continue creating her beautiful fabric art, loving her family, and living her life. And to have Lisa continuing to give hope and also produce beautiful art is a double blessing!

Only the money will keep Anna from a healthy future. I find that totally unacceptable that a country as wealthy as the United States of America can throw away people based on money.

Of course I'm also a believer that good healthcare is an inalienable right. Everyone should have free and equal access to that. In this case, Anna's rights are being trampled by an insurance company's profit margin.

Pre-existing disease.

I'm so glad the health community finally decided that pregnancy is a natural function and NOT a disease because every second child would be termed: pre-existing disease. Or maybe that's on the horizon and we'll soon see family size limits set by insurance companies. But I digress.

Please check out the Subversive Stitchers blog and find out how you can help Anna. Once you see her smile, how can you not want to help?