Mrs. C-S: A Case Study
“How could I be so stupid as to allow somebody to take part of my body and I didn’t know it.
"At the age of 30 or 31 I went into the gynecologist and complained that part of this was not working properly." And he said, "We can repair that." Great!
I didn't ask all the right questions. When I showed up two weeks later at the admissions office at the hospital, they put enough papers in front of me; I bet there were five papers that I needed to sign. I wasn't going to say, "Excuse me, but I don't read very well and I certainly don't read fast, and I'm concerned with some of these words." To me it was lines and circles over sheets, and sheets, and sheets, and I wasn't going to reveal my sense of stupidity. So, I signed where they told me to sign. Never read it.
A couple of weeks later in the office follow-up visit, the nurse said, "How do you feel since your hysterectomy?" Now, I acted as normal as I could. Inside, my mouth fell open and I thought to myself, "How could I be so stupid as to allow somebody to take part of my body and I didn't know?"
Mrs. C-S is a well-spoken wife of an engineer, who is a film producer and world traveler, and is clearly competent in her work and family life. Although she graduated from high school, she reads at a 5th grade level, not well enough to understand the directions on a prescription bottle, read and understand the front page of a newspaper, or read a bus schedule.
Her poor general literacy skills clearly made a difference in her ability to understand health information, and contributed to the incident that resulted in her hysterectomy.