Monday, September 10, 2018

Bushwhacked Again

Once again I was bushwhacked by our health care system and, while not exactly held against my will, told by a nice ER doc (everyone is nice of course) I would more or less be a fool to leave. 

“Of course it’s up to you, but the smart thing, and what I would do if I were you, is agree to be admitted,  and let us run some tests so we can find out exactly what’s going on.”

He said that while my wife was in the room, and so I squelched my overwhelming desire to find my pants, retrieve my pocketknife, cut the damned bar coded bracelet off my wrist, along with the IV tube and the wires taped to my chest, and beat a path down those wide hospital hallways to the nearest exit.

The day started innocently enough.  I had an appointment an hour and a half from home for run of mill pre-surgery tests and an orientation to total knee replacement.  I figured two hours tops and I’d be on my way home, have an hour or so to work in the shack, then settle in to watch a Cubs game. 

But I flunked my very first pre op test.  I knew I was in trouble when the nurse (or tech aide) looked at a monitor that was being fed impulses from wires stuck to my chest and asked

“Do you have a pace maker?”

They’re trained not to react to bed news but I didn’t think there was any way that question could be framed as a positive.  I don’t have a pacemaker.

Long story short the nice anesthesiologist who came in next consulted with someone else on her cell phone and asked if I would mind going to the Emergency Room where they had better equipment for what I needed.  And then the wheel chair appeared.

“A wheel chair?  Really?  I walked in here.  I feel fine.”

She had a lot of tact.

“Yeah it’s probably overkill but humor us.  Would you?  Let us give you a ride.”

And thus began a 28 hour stay in a hospital.  I left with a diagnosis, a new prescription, an appointment with a cardiologist, grudging permission to go on a fishing trip to Canada two days later as long as I pledged to be extremely careful, and a whole new health condition to research. 

The whole thing felt something like getting hit by a car, which I also experienced long ago.  But I survived.  Neither the car nor the hospital took me out.

And to prove there may always be a silver lining to every dark cloud the whole deal sparked a memory which led to a poem. 

Please know that I’m OK.  That test revealed a problem which turned out to be not nearly as big a deal as it initially seemed.  But boy, they play it up.  On the subject of risk management, be assured that the people in our highly competitive and supercharged American health care system have done their homework.  As a result they take practically no risk that I can tell. 

I am reminded that once admitted to a hospital, everything changes.  There are more blog posts that could be devoted to ‘Health Care 2018’ but for now, see what you think of this poem.

Judge not, lest ye be judged

Near the spot where the hospital he was born,

67years ago, once stood,    

its new corporate name containing but a scrap

of the legacy of that old institution,

the night shift nurse briefed the day shift nurse,

on his progress while both stood at the foot of his bed.

They invited him to participate,

but spoke of him in the third person

as “the patient.”

Before he went to sleep some 7 hours earlier,

The night nurse asked him familiar questions.

What is today?

 “Tuesday.  August 21st  I think.”

Where are we right now?

“Either in Normal at the very edge of Bloomington

or vice versa.  Not quite sure.  Close to Franklin Avenue and Virginia though.”

In his twenties the patient,

For a short time an aide in a nursing home,

before the term Alzheimers was coined,

when his mother and others her age

attributed everything from forgetfulness

to serious loss of brain function among the elderly to

“hardening of the arteries”,

he taught “Reality Orientation Therapy”

a class for confused elderly residents.

He recalled the short time he spent each day,

talking to a select group of spaced out old people.

With the help of a  chart of simple facts,

he recited each statement slowly,

carefully pointing to lines written in very large print:

“Today is Monday.

You are in Ottawa Illinois.

The season is summer.

The next holiday is Labor Day.”

Then he would lead a ten minute discussion, often about the past,

trying to draw his students in,

Spark some memory, kindle some emotion, bring some light to their eyes.

When the discussion ended he would go back to those simple facts.

without displaying the chart.

"Frank, what season is this?"

"Marie.  Marie?  Over here Marie.

What is today?"

"Charlie, what holiday is coming up?"

He then recorded their answers,

so often wrong,

in a spiral notebook,

and class ended.

What the home did with that data he never knew.

But tracking the decline of the tired brains,

in the  gray heads of those innocent old people,

made him profoundly sad.

Back in the patient’s room the hand off continued.

Lying in bed, colored plastic bracelets on his wrists,

tethered to a IV pole by tubes dripping meds into a port

taped on the back of his hand,

tied down by electrodes stuck to his chest

connected to wires leading to a glowing clicking monitor,

the patient met the gaze of the night nurse who,

 smiling, spoke these words to the day nurse at his side.

…the patient seems alert and neurologically intact.”

The day nurse looked at the patient and smiled also.  Too sweetly.

Stunned, for some reason,

to be left hanging there in the third person

and judged, like an idiot, for how he was

oriented to time and place,

grateful he supposed for landing on the correct side

of such a terribly important test,

he interjected loudly.


While thinking to himself, screaming to himself actually,

Get me the hell out of here.”

1 comment:

  1. It's good to have a sense of humor about health things. I hope you're feeling better soon! Glad to read your blog posts. :) Nicole