About those rabble rousers…

I haven’t made it out to attend any of the town hall meetings, though the idea is intriguing, and one will be held in my area (more or less) later today. I find it so incredible that many have denounced these grassroots protests as being organized by the Republican party or special interests or the pharmaceutical companies or worst of all “egged on by talk radio,” according to Senator Arlen Specter.

Huh?

Why is it that anyone who protests anything to do with the current administration is labeled more or less a robot of one (small) arm of the media, while anyone who is pro administration is never said to be under the influence of the massive mainstream media?

Why is it that anyone who protested the war or foreign policy or President Bush in general was never labeled anything but an American exercising his/her right to free speech?

Why is it that those who protest the health care proposal are said to be victims of “scare tactics” that are misrepresenting the facts, though many protesters can cite the pages of the bill that are particularly frightening?

Why is Congress voting on such massive, sweeping change that affects every American (except themselves, of course) rather than the American people themselves?

Americans have the right to be afraid and to express that fear. They have the right to protest what they feel is endangering themselves and our country. They have the right to challenge their elected officials, who, after all, are supposed to work for them. I mean us. I mean me.

In the end, of course, it’s all about “me” — for every one of us. Me. My family. My health. My life. My future.

That’s really what people are shouting about.

I hope they never stop.

We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long
that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting
how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights.
~ Felix Frankfurter

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It was a good run

Oh the memories… From February to May last year, I and my family were embroiled in a flurry of health care issues for my elderly mom. Her broken ankle resulted in 8 weeks in a rehab hospital and 5 weeks in assisted living (all non-weight-bearing) while we scrambled to adapt her 100+ year-old house to accommodate one-level living. It was a huge struggle, and hugely satisfying to accomplish what we did.

We had a great run for a whole year — she managed pretty well, and we managed to ignore her occasional rants that none of what we did was necessary, she’s just fine, she can go up and down two flights of stairs to second floor or cellar with no problem, and what horrible people we were for throwing away her 35-year-old exercise bike (and buying her a new one she refuses to use).

But now the jig is up. We’re back on the eldercare treadmill in full force, with mom’s recent dizzy spells and now painful fractured ribs after a fall this past Saturday. It’s clear that living alone is no longer an option, so we’re scrambling to figure out how to have one of us there with her as close to 24/7 as we can manage, given that we all have jobs and lives of our own.

It’s daunting, but I can’t help but think how lucky we are to have dodged this issue for so long. So many people don’t get to wait until their loved one is 90 before confronting care issues.

I’ll try to keep remembering that as we navigate a sea of doctors, appointments, insurance, and meds, and disrupt our own lives in still unknown ways. I’m anticipating a lot of “discussions” (/arguments), a lot of fatigue, a lot of tears, prayers, and sleepless nights. And of course, a lot fewer workouts and a lot more chocolate.

Old age ain’t no place for sissies.
~ H. L. Mencken, Bette Davis

Get well soon.

A quick recap. Mom ended up back in the hospital unexpectedly due to a giant blood clot in her “bad” leg (the one recently broken). We are SO lucky it was found (purely by chance) — clots often cause fatal pulmonary embolisms (a piece of the clot breaks off, travels to the lungs, and kills you). She was never in any pain, has been resting comfortably in the hospital with her blood-thinning cocktail, and should come home soon.

This post is really about what it took to get her to this point. When her clot was discovered during an exam at the hospital for another issue, the technicians and docs knew she had to be admitted immediately. We were already at the hospital, so this should have been easy, right? Right.

  • First, knowing what we were in for at “big-city hospital,” my sister and I wanted to take her ourselves to our local hospital — part of the same hospital system as “big-city hospital,” but closer to home, quieter, and less crazed. But no, the doc nixed that idea, saying it would be much faster and better to admit her immediately through the emergency department (ED) so she could get immediate blood thinners. Time was of the essence. We shouldn’t fool around with moving her. (And we were clearly insane for even thinking of that.)
  • Anyhoo…45 minutes later…they finally managed to get someone there with a wheelchair to take her up one floor to the ED (we were just about to get one ourselves and take her).
  • The ED was a zoo — a Friday morning and it looked like the set of ER during one of their many disaster-du-jour episodes. Long story short — my mom laid on a gurney in the hall for 5-1/2 hours. It was 2 hours before she got the oh-so-essential blood thinner shot. Two hours! We could have been to our local hospital in 15 minutes and she could have been in a ROOM within 2 hours. She ate her box lunch on the gurney in the hall, with chaos all around.
  • Once she got into a room, it took 2 more hours for her “orders” to make it up the 9 floors from the ED to her floor, via computer. We could have carried the orders up in the elevator in 5 minutes. So, this meant she was not allowed any food or drink until the floor nurse knew what was what. By then, the cafeteria was closed, so she had another box lunch for dinner.
  • Throughout the course of our 9 or so hours before she made it into her room, we answered the same questions about her medical history, prescriptions, and recent health situation at least 4 times to 4 different people. And then we did it all again for the floor nurse, after the “orders” finally came. The same information 5 times! How is this even effective or possible in today’s “modern” health care system? Whatever happened to having one chart that stays with the patient with all the info on it? It was mystifying to me and still is. (Not to mention she had been to this hospital just a few months ago for the original surgery on her ankle, and last year for another surgery. They freakin’ should know her medical history — they created a lot of it!)

I write this knowing that I live in Pittsburgh — one of the top cities for medical care in the country. As a friend pointed out, imagine if we lived in one of those other cities?! Imagine indeed.

I know her wait for a room was not because there were no beds available — clearly the hospital is full of empty beds. The problem is having no one to staff those beds and oversee her care. I get it; there’s a nursing shortage and hospitals are understaffed. (Maybe they would have more time if they didn’t have to take the same information from every patient 5 times.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers, only many questions. We pay exorbitant costs for health care. We have technology and resources that are the envy of the world. We have dedicated professionals. We just can’t seem to bring them all together to work efficiently. 

Still, the system does its job for the most part — it saves lives. Maybe the rest just doesn’t matter? Hard to accept that thinking, but at this point, it’s all I have.

Getting out of the hospital is a lot like resigning from a book club.
You’re not out of it until the computer says you’re out of it.
                                                                   ~ Erma Bombeck