Forward Progress

Mount Everest from Kalapatthar.

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A major step to recovery came when I got to sit up on the edge of the bed for the first time.  What’s the big deal, I thought to myself?  Two nurses came in to help slide me over sideways to let my legs hang off the bed.  The nurses lifted from under the arms and around my back to raise me into a sitting position.  Wow! my head started spinning. I had not been off my back for a month.

Meals were a joke because I took nourishment through a feeding tube.  The first thing they did after inserting the tube was to extract a bunch of vile looking fluid from my stomach. A nurse pulled green fluid from my stomach  for a couple of days before she got the okay to feed me. She did the reverse and pushed a syringe full of milky white fluid into my stomach. Just a shot glass full at first, then gradually increasing the amount over a period of days to a full eight ounces.  I felt the cold liquid stuff going down the tube.

Why did they have to feed me through a tube?  I couldn’t swallow.  The polio damaged the nerves controlling my neck muscles.  If I tried to sip something I would  drown.

Gradually,  I got better and started to talk with the nurses and doctors, I learned I had bulbar spinal polio.  This type of polio attacks the face, neck and chest.  Luckily, my chest muscles were the least affected.  My face, neck, and right leg from the hip down were the most affected.  The result was that I couldn’t smile, swallow, hold up my head, or walk.

Every evening in the Contagious Disease Hospital an attendant wheeled a snack cart through the halls and stopped at each room except mine.  I could see the cart through all the windows. The cart had two large glass bottles filled with colored water.  One was a brilliant red and the other green.  Something about the colored drink attracted me. I longed to have a glass of each.  As the cart came closer to my room I debated with myself as to which color I would ask for – the red or the green?  The hall lights helped make the color of that fluid vibrant, and I longed to have some.  Each night, the cart passed by my room without stopping, but I played the game each time. I later learned the magic fluid was cherry and lime jello water.

Another big adventure was to stand up.  Earlier in the week I got to sit on the edge of the bed. Sitting up for a few minutes became a daily ritual. Each day I sat for a few minutes longer. It was great to sit up, especially when Mom came with Mrs. Thomas.  Sitting made it easier to write on the chalk board and to hold it up to the window. When the time finally came to stand up, two nurses came in.  Again, I thought what is the big deal?  Just let me slide off the edge of the bed and stand.   That’s just what they did.  They let me slide off the edge until my feet were on the floor. One nurse on each side held me under the arm. Each held their leg against my knee. Wow! It felt good to stand;  It also felt strange. After a minute my legs started shaking and got all wobbly and I had to sit down again.

The day I stood up for the first time is when I realized how much damage the virus did. That day also marked the start of my re-hab.  There wasn’t any facility to do re-hab at CDH, but the simple act of getting me up and out of bed was the start.  I still couldn’t swallow, but I could sit up and stand.  Later in the week, they let me take a few steps which was hard because my hip and thigh muscles on the right side were gone.  I dragged the right leg along putting all my weight on the aide. The remaining muscle groups couldn’t hold me up straight, so I leaned heavily to the left to compensate and my head just rolled around like I had a  broken neck.

A nurse started me on swallowing exercises.  She let me take tiny sips of water, just enough to wet my tongue, and encouraged me to swallow.  I strained with all my might but nothing in my throat moved.

The jello water cart came every night. Each time I saw that red and green fluid I tried hard to swallow, but nothing seemed to happen.  I was never allowed to sip water on my own for fear of choking.

One day after what seemed like a month of practicing to swallow the nurse had to leave the room for a moment. What the heck, I decided to sneak a sip of water.  I felt the muscles move in my throat and the sip went down. I swallowed!  Things were moving in there, and the water went down the right pipe. At that moment I felt like I had just reached the top of the Mount Everest.  The next day, when the nurse came to exercise my swallow muscles, I showed her I could actually do it. That night the jello water cart with the fantastic red and green juice stopped at my door.

My first day at CDH was in early August, right after my fifteenth birthday.  It was now late October.  I missed football tryout, I wasn’t managing the basketball team, I hadn’t opened a book to study and I saw my friends once in that time.  It didn’t matter, all I could do is look forward and do the best I could.

One day a nurse came to tell me the news they were sending me to another hospital.  There was nothing more they could do for me at CDH.  It was Halloween night when the ambulance took me to Michael Reese.

Leaving all the nurses was a sad time.  There were so many who worked with me, mostly students from area hospitals.  All of them were great nurses.  It dawned on me that I never met another patient at CDH because everyone was so isolated.

Two aides slid me on a gurney and bundled me up. As they wheeled me out of the room I called home for so many weeks I touched the big ugly iron lung breathing machine parked outside my door. I whispered “thanks for being there for me.” I also thanked God that I never needed to use it. The attendants wheeled me down the corridor to the ambulance dock. I never saw any of the angels who cared for me to say goodbye.

During my last few days at CDH I thought about becoming a doctor.  All of the staff at CDH was so good and nice to me. I thought of giving back to the world by becoming a doctor.  The question stayed with me and I debated for very long time. Eventually,  I concluded that even though it was a noble idea that I was not the right kind of person to become a doctor.  I decided to stay on the path to become an engineer.  The ride to Michael Reese took only a few minutes, but it seemed like a trip around the world. In my mind I saw kids out on the street going door to door to “Trick or Treat”.

Out of My Mind–Part One

The Length of the ride in the ambulance to the Contagious Disease Hospital is all I remember. I don’t recall how fast they drove or if a siren sounded. The attendants moved me into the hospital, and slid me off the cart to a bed in a room alone. The room seemed dark but I didn’t care one bit. My head pounded, and it hurt like heck to move my neck.  My throat felt like fire and I couldn’t swallow. The fever made me delirious. I wanted to sleep, and make it all go away.

A steady stream of doctors and nurses came throughout the night to examine me. Each one asked the same questions. Each one tested the stiffness of my neck. One nurse stuck a glass thermometer into my mouth another stuck a needle into my hand and taped it there. She hung a bag with fluid and started it flowing. A male nurse inserted a catheter. I wished they would leave me alone and let me sleep. When they finally left, I lay in a hospital gown tossing and turning, the fever cooking me from within; my arm tied to the bed so I couldn’t jerk the needle out.

After what seemed like an eternity, two nurses came. They rolled me to the edge to spread a rubber mattress on the bed. A male aid came with a tub full of ice cubes. I wondered what they were going to do, but didn’t really care. I was hot and my mind was everywhere.

The aid began pumping ice water into the rubber mattress under me. At first the coolness felt good. After awhile on the chilling bed I began to shiver uncontrollably. The nurses kept replacing the water in the mattress, the aid brought more ice. My teeth chattered from the cold, my body shook uncontrollably. Lying on the ice mattress made me cold, but the fire in my body raged on. They threw a blanket over me to help, but I kept shivering under the covers.

Many weeks later, I learned that my body temperature went over one-hundred-five degrees as the virus worked its evil in my body. The torture of the ice mattress was necessary to save me. As uncomfortable as it was, I couldn’t care less.

During the endless hours of delirium, visions of Mendel and football tryouts played through my mind. I needed to get out of this place to make it to the tryouts. Plans for an escape filled my mind.  Each time a doctor came to check my condition I asked if I’d be home in time for the tryouts. None of them ever answered.

Why Is Health Care So Expensive?

High Cost DocumentationDuring the last couple of weeks, I got a first hand reminder of what  it is like in a health care system.  My late Auntie Marie was hospitalized for a few days before she died. Of course, Peggy and I visited often during those days. There was one thing that stuck out as I walked the halls of a well known suburban hospital. No matter which floor we were on,  or which nurse’s station we were near, people were diligently entering data or writing on charts.
I began to wonder what that was all about. Very few of these people were tending to patients, yet all of them were very busy. These people are all very expensive. Health care workers don’t come cheap. What is so important to require so much documentation? I quizzed my daughter, who is a nurse, to explain. We had a very nice father daughter discussion on the matter. She cleared up some of my mis-conceptions.
In summary here is why they document:
1. If it ain’t documented the insurance company, Medicare, etc. doesn’t pay. Of course the hospital is a business, and requires money to run. Patients never like to pay for their own health care,  therefore they pay for insurance to pay the bill for them. The insurance companies are also in business to make a profit. They sell us policies with fine print defining just what they will cover. Medicare does the same thing. Their rules are just as stringent as any insurance company’s. Therefore, hospitals document in order to charge.
Insurance companies take a bad rap when they cite the fine print in a policy, and refuse to pay. We should all be more careful when we buy policies. We tend to go for the lowest cost. Of course we do, why pay more? Except we don’t read the details, or the details don’t matter when we sign the contract. There is a famous insurance company commercial, running now, that touts the ability to tailor make a policy to fit your budget. Guess what? They do it by limiting your benefits. We go for price, they go for the sell, and we are happy until we get into a health crisis and the bill comes to us. 
2. Doctors need information from the nurses in order to make your health care decisions. They work by reading test reports, and the charts documenting vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and  repsonses to medications.  Doctors also write instructions to the nurses for your treatment. Then, as a CYA they document their treatment plan and diagnosis. Again, if it ain’t documented they don’t get paid. A doctor  might spend ten minutes per patient reading a chart, and two minutes talking to him. If you have a serious problem, the doc may take three minutes to explain the prognosis.  Nurses document your vital signs, and dispense drugs. Certified Nursing Assistants do all the other dirty work of keeping patients comfortable. In the good old days, the nurse did it all. My wife Barbara tended to a surgical ward at West Side VA hospital back in 1959. She took care of, and documented up to thirty patients at a time. Life was simpler back then.
3. Hospitals have quality control programs. They are crappy compared to the ones  industry has  put into place to make all the products, and drugs they use, but they have systems.  These systems require documentation. In my business, we said that if we could measure something, we could improve it. Therefore, any quality system requires data documenting metrics that can show management if they are doing well. Most hospitals require you to complete a satisfaction questionnaire when you leave. This is an example of their input.
4. Lastly, health professionals document to CYA (cover your ass). All doctors and hospitals are so afraid a patient will sue them that they over document in order to cover themselves in the event that one of them makes an error. Or, if the patient and his family perceive a screw up.
The bottom line is that I saw dollars with wings and heard a cash register ringing as I walked the corridors of that hospital.
Obama’s solution to this problem is to invent a totally new health care system to compete with the one in place. If the actual health care industry doesn’t know how to fix their problem, what makes us think a group of Congressman and Senators can  invent  a new system to fix it all?
Bend over America, the government wants to give you an enema.
In a future post, I will present a plan for realistic reform. Stay tuned.

Obama-Care

I often hear people tell me that they need a medical procedure that they cannot afford, and they don’t have insurance. They skip going back to the doctor. Instead of taking care of themselves out of their pocket, they neglect their bodies. If insurance pays, it is a different story. Why is this? My deceased wife Barb was in this group. If she had to pay for a treatment she skipped it. She worked as a nurse,  and felt the system owed her the care.

So many times I have heard my own doctor tell me that I need something but my insurance doesn’t cover it, therefore he won’t even think of prescribing it. Why? When I ask if I can pay out of my pocket, he gives me a dumb look like he doesn’t know how to handle a cash customer. Why?

 Our obsession with universal health-care is nuts. We should know by now that if POTUS is pushing  it, that it will be a disaster for all of us. Of course it will be another emergency like the banks, and the car companies, so there will be a hurry for legislation to be passed without any transparency and without anyone reading it ahead of time. Every democratic rubber stamp will be wet with ink on the day of the vote. No amount of  citizen calls, e-mails, and letters to our congressional reps will make a difference. Our congress is a bunch of Obam-ass kissing socialist power grabbers who have forgotten what there jobs are. They represent the people not the president.

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