Monday, September 14, 2009

A view from a hospital room. A true story.

Some have known that I had to have abdominal surgery and I did. It was successful. My mother felt I should have stayed in the hospital longer, but overall, I felt good and was glad to get home.

Once home, I had instructions that I followed, somewhat. I am not going to lie; I was not a good patient. I was on my feet longer than I should have been, I denied help, thought I could just jump back into the "game" again, I was wrong.

By Wednesday night, I was not feeling good. By Thursday my incision was reddened and I was in pain, by Thursday night I was back in a hospital bed with a morphine IV pump.

What happened was spotty, but when I awakened I saw a very, I mean, very anxious and nervous Mr. icebergslim with my mother. I was in and out of anesthesia, again, and did not get everything but something about internal bleeding and had to reopen the incision.

During that time, my husband and mother did go home, but I awakened on and off through the night. I had my handy, dandy morphine pump so any tinge of pain I was on it. Around 3 AM-ish, another patient came into my room. I remember it was her because she was talking about being in pain. I then went back to sleep.

I awakened around 6:30 AM the next day. My mother unpacked my stuff and put my cell phone close to my bed, it rang. It was my brother, the nurse in St. Paul, Minneapolis, calling to check on me. The first thing he said was, "I knew that phone would be close." The next thing he did was lecture me on the succulent, easy, downfall of getting sucked into narcotics, i.e., morphine. He told me if I the pain was not that bad, to cut it loose as soon as possible. He was telling me this, as I was pumping another jolt into my veins, but it did make sense to me. Before noon, I made the decision to cut my new BFF loose and go it alone, with less stronger narcotics for pain. I thought it would be tough, but in essence, it was quite easy. I was ready to move on and I could not do so with my new BFF hanging on my vein.

After this eye opening call, my new roommate awakened. In hospital rooms, unless you are the King or Queen of England, a private room is no such thing. Well, unless you are filthy rich and who around here can afford over 5K a day for a single room? Anyway, the only thing that separates you from your room mate is the curtain. It seemed that every hour, that I was awake, my roommate needed a shot for pain. She also complained about not eating since 9 AM the previous day that she was bought into the Emergency Room, now it is almost 10 AM. I was listening to what was going on, I shouldn't have, but I could not help it. Finally, a general surgeon came up and consulted her. He told her that she had a cyst in her ovary, that it was possibly, partially ripped. He said she was going home and that he was giving her 2 months pain medication, Narco, for the pain. She was then asking if that was wise, giving her medication (narcotics) for the pain and not fixing the problem. The surgeon flimflammed through the answer and was about to leave, then I stated, "Why is she not seeing an OB-GYN specialist/surgeon? Isn't that the next step?" Oh boy, the look in his eyes when he turned around to look at me, I WILL NEVER FORGET. He turned back to her and stated he will recommend one.

People this is what happens when you don't have insurance. While I have outstanding insurance, had all the nurses flaunting over me for any little thing, this young woman could not even get a MEAL, sherbet, ice cream even after this doctor left. I ended up ordering from room service, yes that is what this hospital called it, so this young woman could eat. I finally, asked her if she had health insurance, she said no, that she was on public aid. My first inclination was well, what is the beef? They are going to get paid and why are they treating her like this? Well, another story.

Public aid is not the choice for many doctors in getting paid, or private hospitals for that matter. Also, the law now is that when you come into the emergency room, it is standard procedure to be evaluated and observed for 12 hours before you are given a bed, i.e., what I had. Much of this is due to many coming into the emergency room for basic stuff that a regular doctor visit can curtail and using resources at this level. So, hospitals make you wait, especially on public aid and no insurance.

I had a frank talk with my roommate. I asked her did she feel that she was being treated differently because she was on Public Aid. She stated, "My mother just asked me this same question on the phone. And yes, I do." I then gave her my physician's name and contact information and told her that I would speak to him today when he comes to see me. My roommate was very appreciative and was getting dressed. She was in that bed not even 12 hours when she was booted out.

I spoke with my physician that same day. And he rose to the occasion, as I thought he would, took her name and contact information and said that he will take care of it.

I phoned my roommate, she left me her phone number, when I got home and settled. She was very appreciative and said that she would call him on Monday.

I told my mother and husband what had happened. My mother said, "Good job." My husband, another matter. Full disclosure, my husband works in the hospital business, his attitude was not harsh but cautious. He was the one who told me that hospitals are in the business to fill beds, like hotels. He asked me, "Have you seen any empty beds while doing your mandatory walk?" I told him, yes. He said, "Well, those beds are for paying patients, ones that happen to walk through the emergency room with an insurance card. Public aid patients are treated like non-insurance patients because it takes forever to get any reimbursement from them. Many are told to go to the county clinics and hospitals. Many private hospitals don't want to be bothered. That is probably why she was treated the way she was. Is it right? No, but that is how it is." He then told me to look out of my window. Out of my window was some building being built. He told me see those buildings, it is the new thing for hospitals called Bed Towers. He explained that these towers are being built and added to many hospitals all over the country. These are private rooms for those patients who can afford it or whose insurance will pay for it.

Private Bed Towers? Are you kidding me? With so many people who will crave just for a cot to be treated on and these hospitals are building towers for the rich? I mean, it is for the rich? Right? Because, I am not paying over 5K a night while knocked out most of the time on medication for the luxury of stating I was in a bed tower. That just does not make sense to me. And with the state of the economy, many without insurance, many underinsured, and many trying to hold on just the thought of expensive towers for the rich being constructed made my stomach hurt even moreso.

This health care battle is fucked up on all levels. Yes, contact congress, President Obama, etc., but decisions like made on a daily basis effects us, we, the people, all of us.

Unless you are super rich with no worries, it is easy to be one job away from NO HEALTH INSURANCE. That is a bitch to worry about on its own merits. And no individual should have to carry that burden.

Lastly, it is a damn shame that we, yes WE the PEOPLE, allowed the health care industry which was NON-PROFIT to go for PROFIT. Once that happened, all semblance of humanity was stripped away and the power of reporting to board members about stock profits emerged.

I don't know if we can go back to the country of compassion, once money passes hands it is hard to refute, we see this everyday in congress. But every single one of us should TRY.

This story is just one of millions, but it could easily happen to YOU.

Cross-posted @ Daily Kos

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