February 19, 2010

Recent Personal Events With U.S. Healthcare

healthcare If anyone has wondered as to my whereabouts for the past week or so, I have been mostly sleeping in hospital waiting rooms.  I am pleased to say that all seems to be heading in the right direction, but this ordeal has given me some real world experience to back up all of the theory expressed here regarding the state of our healthcare system.

My Paternal Grandfather, my “Pa”, is 80.  The man put a lot of the work into my upbringing, and we are extremely close.  Pa has already had three artificial hip surgeries (two replaced, one repaired again) and he has pretty serious arthritis in other places as well.   His heart has been weak since the 70’s but it has not slowed him down much until very recently. About a month ago it became apparent even to him that something was going to have to be done with his heart or things were going to get very sad very quickly.  He spent a week in the hospital getting his blood pressure and fluid levels optimized for surgery and the surgeon and other assorted doctors decided that he was a candidate for a double valve repair surgery and MAZE or Cardiac Ablation procedure using the DaVinci Robot.  davinci This is where a robot performs the operation endoscopically with the surgeon controlling the robot from several feet away.  Very new, very expensive, but less invasive and more precise, with the hope of faster recovery. 

He was scheduled for surgery on Wednesday, February 10th.   The two nurses and the anesthesiologist I met in Pre-op were very caring and professional.  One of the nurses informed us that she would be calling every hour or so with updates as the surgery progressed.  We sat in a nice waiting room staffed by a couple of  volunteers.  We received our update calls and were informed that the surgery was successful and they were finishing up.dali-clock-500x500

Unfortunately this is where things took a downward turn.  It seems that due to several factors when the blood flow was rerouted back through the heart a very bad bleed developed around the sutures on the heart.  The machinery had to be re-positioned and restarted and the surgeon had to double the stitches.  This meant a lot more time on the machines and a lot more blood lost.

The first night Pa spent in the CCU was not a pleasant one.  His nurse Leigh was very frank (possibly too frank) about his situation and what the next 8 hours would decide, she also plainly took her job personally and seriously.  We were told that there was a brand new family waiting room with plenty of couches, pillows, and blankets would be provided and we could all stay.  We did, and Pa made it through that night.  We met Jeanine in the morning, Jeanine was much more positive regarding Pa’s outlook but admitted that the prior evening was pretty touch and go.  We were encouraged to somewhat ignore visiting hours and just pop in from time to time to check on him, a trend other nurses continued (or at least tolerated).  Thursday night Dad and I did not stay, letting my Aunt and Uncle take a shift. Friday brought new nurses, who continued to impress with their understanding and level of care.  Pa’s situation was improving in tiny increments but we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.   Dad and I stayed Friday night again in the family waiting room.  Saturday brought on the weekend staff and it continued to impress.  Saturday was a day of remarkable progress towards getting Pa’s fluid levels down.  In fact we were so sure things were going smoothly Dad and I left again.  I got one hour of sleep,  at midnight we received a phone call that his heart had stopped, but the the nurses got him back. About halfway to the hospital we got another call that it had stopped again, but that it had restarted on its’ own.  The usual hour drive from Dad’s house to the hospital took considerably less time than usual.  Before we got to the CCU it had stopped and restarted once more.  I slept in the CCU room that night, what little I slept.  The nurses were completely understanding of us all. Sunday was a long day, getting his electrolyte imbalance (apparently the cause of the problem) under control and getting his heart rhythm sorted out.  Monday was a Good Day, he got his breathing tube out, he knew who we all were and I got to see his baby blues.  We had a little conversation and he told me to go back to work.  It was a long drive home, but it was a good drive.  He is still there, but he is still improving.

healthcare%20(1) Throughout this entire ordeal every single person that we encountered from the volunteers, the housekeeping staff, the cooks in the cafeteria, the security guards, the nurses, and the Doctors treated my Pa as a person, and the family as important.  We were shown caring and compassion.  We and pa were treated with respect.  We feel that Pa received a top notch level of care.  So to the staff of St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau Mo; from the Security guards who helped us find our way around and were always polite, David and Jody (I think); to the nurses Leigh, Jeanine, Heidi, Denise, Amalaya, Lori and the others whose names I did not get or cannot remember; to Doctors Beck and Jones, to the ones who are still taking care of him during his stay, and all the volunteers and kitchen and housekeeping staff, Thank You.Medical_Center

Now I ask you, if Obamacare were to pass do you honestly believe that we would have such high quality customer service?  Do you really think that an 80 year old man with advanced arthritis and a very badly degraded heart would succeed in becoming a candidate for robot assisted heart surgery?  I think not.  Do you think that in the sort of environment sure to evolve in a government run, certain to be unionized, bureaucratic nightmare, where pay is guaranteed to be substandard, and Doctor’s decisions have to pass a panel of government flunkies (political officers) that we would have had such a good experience?  Our system may suck, but it is still the best in the world.  My recent experience has proved that to me.

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