Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Hospital

The term "intensive care" means care that's, er, intensive.

SAME PLACE, DIFFERENT PROGNOSIS. You're always of two minds about the place. It's where you were born, which is good. It's also where all your aged relatives die, which is not good. At least it's not good community PR. I was trying to explain that to Mrs. CP's daughter today, who is a lot like Mrs. CP, pretty much no-nonsense, answer-my-questions inquisitor material -- except that when I asked her what she thought of the hospital she said she didn't like how remote the doctors were. (Like me, she's never been sick herself.) They weren't Johnny-on-the-spot enough. Mrs. CP's sister (another long long hilarious story) just laughed and said that's how doctors are everywhere. When I met the doctor who mattered and started questioning him, he gave me the hairy eyeball and I told him he was lucky. The real interrogation expert was in the cafeteria having lunch. That's the first time he cracked a smile.I think he thought I was kidding. I wasn't. Afterwards, she was truly pissed that she'd missed her chance to turn him inside out.

So. What am I thinking as I watch the American healthcare system at work? I'm thinking, thank God this is happening now rather than a few years from now. Not to be negative about things, but we live in a depressed backwater of high unemployment and few good economic prospects. But we placed two 911 calls in less than 24 hours, from a definitely rural address, and both times the response was immediate, professional, impeccable. Cops arrived within five minutes, and they were straight out of central casting, polite, competent, considerate, and handsome to boot. The EMTs were just as good: friendly, to the point, swift, and deft in their tasks. The ambulance was top-notch, the siren pragmatically abrupt, and I prepared myself en route for the dismal wait in the emergency room. Which didn't occur. There was literally no wait. The nurses were kind and efficient. The paperwork was not like a Kafka nightmare, albeit somewhat repetitious, and there was never a moment when I didn't feel that my wife was being cared for. A doctor saw her within half an hour of her arrival, fully briefed by the background the nurses had compiled.

This is America. Still. Thank God. Home of the very best medical care in the world. They may have performed one test procedure too many, but they also whisked her within two hours to an ICU facility equipped with all the best stuff. A large private single room, a knowledgeable and compassionate nurse who gave me her phone number and answered my call personally (and jovially) at 3 am.

This is the system that's so broken we need a federal government takeover? My wife didn't have her purse with her (my fault) and hence not her insurance card. They used mine instead. No problem. Meanwhile, everything clean, everything working, everyone working.

Yeah, it's the hospital where both my grandfathers died, my mother died, and countless other icons of my youth died. But they were old. They were dying. My wife, I think, they are going to keep alive. Because this is America. Home of the best damn medical care in the world.

Until 2014.

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