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Opinion

Opinion

Nice 67 y.o. male has brush with mortality

September 18, 2009

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The doctor who saw me in the ER wrote in her report: “nice 67 y.o. male, flat affect, awake, alert and appropriate.” I had appeared with slurred speech and a balloon in my head, had driven myself to United Hospital in St. Paul, parked in No Parking, walked in and was triaged right in to a neurologist who trundled me into the MRI Space-Time Cyclotron for 50 minutes of banging and whanging which produced a picture of the stroke in the front of my brain, so off to the Mayo Clinic I went and the St. Mary’s Hospital Neurology ICU and was wired up to monitors. A large day in a nice 67 y.o. man’s life.

I stayed at St. Mary’s for four days of tests and when I left, a neurologist shook my hand and said: “I hope you know how lucky you are.” That was pretty clear as I walked down the hall, towing my IV tower, and saw the casualties of serious strokes. Here I was sashaying along, like a survivor of Pickett’s Last Charge who had suffered a sprained wrist. My mouth felt fuzzy but I was essentially unscathed, though touched by mortality. Which I have been on the run from for a long time. I never wanted to be a nice 67 y.o. man. I still have some edgy 27 y.o. man inside me.

But when the doctor talks about how you must go on a powerful blood thinner lest a stray clot turn your fine intellect into a cheese omelet, you must now accept being 67 y.o. and do as he says. You had intended to be a natural wonder, an old guy who still runs the high hurdles, but mortality has bitten you in the butt.

I like this hospital. St. Mary’s is a research and teaching hospital so you get to observe troops of young residents go by, trailing close behind Doctor Numero P. Uno, and watch them try to assume the air of authority so useful in the medical trade. The nurses, of course, are fabulous. Like many nice 67 y.o. men, I am even more awake and alert around attractive young women (though I try to be appropriate). A tall dark-haired beauty named Sarah brings me a hypodermic to coach me on self-administered shots of heparin, and without hesitation I plunge it into my belly fat. No man is a coward in the presence of women.

Nurses are smart and brisk and utterly capable. They bring some humor to the situation. (“Care for some jewelry?” she says as she puts the wristband on me.) And women have the caring gene that most men don’t. Men push you down the hall in a gurney as if you’re a cadaver, but whenever I was in contact with a woman, I felt that she knew me as a brother. The women who draw blood samples at Mayo do it gently with a whole litany of small talk to ease the little blip of puncture, and “here it comes” and the needle goes in, and “Sorry about that,” and I feel some human tenderness there, as if she thought, “I could be the last woman to hold that dude’s hand.” A brief sweet moment of common humanity.

And that is a gift to the man who has been struck by a stroke: our common humanity. It’s powerful in a hospital. Instead of a nice linen jacket and cool jeans and black T, you are shuffling around in a shabby cotton gown like Granma in “Grapes of Wrath,” and you pee into a plastic container under the supervision of a young woman who makes sure you don’t get dizzy and bang your noggin.

Two weeks ago, you were waltzing around feeling young and attractive, and now you are the object of Get Well cards and recipient of bouquets of carnations. Rich or poor, young or old, we all face the injustice of life — it ends too soon, and statistical probability is no comfort. We are all in the same boat, you and me and ex-Gov. Palin and Congressman Joe Wilson, and wealth and social status do not prevail against disease and injury. And now we must reform our health insurance system so that it reflects our common humanity. It is not decent that people avoid seeking help for want of insurance. It is not decent that people go broke trying to get well. You know it and I know it. Time to fix it.

Comments

Paul R Getto 4 years, 6 months ago

Glad you have insurance, Garrison. Continue your recovery and keep on writing. I'm glad the company couldn't find a minor mistake in your paperwork or a 'preexisting condition.' If they had,your insurance wouldn't be worth much and you could well have been one of the 14,000 or so a day who get dropped by their plan because the "death panel" (AKA insurance company actuaries) decided you did not deserve treatment.

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puddleglum 4 years, 6 months ago

barry penders, you already chip in, its just that the insurance companies make you chip in more than you should. You should really reconsider insurance overhaul legislation. You could potentially save a lot of money.

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Boris 4 years, 6 months ago

Did any of you click on these links? Almost every one of them is a liberal/leftist political website.

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barrypenders 4 years, 7 months ago

Why do I have to "chip in" to take care of your health care merril?

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Smart Medical Insurance Improves Our Quality of Life And Our Wallets!

National Health Insurance does not remove competition from the actual health care industry. It will be alive and well. Profits will be based on customer service and clinic performance based on the clients experience. This is my perception of competition.

How many of the vocal minority out there supporting the most expensive medical insurance in the world are employees and/or shareholders?

How many are receiving corrupt campaign dollars?

Some of our reps on all sides of the aisle say “Let's slow down a bit”. I say consumers have been waiting for more than 60 years for fiscal responsible medical insurance how much slower can it go?

What could possibly be more american? Providing americans with the choice of National Health Insurance. HR 676 is the only equitable approach that includes all of us.

Shouldn't taxpayers have the choice of Medicare Insurance For All? Absolutely!

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including: long term care such that cancer demands prescription drugs hospital surgical outpatient services primary and preventive care emergency services dental mental health home health physical therapy rehabilitation (including for substance abuse) vision care hearing services including hearing aids chiropractic durable medical equipment palliative care long term care.

A family of four making the median income of $56,200 would pay about $2,700 in payroll tax for all health care costs.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

http://www.healthcare-now.org/

Doctors for Single Payer http://www.pnhp.org/

Unions for HR 676 http://unionsforsinglepayerhr676.org/union_endorsers

Organizations and Government Bodies Endorsing HR 676 http://www.pnhp.org/action/organizations_and_government_bodies_endorsing_hr_676.php

Health Care In the USA http://www.dollarsandsense.org/healthcare.html

Consumer Reports On Health Care http://blogs.consumerreports.org/health/health_reform/

National Health Insurance does not remove competition from the actual health care industry. It will be alive and well. Profits will be based on customer service and clinic performance based on the clients experience. This is my perception of competition.

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bearded_gnome 4 years, 7 months ago

why is harrison spieler still in LJWorld after the offhand and rude way he treated veterans last year?

LJWorld, please, drop this schlub, even if he writes about having a brain problem.

furthermore, I love the leftists above trying to twist this into yet another guilt trip to push for support for Obamacare.
support for Obamacare is dropping like a rock. Mr. Obama is obviously false on many points.
and his desperate and amoral followers throw the racist charge around like prepositions.

shame.

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slurms_makenzie 4 years, 7 months ago

The reality is that Keillor has great health coverage and so he seeks help when he needs it. Many victims of strokes, or other problems, don't seek help right away and are way worse off for it, costing lots more in the end. They try to delay medical care because of the cost. Who wants to have their loved ones lose their home because they have to pay for medical care. It happens. Medical care is a basic right and many expensive situations could be avoided with routine care that many simply cannot afford. I do work in a hospital that does not deny anyone service, so I see this on a regular basis. We are their last hope in a crisis.

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Boris 4 years, 7 months ago

Keillor is just another political hack that portrays himself as independent when he is just like the other leftards!

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texburgh 4 years, 7 months ago

"And now we must reform our health insurance system so that it reflects our common humanity. It is not decent that people avoid seeking help for want of insurance. It is not decent that people go broke trying to get well. You know it and I know it. Time to fix it."

It could not have been said better. Thank you, Garrison.

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