This post is only a little about Wenonah, although everyone in Wenonah probably has a similar story to tell. I've spent the past two days caring for Johanna. She developed a severe infection from a sinusitis and we had to go to Christ Hospital. The hospital was deluged with flu patients and she was very ill and so for a variety of reasons there was no bed immediately available. I've been at her side most of the past few days along with her dear friends Sandy and Oscar and Douglas and Teresa. Finally after nearly two days she got a bed and was able to rest in comfort.
Maybe you've been ill. Maybe you have a friend who has been ill. You know what I'm talking about. The long hours waiting for doctors to make decisions, the stressed emergency room workers, the poor sick people who fill the ER. It's not a broken system but it's a system that is often ill equipped to deal with actual people. Johanna's nurses and caregivers were kind and thoughtful but we sat in a cold room with little information for hour upon hour upon hour. It's tempting to say it was because she was undocumented or because she was HIV positive or whatever thing you want to put out to make yourself feel angry but the simple fact is that the American system for caring for the ill is totally fucked the fuck up. We make rules to help people and we make rules to protect ourselves against litigation but we don't make latitude for care.
I watched a young latin girl leave the hospital because she didn't get pain killers fast enough. She was angry and in pain. Her sister was filled with rage. They screamed at all the women in the ER that it was their fault. When I arrived this morning Johanna wanted to leave. No rest. No solace. No calm. No beds.
When I was ill it was the same. When you go into a hospital you are a patient. And sadly that's what you must become. Patient. Patient while you are in agony. Patient while you are afraid. Patient while you are at the mercy of people who have dozens of other people in the same straits.
You could say fuck this shit. Maybe we should. Maybe litigation and money have changed the landscape of healthcare so that it makes no sense. But all I could think about while we were sitting there was men in Civil War hospitals and the men and women who cared for them. For them there was no medicine for the most part to save anyone. There was only solace and kindness and concern.
I think we should go back and look at what the fuck we're doing in healthcare and identify the core of healthcare. Care. Solace. Understanding. For patients. For caregivers. For the men and women who wipe shit off our backsides and listen to us scream in agony.
It's not money that we need to focus on. It's how to deliver care without regard for procedure, regulations, or money. We don't need as many machines. We need more nurses. We need more doctors. We need to stop separating people by their race and disease and personality.
It's very sad when the most wonderful moment in the day is that you get a hospital bed. The most wonderful moment in the day should be when you feel well. When someone claps you on the back and says thank you for saving my mother's life. When a doctor can say I've done my best and I've been successful. I guess I don't believe there are really that many sick people that we couldn't really find a way to address this. Many people here were there only because they had the flu. What the fuck is that. You have to go to the hospital because you have the flu?
We're voting over the next year or so for someone to change this shit. Fuck Iraq. Fuck Afghanistan. Fuck Al Queda. The worst thing we can do is ignore our humanity. I'm on the side of Walt Whitman who tended the dead and dying. All he had to give was kindness. No penicillin. No morphine. No beds. Only care. If we go back to care maybe we can sort this shit out.
I am the lucky beneficiary of healthcare. I would have been dead 20 years ago. I'm not. Nor is Johanna. But no one should be treated like a piece of meat in a hallway by rules and regulations.
People should be able to see their doctor for the flu. Not a hospital. People all people should be able to ask for help. Documented, undocumented, uninsured, insured. Who really cares. I know this is idealistic and stupid and naive. But maybe we need to go back to that.
There was a young man in the hospital named Eric. He greeted patients by name and engaged them in a real way. He made them feel like he could help. He helped cut through red tape and talked to doctors and nurses to make things move along. How sad it was only one man and not an entire hospital.
God Bless men like Eric and God Bless the women who cared for Johanna and gave her solace and goddamn the stupid rules and regulations and bullshit that stand in the way. If you vote over the next months vote for people that care. Vote for a country that cares for all it's citizens, not just the well to do or the privileged. We are a rich nation built on hope. Vote for hope.