Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Best Health Care in the World

On Sunday I experienced a part of the American dream, even though it started as a nightmare. I’d been without some much needed medication for about a week. Then the problems began to show up: headache, dizziness, problems with my sight------and then the grandmother of all headaches and a toothache to go with it. I called them the “unholy trinity.”

It felt like there was one little guy in my upper left temple with an ice pick trying to cut his way out, and one on my upper left jaw and the other on my lower left jaw cutting themselves in with jack hammers. The pain was excruciating. The problem was compounded by the fact that this pain never showed up when I was with others: it happened only when I was all alone.

All this changed Sunday after church. My wife and I have just come home. I had to pick up my medicine. I took it for the first time in eight days. So I think I am fine. I sit down behind my desk, turn on the computer to do some work, and boom, it hits me. My head feels like it’s about to come off. My left jaw both upper and lower, are going crazy! The throbbing hurts as much as the actual pain. I walk into the room adjacent to my office with my head up as far as I could lift it (which wasn’t very far) and say to my wife, “Honey, that pain is back and I need to go to the hospital.”

Cynthia, (my wife) immediately notices that something is different about me. She cuts her conversation short with Jeffery, my son-in-law, and tells him to come and take me to the hospital, immediately. By now the pain is so great that it is closing my left eye. I am listing to one side like a sinking ship. En route to the hospital the “unholy trinity” is working me over but good. I am two steps from wishing myself dead. I want anything that will stop this pain.

I don’t know if I lost my hearing en route to the hospital or if I was just in so much pain that I cannot remember what my wife and son-in-law were saying. After stumbling into Jeffrey’s SUV, my next memory is being helped into a wheel chair by a tall man who was asking me to squeeze his fingers. By now my balance is gone, even in the wheel chair. I am leaning to my left side, and both light and sound on that side bring great discomfort.

We are rushing now. Wife and I are fumbling with the wallet, trying to get my medical card out; my driver’s license. We rush down the hall. I can hear voices now. Nurses, I hope, giving orders. I cry out like I have been hit in the head with a baseball bat: A great jolt of pain. There is just a hint of a sense that this might be the end.

Then someone says, “Take his clothes off and put him on that bed.” Then I hear, “Can you stand up?” I answer, “Yes.” In fact I want to wax eloquent and tell the nurses and doctors every minute detail of what happen and how it happen, but I can’t. My speech is not gone. It’s simply impeded by the pain. Every time I attempt to speak the triplets go to work. I am hurting in places that I did not know I had. My clothes come off. I am in the hospital gown. The nurses start the I-V’s and my blood pressure begins to come down. The top number was over 200 and the bottom number was over 100. Whew!

A team of nurses are working on me now. They all seemed to be saying the same thing: “I am gonna stick you here for this. This is gonna make your so and so do such and such.” As my pressure began to come down, I was able to distinguish one gentle voice out of about five or six people. I could hear this really gentle and soothing voice. She said, “I am Dr. So and So.” (Who hears names when your pain is off the Richter scale?)

“I want you to open your eyes so I can give you some tests,” she said. I opened my eyes. As my eyes followed her finger I realized that the pain was gone. “The pain had gone! Oh, my God, the awful pain was g-o-n-e!!!” She made me follow her finger with my eyes, and then she did a dexterity test for my reflexes. I had not had a stroke. Good! A few more test: Read the EKG. Do the CAT scan. Brain, heart, lungs, liver seem to be O.K.

“I interrupt this program to announce to that The Kid is not dead, and any rumors of my impending demise have been greatly exaggerated! We will now return you to your local stations” (smile).

This doctor took her time and figured out what my problem was and treated it. I went to the hospital thinking that I was having a stroke. This wonderful doctor discovered that my problem was twofold: I was off my blood pressure medication and I had a tooth ache in an left molar that needed to be extracted and replaced. The doctor explained to me that the two problems were driving each other. When the tooth pain kicked in it made my pressure rise, and when my blood pressure rose it made my tooth hurt. A vicious cycle!

I was impressed by what this doctor and her team did, but I was also impressed by what they did not do. I was not shoved into a corner and left to rot in pain. I was not tied up in red tape at the registration desk. I was not screamed at like a naughty child by his teacher caught in a school yard fight. The nurses who waited on me acted as if I was a real person: they asked me questions and responded to what I said. The doctor who treated me made me think that my getting better was the most important thing to her, not when the shift would change.

I have never in my life been treated as kindly, as professionally, and with as much grace and human dignity as I received at this hospital. Every person in America, every person in the world should get this kind of treatment, especially when they are sick. When you are sick and you don’t know what’s going to happen to you next, you get scared. This Doctor calmed my fears. Dr. Soni K. Clubb on Sunday afternoon, September 28, 2008, you kept your oath: you did no harm, and you brought me great relief from suffering. Thank you!

Every person whom I encountered at the University of Connecticut John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Connecticut, and every person who worked along side Dr. Soni K. Clubb, especially Diana, and Dr. Dolce Durate exemplified the absolute best in healthcare. Whatever Congress does with healthcare for every American, I hope it resembles Dr. Clubb’s team, their grace, patience and excellence, and their professionalism.

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