Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sorry That I Have Been Off The Grid For So Long

A little bout of serious pneumonia can do that to a person. Actually, it landed me in the hospital for three weeks and if I hadn't had intervention from a loved one (he personally saved my life) and some total strangers, I wouldn't be writing this today. Ultimately, I ended up getting a nice 6+ inch scar from the lung operation and I learned some lessons about randomness.

#1 My survival was an utterly random event. If I had been in other circumstances, I would be dead right now. This comes down to the timing of a professional hockey game among other things.

#2 The random selection of the University Hospital (University Hospital/New Jersey Medical School in Newark, NJ, a teaching hospital which is part of UMDNJ) saved my life (Team A.) Forget about the so-called emergency-room triage or insurance forms and the like...within 30 minutes after the crash cart hit the ER, I was already diagnosed and getting turned upside down. I'll have more about this fabulous institution in a little bit.

#3 It's where you fall that matters. I happened to collapse at Newark Penn Station. If I had been waiting by the tracks I may well have been on the tracks. Luckily for me, I broke down in front of a transit policeman in the main lobby who courageously refused to stuff me onto the next train to NYC and instead called EMT.

I also came to a few personal conclusions about the medical establishment.

University Hospital is a first-rate health care facility. They did everything in their power (and then some) to keep me afloat. Even the food was very good, although after 3 weeks, you might eventually get bored with the fare at Le Bec Fin in Philly.

Unfortunately I need to omit names here, but candidly, I cannot express how deeply I appreciate the treatment I received at University Hospital. They were exquisitely competent, and the "doctors-in-training" always seemed to be more than up to the task their mentors set for them. They tried like hell to accomplish their objectives without invasive surgery and worked for days trying to clear my lungs with techniques so novel that they really don't have an official name yet. When it became clear that I needed to be cut, the surgeon was so skilled that I sit here today, weeks later, and I haven't ever needed to take a pain pill except for the knee cap that I injured a little more than a week ago. As much as can be expected, the support staff, including nurses and assistants were helpful and caring. Finally, they put up with me and if you know me, you will acknowledge that that alone is a meaningful task. I am recovering, and I am happy that I am still around and able to write this.

So now I come to some conclusions about the medical establishment. The problem we face in this country and others, from my perspective, certainly is not the practitioner's fault. Once it used to be prestigious and perhaps lucrative to be a doctor. Now it seems to me, it is an unending, thankless sentence. God knows why all these young people want to pursue it and thank God that they do.

Nor do I think that the problem is with the infrastructure providers (hospitals et al.) Yes, drugs cost a lot but so does drug research. I spent days getting medicine without which the doctors would be powerless. If there is a bad hospital, then so be it; it should be closed or merged with a wonderful operation like University Hospital. There certainly are ways to measure a good hospital from a bad one...don't let anyone kid you about that.

The problem I believe is there is fraud, bureaucracy, waste and corruption in the system. Yet even with these built-in faults, an institution like University Hospital manages to deliver exceptional service and they revel in the fact that I am somebody who actually left the place alive; which means that they have the even more dubious distinction of having to treat terminally ill people...I personally wouldn't be able to do would disturb me greatly.

I had only one roommate when I was at University Hospital and in watching him I learned about myself...he was much sicker than me and even at best, he would not be as much alive. Having seen that I would love to tell you that I treasure life so much more, but that would not be true...I now see life as an opportunity and not as a condition. If I can't do something that makes life worthwhile beyond my own being, then why bother? The overhead simply, using my calculus, doesn't make it worthwhile.

In any event, I now owe Governor Corzine a letter (which I will send out directly) expressing these feelings because University Hospital and the entire NJ medical system is facing huge and undeserved budget letter won't make a big difference but a thousand might so please climb on board if you can.

And please be careful what you wish for...if you were looking for my next post you just got it!


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