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A Short Essay: Back to the Hospital

November 1, 2010

Yes, tomorrow is election day. But I have something else to think about and there is surely a tie-in to the outcome of the elections.

OK: A few of you know that I have chronic heart disease. In 2003 following chest pain and other symptoms, I was diagnosed with 4 clogged arteries and was rushed to Washington Hospital Center — two days later I had open heart surgery — 4 bypass grafts! A year ago  Claudia and I were vacationing in Vermont. After some uphill cycling I started to feel shortness of breath and pressure on my chest. I called my cardiologist back in Maryland and was told to check in at the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Fortunately that was Dartmouth-Hitchcock — a fabulous well run hospital. Diagnosis: one of the bypasses had shut down. The fix: 2 stents. Two days later I was hiking.

Thank God for Health Insurance and Medicare: Collectively these two operations cost on the order of $120,000. My cost: About $500 — not including medications. My point — what if I had no medical insurance. What if I had been denied coverage for the second surgery due to a “pre-existing condition” clause. Medicare prohibits that and so does the new health care reform bill. Don’t worry, this is not a long analysis of the health care legislation and its politics. My point is the importance of a safety net.

Social Security – Safety Net Part 2: The second part of my safety net is the check I get from the Social Security folks the fourth Weds of every month. I’m 67 and definitely don’t have the energy I had a decade ago. I started get my SS payments last year when I reached full retirement age. What a blessing — one that will become increasingly important as I age and especially important for people with medical problems.

Make no mistake about it; Social Security will soon come under attack in the name of deficit reduction and downsizing government. This despite the fact that the system is in fairly good shape for several decades — and according to the experts, will need minor not major revamping to stay solvent. The cries for “privatization” will grow louder — meaning put your faith in AIG, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs — The very guys who screwed everything up and  got trillions in bailouts in return. In contrast, Social Security has never defaulted on its payments since for its 70 years plus history.  We are going to have to fight to keep one of the best run federal programs in our nation’s history Social Security and Medicare. Programs that most of us will surely now or in coming years.

Heart's electrical system; pulse should start at the sinus node, mine doesn't always work; so the backup, AV node kicks in, but it can't always do what's needed. Click to enlarge


Back to the hospital: I was playing tennis the other day and uncharacteristically had to sit down every five or ten minutes to catch my breath. The next morning I woke up and had no energy — didn’t want to get out of bed and certainly didn’t want to drive 180 miles to Tamaqua, Pennsylvania for a business meeting. I felt shaky. I cancelled my trip and called the doctor. He had an opening two hours later.

Dr. Jumani, my long-time cardiologist examines the electrocardiogram. I try to ask questions, but his focus on the chart is intense. He pulls out a micrometer and measures intervals between waves. He looks somewhat pensive. “Yes,” he finally answers, ” its changed since June and not for the better; 95 % probability you’ll need a pace maker.”

A pace maker implant is considered a minor surgery with low risks and generally excellent results. I’ll know more after my “electro-physiological” exam at the Washington Hospital Center Weds Morning.


OK: Back to politics: So just when I was settling in my visit to Washington Hospital Center, I see this headline in today’s Washington Post: “Nurses union reports unsafe understaffing at Washington Hospital Center.” That’s what I call exquisite timing — when I push the nurse call button, I’m more likely to wait a long time — even if my need is urgent. The nurses, now members of the National Nurses United argue that the Washington Hospital Center is putting profit above patients. Many nurses have left due to a reduction in benefits. To read the article in the Post click here. You can also hear and see the nurses tell their own story.

The nurses  are not only standing up from themselves but for patients and the Washington Hospital Center it self — to restore safe service to what has historically been a great hospital with a great reputation.

I’ll report back on my condition and on what I observe at the Washington Hospital Center.

As far as Election Day; hope for the best prepare for the worst.

National Nurses United Rally in Washington


6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 6:26 am

    An excellent commentary on the necessity and efficacy of the social security net provided by the charismatic administration of Theodore Roosevelt to the Americans. It must continue for ever.

  2. Greg Brown permalink
    November 2, 2010 6:10 am

    Best wishes, Hank! You will rehab much faster than our country.

  3. November 1, 2010 10:24 pm

    ALTHOUGH, my very favorite topic above all else is the life and teachings of Jesus, social matters usually cause the things I write about in public to be political / economical issues.

    Believing that Jesus is the Great Physician, this is a very fitting time for me to offer my prayers are for you full recovery; and that God gives the doctors wisdom to address every medical malfunction; and that adequate courteous hospital staff will be on hand for you –as well as all OTHER patients.

    Additionally, in light of what you’ve indicated about conflict within the hospital, I pray that those conflicts become resolved, and people will be able to harmoniously earn livelihoods, as well as serve the needs of patients.

    May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, KEEP your heart and your mind.

    Thanks for emailing me this link.


  4. Carolyn Cole permalink
    November 1, 2010 9:44 pm

    I will be thinking about you. Best of luck with the pacemaker procedure. The world needs you to stay around for a long time… and I know these are the thoughts of people who know you. They are surely mine.


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