(A guest piece, here at the razor-thin end of Miserable Annals' guest-blogger April, by Mike Norton)
[Note: Written and submitted at the last minute and probably anti-climactic after the other contributions, this isn't a piece I've been struggling with as the month rolled on. It came to mind during the course of this weekend. So, indolence and circumstance make the last guest-spot of the month likely the least auspicious and most likely to include a dropped letter or even word, but all of that's more to my detriment than anyone else. Sorry, no refunds for the time lost reading it. Hopefully none of this makes me a terrible guest.]
I've been wondering if we're in some unspoken competition.
"We", at the moment, being Crypt Leak, Abbygal and me, though I we're all doomed to join in the race in some way at some time.
See, as we headed toward the weekend - the three of us having lunch together at a nearby restaurant on Thursday - the topic of parental health issues was on the agenda. Abbygal was going to be with her parents since her father (a man worthy of at least one entry to himself, though I know him almost entirely anecdotally, but it's not my place in the world to write much about The Rev) was going in to have a shunt installed due to an enlarging aortal aneurysm. Meanwhile, Cryptleak was heading back to his mom's place to help take up some of the burden from his brother who's much more local and been helping their mother -- who just recently took a spill down some steps and ended up with a compression fracture in a lower vertebra. No fun stuff there.
I, on the other hand, was planning on a more relaxed weekend, including going back to visit my mom on Saturday, take her out to lunch and to get some shopping done. She's looking to get some new curtains, so I was going to take measurements and we'd take care of it in the course of the day. I called her Saturday morning to reconfirm when Nick (the younger of my sons) and I would be heading her way.
About 40 minutes later the phone rang. It was mom, calling me to tell me she though the plans were off because she'd fallen and thought she'd broken her leg. She couldn't move it and she was in a lot of pain. That's my mom for you, though, more immediately concerned that I not waste time running out that way than, well, with calling a friggin' ambulance.
Call the ambulance, mom.
And, so, then she did.
My brother was there, and while he's been an asset to her in some ways in others, well, that's another piece likely never to be written, but it's fortunately not terribly germane to this piece.
I'm a good 40 minutes away, so I caught up with them at the ER, where the elder of my two sisters - who's also an RN, though working these days at a different hospital, was also already there. Cindy's one of the nicest people one could ever hope to meet, and in many ways is an inspiration -- another subject for another piece, and one I might eventually get to. I will note - though it's not important to any of the rest of this piece, that Cindy is a mother of seven, who is eight years older than me and began her work & academic career down the E.R. path seven years ago. (Hmmm. Maybe that "inspirational" was a more loaded term for me than I realized.)
Accelerate through the day and the triage tangle. Finally there's an X-ray and a prognosis: Fractured femur, high, towards the "neck" of the bone. Admitted. Before the evening's out surgery is scheduled for the following morning. Hip replacement -- they're not going to try to repair the bone that high up in a patient in her mid-seventies.
The surgery was this morning, and she was resting comfortably when Travis (older son) and I visited this afternoon. Tomorrow the plan for recovery - the whens and wheres - will be mapped out. (I'm trying not to focus on how the hip that was replaced is on the leg where she's been having knee problems, so recovery's going to be... a challenge.)
What all of this is bringing to mind is that, at least in the circle of us three, that we're each, undoubtedly, wondering at some point is how much of our own futures are we looking at thirty odd years down the line?
Certainly, thoughts of doing what we can to avoid perceived pitfalls each parent may have taken along the way are sound. There's nothing like having the child/parent roles reversed, with the wrong one looking bewildered and shaken, to scare the shit out of a person. No, no, no... I'm the kid here, remember? We had a deal, right?
So, yeah, one good thing is if this gets me to take better care of myself. Something else to think about -- but don't take too long, boyo! It's later than ye think!
Still, I wonder what we have to look forward to thirty to forty years hence - forgiving my brobdignagian presumption, of course - with what jokingly passes for healthcare here in the U.S.A. Oh, make no mistake, I'm not knocking the tech -- most of which is excellent and getting better by the day it seems - but I'm wondering mostly about the healthcare system, most pointedly as in the costs.
Oh, we can hope that the great demographic hump that is The Baby Boomers (the result of some wartime and post-wartime humps of a different sort) will prove to be such a magificently potent voting bloc that substantial changes will soon come to keep us from being written off and placed at the curbside as we reach what we, increasingly sarcastically, have called The Golden Years. Hope that no effort will be spared and no check of solvency and credit will be a factor in deciding treatment. Still, such hopes are more rightly termed wishes, and I suspect shares of WishCo (and, no, I don't mean her) aren't doing as well as Pfizer's.
It's such a huge task, I'll admit, but we have to get behind something. We have to bring accountability and a prioritization to government. We cannot continue to accept the word of paid pundits when it comes to the feasibility of universal healthcare for U.S. citizens. If money and resources can be found to send men and women off to kill and be killed for a raft of shit - for a list of lies offered like cards from the hand of a cheap magician (Pick a card! Any will do!) - then we can find it for a future with healthcare with dignity.
We cannot continue to allow people who are connected to almost limitless amounts of money speak to the mass of the american public and sell them a bill of goods they cannot afford. Lying, connivers who will smile and tell you "It's your money! We're trying to let you make choices the buy the healthcare that's right for you!" Listening to this from some callous, pompous prick who plays up a public image of being a good ol' boy - a hardworkin' everyman... who's had his every failure bailed out by the money of others... and here we are, in 2006... and guess what? Not only are we paying for more of his failures, our parents, children and very possibly grandchildren are, too.
I'm running afield of the healthcare focus, and for that I apologize, but after the "solutions" pushed through for Medicare last year it was inevitable that it come around to the current administration.
This year is an important mid-term election. We're the electorate. We can decide what the issues are. No, really, we can. We just have to push hard enough, to shout the messages loudly enough.
Do what the damned politicians have been doing for the past six years - in some respects what they've been doing forever, but it's become a high art in the past five: Scare people. Scare them with a future in which they're not merely old, but sick and told in not so few words that it's in their best interests to just go make their peace with God and decrease the surplus population. How can we miss? We have something real to scare people with. Look how far they've come with imaginary hobgoblins about how a third-rate dictatorship that'd been bombed back nearly to the stone age was an imminent threat to us?
For now, do some research on who's up for re-election in your state and who's running against them. If you don't know their records, then do some digging.
Next, start to look into organizations who have already made national healthcare their central issue. (Note: I've yet to carefully sift through the following, so don't take any of these as a specific endorsement. That's yet to be determined.) Physicians For A National Health Program is one possibility. Healthcare NOW! is another, each of them pushing for a single payer system of some sort. As you find other, better sources, please let me know.
Do some searches and start digging. Pull up what's offered as fact and compare it with what's being presented by other groups. You get plenty of junk email, why not get on some mailing lists that might be helpful?
Don't be dissuaded -- many special interests are involved, and those in opposition to upsetting the highly lucrative health insurance system in place are sparing no effort in making the case for change seem hopeless. It's not. We don't have to turn on each other in a mad scramble. We're not rats. Don't allow yourself to be turned into one.
Once you feel you've gotten a handle on the issue, go back to the list of candidates and write letters to those in the race. Let them know you won't be mollified with hollow promises, and if they have any sort of record on the issue find it. We're part of the most amazing information-sharing era mankind's ever seen, the growing challenge is to make sure that the information one's gotten hold of is factual. It can be a challenge, because juicy and/or simple lies often proliferate far faster than the truth, but not only is finding out worth the effort, it's a matter of Life, Death and human dignity.
We're all in the Running of the Grey, even if some try to hide it under hair coloring kits. Hiding it's fine, but this isn't a race one can bow out of -- well, aside from dying. No pun intended.