There’s much talk these days about what’s wrong with this country. In reality, this talk is no more different than what has gone on in generations past. It may feel different because of the world we live and experience now. The issues are different, but problems will always exist. That being the case, while reluctant to enter the major forays happening in our country today, I was exposed to an issue I wasn’t aware of until recently – the state of health of our citizens.
Observations on Our Health Care System
You may have read an earlier post about how we’ve (my wife and me) been the responsible parties for my 92-year-old mother-in-law, Rose. A little more than a week ago Rose had an attack of pain we couldn’t ignore. It required a visit to the hospital emergency room. The compassion and care provided by our hospital impressed me. Emergency Rooms are like the DMV, much waiting and lots of forms to fill out. For Rose, the doctors discovered the problem and were very helpful.
This will likely sound dispassionate. The many people who filled the Waiting Room didn’t look all that sick. Not for what I remember about Emergency Rooms years ago. No one was holding a bloody bandage or was grasping their chest. Yes, I’m no doctor. Sitting and listening for an hour amongst the patients, I got the feeling many were there for simple procedures. In fact, the hospital had two physician assistants seeing patients. The complaints were for symptoms of the cold that’s going around, blood sugar, and digestive issues. (By the way, I found my way to the only open seat in the waiting room. The chair, near the PA’s curtained office, offered patients minimal privacy. I was trying to read my book, but the conversations were far more compelling. And, while I know it’s rude to listen in, I couldn’t help it.)
At this point in our adventure, I was happy to see people getting access to the medical care they needed. I remember my Mom dealing with 5 kids under 12 having the measles all at the same time. And once, while fighting a fever, Mom dunked me in ice cold bath water as the last resort before going to the doctor. We could not afford the cost of medical expenses 50 years ago. (It did break the fever.)
From Emergency Room to Hospital Room
Back in the stalls of the Emergency Room were the more serious cases. A few more hours sitting with Rose here and it was easily observed these patients behind the waiting room door were in need of and getting quality medical care. The doctor determined Rose had a serious case of pancreatitis due to gallstones blocking ducts. The necessary course of action required a hospital stay. Later, a consult with the surgeon and eventual removal of the offending gallbladder was the future plan for Rose.
Rose shared a room during her stay with a number of patients. The staff could not have been more accommodating. She was not allowed to eat for the first 3 days but was given every other comfort. During this time we listened as her roommate requested an “Apple Crisp” at 8 o’clock at night and became increasingly agitated as it never arrived. Later, a different roommate requested “Chicken Strips” from the kitchen at 11 PM.
The Big Eye-Opener
The hospital stay was tough on Rose and us. Her memory is not that good anymore. We made it through and, at discharge, were given prescriptions to be filled. While my wife cared for Rose at her home, I went to pick up the meds.
At the local CVS, I waited dutifully in line with others as we waited for our prescriptions. As I got closer to the counter, the customer two places in front of me met the clerk. She made her request. The clerk turned around and began looking for the prescription packets. The wall was 20-foot long and had at least 4 shelves. It had to have had hundreds of prescriptions ready for pick up. Then, there was a center section with even more prescription bags.
I stood in line and pondered how many drug stores and pharmacies were in my town. I imagined they all had a similar amount of prescriptions. The image in my mind of the number of drugs taken in the country stunned me.
Someone is Letting Someone Down
This can’t be the way it’s meant to be. I appreciate all the miracles of modern medicine, but really, are all these drugs necessary? With heightened awareness now, I see I missed the signals. A pharmacist friend on Facebook posted this: FACT: ” No other developed country is as devoted to the poppy as America. We consume 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone and 81 percent of its oxycodone. We use an estimated 30 times more opioids than is medically necessary for a population our size.” As I sat down to continue writing this post I saw this on my LinkedIn feed: Opioid overdoses increased 30% between June 2016 and September 2017, according to the CDC.
Some might say it’s “Big Pharma” (whatever that is), but I see it more as an abandonment of people to take charge of their own health. I don’t see the situation changing until the system gets so overloaded that people get fed up and determine to take better care of themselves. That will eventually be the easier route to take.