Friday, October 17, 2014

Gallbladders, Healthcare, and Hospitals - Surveying the Situation

Hello Again.

I have not posted in a long while.  I could blame poor health (more on that in a bit), a busy life, writer’s block, and on and on.  Instead, I will admit to an intellectual laziness brought on by wondering if anyone is really out there.

But, when I began writing a facebook post this morning (let’s be honest – the epitome of intellectual laziness) it became so impassioned, I had to write it here instead.

Ten days ago, I had a cholecystectomy or gallbladder removal surgery.  This came after literally 20 years of stomach issues off and on.  In the 6 weeks leading up to it when the troubles peaked, I had a rather dramatic weight loss and some even more dramatic evenings spent playing “Is It Worthy of the ER?” with concerned family members.

I will spare you the more boring details, because the point I want to make is not about this particular extremely common procedure.   It’s actually about the recent changes being made to healthcare delivery in this country, and how we have more control and responsibility than ever.

Forget that I probably spent decades with unnecessary discomfort.  I am taking responsibility for that because I didn’t push doctors hard enough, articulate my symptoms well enough, or take MYSELF seriously enough to see that I got answers.  So many avoidable things can occur because of our cultural need to “not be a pain in the ass”.

Doctors work for YOU - so treat each malady as though you are the supervisor.  But, as with all power, there is great responsibility, Grasshopper.

For starters, please read (or reread) my earlier post about your role in your communicating your health.  It rings more true to me than ever – even though I myself fell short!

Another VERY important point is about the new accountability factor for healthcare workers.  Medicine is one of the only industries I can think of where employees (everyone from the desk clerk to the surgeon), are not paid according to their performance as perceived by patients.  We have now been offered a chance to weigh in on our experiences as a patient, which will have a DIRECT effect on how much insurers pay those doctors and their staff.

I just took in the mail, and in it was a Same Day Surgery Survey from Hinsdale Hospital where I had my operation 10 days ago.  It would be easy enough to throw it away, but that would be akin to not voting, and then bitching about who became President (and we all know THOSE people.  Ahem)

Look.  Hospitals are a business.  Let’s help them be successful by doing our part in the process.  It matters and here are the major points to the individual as I see them.

-The future of insurance payments appears to also be dependent to some degree on how well you have taken care of yourself.  Obesity and smoking, for example, are going to affect how much of your portion is paid for.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

-Tell your doctor everything.  Provide information to the best of your ability, always. 

-In turn, expect a responsive, caring and tenacious effort to answer your concerns.

-Fill out ALL feedback surveys you receive.  This newly implemented step, over time, will greatly influence which doctors, nurses and other workers remain successfully in medicine.

Let me close by saying, as surgeries go, I had a pleasant as possible experience with an excellent outcome.  My team is getting two thumbs up.  But if it had gone another way, believe me they’d have heard about it.

As always, I am open to your comments and any experiences you might like to share.

Stay well.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

So You Like Marijuana. Where Do We Go From Here?

So You Like Marijuana – Where Do We Go From Here?
The first few dominoes have fallen, and it’s a done deal.  Within a few years, most states will legalize marijuana use for all.  As expected, the general reaction seems positive from liberals and the right is eerily quiet.  Whenever that happens, I usually like to follow the trail of money. There will surely be tax money to be had from smoke dens being legitimized.  Ostensibly, it sounds great.  We could all use the money to put toward infrastructure. Sort of like legalized gambling in Illinois really gave education a boost.  Remember that?
Let’s explore some of the other short-sighted top arguments for pot legalization. 
-If it’s legal for medical use, it must be good for everyone. 
I am 1000% for medical marijuana applications.  Those prescriptions should be written with great frequency in all states.  It’s cheap and it eases suffering of many varieties.  If you are not a person with a devastating diagnosis, however, you have to ask yourself why you want to be “altered” in a social setting. Do you really need the same side effects as someone undergoing cancer treatments, or in chronic pain?  How sad.
Also, from a healthcare standpoint, the documented carcinogenic effects of pot use rival cigarettes.  We just got all that smoke out of public places!  Oh well, I guess when you’re sick you can simply get more stoned.  Don’t even get me started on the people who will be driving with impaired reflexes.  No.  That part won’t be legal, but neither is driving under the influence of alcohol.  Note to self:  Start group called MAWD (Mother’s Against Wasted Driving).  We can use the theme song from the old TV show “Maude”.
-Well, I know a lot of people who drink too much, and alcohol is still legal.  Prohibition didn’t work!
Yes, we all have seen the devastating effects of alcohol in our own family, others, or perhaps in ourselves.  We tried once to put the genie back in the bottle in 1920, and it didn’t take.  As I see it, pot is just another genie.  If addiction is a problem (and it’s a HUGE problem), why encourage another vehicle with which to foster addiction?  If you are a distinctly non-addictive personality as I am, know that you are lucky to have a choice in these matters.  If you have a young person in your life deciding on a career, suggest depression and addiction counseling.  Consider that like a hot stock tip.
-It has worked for years in Amsterdam.
Yes, Amsterdam has a red light district that has successfully operated in a contained area for a very long time.  It also largely panders to tourists.  You have to ask yourself why the bulk of Europe does not join in.  Also, the population of Amsterdam is about 800,000 – most of who share a common language and culture.  It’s not an apples to apples comparison.  We have too many moving parts in this country to predict the outcome of introducing drugstores.
-But everyone is already doing it.
First of all, no they’re not.  Would you say that to your own 10 year old child?  Is Grandma wasted at her birthday dinner?  Does the teacher show up to a PTA meeting feeling small?  Do you bump into your neighbor the policeman stoned to the “bejesus belt” in his off time?  These things will all be perfectly legal.  And while they may not come to pass for many years, it is my contention that they will eventually.  We are human, and Mother Nature will always win.
These are but a few of the arguments I take issue with regarding pot legalization in this country.  I’m not indignant.  I’m concerned.  I am unable to find the long term common good in this particular exercise of civil liberty.  If you separate yourself from your own personal experience and views, I defy you to find the silver lining or logic.  Let’s use gay marriage as a template.  Regardless of your religious or xenophobic viewpoints, a compelling case for the fact that it is good for society can be made.  More stable families to adopt babies and better healthcare for married people being just two in a long list. Far from being just the decent and fair thing for individuals, it makes sense for all of us. 
Thank you for letting me get this off of my chest.  If you have any semi-compelling rebuttal I will be VERY happy to hear it.  You can’t imagine how much I want to be wrong.
I’m scared.  Hold me.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wishing You An Enlightened and Gentle New Year

Maybe it’s because of the 4:00 AM hour (or the fact that I notoriously take January 1st too seriously), but this struck me as brilliant. 
The very best of everything is wished you, as we all say.   But when the hardship comes, know that we all share in it.
Pass it on.