Information and Misinformation: Will Reality Please Stand Up?
October 19, 2010
Healthcare is now the beaten step-child of these mid-term elections. Setting aside any biases or political opinions, one can look at this situation and know that the people who are up in arms about any changes to the current health care system are those who either have great insurance and a good job, or who have never been sick enough to qualify for a trip to the ER or an overnight stay in their local hospital. Those of us who have had experiences in the hospital could spend months talking about what happened that we did not expect; what was most breath-taking about the nurse who really did care for us; what was most frustrating about the bed, pillows, and food; and what we had to do to just not think about the bill that would follow.
In this time of such great suffering, we still have millions of people who are not suffering. We have those whose suffering and despair has been so much a part of their lives that they are unaware of how else it might be. And, then, those for whom cancer, or MS, or heart disease…or any number of scary conditions…have become real…health care has new meaning. It is this diversity of experience and risk, of life and health conditions, that creates the dilemma and keeps us in it.
The issues of defining, developing, and managing institutional healthcare for a varied and every growing population are hardly simple. That we have tried to reduce the challenge down to money or jobs or profits or anything else..has missed the point totally. Healthcare today is about acute illness; it is about chronic and ultimately life-threatening conditions that, if ignored or untreated, lead to untold and unbearable suffering for individuals and those who love them.
If we turn our attention to our professional healthcare workers…nurses, physicians, nursing assistants, physician’s assistants, admitting clerks, insurance company employees, billing clerks, pharmacists and their technicians, home health aids, hospice and palliative care nurses…and the list is endless… there is not a method by which any of us could live without them. In fact, we so take for granted that they will always be there for us that we neglect to acknowledge what we ask them to do.
My young neighbor just got accepted to nursing school…she is thrilled. She says “I have always wanted to be a nurse” and she will be 21 in February. Many people have told her to “go all the way” and be a doctor. She knows the difference…and really has nursing in her heart…and such a wonderful heart she has. How do we thank her for devoting her not-yet-lived future to taking care of us?
When my Dad took falls…and there were many…the EMT’s would come from the nearest Fire Station, help him up, joke with him, call him by name…and make him feel that there was still a life in him and those who cared. How do we thank them? How do we thank the medical students who today will come out of medical school with a debt worth more than a house? Could we imagine life without them?
And, then there are those who think that healthcare is free. They have jobs and they have no or little co-pays…and just don’t think about it until they lose their job. Nothing is free. It never has been free…even when the doctor got paid with a chicken and a few eggs. There has always been an exchange of some kind of value. The question now is of what value is it to make sure that that child who lives across the street does not get a contagious illness that will spread through her school, into the families of those students, and into our homes? H1N1 virus started with one young child in a Mexican village…who clearly had no health insurance.
Can we afford this?