Sunday, March 21

So, I spent my Spring Break in the ICU.

Sorry I've been MIA. I was on spring break. One of the most emotional Spring Breaks of my life. And since Katie Dee set the tone with her impeccable trans-Atlantic blogging, I wanted to continue to focus on what our government is trying to change this weekend. The health care system. I know it needs a change. I think everyone knows that. Even the people it took forever to convince. Maybe Obama's plan isn't the perfect one. Yeah I get that. But I do know, especially after this weekend, especially after watching Keith's rant (Praise Keith), that our health care system needs some kind of change. And since that's what got Obama elected, his promise for change, let's let the man do what him and his team have been trying to do since he was elected. It's not my fault republicans can't handle change. And again, I know this isn't the pinnacle of impartial journalism. Did we ever claim we were impartial, Dorothy Anne, did we? No.

This is in part a rant on how the hospital system works, how the doctors are unavailable when you need them, how pharmacies make pills to fix a system and make money; and, part a Feminine Friday Tribute to Intensive Care nurses slash my favorite nurses from this week. Background info: My BFFAEAE was hospitalized for going on 12 days. 6 of those spent in the ICU. She's basically a mutant and all you need to know is if you ever see her fall and cut herself, call an ambulance right away. The girl is going to be on some kind of blood thinner for the rest of her life. Coumadin. Which Boy Roommate's Momma called "rat poison." The phrase "major bummer" cannot begin to describe the situation but is the only one I can think of because it's concise enough.

The ICU staff at the hospital was amazing. They allowed us to break every rule except for the small child and animal rule. Team BFFAEAE consisted of about 6 people rotating their presence with one constant, SuperBoyfriend. Nurse Tara was outstanding. She worked around us taking up too much space in the room, but understood that the 20 year old with tubes all over her body needed and wanted her crew there. She complained not once about how needy we were, even though I'm sure we weren't that needy. Just emotional. We owned that ICU to the point of planning a cout de etat.

It's this sensitivity of the nursing staff that the current health care system does not incorporate. It does not take into account the people it serves, just the people who serve. If we needed a doctor, we would have to wait until their schedule was free and that generally happened at the end of the day, because when they came by to actually talk to the patient, it was at 8am while she was just waking up and loopy and alone and realizing she was still in the ICU with a tube up her nose. Try and ask questions and absorb information in that state. The nurses however, took the time to find out information for us, to translate what the doctor was saying into words we could actually understand, and really took into account what the patient needed.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I may not be the most educated on the details of Obama's health care bill, and my response to the hospital may be highly emotional and biased. But, I do know that the way the system works now, the fact that the "minions" for the doctor, the people the patient and family most see are so under-appreciated and that the system currently encourages that. The pills BFFAEAE are going to be on for the rest of her life, and the people who make them do not take into account that there is a life being lived attached to this pill. So yeah, the medicine fixes the system, the mechanics of the human body, but the side effects on the life the system lives are unreal. And they are not taken into account.

The change we need is to flip the system so that it works for the people and not for the doctors and insurance companies who currently run it. Why does the medical community operate under the Capitalism Oath instead of the Hippocratic Oath?

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  1. I would disagree that the Hippocratic Oath has to be separate from a Capitalistic approach. It cannot be helped that the medical community need money to do what they do - which is to treat people. Doctors are hardly all to blame here. In fact, doctors act as economic price-takers, meaning that it's really the government and health insurance providers that is setting the price at which everything is exchanged.
    I'm very doubtful that the proposed health care reform will critically change the way hospitals function, which seems to be your main issue.

    This situation you described, which is certainly heartbreakingly terrible, and undoubtedly happens far too often, does not represent all American hospitals. Not all doctors are soul-less and not all nurses are angels-in-disguise. Nurses are overworked and doctor-patient contact is limited, however, because hospitals are strapped for cash. Tradeoffs and cut backs happen as result. While I'm a BIG proponent for health care reform, I'm wondering how you think this current bill will change this? If anything, this problem might be exacerbated. Like universal healthcare in the UK, Canada, and Germany, ours too will face budget constrain. Because more people are covered, there are services that are going to become infeasible to provide because the benefit to the few is going to be overshadowed by the cost to many paying in to the system. In this sense, the cold impersonal won't really go away.

    Also, is there really anything wrong with trying to make as much money as possible (as long as it doesn't do others harm)? I mean, the business of saving lives is still a business after all. The incentive of pharmaceutical companies to research and make life-saving drugs is the monetary gain. There is a huge cost associated with hiring scientists and chemists and the time and money they pour into investigating new drugs, many of which will never make it to the market. To remain competitive, companies do have to try to make as much money as possible from the few drugs that will work, you know?


  2. I agree. And I do admit that I am not educated enough on the new health care bill and the system itself. But from my experience, it seems that the people get lost in the system. I guess I just expect too much from people, especially employees of the hospital. If you're having a bad day, the patient is probably having a worse one. They're in a hospital. So every person in a bed or with a wrist band deserves the best from their caregiver. I guess that was my point.

    Thanks Alyssa, for the most epic comment ever. This is why we write this blog.