Saline: A Comment on Private Healthcare

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to: —–

date: Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 4:15 PM

subject: Saline


Sitting in the ICU and completely unable to work because of the utter bullshit that has been the last twenty-four hours. The runaround my family has gotten only proves to me that healthcare reform is absolutely necessary, especially as it plays out here, at home.

My dad went to Urgent Care sometime in the late afternoon, when due to searing pain in his stomach he could not talk or walk. They ran the normal tests, including an EKG — which monitors heart activity. It turned out that the battery in the EKG machine was dying, and producing strange charts so my dad was rushed to the ER.

At this point, my dad had repeatedly told his providers that his stomach hurt and not his chest; but to no avail. There was a flurry of activity in the ER when suddenly three sheriffs, an EMT, and some other miscellaneously frightening people descended upon my dad’s ER bed. My mom, repeated to me in Korean that my dad had stomach pain.

“Where are you taking him?”
“He’s being transferred to a different hospital outside our network.”
“Your father is having an acute heart attack.”
“But he has stomach pains.”
“Some people come in thinking they have stomach pains and it ends up being a heart attack.”
“But he’s had three…”
“Do you want your dad to die on this bed?”

I looked at him, the nurse, and my insides turned ice cold. I wanted to say, I’ve seen him come back to life. Have you nursed your dad back to health? Have you seen the staples in his chest? The fucking wires? Have you felt the weak pulse of your father’s hand as he grabs you to ask you to take his pain away? Who the fuck do you think you are? But I told myself that I am not a physician and said,

“No. I’ll sign anything. Do what you need.”

They mounted my dad on a gurney and my mom followed, a little blindly. She had been wandering out in the corridor and I had to say sternly to her: “Go, be there. He needs you. Right now.” They left in an ambulance. I tailed them in my car and finally called my brother. He needed to know. This would be his fourth heart attack. I hung up the phone, and took several deep breaths. It was close to midnight.

My dad arrived at the cardiovascular unit, where there were more x-rays and tests — I swear my dad gave a pint of his blood yesterday, was quickly put under and sent to the operating room.

A couple of hours later, the doctor emerged, completely confused. “Your dad’s heart is fine. There is no heart attack.”

And the first thought I had was, well yeah. If he was in cardiac fucking arrest, he would have died on your clock. It took you six fucking hours to get him to an OR, you goddamn lucky sons of bitches.

And now, we await more tests.

What is life?

And I’m so upset to be missing Dave Min’s townhall. I might go anyway to get away from saline bags and inhaling the news… what are you doing tonight?


Sent from my phone

At the end of August, my father went to the neighborhood urgent care for stomach pains and was rushed through five different hospital beds like a hot potato only to be misdiagnosed as we signed off on God only knows what to free each misdiagnosing unit of financial and legal liability, just in case my father died in their bed. The rules were essentially, “Consent, and we’ll let him go to the next bed where they can figure out what the hell is going on.” Okay, so I get it. It’s hard to do your job. Let’s chalk that fucking crazy night up to clinical due diligence, however medically, legally, culturally, and socially incompetent.

But after I sent the above femail, my father spent a whole week in the wrong ICU. Why were we there? Various professionals from nurses to cardiologists to risk management specialists arrived at my father’s bed. The cardiologist confirmed that this was a medical emergency outside of his expertise and that he could not release my father unless against medical advice. A nurse then said that my father had to be transferred back to the first hospital to be seen by an internist because their hospital didn’t have a GI contract with our hospital, or in other words, the service fell back in network. A day later, another nurse apologized saying they had forgotten about him. Questions arose about who would pay for my dad’s now exorbitantly expensive cardiac-ICU bed and about our insurance policies. Meanwhile, my dad waited patiently night after night listening to the moans and screams of neighboring patients being carted in and out for open heart surgery. He couldn’t sleep knowing the pain they experienced. A nurse gave him sleeping pills. He had fallen through the cracks of our hospital’s referral system. 

My father had come in for intense stomach pains that prevented him from being able to speak or eat, an emergency that was confirmed as such by urgent care, the ER, cath lab, and not to mention all the doctors in between. But the hospitals did not find him an appropriate bed or a proper doctor. For days. They’re all just lucky that my father’s made of steel. 

Since when did patient care stop being about patient care?

Feature Photo by Stephen Shore. Room 509, Dnipro Hotel, Kiev, Kyivska Province, Ukraine, July 18, 2012 (on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York).


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