Finally, I spoke to a couple of doctors yesterday. One was a hospitalist (I think) whose demeanor was more like a patient care technician; soft-spoken, compassionate, and caring. I thought she came into the room to get water for my wife and ask whether her pillows needed adjustment. But she was the rare physician who engaged fully as an equal. The other was a palliative care physician who, similarly, was an engaging listener and who seemed equally as caring and concerned. Both spent more time with us than I am used to spending with doctors, especially in a hospital setting.
I learned yesterday that my wife’s medical condition has sufficiently stabilized that the doctors think she should be ready for discharge within the next few days; perhaps as early as today or tomorrow, depending on plans for where she will go upon discharge. We were told she will need 24/7 care for the immediate future and, depending on progress, for much longer. After listening to the palliative care doctor speak about options, my wife said she wants to go to a rehabilitation center to try to recover her strength before going home. She will not return to Good Sam; both of us were firm about that. Not knowing much about any other facilities, we opted to ask the social worker to explore a newer (within the last two or three years) facility about ten or twelve miles outside the Village. Like other skilled nursing and rehab facilities, patient visits are not permitted due to COVID-19, but I told my wife I would insist she learn to use an app on her phone that will allow us to see and speak to one another daily. So, we wait until we know more about next steps.
I remain convinced that nursing and rehabilitation facilities, under COVID-19 rules, are being forced to engage in dangerous practices that are injurious to their patients. Those practices keep patients socially isolated and treat them like unruly prisoners forced to spend time in solitary confinement. Some facilities are making what seem to me to be half-hearted efforts to overcome isolation by allowing rather rare “window” visits and video visits, but they are not exploring truly creative ways of allowing patients really meaningful contacts with other human beings.
I remember, years ago, learning about the “boy in the bubble” whose immune system was utterly compromised so he could have no physical contact with other people and who had to be kept in a sterile environment. Paul Simon wrote a song about the child, Boy in the Bubble, in the mid-1980s. As I recall, the hospital/doctors/scientists created a sterile bubble environment that enabled the child to experience at least some of the joys of childhood while being kept safe from harmful germs. Sadly, the boy died before he reached his teenage years, but use of his blood cells led to treatments that saved other children from his sad fate. NASA engineers, I think, were involved in creating the environment that allowed the boy to live an admittedly unnatural but as-close-to-natural experience as possible for several years. Given the horrors of COVID-19 and its impact on the mental health of people who must be kept in isolation, I think the same creativity used to enable the boy to live for years should be brought to bear to protect the sanity and well-being of people in nursing and rehab facilities.
Our country’s culture has changed dramatically since that time, though. That was a time when we took enormous pride in accomplishing the impossible, the costs be damned. Today, it seems to me cost-benefit analyses replace immeasurable compassion in so many aspects of our lives. It’s depressing to think we might dismiss the idea of spending a few million dollars that could improve or save the lives of so many people because “it’s not worth the expenditure.” What a hideous attitude.
My energy this morning is at a low ebb this morning. Regardless, I need to get to the hospital before too long, just in case they sped through the process of rehab placement. And I have to go to the post office soon after it opens, as well. A package I took to the P.O. to “refuse delivery” apparently got put back in the system; I had a notice in my mailbox yesterday that a package from the company was being held at the P.O. because I owe $13+ in postage. Ach! Why aren’t the simple things simpler?!