Choices

Yesterday afternoon, I started feeling rather rotten; another bout of general discomfort similar to the same sensations from recent days, with the addition of pain in my stomach. But yesterday was measurably worse. By the time we were half-way into another episode of Homeland, around 8:30, I felt like trying to eliminate a pain in my gut by sleeping it off. So, I went to bed. I do not know how many times I awoke and got up during the night, but I was awake too often. Even though I watched only part of the episode of Homeland, it made its way into my fitful sleep and dreams. I watched over a Russian spy with whom I had become friendly; our friendship cast a pall over me in the eyes of my spy colleagues. Ultimately, both the dreams and the sleep disappeared into the mist and I got up, sometime around 5:30, nine hours or so after I first got in bed.

I feel better this morning, but not well enough to comfortably make my 7:30 dental appointment, so I called and left a message to cancel. I am sure they hate cancellations so late, but the only other option was to go in and feel miserable in the chair, something I was unwilling to do.  Assuming I feel better as the morning wears on, I’ll go through with my appointment with my oncologist to go over the results of yesterday’s CT scans and, then, will finish my sleep study tonight (wherein I arrive at 10 pm to be fitted with CPAP machinery and monitoring wires, etc. and sleep for at least six hours before returning home).

If I haven’t gone on record before with my feelings about the unpleasantness of healthcare services as we age, let me do so now. It sucks.

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I read an article this morning about a situation in which a Black man, Al Copeland, had a stroke while driving in Boston in April 2019. When police found him slumped over in this car, they assumed he was drunk. Officers claimed they smelled alcohol on him; he had not had a drink since 1995. Even many hours later, when police decided something might be physically wrong with him and took him to the hospital, Copeland did not get immediate care. He sat in the emergency room of Tufts Medical Center for seven more hours, where medical providers also assumed he was drunk. By the time he was treated for his stroke, the damage was done. Copeland and his wife settled with the city of Boston for $1.3 million. Neither the city of Boston nor its police department have reached out to the family; no apology, just a settlement to get the matter behind them and move on.

Maybe a White man would have gotten the same treatment. I doubt it, though. Perhaps if the White man had been wearing dirty clothes and driving an old car, police might have treated him like they treated Al Copeland. But I doubt it. Too often, I think police assume the Black men they encounter are drunk, on drugs, or otherwise are ne’er-do-wells who deserve the dismissive treatment they receive from police officers. In my view, that’s a good reason to reconfigure the services now provided through police agencies; law enforcement and initial emergency responses through the police, with immediate and long-term follow-up provided through social services agencies whose funding is provided by funds redirected from police agencies. That’s not defunding the police; it’s reconfiguring public social service funding. And part of the funding ought to go toward training hospital personnel so they do not ignore patients they assume are drunk and/or do not deserve immediate care.

Racial profiling and its accompanying thousand forms of discrimination is a serious problem that could be fixed if society would recognize it for what it is and commit to changing our culture. So simple a solution, so distant a prospect. The issue, I think, is that we all react to the problem as if we’re engaged in preparing for a fight instead of a preparing for an accord. That’s true of so many social and political problems. We arm ourselves with axes instead of antidotes. For example, my reaction to the article, immediately, was anger. That’s not the route to a solution. If it’s hard for someone like me who really wants a solution, it must be a thousand times harder for someone whose first reaction has to be to defend himself against angry attacks from people like me. We ALL need to change.

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I had a conversation with my my IC yesterday, during which I mentioned that, if we hadn’t come together when we did, I almost certainly would have long since sold my house and moved away from HSV. I might have regretted it—almost certainly would have regretted leaving friends behind—but would have left to attempt to pursue dreams I’ve never had the wherewithal to pursue. That conversation, and my own thoughts about it later, reinforced the realization that we’re always faced with tough choices that leave dreams, or at least pieces of dreams, unfulfilled. And those unfulfilled dreams always leave us with feelings of “what if?” that will plague us forever. What is I had moved to some country acreage? Would I have been able to find friends who are even remotely as compatible with me as those I left behind? Would I ever have found someone I want to live with? Would I recognize what the choice to move forced me to forego? Life’s choices are tough, unavoidable, and probably are more often good choices than bad ones.

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It’s nearing 7:00 and I still don’t feel up to going to the dentist, so I’m glad I made the call. I hope I feel better as the morning goes by. I do, indeed.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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Please talk to me about what I've written. I get lonely when I'm the only one saying anything.

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