I spent the better part of Monday taking care of a long-time family friend who is in the hospital dying. He doesn’t know it yet, but he only has a few weeks to live. That was the sad part. Other than the discomfort of being bed-ridden in a strange place with a host of strangers parading in and out of his room, he seems and sounds fine. (There is nothing more draining than the constant shuffle of doctors, nurses, technicians coming in at all hours poking, prodding and taking your blood, blood pressure and checking to make sure you’ve pissed enough or pissed too much or whatever the hell they are looking for.) A hospital is no place to be sick.
But my story today is not about the patient, at least about the family friend. It is about a doctor who came to the door and who engaged me in conversation about a far sicker patient later in the day. Here’s how it happened.
I’ll call him Dr. Reese. He came by to check on our family friend and he did his share of poking and prodding as they are trained to do and as they are paid to do. He wrote some notes in a chart housed in a metal jacket at the end of the bed and then talked into a small iPhone looking device. He smiled at me and said every little at first. Then he nodded toward the door for me to follow.
“Is he in pain?’ the doctor asked.
I assured him he was not.
“Is he staying awake most of the day?”
I assured him he was not.
“When he is awake, is his conversation succinct, does he know where he is and what is going on?”
I assured him he did. Dr. Reese thanked me and told me that if any pain appeared to immediately let the nurses know and they would provide him a pain reliever. He also said that the patient didn’t sound like he needed a sedative since he was sleeping through the day. With that the White Lab Coat housing Dr. Reese whirled around and started down the hall. “What can we expect?” I asked.
The Dr shrugged and said, “More of the same. “ And he left. Modern science. Just wait it out. It is all we can do at this point.
Later that afternoon I was getting into my car, which is one of the few in Texas with an Obama sticker on the back. Dr. Reese happened to be walking through the same parking lot and saw me and approached me. “Your bumper sticker…”he said. I feared a lecture from a North Dallas Right Wing Millionaire MD. What I got was a surprise. “I like your bumper sticker.”
“Thanks,” I replied, a bit blown away that this guy would pay such respect to a person supporting the “enemy.” After all we have been hearing for months now how the medical practice and its associated field can’t stand Obama and his “socialized” medicine. Obamacare is the scourge of the Earth. “I thought all doctors hated Obama.”
“Can’t say that I was too crazy for his healthcare plan when it came out. But you know what – it is working.” I caught my breath knowing there was a BUT coming. “He promised a lot of good for a lot of people and it is starting to happen. And it is not getting in my way in practicing medicine. In fact, I have been relieved to know that patients I have had who have had previous illnesses – preexisting conditions – are going to be covered. We can cure a lot of people from cancers these days, but to think they might not ever get coverage again because of one bout with it, well that was wrong. He did a lot when he changed that one rule. A whole hell of a lot. Our nation is like a sick patient. He has done a lot to make changes in our health care that will help many, many Americans who never had a chance before. And it will eventually lower all of our costs. It’s a good thing…If…” He paused. “If the Supreme Court doesn’t screw it up.”
“How so?” I asked.
“The only way the insurance companies are going to play fair, is that everybody has to be covered. If the court strikes that down, it is Katy bar the door.”
“You ever met an insurance company you like? I haven’t. And if they get their way, they will screw with this act and drive medicine and hospitals and patent care into the ground in America. It rests with those guys on the Supreme Court.”
“Did you support Obama last time?”
Reese shook his head sadly. “No. I was a McCain fan. Big mistake. Obama is smart and at least he is trying. And he is trying in a horrible economy. That takes balls. Everybody else wants to duck and cover, but he’s out there fighting the fight and I appreciate that. I really do.”
“What about this time?” I asked.
He nodded. “He’s got at least two votes this time. You, and me it looks like.” He shook my hand and walked off.
And suddenly, for the first time in a long time, I felt like Barack Obama might be re-electable. As Dr. Reese got into his Cadillac SUV and rolled off I noticed he had an NRA sticker on the rear window. Yeah, Obama might just squeak through this time.
There is a chance.