Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Medicine, Medicare and Miracles

Three weeks ago, a caretaker at the nursing home discovered that the metal pins which had been implanted in John's elbow were protruding from his skin. The doctor there advised us to make an appointment with his orthopedic surgeon immediately.

That night, over Instant Messenger, Trudy and I discussed our plan for the next morning. She was going to ride in the ambulance with John, and I would meet them at the doctor’s office. Trudy wondered whether she should get the nurse to dress John in, “the cute sweats you got him,” for his journey. Then, she mentioned that John had asked her to shave him when she was visiting that night. She told him she couldn’t, but she’d tell the nurse to do it.

ME: Why didn't you just do it with the electric?
TRUDY: It was too late. I was getting tired and I didn't want to drag it out of the box. Besides, I've never used an electric razor before.
ME: It's not difficult.
TRUDY: Did you shave him before?
ME: Yes.
TRUDY: Did you clean the razor afterwards?

Trudy went on to tell me that my Mormon cousin Jenny (daughter of Trudy’s self-effacing Mormon sister Shirley) said she thought this turn of events was actually a blessing. Just as John’s Medicare benefits were running out, a new medical disaster cropped up, so Medicare will kick in again. I told Trudy I thought that was a pretty far reach for a blessing, but she thought the coincidence was, “Unbelievable!” I went on to argue that if John’s further suffering were to be attributed to Divine Intervention, God would have to be a big asshole. To which Trudy replied, “God works in strange ways! Shame on you, Mary! Keep the faith. Your father is at risk. We have to keep all doors open.” I told her that science might be a better door. Always hedging her bets, she wrote, “I said all doors! We are looking for a miracle here!” I reminded her that I was probably the wrong person to discuss this with, and she concluded our online conversation by typing, “You are absolutely right. I don’t know how you became so cynical. Goodbye, Mary!” (TRUDY has gone offline.)

The next day, the orthopedic surgeon determined John would need a skin graft to cover his wound, which had failed to heal properly after the surgery in May. He found another surgeon, who specializes in grafts, to perform the procedure, and John was admitted to the hospital.

This time, John is a patient of USC University Hospital, which is a cut above White Memorial, in my opinion. I would rate it somewhere between Good Samaritan and Cedar Sinai. It’s a teaching hospital, so there are tons of specialists around, they offer valet parking, and there are latte carts out front. They also have satellite television, but unfortunately John can no longer follow, “Jeopardy,” or even, “Everybody Loves Raymond” re-runs, let alone a feature length film.

Once John was tucked into bed, Velvet, the charge nurse, came in to take down some basic information. She asked what medication John has been prescribed, what allergies he has, which insurance will cover his stay, and finally, what religion he practices. Knowing what was coming, I jumped in and firmly stated, “He’s an atheist.” Trudy aimed her special neck twitch in my direction, smiled sweetly at Velvet, and overrode me with, “He’s Catholic.” “Atheist.” “Catholic.” Poor Velvet just stared at the both of us blankly, her pen poised above the form.

I explained that at the last hospital, John got a little testy with the Seventh Day Adventists and I was only trying to spare everyone some embarrassment. This is a lie. John didn’t get testy with them, I did. I got sick of finding their creepy little pamphlets of doom on his bed table. I would hold them up for John and demand, “What’s this? Were the Christians in here praying?” Of course he had no idea. He’d just shrug and mumble, “Jesus, I hope not.” One time I was waiting in the hall while a nurse bathed him, when a couple of old ladies carrying bibles started to walk into his room. I cut them off at the pass with, “Hi! Can I help you?” They didn’t speak English, but one of them smiled placidly, tapped her bible, and pointed to her badge, which read, “Assistant Pastor.” I tried to gently explain that John is an atheist, but I was getting nowhere, so I just waived my arms and over-enunciated, “No! No, thank you! No God in there!” They backed away, but I still found their literature strewn about his room on Saturdays.

Disregarding my explanation, Trudy insisted John be listed as a Catholic. “You never know, Mary.” And then she smirked to herself, adding, “Besides, your father likes nuns.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I truly hope John gets better, or, if that's not possible, that he stays out of pain and free from scary Christians of all sorts for the remainder of his days. Jen / Pennifer