One 'flu' over the...

“The streets are always wet with rain…”

Dateline:  Home!

Take a moment,

maybe several moments,

and look hard at the woman in the big hat,

and oval frame.

I don’t know much about her, other than her name, Annabel.  Don’t know when this photo was taken, or where, I suspect Buffalo, NY, but not sure.

Look hard at the woman in the big hat, and oval frame.

Because, in her eyes,

her lips,

her nose,

her ears,

you will find a small part of my face in the woman in the big hat, and oval frame.

Because she is my father’s mother.

My paternal grandmother.

I never met Annabel, but beyond our shared DNA, but beyond our ancestry, we will now be forever linked.

Because this beautiful young lady, my father’s mother,

in 1920,

when my dad was only a couple of years old,

was already in her grave.

Just one big hat lady in an oval frame, just one of the estimated 675,000 people in America, just one big hat lady in an oval frame of the 30-50 MILLION people, some say 3-5% of the population of earth,

who died during the great “Flu” Pandemic of 1918-1920.

And 94 years later,

the same thing that killed my Grandmother,

almost killed me,

too.

“…and I turned to you and I said…”

Here’s a direct quote from my doctor, John Rodgers, M.D. of Hartford, CT, he told this not only to me but to my good friend/fishing buddy, Dr. Mac which is certainly double confirmation in anyone’s book:

“If this was the flu pandemic of 1918, that’s the strain of flu you caught, you would have died and as it is you came very close to not making it with the virus you have, you may not realize it but you were in very grave condition, touch and go there for a couple of days.  This could have very easily had a very bad outcome, at the end of this outbreak you will be one of the lucky ones who got it, beat it, and survived.”

You want a wake up call in life, read that last paragraph again.

I’ll shorten it for you, somehow I caught a flu virus,

and it came real close to killing me.

Real,

close.

“Scary, close.” Mac.

“…no guru, no method, no teacher…”

I want this to be a cautionary tale for you, working stiffs like me, I believe that if you go through life changing events in your life, and you don’t share them so others may learn something, you’ve wasted the event, but even more important, you’ve lost the opportunity to help someone.

And to me that is unforgivable.

Mac, who is an Orthopedic Surgeon at the hospital I was in, a huge Catholic Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, would stop by my room often, sometimes with his wife Le Ann with him,

Mac became my patient advocate, and I truly believe that without him,

I would have become lost in a bureaucratic system out of control.

I’m not going to give my opinion of the care I got there, that means little because the bottom line is…I’m alive.

Thanks to the dedicated health care professionals, if you don’t think a nurse’s job, a nurse assistant’s job borders on what human beings were put on this planet to do, help each other, all you need to do is lay in a hospital bed for 18 days looking up at them as they do everything from give meds, give encouragement, and a couple times at night I could feel them come in, pull up the covers on me, and hold my hand.

I’m pretty sure, all nurses go to heaven,

as they deserve.

I arrived at the hospital the day after Christmas after my son Jimmy, and my wife Barb, found me passed out on our bedroom floor.  In the ER I also passed out again…twice.

My blood pressure was 60/40.

They pumped so much fluid into my body that I remember laying in bed one day watching my right hand blow up all swollen like with water leaking out of 4 parts of it.

I had been sick for a couple of days, was dehydrated, and that lead to something called “Adrenal Insufficiency,” which is related to the Pituitary Brain Tumor I had surgery for last year.

In the first few days, I was in the hospital a total of 18 days, I was seen by 27 Medical Professionals from specialists to interns and residents.

I had almost 20 chest xrays.

Three C.A.T scans.

One MRI.

One Nuclear Stress Test.

I was told I was being taken down to ICU to have a breathing tube inserted, one night I was awakened by a resident who told me I may have Congested Heart Failure and might need a pacemaker.

Neither ever happened.

A colonoscopy was mentioned more than once.

Transport around the huge hospital was always a problem, would take hours to get to some of the tests, one time I was left on a gurney in a hallway and someone turned out the lights, only my yelling alerted them that a patient was still waiting for “transport.”

It took SEVEN days for the test to come back that I had the “flu.”  That alone should make you worry, if the “flu” is so deadly I would think you would be able to determine in less than a week if a person has it.

I was the 3rd confirmed dude with the virus in the hospital.

But I was loosing patience,

quickly.

All I wanted answered was one question, “What do I have.”

Of the dozens of healthcare professionals circling my bed,

no one could answer that.

“…just you and I and nature…”

Several days my “treatment” consisted of pills in the morning, then sitting up in a chair the rest of the day breathing Oxygen pumped from a mask into my nose.

I can still feel the mask on my face as I write this.

Here’s the cautionary part of all this:

·      Even though it was an emergency, and they saved my life, going to the hospital during the time between Christmas and New Years, I believe lead to a bunch of wasted days due to vacations and short staffing, not to mention a snowstorm.  In my mind my real care began on Monday January, 6th.  I understand staffing but a full service medical center should be just that…full service ALL THE TIME.  Once 1/6/2014 rolled around 24 of the interns/residents disappeared.

·      If you are banged up, or have a normal kind of illness, a medical center can seem to fix you up pretty…get a virus…and the wheels come off.  I can’t tell you how frustrated I was to hear over and over again, “We just have to let the body heal itself, give supportive care…but your body has to heal itself with a virus.”  To be told that in a multimillion-dollar health care facility, while I’m sure true, borders on the bizarre.

·      But buy far, the worst part of all of it was the absolutely lack of Patient Care Advocates.  Dudes trust me on this one, when you have more than two dozen medical professionals hovering around your bed…you need…DEMAND…a team approach…with a Patient Care Advocate between you and the bureaucracy. Call the hospital where your doctor practices find out IF they have a team approach…FIND OUT WHO SPEAKS FOR YOU…and if no one does YOU need to start shouting…the most important involved in your care IS YOU.  To not have a team of Patient Care Advocates highly involved in your care along with everyone else, in my belief, is the biggest failure medicine faces.

“…and the Father in the garden…”

Enough looking back, you pretty much have the unvarnished story…I hope you don’t take “the flu” stuff lightly.  Get a “flu” shot, I never have gotten one and it almost killed me, that won’t happen again.

Trust me.

If you don’t know where to get a “Flu” shot go to this page  www.flu.gov  scroll down some to the Flu Vaccine Finder…put in your zip code and it will direct you to a “Flu” shot near you.

AND GET THE DARN SHOT.

Please.

“Well dude, looks like your down to six lives left,” Mac.

Obviously, when you lay in a hospital bed all plugged into all kinds of machines for 18 days…you think some.

Mac, my good friend, if I have 6 lives left, three, or just the one I’m in, I promise to spend the time looking for the intrinsic good in people, the working stiff ethic that built all this around us.

I believe one of the most powerful forces on this planet, is goodness, is a positive attitude,

is faith, your special faith, that warmth you feel inside, when faith happens in all the various ways it can come to you.

And come it will, believe that.

Goodness wins, negative losses.

I want to thank all the people who took care of me in the hospital from the lady who brought dinner, the nurses, the techs…all of you, I’m here because of you.

I want to thank the parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in East Berlin, CT for the blessed healing prayer shawl…wore it every day and I know it helped.

Want to thank Father Mark at the hospital for the daily visits, the talks, the understanding, and the blessed rosary he gave me.

To all those on Facebook….thank you for being there for me…for your encouragement…for your prayers…for the love you showed me…it too helped a great deal.

We all are not the “me” we were yesterday, not the “me” we are today, not the “me” of tomorrow but when you put all of those together…that’s the “me” who we all are.

Standing in heaven with feet planted firmly on earth.

Every word of love we ever say, every bit of compassion we show to others, every person we take the time to help, every positive thing we do in life, stays with us, follows us, is what we are held accountable about, if even only in the mirror we all face.

I believe that to be a secret we all need to learn,

that while it may rain on earth,

love is in the clouds,

it is the music of the wind.

“…and the Son and the Holy Ghost in the garden wet with rain.”

In The Garden

Van Morrison

and to Grandma, Annabel,  I felt your hand on mine throughout this illness, can’t wait until we finally meet…just not anytime soon.  Love you.

db