Medical Attention ...

...might be based on who people think you are.

Me and my father in a moment captured on a cheap cell phone.

This week, within a two-day period, I visited three hospitals. For once, I didn't need medical care but my father and two of my friends did. I've discovered that there can be a difference in the attention patients receive.

My Father's Experience

Tuesday my father received the last of his radiation treatments. Various family members took turns taking him to the oncology department at GBMC and I wound up taking him for his last visit. The staff there--all of them--were always warm, friendly and encouraging.

When we walked in for the last visit, the woman at the desk recognized my father immediately, greeted us pleasantly and told us to go right back. The cancer patients in the waiting room were all talkative and friendly among themselves. I'm sure that the atmosphere that had been set by the staff had something to do with their ease too. After a short wait, a nurse came out and greeted my father with more than the normal friendly greeting.

With a huge smile and excitement in her voice, she said, "Mr. Schupp, congratulations. You've made it through your last treatment. Good for you!" Then she took him in the back for the treatment.

After no more than 10 minutes, he returned in his wheelchair and was holding something in his hand...a "diploma" with a congratulation ribbon wrapped around it.

Returning to the front to get on the elevator, we were again greeted with enthusiasm. The woman at the front desk stepped around the desk and hugged both of us. She said we both deserved hugs, my father for going through everything and me for being supportive. Then she wished us well and said she would see us in February for a check-up.

For my father, and I'm sure for the other patients too, this type of care made a huge difference.

[Note: My father is a gentle and kind Caucasian man.]

One Friend's Experience

A friend took a cab to the emergency room of another hospital. He was having severe abdominal pain. In the emergency room, he had to wait for close to six hours for attention to what turned out to be a ruptured appendix. He had emergency surgery but had to remain in the hospital for six days because the ruptured appendix had caused an infection. My friend says he received good care once he was in his hospital room. (The medical staff realized by then how serious his condition was.) The ER was another story. The staff had been standing around, socializing and laughing, while my friend was waiting--in excrutiating pain--for treatment. It's hard to understand how the ER staff could have taken hours on a week night to treat someone in pain. A ruptured appendix can be fatal. Why was he treated so casually?

[Note: My friend is a friendly middle eastern man with no family nearby. He's a naturalized American.]

Another Friend's Experience

Another friend, as a result of a series of  recent medical problems was admitted to the emergency room at yet another hospital. His treatment resulted in amputation of one leg above the knee. This medical emergency happened at a very bad time for him. He was packing up one apartment in one state and in the middle of moving to another place in a different state. The emergency happened while visiting a friend in Maryland.

With a positive attitude--"You'll never meet a happier one-legged man"--the entire time, he asked to see the hospital social worker so he could make plans to go to a rebabilitation center and eventually return to work. The social worker never showed up in spite of several requests. Finally he sent a nurse to find out what was going on. It turned out that the social worker said he couldn't go to rehab because he was homeless and indigent! He has no health insurance and no home because he was in the middle of moving. The hospital was planning to release him--with no rehabilitation.

Never mind that his situation happened during a move and he does pay his bills, including those incurred from a cardiac bypass several years ago when his then medical insurance company refused to pay because they claimed it had been a "pre-existing condition." The hospital now understands that he is not really a homeless bum. Things are all straightened out and he is in a rehab center working toward controling his new body.

 I wonder how anyone can deal with sudden loss of a limb, much less no support to return to a normal life.

[Note: This friend is not quite old enough for Medicare and is a cheerful Caucasian man with a beard.]

So the question is, why should there be a difference in care because of who you are? It shouldn't happen. Regardless of who you are and how much money you may or may not have, we all feel pain and have the same needs. Afterall, we're all part of  the same human family.


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