Sunday, December 09, 2018

No Country for Old Men

By Fred Owens

Three Stories about Health Care

Everybody calls him Zappa because that's who he looks like, but his name is Marc Daniel. He lives in Mount Vernon in the Skagit Valley. I have known him more than 35 years since we used to work in the flower fields picking daffodils for the Lefeber Bulb Company. We weren't really friends at that time because of his cocaine and Wild Turkey habit and he talked way too loud and too fast. But he overcame the drugs and we became friends although he still talks too loud and too fast.

I called him last week and he told me about the severe pain in his neck, which he got from a car accident more than a year ago. "Sometimes it hurts so bad that I forget about the COPD. But I get winded very easily these days like climbing stairs." Does he still smoke? I don't ask questions like that. He went on to complain about the doctor who treats him for Hep C, or hepatitis C. "I had to wait one hour for his appointment. Every time I go there I have to wait one hour. My primary care doctor told me don't bother getting mad because that doctor is always late for everybody. Anyway, I only need to go back in 12 weeks for a followup. So the Hep C is under control, for now."

I have only known Bruce Byers a few years, from the Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club. He was a naval chaplain, twenty years in the Reserves and several years on active duty. Bruce gave me a full record of his naval service, onboard ship during Desert Storm and two years at a naval base in Japan. The thing about being a chaplain is that you don't get to preach your own brand of religion, but you need to serve everyone who walks in the door who wants to talk, or who wants to listen, or who wants to jump overboard -- the chaplain probably has a mandate to resist that last request..... These are important details -- I need to take notes.

Today is Saturday. For Bruce that means he goes to the kidney dialysis center for a three-hour session in the chair. Every Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday he goes for three hours. He brings his smart phone, his laptop and maybe a book. You can call him. You can be sure he's going to be there. I can be selfish about this. Everybody I know gets busy and they might not have time to talk with me. Not Bruce. I know where he is, three times a week. I call he answers. That's a comfort for me. I have been to the dialysis center twice and sat with him for a few minutes. He is hooked up to this very expensive looking gizmo that cleans his blood.

It's a good thing if you have two working kidneys because they are on the job 24/7. Bruce is a on two kidney transplant waiting lists. The local list has him waiting 8 years. But his naval service puts him on another list, only 2 years. Either way you do not get a new kidney, but a used one, and the donor needs to be under 40 years of age, meaning the kidney is 40 years old and good for decades more service. Bruce is a good fellow to talk to. He gave me a detailed description of the surgical procedure on his knee that led to an infection that even powerful antibiotics could not stop. The infection ultimately trashed his kidneys and that got him to the chair.

Jim Langley is a New York Life Insurance agent. He is mainly retired now. I also know Jim from the Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club. Last week he drove down to the UCLA medical center for a biopsy on his prostate. The prostate is a mystery to me. They cause so much trouble. I don't even know why we have them. Women get along fine without them. I could read some article on Web MD and study up on it. Jim is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. He says the doctors in Santa Barbara are pretty good, but the doctors in UCLA have the latest technology, so he makes the two-hour drive to get that top-quality service. When I interviewed him for this story, well this is California, so I asked him about traffic on the 101. He said he flew down there like he had angel wings and got there in one hour and 45 minutes, early for the appointment, got it done, and then flew down the freeway back to Santa Barbara. You're a happy man in California if you can beat the traffic on the 101 thanks to those angel wings.

Laurie, my darling girlfriend and home companion, just know handed me her iPad with the Web MD prostate primer open for me to read. Time to study up. The prostate does have a purpose, but there are several design flaws in my opinion.

I will continue to monitor and interview these three men and keep you posted. They are all three good talkers supplying rich details without running off at the mouth about other things. Not taking notes helps to establish rapport and makes the conversation flow informally. But ultimately I will need to take notes for greater accuracy and find the level of detail without leading to pedantry. The idea is to present their situation in a matter of fact way without drama or depression. This is just what happened.

Books. I have just started the second volume of the Raj Quartet by Paul Scott --- titled the Day of the Scorpion. I am encouraged by the testimony of my college classmate Virginia Smith. She lives in Toronto and she told me she has read the Raj Quartet with great pleasure and more than once.

Movies. Movies we would like to see this Christmas season are -- Roma, the Green Book, the Bohemian Rhapsody and Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Politics. It was with thanks to heaven that we enjoyed the Trump-free days of George Bush's funeral. It took a phalanx of former presidents at the National Cathedral to shut him up, but there was Trump and he was silent. This gave me hope.

Happy Holidays,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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