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Surprises

Walkin'

Life has been full of surprises lately.
Like the other day when Sabra beckoned with a come-hither voice from the bedroom, “will you please come here?”
It was quite the surprise. After 14 years of marriage, she calls me to the back yard to rake leaves, to the basement to lift salt into the water conditioner or to the kitchen to unfreeze her computer. Calls to the boudoir are mostly distant memories along with a 38-inch waist size and hair on my head in places other than eyebrows and ears.
Another big surprise came last week at her six-week checkup after she was released from the hospital, a visit necessitated by a stroke.
She’d been feeling fine, especially after our vacation to the southwest. The train ride was relaxing. The sunshine and warmth rejuvenating. Her energy was coming back and she was starting to obsess about her chickens. The latest development in this arena was coarse ground garlic. She read that it was good for the critters, and I’ve been on a treasure hunt trying to find just the right “coarseness.” Friends have jumped into the quest and we have a cabinet filling up with garlic in every shape and size but have yet to find one that meets her specifications.
Anyway, we both figured the checkup would be routine. Walk in, read a few pages in a magazine, have a couple of tests and walk out with a clean bill of health. Wrong. The surgeon sat us down and got to the point. “We’ve looked over your records and found two aneurisms that need to be operated on immediately,” he informed us rather grimly. The potentially life threatening abnormalities were missed on the initial review weeks earlier and were only caught as the surgeon studied the case one last time before our visit.
This was a gut check for both of us. The original stroke was a fait accompli, no time to worry about, it happened. This was entirely different. The procedure involved sending a catheter from the upper leg, through the heart and neck and into the brain. Once the aneurisms were located, the surgeon could slide a virtual Swiss Army Knife of tools up the tube to the offending voids and fill them with coiled wire, bypass them with a stent (the method eventually used), or clamp them off with a staple.
Modern medicine.
The other surprising thing about the news was that it was a bit sloppy on the part of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and our experience to date was excellent. Everyone was professional, thorough and courteous. The staff on what’s labeled 6EJC, (sixth floor, east wing of the John Colton Pavilion) was especially spectacular. Trained professionals with a great attitude were at Sabra’s beck and call 24/7.
So something was missed, what can you do?
I know what too many people do in this country all too often: sue for damages.
And that, for my two cents worth, is the single biggest problem in our health care system now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is reducing the number of uninsured people.
You can find the numbers easily enough on the Internet. United States citizens spend more than double or even triple on health care than other industrialized nations. Yes, the U.S. has some of the best health care when it comes to things like treating cancer, but it also lags in areas like infant mortality. We spend something like $17 trillion on health care but we’re 34th on the list, just behind Cuba, of countries who can’t keep their babies alive.
It’s a complicated problem and I appreciate President Obama’s initiative to deal with it. Some of the ACA is working. Just recently, for example, it was reported that the average wait time in the emergency room at the UIHC, the place that treated Sabra, has dropped from two hours to fifteen minutes. Officials cite changes in health care under the ACA for the change. People with bad colds and insurance go to their doctor and not to the ER.
Now if we could just get some meaningful tort reform passed.
But I digress, this column was to be about surprises and I have one more to report. When I trotted over to the bedroom, I found Sabra was indeed in the mood; the mood to clean my closet.