Feeling Thankful

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The past month has been a roller coaster for my family.  On December 11 I received a call from my father in Mission Viejo, California explaining that early that morning my mother had been put into the Intensive Care (ICU).   I got into my car and drove the eight hours from Tucson, Arizona to Kaiser Permanente Hospital (KPH), a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), where my parents are members.  My mom and dad are very fortunate that they belong to KPH and that there is an elderly medical system, Medicare in the United States.  KPH takes my parent's Medicare payments so that they are fully covered for all their medical needs including medications.  Given my parent's age, 88 and 84, and especially my mother's health it is not uncommon for my parents to make multiple trips to KPH in a week.

When I arrived at KPH my mother was hooked up too many monitors.  We already knew that my mother has diabetes.  Since she also has congestive heart failure there was great concern as to how her heart had been impacted.  (It was determined that her heart was only pumping at 25% of capacity). Also, her kidneys were failing, and she had sepsis caused by a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).  There was a great deal of fluid in her body which was causing her defective heart to try to pump even more and given that her kidneys were not working properly, fluid was backing up near her heart and into her lungs.  The doctors needed to give my mother a diuretic, to get rid of the water, but had to find the right balance between her heart and kidneys. 

A team of doctors and nurses worked on my mom and two days later she was moved out of ICU with a bit less intensive monitoring, although she still had to remain in the hospital.  My mother was also extremely confused and at times seemed to be in another world, hallucinating.  (She now either has encephalopathy caused by the sepsis,  or early dementia) But she seemed very calm and ready for whatever was next. At one point none of us, including the doctors, could reach her as we screamed in her ear to wake up.  If we would have left her alone she might have passed away.  

After another few days my mother was put into Palm Terrace Rehabilitation Center, where she spent another 1.5 weeks, helping her to get stronger. She finally arrived home and we rented a hospital bed, oxygen tanks and a transport wheelchair.  My father, sister, brother-in-law and I are now taking care of her.

Although the US is not in the top 16 in the world in terms of providing health care the Medicare System that enables them to be part of KPH has been great.  The teams of doctors, nurses, CNAs, lab techs, physical therapists, cooks, cleaners, etc. that participated in my mom’s remarkable recovery, literally brought back to living, was amazing.  All the professionals that we encountered treated us as people and answered the many questions that we had without making us feel as if they were omniscient.

While I lived in Nepal one of my jobs was working in a rural hospital.  I understand that comparing a rural hospital in Nepal with the HMO that my parents are members of is very unfair.  These are two different worlds.  (Imagine having HMOs and an elderly medical system in Nepal, enabling much greater access to health care for all).  But one thing I do know is that no matter one’s job status, e.g. doctor, it is vital to connect with patients and their families and answer all questions to help the families understand what is happening with their loved one. 

My family realizes that all medical personnel from cleaners to doctors helped save my mom’s life and we are grateful for having more time with her.  None of us should think that we can play the role of G_d or a supreme being.  All we can do is treat others as to how we would like to be treated with lots of kindness, respect and humanity no matter what we are doing in this life. 


Position: Programme Manager

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