August 22, 2005

The Emergency Room

Earlier this evening my wife asked me to proofread a grant application she had just finished writing for the education foundation she works for part time. I was happy to do it, of course, and, as usual, it was well-documented, tightly reasoned, and extremely well written (yeah, okay, so she does read this blog, but it really was all those things). She's asking for $100,000.00 to fund scholarships for poverty kids to go to college in the health-care professions.

Beth quoted some statistics that really struck home. "'[I]n Florida, more than 2.3 million people live in areas with insufficient health care providers.'" "The entirety of Bay County [our home county, population about 165,000] is designated a Health Professionals Shortage Area (HPSA) for Low Income/Migrant Farm Worker Populations, and major areas in the county are designated Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/MUP)." And, "Not only is the shortage of health care workers expected to grow by 29%, but also the number of jobs will increase by 45%"

Those are some pretty startling statistics, but they're just that. Statistics. They don't mean a thing to my life, do they? Well, this afternoon before I read the grant I learned that yes, they do.

This morning my friend who has Parkinson's Disease and I delivered Meals on Wheels, just like we do every Monday morning. We went to his house to eat lunch, and his wife noticed that he couldn't hold his silverware in any kind of conventional way and that he couldn't get the food into his mouth. She started feeding him, but he wouldn't stand for that. After several profanities (obscenities?) from him, she let him eat by himself. It took a long time, but he finally got his dinner down. It was ribs, cornbread, and collard greens with okra, so it was kind of tricky for me with a fork and very tricky for him even with a spoon.

His wife was in the kitchen straightening up after I finished eating, and I went in to talk to her.

"I think he might be having a stroke," I said. She agreed, so we called his neurologist and took him to the emergency room at Bay Medical Center. Supposedly, if you get a stroke victim to the emergency room in time, they can stop the stroke and reverse its effects. Addie and I weren't taking any chances.

We got him into the ER a little before 1:30, and promptly at 4:30 they called him back to see the doctor.

Three hours sitting there with a man who has a very serious neurological disease who might have been having a stroke. Three hours.

On the way to Bay Medical Center, we passed another huge hospital near their house called Gulf Coast Medical Center. We chose Bay Medical, though, because, supposedly, it's the only National Center of Excellence for Heart Attack and Stroke in Florida. It's also, supposedly, one of the 100 Best Hospitals for Heart Attack and Stroke in the country. Really. There are billboards all over town to this effect and lots of ads on TV, too. I don't know what the criteria are for those honors, but I mean if you had somebody you thought might be having a stroke, wouldn't you drive the extra ten minutes to get the best?

The good news is that my friend didn't have a stroke. His problems were related to hydration issues associated with Parkinson's, but who knew that? All we knew was we were cooling our heels in a waiting room for 3 hours until he was called. Shortage of medical professionals? I'd say so. The whole time I was proofreading Beth's grant, the only thing I could think of was the irony of my day. Oh, and how good the grant is.