Sunday, February 13, 2011

Even More Stuff

I pity my future caregivers.

As you can probably tell by now, I've grown a bit jaded about the medical establishment and its approach to (or avoidance of) quality-of-life issues.

Don't get me wrong: I am totally in favor of the advances of modern medicine.  When you think about the fact that, a little over a hundred years ago, the solution to most medical problems would be whiskey, amputation and/or luck, we've come a very, very, very long way.

And that's a good thing.

But at the same time, I think our mentality hasn't kept pace with our technology.

I remember how, when my mom was consulting with a surgeon and expressed her concern about the extent of the surgeries being proposed and the possible recovery time she'd be facing, he told her about the wonders of this new vacuum dressing system they have.

Instead of stitches, they leave you with a massive open wound and then they just vacuum it out on a regular basis.

It actually sounds amazing.  Wounds heal in half the time they normally would.

The surgeon was a bit disappointed that my mom wasn't immediately relieved or even excited about this option.  He looked so crestfallen that I finally had to tell him, "It really does sound amazing.  But I think that, if you were facing the prospect of having it installed in a massive open wound that someone had recently carved into your own chest, you wouldn't be all that excited about it either."

He admitted that I had a point.

Last night, my friend and I were talking about her son's future treatment.  They're giving him "a month off" right now, and then they'll install a port so that he can receive IV chemotherapy treatments every two weeks, along with a monthly dose of antibiotics (to ward off a particular type of pneumonia commonly associated with the chemo drug he'll be on).

The last time they gave him the IV antibiotics, his blood pressure dropped and he nearly passed out, so they want to "administer them more slowly from now on."

She was told that the installation of the port was a very simple procedure, but then of course they had to inform her of the risks.

Lung punctures.  Acute infections.  Arterial bleeds.  As they put it, "just some things to be aware of."

As she put it to me, "Just a few more things to add to my List of Things to Think About Right Now."

Her mom's comment was, "I don't think they told your dad all of that before they put his port in.  He just showed up and they did it.  I had no idea.  I don't think we needed to get all of that detail since, when you get right down to it, saying 'no' isn't really an option."

It reminded me of how my mom was told, last winter, that she needed to "do her best" on the lung function test prior to surgery, because if she failed it, they couldn't do the surgery.

As my mom stared at the cardio-vascular surgeon in disbelief, I chimed in, "Yeah, Mom.  Do your best.  Try to get an 'A.'  Otherwise, they might not do this 10-hr. surgery they've got lined up for you--you know, where they permanently remove your sternum and replace it with the muscles from your upper back."

As my mom told the surgeon, "My lungs are my lungs, and they're over 70 years old at this point.  I'm sorry, but in this case, what you see is what you get."

My friend told me that they took her on the tour of the "nice open space" they have set up for the IV chemotherapy.  Since you often have to be there for several hours, they've set it up so that you can watch a movie or play Wii while you receive your chemo.

I asked her, "Do they have a mini-bar and a bong?  Because that's what I'd be looking for, quite frankly."

She said, "Well, you know, they didn't mention it, but maybe I should poke around a bit and see what's available..."

My first thought was, if I were receiving IV chemo and someone challenged me to a couple of rounds on the Wii, the impulse to say "ram it up your ass" would be absolutely overwhelming.

And then I tried to imagine sitting in a nice open space watching other people hooked to IVs and playing Wii.

And I started to realize that, you know, it might not be a bad time to catch "Scarface," if they have it.

I've never seen it, after all, and it seems like everyone else has...

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."