Saturday, October 07, 2006

While I was Away...

On August 30 I was admitted to Staten Island University Hospital for a pancreatic biopsy and a subsequent surgical procedure called a "Whipple." I guess it had something to do with squeezing my Charmin'. Much of what happened to me between the surgery and Sept. 12 is a blur due to heavy sedation, but I'm told I was rather difficult to deal with. The following two weeks was spent conscious and semi sedated, (Morphene is your friend.) my first really sentient recolection being that the TV in my room was tuned to Fox News. So my friends can begin to realize how important Renee's virtual candle was in channeling all your thoughts and prayers.

As Teri, my National Nurse can attest, when you wake up from major surgery, the medical staff likes to get a grasp on how far back to reality you've come on a regular basis. At the beginning of every shift they would ask me if I knew what month or day it was. Most of them would ask if I could name the current President. Folks should know better than to ask Subway a loaded question like that, especially when I'm being held on Morphene under the Mandatory Sedation Act. Here are some examples of these exchanges:

Q. Do you know who the President is?

A. Sure. That's Dick Cheney's sock puppet, um what's his name...?

Q. Do you know who the President is?

A. Oh I know. His father trained Ossama bin Laden... Name rhymes with tush...

Q. Do you know who the President is?

A. You mean that lyin' sack o...

All in good fun, mind you. Which brings me to the topic of the day:


I spent more than three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit and got a rare opportunity to watch the half dozen or so nurses who saw to my every need. Thinking of Teri Mills, who had advanced the idea of a National Nurse during the Howard Dean campaign, I saw that these dedicated medical professionals, these Caregivers needed a voice equal to that of the Surgeon General, to oversee this country's vast post doctor treatment delivery systems.

Many of my friends in the politblogs know that I've been a caregiver for nearly 2 decades. During that time I've seen many hundreds of others who care for disabled loved ones at home. Those who do so should be compensated in much the same way as those folks who care for foster children. Such folks are quite rightly treated generously by government because it's very cost effective in the long run to place these children in stable homes. Similarly, in most cases, caring for a disabled relative at home costs far less than having that same person in a nursing facility. Yet the caregiver shares in virtually none of the cost savings and in many cases handles the burdens alone. Imagine a single mom with a disabled pre teen, or the one with two kids and a disabled brother. Many of our veterens will come home to families that will care for their injuries and disability for life. Some wife or husband or parent is struggling tonight between putting food on the table and caregiving.

We need a National Nurse to not only speak as one voice for all the caregivers, professionals and family members alike, to help the states formulate policies that lift these families up. We need a National Nurse to stem our terrible shortage of Nurses. Someone who will reach out to the high schools across the country to encourage young people into the nursing and caregiving professions. Someone who will advocate for better pay and lower stress levels for nurses.

Most of the nurses in ICU worked 12 hour shifts four days a week and here in NY nurses are unionized which is a great place to start. After a while I could see signs of emotional fatigue and caregiver burnout even in these seasoned pros. A National Nurse can work with states to develope policies that address overstressed nursing staffs.

Every surgeon needs a nurse. So does the Surgeon General.

(H/T to Oscar at HEP.)


puddle said...

I agree with you one hundred percent on the ICU nurses. Amazing critters, every one.

Also, on in-home care giving. ♥s

Soooooooo glad you're bouncing back!! We need you, more than ever. . . .

jc said...

Excellent post, Subway. I'm glad that operation didn't remove your "humorous" bone.

Glad to have you back among the funny. ♥

lotus said...

Bravo, SubSer, and please pass that along to the nurses who have so much to do with your return to us!

I'm delighted for and grateful to all of y'all involved in that project.


littlebluerootster said...

National nurse, what a great idea.

HotFlash said...

Hi Subway,

National Nurse, what a great idea! And a National Teacher, and a National Soldier(noncom). Like, duh, the folks who actually *do* the stuff! Glad to see you are up and snarling, you were much missed at the Lake.

BTW, on the President question, I think you scored a 100%.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you haven't lost your great sense of humor! LOL

t said...

Glad you are feeling better, missed your posts:-)

e said...

our veterens will come home to families that will care for their injuries and disability for life.

I am a caregiver to a veteran and totally agree with your post.

lezlie said...

Welcome back, Subway! Glad you are feeling better!

My husband (my caregiver) is with you all the way on your in-home caregiving proposal.

People who care for others are under-appreciated by this society and that's a shame. Nurses and caregivers are on the frontlines in this battle against debilitating disease.

I have been listening to your songs on the internet while you have been sick, especially the ones from the Dean campaign. They made me smile... and tear up a little... but mostly inspired me to send you loving thoughts for recovery. We need you!

Anonymous said...

You were greatly missed!! Very happy that you are back and feeling better.