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A Hospital Visit
"Postcards from Israel - Postcards from America" ^ | september 18, 2009 | ari Bussel

Posted on 09/18/2009 3:19:06 PM PDT by Ari Bussel

A Hospital Visit (Corrected Version) By Ari Bussel

The greatest deed one can do for another is attend his funeral. The reason, one explains, is that the departed cannot repay for this deed on this earth. Funerals seem never planned in advance, sneaking up on us by surprise. Indeed, one will put aside any urgent matters requiring immediate attention, dress up and go to pay his respects.

I, however, prefer to be in touch with the living. Often I think of my mother calling on a sick person to inquire. She would regularly call upon even those who may not have been very good friends at all. For my mother, sickness or a major illness seems to put all differences aside – the person must be supported.

One of the most important feelings is that someone cares for you. Everyone is so busy with their daily lives they rarely take time to call, visit or just add the sick person to their prayers. Most do not even pray. [In Judaism, there is a special prayer for sick men followed immediately by another for sick women.] Until you are the person in bed, feeling helpless and down, it is difficult to imagine the strength of a visit or a phone call to inquire about your progress.

Doctors in the USA have a tendency to call patients the evening following a surgery, a small gesture that goes a long way. It is almost protocol. Few go beyond what is today perceived as the call of duty. A certain Orthodox Jewish doctor at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles would walk from his Beverly Hills home to the Hospital to visit patients on Friday night, even after Shabbat had arrived.

I remember bumping into Dr. Wolin during one of his visits, a very religious person doing good deeds, almost unrecognizable to any but his patients. “He who saves one soul,” it is said, “as if he saved the world.” Here the doctor’s occupation is saving many, but his individual care and attention, taking away from his private life and adding the special light of Shabbat, truly bless everyone with whom he comes in contact.

Once there were caring doctors. One, Paul Geller, our family doctor for many years, was both an excellent doctor and a grandfather figure, a “Good Neshama” (Good Soul). My mother just found a card he sent years ago with a special greeting for the whole family.

It is regrettable that what should be commonplace becomes the rare exception. Nowadays, there are very few truly exceptional doctors, flowers blossoming in a very harsh desert of today’s health care environment. The profession needs their direction to teach the incoming classes of doctors-to-be that treatment is composed not only of medicine, science and technology but also of personal touch, a good word, being a human being.

From Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to Kaiser

Every two months I go on an excursion to Children’s Hospital. It is 45 minutes each way, for a fifteen-minute visit to the donor’s lab. There I donate a pint of blood, not for a specific patient, but for anyone in need. I have a common type of blood, B+, and it gets distributed to many tiny recipients whose names, genders and family histories I do not know. It is fed into a system that utilizes it as needed.

After some nine years every two months, I am now a regular. I immediately go in to help myself to a bottle of juice, I no longer like the cookies, but my real treat is a shake on the way home. The act of donating blood, including the preceding questionnaire, the review by the nurse and the basic formalities (body temperature, blood pressure and Hemoglobin level), is automatic and usually done in a breeze.

This past Friday, temperatures exceeded one hundred. The skies were covered with clouds of smoke from the fires raging in the Greater Los Angeles area just north of us. It was surreal and reminiscent of the cloud cover over New York City on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.

I ended my visit with a promise next time, on the last day of October, to bring everyone milkshakes. I left but rather than go straight to the car, I ventured outside, crossed the street a block over to Kaiser on Sunset, part of a HMO chain of hospitals (in California we are either part of a system, like Kaiser, or have insurance that entitles us to select our own doctors). The hospital is new and was just recently opened. There are clean corridors, new pictures on the walls and a sterile atmosphere. Missing are the liquid evaporating cleansers one can see at every other hospital. At Kaiser for some reason, they are nowhere to be found.

Harry Dunn, 91, was brought here ten days ago. My first visit was to the intensive care unit, but he had been transferred to another floor. The sterile, huge private room contained a tray of food and can of Ensure, typically given to the elderly. The food is there, but who will take the few minutes to feed the patient?

Harry was alert, and a big smile appeared on his face when he recognized me. I stood there on behalf of all his fellow residents of the elderly “hotel,” like a soldier appearing before his superior, representing the whole brigade. Harry is the Chief of Staff of our Synagogue. When we were missing men for Minyan (the ten Jewish men required for reciting the full prayer), he would go with his cane and urge others to get out of bed and show up. “It is a great Mitzva” (Good Deed), he would say, and shake his cane in the air in a semi-threatening manner.

I dialed his great nephew who had returned to Chicago. I wanted Joey to hear “Uncle Kalev.” Twice the reward – not only Harry’s reception of me, but Joey’s encouraging voice on the phone. “You know I wish I could be there with you,” he said to his great uncle and proceeded to urge him to sit in a chair. Movement and getting out of bed are already half the ingredients required for recovery.

Suddenly, I knew something was wrong. I needed to steady myself. Holding the phone close to Harry in one hand, I held tightly to the raised bedside. A feeling of nausea overwhelmed me, so I ended the conversation and went toward the restroom. I remember looking at the red string – “pull in case of emergency” – and then ... I awoke into blackness. No other sense, until slowly, I thought I heard voices, or possibly not, and saw the images of two women emerging through the darkness.

The body is an amazing mechanism and knows how to protect itself, a sense of survival both intrinsic and innate we cannot control. When the body feels threatened (for example lack of oxygen flowing to the brain), it shuts down unessential systems as it did to me.

I do not know how long I was out and I remember saying, upon seeing the image of two women – “Nurse, nurse.” I do not know how they got there, nor if they heard me. Possibly no voice even emanated from my mouth, but I was thinking of angels and realized I had fainted.

Only later did I discover the right side of my body was completely bruised and my skull hit whatever was in its way during the fall. I felt wet from sweat, apparently a typical physical reaction to fainting or to its aftermath.

The nurses, however, turned out to be no relation to angels. Neither helped me stand or get back into a chair. Are these trained professionals in a hospital? A layperson in the street may elect not to approach another person who fainted or was hit by a car. Imagine these two “nurses” and the care they would not provide. I see them as standing atop and laughing at the sight. Eventually one agreed to bring me some paper towels.

A beautiful, brand new hospital is a façade. If nurses, including the nurse in charge of Harry’s section, are afraid to lend a helping hand to a person falling on the floor, what can or should be expected of them? Possibly this may be the difference between “socialized” medicine and private care. My doctor immediately took my call, believed the blood donation combined with exposure to the intense heat was the cause and instructed me to drink at least a liter of fluids.


I was in a hospital, supposedly state of the art in some respects, yet lacking the most basic element – a human touch and expertise. A nurse who refuses help to a person in obvious distress (liability issues? or was it coverage – possibly she thought there is not enough private coverage or that I do not have health insurance?) should rethink her career. Rather than protecting the hospital, the nurse at Kaiser may have badly exposed it to liability.

The topic of the day is healthcare reform. For healthcare to be effective, we need good doctors and nurses, not bureaucrats. Those performing their duties and extending proper health care should be afforded basic protection against frivolous lawsuits. Those who are inept or incapable should leave the profession or be discharged.

There are many qualified and dedicated nurses, but it was not my good fortune to meet one that day. If the nurse at Kaiser is any indication of the lack in our system, a major overhaul is urgently required.

Perhaps certain staff needs to repeat basic training and be reminded it is there for the sake of the patients, to help. Playing lawyers, imitating the hordes of 9-5 do-nothing-bureaucrats concerned about nothing more than their position, benefits, pension and union is not these nurses’ task. Time to wake up and get back to basics, and if one does not fit, one should not be associated with one of the most noble of professions.

It was Harry, a 91-year-old, incoherent and barely able to move who regained his focus and energy and expressed concern for my wellbeing. Harry, not the nurse, was the angel for “shlichey mitzvah lo nezokim” (messengers of good deeds are not harmed). How amazing the person least capable of physical activity did more than the trained professional who wrongly elected to do nothing.

May we continue to count our blessings of health and being on this earth. May we continue to be guarded by angels, for reasons unknown, and continue to do unto others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

### In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related - the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts - and so is this “point - counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.

© Postcards from Home, September, 2009 Contact:

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: health; healthcare; sickness

1 posted on 09/18/2009 3:19:07 PM PDT by Ari Bussel
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To: Ari Bussel

What a tender story. Thank you, Ari Bussel. We need more Ari’s in this world.

2 posted on 09/18/2009 4:53:36 PM PDT by Humidston (IT'S COMING...I SMELL IT.)
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To: Ari Bussel
Until a new home-nursing corporation (owned by a "holding" company in Tennessee) came to my small town, we had the best nursing care. This new group is intent on reducing the number of home patients, discharging them from Medicare treatment before they are able to care for themselves. It doesn't matter that Medicare law states a patient with an open wound must continue to receive treatment in their home.

I've heard that an elderly woman, living alone, was discharged while she continues to have a bed sore on her buttocks - which is unreachable for her to treat as she is nearly parapalegic. Our Angels of Mercy, who were either fired or quit, continue to treat her without charge. Generous friends in our community make sure she isn't left to fend for herself.

That's good news. Other good news is that a new home-nursing corporation has come to town, and all of the old nurses have been hired! The newest owner has checked with every state and federal agency on rules, laws - doesn't want anything to go wrong in getting this business started.

Meanwhile, the "holding" company is crying for remaining personnel to stay. Even the receptionist quit.

3 posted on 09/18/2009 8:01:43 PM PDT by lakey (Congressperp: You were "hired" to be a servant of the People. YOU AREN'T ROYALTY.)
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To: lakey

Thank you. Thank you for sharing this story. Bureaucrats and corporations often forget who their clients are, whom are they supposed to serve. It is easy when one feels all-powerful, feeding on the weakest or those most in need.

One way to effect change is to share our stories - when we know we are not alone, when it is evident that change is needed and when strength resonates from within - politicians will start listening. Imagine a map of our great country, with little dots, each a story like yours or mine, each a beacon of light or a lighthouse of sanity, warning, standing firm...

A day will come and a new leader will step up, saying to his (or her) fellow Americans - we are all equal, and from this day forward I hereby subscribe to the very same health plan that you have, not to the one afforded me - a member of the Congress of the United States of America - and to my family for the rest of our lives on your account. When this day comes, we will know that “holding” companies and greed, bureaucrats and other government employees will be held accountable and will change their ways. It is simple, yet so many forget or elect not to follow: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

In the meantime, by our sharing our stories we are creating a wave, the strength of which grows and strengthens, a wave that may eventually reach a critical mass of influence.

4 posted on 09/19/2009 11:36:14 AM PDT by Ari Bussel
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To: Ari Bussel
If you saw the Rasmussin Poll today, 78% voted that Congress should have the same medical plan as us unwashed masses.

I'll be in the hospital tomorrow, maybe overnight. Keep on pounding, Ari.

5 posted on 09/20/2009 4:23:58 PM PDT by lakey (Congressperp: You were "hired" to be a servant of the People. YOU AREN'T ROYALTY.)
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