Thursday, May 22, 2008

Medicine Men of Today

Where are the great medicine men of the twenty-first century? Have they been born? Or will our traditions be diluted further by the west? I start the blog this week with a rant about medicine because my life the past couple of weeks has revolved around the hospital. Not the place for a nature-lovin' action-based thinker to hang out and get much done. My father has cancer, and it was caught by the coyote effect. He had a TB Tine test that came back positive, and the X-ray showed a mass in his lung. After some pretty extensive testing, it was determined that he had 2 sites, his left lung and just because we are a weird and difficult bunch, a totally different type of cancer in his bile duct. Atypical as all get-out. Usually the cancers are a primary site that metastasizes and then moves to other places. So I spent the night with my mother on watch at the ICU at St. Pat's in Missoula. Not a very comfortable place, the waiting room. I had to come home and teach, then back to the hospital to watch my father. He doesn't do well with many pain meds, and had a hard time getting rest for the first 4-5 days out of ICU. He only spent about 18 hours there, pretty robust for a 79 year old man, wouldn't you say? But he was pretty glassy-eyed from something in his epidural, and they finally changed that, and then the morphine. He is like me, and we pretty much had to take him off the pain meds to bring him back to us. He was loopy as hell for a week. slowed his recovery, I think because we couldn't walk him around too much, he was too unstable, and might have fallen. And then the leak in his lung kept going on, and this and that. Finally after 18 days in the place we finally got to bring him home. He had potato chips on the way home because he wasn't allowed salt. He had sausage and fried fish within a day, and I brought him dried meat as well. He had lost over 20 pounds. He asked for sausage and eggs as soon as he was able to eat, and the hospital denied him that because of his "heart-healthy" diet he was supposed to be on. He eats sausage or bacon for breakfast about once or twice a week, and has oatmeal the rest of the time. He's in better shape than I am. The man should have been allowed a decent breakfast for Pete's sake. And a little salt. Not a whole shaker a day, but maybe one little packet a day, just to make the food taste like something. Just for fun sometime, order a diabetic or heart healthy lunch at a hospital and see what it is like, and if you would make it a regular part of your daily regimen willingly. I realize that in some situations, those things are necessary, but not always. Especially if you are elderly and are losing weight by not eating because you food tastes and has a texture like sawdust. Some people try and get this part right, and it can be done fairly easily, but it is probably hard to do on the scale of a hospital.
I feel some outrage because it was my father, but I have also worked in a similar setting.
But because some folks don't seem to care much is not an excuse. When I worked as a nursing assistant in California, I tried to put as much care into what I did as humanly possible, mostly because I saw the patients as people, fathers and mothers and aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. I worked damned hard for the money I earned then, and was pretty well worn out at the end of the day, and then came home and cared for my own children. And then got up the next day and did it again. I work now just as hard in science and trying to preserve my culture because I see the value of it all. I think western medicine could learn something for the native, primarily in patient care. It should never be about the money. Always about the person. Not about the insurance or who pays what. Insurance and the like eats away at a person, and the costs are always too high. If you have a good paying job, you will live longer in this country. Is this because you can buy a few more days from the creator? Is that what we are doing when we use all of the tricks in a doctor's or specialist's bag to stay alive? I really don't know, but I need to end this, I'm running out of page. Let me know what you thing about my blog, leave comments and I'll give feedback wherever I can. Ask questions, suggest topics, I'm always thinking and wondering what people want to know.
For now, Shey Hoy.

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