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September 28, 2011

Lower Tidmarsh & Beyond

Norman M. Covert

Interesting that the Obama Administration has decided not to quarrel with the 11th Circuit Court, which struck down Obamacare, deciding it is unconstitutional to require citizens to purchase health insurance. We knew that all along.


The “death” panels found among the thousands of pages describing Obamacare have precedence. This decade has seen my insurance company’s expert in Rockville deny coverage, important pre-op diagnostics and order early hospital dismissal. It’s all in the bottom line, you see. Medicare took some of the heat off my “provider.”


My summer vacation at beautiful Lower Tidmarsh Hospital on West Seventh Street could only have been scripted by Benny Hill, the zany Thames Television comedian, satirist and king of sexual innuendo. It had all of Mr. Hill’s now not-so-funny routines over the eight-day ordeal.


I thought I was Mr. Hill’s foil, the diminutive Jackie Wright, being patted on top of the head; watching them play tic-tac-doe on my chest as they planned the first incision; and suturing only to learn the surgeon’s watch has been left inside (Jackie gives Mr. Hill his own wristwatch and runs away).


I was assured that every instrument was accounted for by my surgeon, but we joked that he may left a hemostat inside. Maybe this, too, shall pass, as they say.


The doctors were the good guys, while a couple post-op care givers’ performances make Nurse Mildred Ratched (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) look like Florence Nightingale.


The Lower Tidmarsh notification system for nurses is to use your cell phone to text your spouse, who then negotiates the hospital telephone system, eventually linking up with the Nurses’ Station.


That lesson was learned the morning after surgery. The nurse had ignored room 3224 overnight. By 8 A.M. the need for meds and other support was reaching critical mass. The closed doorway and missing call button enhanced the experience.


The nurse answered the long-distance page, but was unhappy, especially when the surgeon and consulting doctors both provided guidance later that morning. The rest of her shift, the call button having been found, brought her response in 30-45 minutes. That’s either STAT or ASAP, I guess.


Post Op in the ward had this nurse verify the name, birth date and barcode on the wrist band. With medicine-filled syringe in hand she turned from the computer screen and walked to the “sharps” disposal box, dropping it in.


“Oops,” she said with a grin when called back at the doorway and told she had not administered the medicine. It wasn’t all that funny. Back to the med cabinet she went and administered a minimal dose, because she thought it was wise.


When reminded that she was almost 90 minutes late with the pain med, she shot back, “You have to request it!” So every three hours I wore out the nurse call button.


She was happy when the shift ended, but there she was the next morning with the same expression that she was overworked and the end of her shift could not come too soon.


The shift change was good for the patient, too, because for 12 hours the pain meds were proper, the nurse was attentive and caring. There were finally clean sheets and dressing gowns, a wash basin and associated supplies for long-delayed ablutions.


In the midst of this chaos came a young nurse to care for the incision. She recognized this patient as the Nurses Training Directeur for Frederick/Carroll Voiture 155 of the Society of the 40/8. Her distinction as a scholarship recipient brightened everyone’s day and she used extra care to do her sensitive work.


She is one of several current quality registered nurses at Lower Tidmarsh who have received scholarship awards from our veterans’ organization.


The happy ending, of course, is that recovery is nearly complete with return to the cardio-fitness regime at the Capt. Jennifer Odom Fitness Center at Fort Detrick and several bike rides with grandson to Carroll Creek Promenade. Eating is still a mine field – but that’s another story.


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