American Health Scare: A glimpse at a backwards system

Brandon Lesko
Assist. Opinion Editor

As I was sitting down to write my article this week, I had intended on discussing the differences between American and Canadian cultures.  As I was about one paragraph into my story though I got a phone call from my mom.
“I have to drop off the cat on Tuesday.  Your grandmother is showing signs of kidney failure and I need to get to New Jersey to see her.”
Now hold on one second mom.  I was just sitting here thinking about Canadians and their nice healthcare system when you call me and start telling me about the failures of ours.  Are you pulling my leg?
No, unfortunately not.  It is true that my grandmother is in seriously bad health at the moment, but what may surprise you is that its not because of anything she’s done.  It’s because of what’s being done to her in our top-notch healthcare facilities.
As I pressed my mom on what condition my grandma was in and what was being done about it,I found out that she was swelling with fluids and gaining weight, which was making it hard to breath, from a shake the medical staff forces her to drink daily for nutrition.
On top of this, her kidneys can’t process the extra water, but if the doctors were to flush the fluids out her sodium levels would fall and make her Alzheimer’s worse. It would also cause her extreme headaches.
Now for the public record I should state that I am not a doctor.  I have no medical training whatsoever and am not pretending to know more than those who are in charge of my grandma’s life.  However, I do have common sense and the ability to observe as well as a vested emotional interest in the survival of my grandma.
I do not have a problem that the medical staff are trying all they can to combat the many little problems that are ailing my grandmother right now.  What I do have a problem with is the fact that she is sucking in oxygen in a physical rehabilitation center instead of a hospital.
You’d think that if you have a patient that is one step from death’s door combating kidney failure that you would immediately move her ass to a hospital.  Apparently that is not what happens.  I guess we actually just keep them in a facility that lacks the appropriate resources to deal with major illnesses until the next day when the blood tests come back.
Another aspect of this whole ordeal that has baffled me is the fact that the doctor on duty at the rehab facility isn’t the one who affects the type of care and medication that my grandmother takes.  Instead, there is a mysterious panel of doctors that sits in a room, and by looking at a computer screen- never seeing the actual patient -they make decisions to take away certain medications, add some here, increase them on this day, and decrease them that afternoon.  All of these changes have made a chemical mess out of my grandma to the point where she feels like she is losing her mind.
I’m at the point, and so is my whole family including my grandma, where we forget what exactly it was that she went to the hospital for in the first place.  I think it was dizziness.  A fall? Swollen feet?  Headaches?  I can’t recall.  All that I know now is that after she went in the hospital for a trivial matter, such as the ones described above, she is now nearing kidney failure.  What is wrong with this picture?  You’re supposed to go to the doctor to get better aren’t you?
I can see where some may view the kidney’s as an underlying problem but they are only partially correct.  She has had kidney problems in the past, but the constant interference with her medicines and the continual shock to her body, as far as changes in diet are concerned, have made this problem a crisis.
I’m having trouble understanding a medical system where the primary physician who makes the treatment choices doesn’t even see the patient.
I can‘t understand a system where the patient is shuttled to a rehab center that lacks the appropriate means to deal with the actual problem because of the dictates of Medicare.
I don’t understand the method of medicine I describe as “shock and awe”, where you just blast the body with as much medicine as possible and hope for the best.
I can’t understand why the people who are effected by the sub-par healthcare system in this country can’t stand up and demand better care and better answers for the ones they love.
I do not believe this would have happened in Canada.