Sunday, July 3, 2011



I was carried into the first of four hospitals on, appropriately, April Fool's Day. The joke was on me. From health to death's door in two days. And for the first time since May, 1957, I haven't written anything for 106 days since they don't allow computers in intensive care.
My descent into the hell of several months of hospital left me unable to walk until a day ago, and holes over my tail bone which may take more months to heal. I never guessed that my leg muscles would turn into jelly after all those weeks imprisoned in a hospital bed, the first part in isolation and intensive care.
It left me with a profound respect for many nurses, and a hatred for some. I also think hospitals trying to go without registered nurses where possible, and playing games to keep them off permanent staff where they would get benefits, is a costly disgrace.
I think if  St. Joseph's had sufficient staff at night so I didn't have to lie in my own filth for 20 to 30 minutes, I wouldn't have ended up with three enormous bedsores which still are burrowing in my bum despite a range of enough medicine to kill a bull.
Turns out that everything you've heard about American hospital bills is absolutely true. The bills are still flying but it looks like they averaged $8,000 a day. Never leave home without travel insurance.
It also turns out that the "free" medicare of Ontario has cost me thousands of dollars despite my Canadian health plan covering enormous amounts.
Not exactly the way to lose 40 pounds. Unfortunately most of that came out of my muscles -  I still have a bit of a belly - which meant that up to several weeks ago, not only was I tethered by tubes to a bed, it took at least two nurses to get me out of that bed.
A hellish experience. One that almost killed me but was harder on my wife, Mary, and my three sons, John Henry, Brett and Mark. They came to West Virginia from their homes in China, California and Toronto because it looked like I was about to die due to enough poisons sloshing around my innards to keep a chest drain working overtime. There were other things wrong but no need to list them because you should already get the idea that I might have expired for several reasons.
 I'm going to tell you all about it in some blogs. I confided to a doctor at St. Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto's westend that I wondered if I was going to write about it all because I didn't want to hurt good hospital staffs by relating bad experiences, even a couple where I could have died because of stupidity.
The doctor said I should write about it because there were so many problems with the health system today that any publicity would help.
Since my experiences included my family not being able to find a hospital in Toronto willing to accept me, saying they had no beds, I have plenty of indignation burning inside me where the gut pain used to be.
What's the use of having well-connected doctors and serving since 1988 on the board of a Toronto hospital when you spend extra costly days in a Charleston medical centre because all of the incredible medical facilities of Toronto are closed to you.
Something I will never forget or forgive.

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