Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thank God for "Socialized Medicine"

I woke up at seven in the morning. I had this pain like I never had experienced before. I was away from my partner sitting, standing, and writhing in pain in Paris. I found my way to a friend, Pedro-Paolo, who managed an antiques store in the St. Germain des Pres. He directed me to Hotel-Dieu, a hospital and ER, adjacent to the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

I checked in, and, for two hours, groaned in pain on a dirty floor until I was unclothed and put on a stretcher, left unattended for two more hours next to a door (cold--it was January) where hospital staff would go out to have a smoke--tobacco or otherwise.

I was examined, reexamined, ultrasounded, CT-scanned, EKG'd, and, well, the list goes on. After eleven hours, I was told that I had a kidney stone most likely related to the fact that I had consumed "dirty" spinach and had not been adequately hydrated.

The care I received (after the first hour or so) was kind, compassionate, competent, and helpful. I recalled an ER experience at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago years before when I had a "stomach virus" and laid on a stretcher for twenty hours before I pulled out my IV to give a lecture as a visiting professor at Rush-Presbyterian Hospital.

In the Chicago experience, I received bills from countless entities totaling more than $4,000 for a stay where I was not diagnosed, left in pain and helpless, and literally left the ER with blood dripping from my arm.

"Au contraire" in Paris. I left with a clear idea what was happening, with prescriptions, with a follow-up appointment--and oh--with a bill--for 300 francs--forty-eight dollars.
Then, when I got back to our apartment and was still feeling ill, I called a friend's physician who came at 3:00 a.m. to help, comfort, and treat me. At no cost.

God bless socialized medicine. I have always said, as a physician, to the government, "Give me one billion dollars, and I will show you how to save ten trillion dollars." In my medical practice, I hired seven additional employees to help--not with our bills--but with the hundreds of other bills patients had which made sick people sicker trying to figure out how to deal with all the paperwork.

The time has come, let us have FAITH in a system where HEALING is dispensed rather than BILLS DISPERSED. This should be the SOLEMN VOW of any physician--and btw--I loved saying that to my husband when we were married one month ago in Connecticut. Some take those vows for granted; others crave to make them; don't anyone belittle those simple, solemn, and loving words.

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