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Saturday, July 15, 2006 

The Phoenix

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
- Sylvia Plath


First, I like to thank everybody for all the kind words.

Returning home, I reflected on the recent events that occurred regarding my grandmother this past week. The only thing that comes to mind to describing what I witnessed is the mythical bird, the Phoenix.

It is said that the legendary bird lived for 500 years. Near the end of its life, the phoenix would build a funeral pyre for itself. As it began to die, the nest would burst into flames reducing both the nest and the phoenix into ashes. From the ashes the Phoenix arises to live for another 500 years.

This is not to say, I am expecting my grandmother to be immortal, but she does come really close to it. My grandmother is 97 years old and to my knowledge, this is the second time she has cheated death. In the medical and social service geriatric fields, she would be considered to be frail elderly because she has totally become dependent on others for her survival needs. Before being admitted to the hospital, she already had many health problems including knee replacement, osteoporosis, and dementia due to her Alzheimer's. She also required more care than my aunt and her caregiver was able to provide. She was admitted to the hospital because she had fallen down after she tired to get out of her wheelchair. We were told by the orthopedic surgeon, the fracture in her leg was near the hip and would require surgery, but given her age and her health, it was risky and the chances for survival was slim. The other choice we had was to try to stabilize her and wait till the bones heal, however, there are another complications which would also have the same result, however, it would be a slower and painful end.

No matter how much healthcare has changed, one thing remains the same - a system based on authority. During a time like this both the family and the patient are vulnerable around a doctor because they're more concerned about getting treatment than addressing the lack of compassion. It was not until I asked the surgeon, a more personal question. I asked him, given the same situation, what would he do if it was his own mother or grandmother. It is interesting to see the robotic nature turn humanistic. The knowledge he had about the risks involved was further explained, which in the end, the decision was easier make. The choice was surgery - having a small once of hope will always outweigh dying by pain and suffering.

However, the journey was not over. My week with my grandmother help shed light in a microcosm way to the larger picture in the US when it comes to healthcare. My grandmother was inadequately provided any type of care when she was first admitted to the hospital and it was not until they found out about our family influence that scared them to start giving a damn about my grandmother.

The day I got there, my grandmother was on her death bed and probably wouldn't have even made it to the operation. By the time I arrived, she was completely dehydrated nor was she given any type of pain medication. The excuse the nurse gave for the her lack of medication, my grandmother had to request for her meds and it was "the weekend"; this obviously raised red flags and would indicate it will be a battle for my grandmother's survival. It wasn't too difficult to see my grandmother was unable to speak, therefore, making it impossible for her to communicate vocally she was in severe pain. However, one would hope that someone could figure out that when a person is agitated, grabbing her leg, not eating, and not sleeping the night that these are sure signs of discomfort. Since it happened to be the "weekend", I guess the medical profession are allowed to turn off their brains and hope their patients will be able to survive through the weekend.

I kid you not, when I was left alone with her, she must have seen something in me or I reminded of someone, because her physical actions mimicked someone who was ready to die. The minute she saw me, she smiled peacefully and lay her arms across her chest. At one point, she stretched her arms reaching for the light. Could have her dementia taken over? Who really knows, but only her. It was not until my sister, a medical doctor, started raising hell did the hospital finally gave her medication.

And it was not until the next day, the hospital started giving her the royal treatment as soon as they found out that one of my grandmother's children happened to own her own consulting business which happens to prepare hospitals for their accreditation. The hospital also found out that one of my grandmother's grandchildren is a local reporter who also happens to know the CEO of the hospital. One thing was for sure, heads rolled and care was provided. It is unfortunate it had to get to this point. Once she received proper care, like the Phoenix, she rose from her own ashes, beating the odds that were placed against her.

Although, I am happy for my grandmother's recovery, I can not help but wonder what the outcome would have been if we didn't have the resources that we were fortunate to have or if we didn't fight for a person who was voiceless. There is no denying that fact that there were many factors that were stacked against my grandmother, she was elderly, female and a minority. In a nation that is considered to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world, it saddens me to know that these factors tend to work against a person. But was is worse, the studies that continue to show that age, race and class matters in the type of health care a person receives are all true and a government who refuses to correct the situation.

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  • I'm XicanoPwr
  • From Tejas, United States
  • Un Xicano who is tired of the current status quo.
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