Our Existential Journey
June 2015

I've always taken the health care system for granted until faced with an emergency. Marylyn and I've been on an existential journey.

Marylyn had a minor stroke March 31st. Luckily we live five minutes from the only Level One Trauma Center on the far west side of Phoenix. Emergency Medical Technicians and transport were at our door in two-minutes; Marylyn was in the Emergency Room plugged into life-saving care 15 minutes later.

It's been a ten week trip. A week in recovery, a week of tests discovering the cause, open heart surgery to fix the problem, six days in Intensive Care, two weeks of intensive rehab to restore ability to perform daily living tasks followed by weeks of cardiac and kidney rehab to retrain her heart and save her kidney.

It's not smart to take the health care system for granted. It took money, skilled medical care professionals and nurture to achieve a good outcome.

As much as I hate to admit it money comes first.

In the words of Sister Margaret McBride of St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center: "No money; no mission". Our journey went well because there's been money to…

  1. Build, equip and staff an emergency response team;
  2. Build, equip and staff a Trauma Center to receive and care for patients;
  3. Build, equip and staff hospital recovery rooms;
  4. Build, equip and staff clinics where tests can identify what really caused the medical emergency;
  5. Build, equip and staff a hospital that provides operating rooms and recovery services;
  6. Build, equip and staff a facility that provides rehabilitation services.

About all we personally know is what we co-pay and pay for supplemental insurance. The lion's share of costs was paid by Medicare taxes paid by fellow citizens and passed through to health care providers by State and Federal governmental programs.

Obama Care's not perfect but it does make it possible for health care providers to get paid for the services they provide.

As we checked out of Abrazo West Hospital a nurse, an administrator and a man identified as Chief Executive Officer asked "How was the quality of care?" I later learned Medicare reimbursement is tied in part to a five-star rating of customer perception of the quality of care. Mayo is the only Arizona system rated 5, the average rating is 3 and Abrazo West is rated 2. Nurture is important but not first priority.

We're not completely naïve when it comes to health care delivery. Both of us have been around health care for decades. Marylyn was a Registered Dietitian and Human Resource Manager who worked in hospitals and clinics for years.

Personally I had a brief military medical career followed by being university trained in team development and quality customer care, managed an Interdisciplinary Health Team Project at The University of North Carolina Medical School, and more importantly was full-time care-giver when Marylyn received a kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic.

The five-star rating system assumes facilities and equipment are in place and that qualified staff are available to provide essential medical care.

We know it takes skilled medical care professionals to create and manage the health care system. We know the multiple medical skills required are beyond the ability of any one person to master or judge.

At Mayo a patient care coordinator communicated what happened, what was happening and what was next, answered our questions and communicated our needs and that was helpful. That did not happen at Abrazo West and there were times when I was very confused as to how to help Marylyn recover.

But to be frank the fact that nurture was less present than what we experienced at Mayo Clinic does not negatively impact our beliefs about the quality of care we received.

We've been incredibly lucky to live in a community with a comprehensive world-class health care system just minutes away. Mayo Clinic being almost forty miles away negates the fact that it is a five-star facility.

Thanks to the Emergency Medical Techs, Nurses, Check in Staff, Doctors, Custodians, Administrators, Food Service Workers and Medical Office Managers who cared for us so well. It is almost as if the last ten weeks was just a dream and Marylyn never was ill.