James

James was your typical tall, dark and handsome man. He was 6’2″ and was well muscled from years of physical labor, weighing a constant 160 lbs.

A carpenter by trade, James had a perfectionist streak that served him well for his chosen line of work. He showed pride on the job because it meant the task was done right the first time and he could walk away with confidence. James quickly lost respect for those in the field with a penchant for shortcuts. Although, I’ve a sneaky suspicion his competitiveness played a mean part of how and why he performed his duties the way he did. He was an independent, proud man, showing nothing but strength, control and something else that was unique and hard to miss – he prominently sported  a wry sense of humor.

As soon as James was old enough to read, you never found him without a book close enough to pick up in his down time. He preferred stories with historical accuracy and his love of reading contributed to his aptness for storytelling and the grand game of trivial pursuit. What he enjoyed more than reading, was where he could read – in a hammock on a bare bones camping trip after a day of canoeing and portaging. He loved nature and the outdoors and I swear nobody was more observant than he was. If some cool artifact was to be found, James was the person who found it. When he was young, instead of trading baseball cards as boys often do, James was trading Indian arrowheads and other treasures he’s sifted through the dirt to unearth.

Actually, I think James could have had horseshoes stuck up his butt, if I counted all the money he found and the numerous times he cheated death throughout his life. I’d have to say he was quite lucky. Once, he somehow got hung in his bunk bed instead of taking a nap, swept by an undertow before he could swim, slammed into a combine that severed his toes – only naming a few occasions where he miraculously got help before it was too late. He’s been beaten and left with a concussion, suffered broken bones and had even been stabbed. Adults in his life would say he was accident-prone.

For reasons unknown, James never did settle down to marry or have kids. Perhaps he let the right one get away while he was focusing on something else, or the right one just never came along. The reason certainly couldn’t have been a lack of interest from the opposite sex…there were always plenty of interested females trying to attract his attention.

Then again, James didn’t know he had such a short window.

In 1999 at age 43, his newest family physician finally referred him to an Orthopedic Surgeon who then scheduled a back surgery appointment. James had suffered for 18 years with random, excruciating muscle spasms, set off by certain minor physical movements. Progressively, the spasms increased, spawning from something as innocuous as sleep – rudely awakened in the night or early morning by the exact wrong movement. A spasmodic episode during the day could mean hours spent on the floor with limited (if any) ability to move, sometimes moving anything more than his little finger would create secondary spasms of intense pain, like aftershocks following an earthquake.

X-rays showed the cause of James pain, he was inflicted with a disintegrated spinal disc between the L4 and L5 vertebrae. The surgeon had planned to replace the disc with bone tissue taken from his hip and kept it in place with a plate on either side of his spine, secured with pins. James wasn’t told the success rate for most back surgeries. He should have been told the chances of eliminating his constant back pain and spasmodic immobilization were generally considered slim, with a mere 10 – 25% recovery rate. They only communicated he needed surgery and all will be back to normal – if he were lucky. Why wouldn’t he be lucky?

Of course, it wasn’t very lucky to find a family Doctor who upon meeting him for the first time, walked up behind him and greeted him with a good hearty slap in the back while  saying, “so, you’re having back problems, huh?” He wasn’t too lucky having to be faced with the task of proving to this PhD, like the ones before him, that he actually needed help. I guess this doctor thought James looked like the stereotypical young junkie looking for a narcotic fix, and his back ache was only a ruse to get to the drugs. Perhaps they all thought that, or they just conveniently misdiagnosed it as a pulled muscle. After all, one can easily complain of back pain without actually being able to prove it. By all accounts, and all the evidence, this doctor just found it easier to feed him narcotics and have a little sadistic fun with him for the duration.

On this issue, the last thing James had anticipated was the roller coaster of emotions when his surgery appointments were scheduled, then bumped time after time. He imagined the reason was somebody else was in more dire need. If given the choice, he’d gladly give up his time slot for somebody else (even if the other patient wasn’t more deserving, he’d have been convinced otherwise).

While truly happy for that somebody else, and as much as James was careful not to wear his heart on his sleeve, tears forced their way through that steely, controlled exterior anyway, each time he got the bad news. It was a two-year waiting game as the surgery kept getting cancelled – each time the operation was as highly anticipated as the initial drink of water after dehydration set in from going days without. Each time, he’d wait about 8 months, and the date got as close as the day before his surgery when he was subsequently disappointed by the dreaded phone call.

It was disappointment to an extreme measure.

His physical disability and consistent pain put his life on hold, it was indeed difficult to manage, and just as difficult to wait. He arrived at the point where he couldn’t work to support himself and wasn’t able to do most of the things he otherwise loved to do. This life unraveling experience was a devastating blow to his pride, and that complicated matters too.

September 12, 2001 was the third time his back surgery was scheduled. If he learned nothing else by this time, he learned not to get his hopes up. It was certain this surgery was also going to be cancelled – after all, it was the day following 9/11 and thoughts about the supplies and blood that could be needed elsewhere…well…of course it didn’t look good.

However, September 12 turned out to be the date James did get his surgery. Some convalescing and all would be well again – oh happy day, because on that day he could reclaim those horseshoes again.

On the other hand, James’s convalescing took weeks, then a year passed…the pain never ceased. The surgery failed to bring him relief, although, grateful the spasms have stopped, he still went down hill from there. Among other things, he has since developed an intestinal disorder and it became quite unbearable to digest food, bringing a whole new level and intensity to his pain repertoire. Visits to his family Doctor (which was generally the case) were fruitless as the willingness to take him seriously just wasn’t there. James would complain about symptoms like urinating tar and his doctor would counter it with, “everybody has a little blood in their urine.”Did he think James was a hopeless hypochondriac not worthy of his attention?

Well, as a matter of fact – No.

The good Doc had no incentive to care for this difficult patient. James was a patient that by sheer chance, picked the wrong Doctor before the health care system teetered on its last legs of bankruptcy. James lives in Canada, he is a victim of the Canadian, socialist healthcare system. A system that seemingly worked well for a while but eventually ran full cycle and isn’t good for anyone, let alone everyone like it was intended.

The severe Doctor shortage suggests James is extremely lucky to even have a doctor. He can’t look for a new Doctor because he has one, those are the rules. Furthermore, if he’s lucky to get someone else’s physician to agree to look at him, they interview him first and select patients on the criteria of time investment. Easy patients get selected and difficult patients get rejected. A patient on narcotic pain meds is difficult with a capital “D.” Nobody wants a patient in chronic pain or someone with a preexisting condition.

James’s healthcare system has given up on him, his own doctor has given up on him. More accurately, his family physician never did care if he lived or died. For the last year he’s been slowly starving himself to death on a self-imposed liquid diet. He now weighs a paltry 126 pounds and his skeletal features are highly pronounced in his once good-looking face. 126 pounds is exactly what his skin and bones weigh, no muscle and no fat. Anybody with a heart would consider the situation absolutely heartbreaking.

For those that deny what this scenario is called, here are your “Death Panels” at work.

When quantity over quality to make the maximum amount of money in a day, overrides the challenges of medicine and a Hippocratic Oath to have the patients needs first and foremost, you can be certain doom is on the horizon. When opening up a text-book to read up on obscure disorders is bothersome enough to be entirely out of the question, your healthcare system has become nonfunctional. When it stops being profitable for the health professionals, this is exactly what to expect, and precisely what happens.

Is this where you want to go America? Are you really going to damn the generations that come after you?

If this is what you want, the same thing will happen here as it’s done in other countries like Canada. And, it will all start when the expense of the system is forced to cap salaries and everybody gets the same rewards and none of those rewards are worth the effort. Canadian doctors fled south en masse to capitalize off the free enterprise system of the US. No longer was it feasible to keep practices open in Canada. The health care industry was no longer lucrative. Doctors and Nurses bailed and students stopped choosing to go into the industry, it was no longer worth the educational time investment because the chances of making a good living and/or being rewarded for excelling was eliminated.

They unwittingly created a system where it didn’t matter how good you are in your field, and it didn’t matter how bad you are. It mattered how many patients you could see in a day.

Unfortunately, there is so much more ugliness to this story than what I have written. I’m privy to the shameful details and the logical end result, that reeks of a social engineering stench that can’t be prevented from going bad. I know because James is my brother.

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17 Responses to James

  1. alicesavorygravy says:

    Amazing read. Thank you.

  2. Tom says:

    Brilliant piece of writing, and very effective in expressing your point. It’s too bad Michigan got stuck with Jenny Granholm (another female Canadian import) for eight years rather than your wise supervision, Robin.

    Two questions: Is there anything positive you can say about the Canadian health care system, from what you and your brother/family have experienced? and

    Would there be any possibility of getting James down to the States to get some real medical attention before our health care system takes that leap off the cliff?

    • Robin says:

      Thanks Tom, I don’t have the political background that Granholm did but it’s entirely too bad the voters thought she could do some good for the State. If the voters vote for someone that looks good and can deliver a speech, they deserve what they got.

      You know, I’ve been thinking about your question of anything good about the Canadian health care system. I’d really like to answer with something positive but, the truth is, it depends on who you are. If you golf with a Doctor, I’m sure you’re fine with the system. It comes down to free healthcare – you get what you pay for. In the US we have doctors retiring early because of the excessive paperwork and red tape dealing with the government…we are heading in the same direction. My doctor just retired early and abruptly because she was government ordered to transcribe everything that was said on a laptop between her and her patient. This was for compliance with Obamacare’s centralized government-controlled database for electronic records.

      “And the federal government, aided by provisions in the health reform law, is waving a financial stick in one hand and dangling a carrot in the other to punish or reward doctors and hospitals that variously resist or embrace health information technology.” Read more here; articles/2011/07/18/most-connected-hospitals
      and here; big-brother-obamacare-looks-to-collect-private-medical

      As for James getting medical attention here, it’s out of the question. James considers himself a burden on his own system (never mind burdening another country). He cannot even fathom the US could help him or help him quicker and better. Like so many, he’s in denial that Canadian healthcare is bad for your health. I am only left with watching him die.

      • Tom says:

        Very sad all around. Unfortunately we here in the states are probably destined to continue our creep toward a socialistic health care system even with any kind of repeal of Obamacare if he is defeated, unless the truth about the Canadian/European systems are continually exposed as being bad for everyone.

        • Robin says:

          If enough liberals and democrats keep pushing for socialist healthcare, socialist healthcare is what we’ll get. They think they deserve free healthcare, it’s a right. They should be careful about what they ask for.

          Unfortunately they’re only looking at the situation through a utopian prism, not following it to it’s logical conclusion. They can grumble and complain about what they don’t have and forget to count the blessings they do have. Hoards have cried about insurance companies not covering individuals that have preexisting conditions. Imagine where they’ll be when they won’t even get treated. Canadian health insurance companies are also non-existent, they’ve been squeezed out of the market. Government doesn’t like competition.

          Free/socialist healthcare is a system that promotes astronomical costs when the government is footing the tab. There are no overseers, nobody watching, nobody following the money or accounting for the actual costs of anything. Band-aide manufacturers can charge much higher prices and hospitals and physicians can also charge an exorbitant amount for the same band-aide. Government workers don’t care how much a band-aide costs, they don’t make the connection it’s actually coming out of their pockets. An individual citizen does care how much somebody charges them for a piece of tape.

          Another way free/socialist healthcare promotes astronomical costs is due to the fact that most people in the system go see a doctor for every little cough, sniffle and fever. A free system also promotes pill pushers. I can pretty much bet there are more resistant strains of viruses and bacteria in socialist countries than those that are not.

  3. Tom says:

    That Utopian prism allows them to not see all the defects you mention that are bound to exist whenever you socialize all health care. Big government advocates of both parties along with large pharmaceuticals and other preferred health organizations who would gain from socialized medicine will continue to push for more and more ‘reforms’ under the guise of protecting the health, security and the safety of all, while in the process taking away the majority of the actual rights we take for granted now in the current system.

    It’s similar to what the Federal Government does in the name of national security. Use the fear of radical terrorists from 9-11-2001 to implement measures that take away fundamental rights that one would think our Constitution guarantees us. Does security and safety trump basic human rights? Ben Franklin put it bluntly: “Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” Might he add if he were alive today: “Those who sacrifice liberty for health care will get neither.”

    I don’t want to be told what doctor I need to see and what procedure some bureaucrat without any medical experience thinks is prudent for me any more than I want to be living in a police state.

    • Robin says:

      It’s clear you have a good handle on the situation Tom. You have clear boundaries between your rights, liberties and security and understand the importance of balance. Ben Franklin was very right in that famous quote, it could have been more appropriately said that by trading liberty for security, you will end up with neither (healthcare is security). Liberty is like the sacred staff treasure they keep trying to knock out of your hands or buy it from you, eventually they’ll just steal it.

      I feel the same way as you, no to the police state and no bureaucrats to make my health decisions.

  4. Barri says:

    Used it at a good opportunity to bring up socialized medicine . It conveys the feeling of being stuck in a system that is hopeless , how , why it degrades . I felt the despair even if it is not a direct point . The story says it better than describing the feelings, Rich between the lines . I think people will feel it like me . Nothing overstated but the story comes through . I think it will be very effective for my use , a warning of things I can sense but can’t say , no experience or first hand knowledge , just economic rules and the history of socialism gets old , nobody reads . Thanks for sharing , not many people are . Maybe health care is such a private matter , I guess it is to me too . I try to make a case against socialist health care sometimes , I think this makes one I couldn’t write . hope you don’t mind my linking to from Mitt Romney facebook and The White House facebook . I think even liberals would feel it too .

    • Robin says:

      Absolutely Barri, share it wherever and as often as you can. I can get documentation to prove every thing I’ve said. People need to know what they’re buying into. Thanks for your analysis of the story as well, it’s always fun to hear what others think.

      • Tom says:

        I will also want to share this story with my fellow West Michiganders later in the year, when the choice between expanding Obamacare (a vote for Barack) and the choice for wadding up Obamacare (a vote for the generic Republican) comes back to the forefront of public scrutiny. Or better yet, have you share it with them, as it is your personal story. I will drop you a line sometime later this summer, with a plea for you to bring it on. Keep up the good work.

  5. Pingback: Does the guy who saved the Olympics not get this ? « gossiPGlºb Blog

  6. rederic says:

    this is a sad story,didn’t really want to read it
    felt compelled to though
    this same type care i received under care choices
    right here in mich,and by the sounds of it,the same type
    of dr’s
    having been in an auto accident in feb,2002.left me somewhat crippled
    unable to work,and in constant pain,which runs into my toes
    from the spinal damage,one specialist put me on pain patches
    the directions said no one under 125 lb,i was down to 114 from 130
    dealing with this,anyways an hour after using a patch i was
    throwing up,couldn’t even leave the bathroom,it was that bad
    called the so called specialist,her response,just wear it lower,
    i asked her,won’t i still get the same amount,but just take a
    longer,she says yes,so i took it upon myself to stop using them
    another so called expert stated,i think you have carpal tunnel!!!
    i said that is in the wrist and not the back,ok so yes we cannot go
    that route
    yet another dr,walks in slaps me on the back,and says”well lets hear your story”
    another specialist doing a nerve induction test changed the temp of the room we
    were in,so i could pass that test!!
    went to the hosp for a scheduled test using dye injected into my spine
    after the test was finished a nurse comes in to say,wasn’t you told not to sit up?
    i told her NO,and was told that the fluid leaking would give me bad headaches
    well yes,but only after i got home,not knowing what to do,i called the same hosp
    and asked for the dr who performed the test,DR WHO?,we have no dr here by that name
    great just great,who was it then who did that test?no one knows
    had back surgery,something i did not want to do,and again things go wrong
    the halo used fell apart,while my head was in it,causing more damage to myself
    and i didn’t get better,but actually worse,was taking 120mg of morphine per day
    didn’t help,but did make a zombie out of me,all the while this is going on
    every month for a week i would be down in bed sweating toxins out of my body
    lost all my muscle tone
    here it is 2012 cannot work,cannot function as i did,hardly any appetite,and most
    days just plain hard to walk
    my dr had the audacity to ask me,”well what do you think we should try now?”
    gee, i so wish i made the bucks they do,to do nothing of value,other than keeping
    you coming back to make more money
    ended up losing my job at GM,lost my insurance,my life i once had
    i used to be energetic,working 12-18 hrs a day,had big muscles for my size
    now if i get 3 hrs a day of work i pay for it for days
    so i ask if it was that bad in 2002,just how bad is it going to be
    under obamacare?
    thank you
    rederic

    • Robin says:

      Wow rederic, your story sounds really sad too. The problem with both scenario’s is there’s little to no accountability. In the US, the insurance system is not a free market system, thus simultaneously obscuring the costs and bloating the costs of healthcare while complicating the whole process for the healthcare recipient. The insurance companies have become too big to fight without proper market competition to keep them in-line. The same thing happens in a government run system. Instead of working out the kinks, Obama decided to exacerbate the problems.

      Where is the moral fiber that warped and weaved through society? Where was the moral fiber of the health professionals that treated you? And, where was the moral fiber of the multimillion dollar corporation that abandoned you? As a business owner, I could not leave an employee out in the cold like that. I would have done everything in my power to keep you employed in some capacity so you could keep your healthcare…even if you had to be re-trained. rederic, you’ve given yet one more reason not to support GM.

      The first thing someone thinks about is the lawsuits you could level, few understand how it feels to be faced with that on top of what you’re already dealing with. James is totally beaten, he’s lucky to get a little bit mobile and out the door once a month to buy a monthly supply of protein drinks. He can’t fight back, he’s got no fight left in him. Not to mention suing physicians in Canada is pretty much unheard of. I have to continually remind myself that I don’t feel nearly as bad as he does when I’m encouraging him to do something.

      I’m so sorry you’ve been let down so hard by a succession of disappointments from your fellow man. So many could use an advocate or two. It would be nice if everybody were held a little more accountable and felt a little more responsibility for others.

    • Gravelman says:

      Rederic—
      My heart goes out to ya…Maybe we should start a support Group together…
      After an industrial accident left me with a major torn rotator cuff, a detached bicep, and ….
      A 3 level failed back fusion, So I understand your Plight. I think we may have had the same doctor from the sounds of it.
      The biggest thing I found out was, I needed to be Proactive and take control of my Medical treatment. After all….. The comp doctors said there was nothing wrong with me.

      I just thank God, I was a citizen of the USA, living in the USA, after experiencing the Canadian medical first hand while living there a few years Ago.

      The only way I can describe the health care to folks back here in the states was to ask them when I was inquired about it ;…. “Did you like the 1960’s”
      …they get this puzzled look, and having finally gotten their full attention, I reply —
      “That’s what you’re going to get here with that type of system,—-
      THE 1960’s vintage health care”

      …When we returned to the states, the kids were celebrities at the dentist office…
      Everybody ….I mean everybody , wanted to see the Antique Braces on their teeth…
      They had only READ about these types of braces, Never actually seen them …
      as they were not used here…. since the late 1960’s .
      That was Scary….So …
      What else is antiquated within the Socialist health care I wondered??

  7. rederic says:

    thanks for the kind words,makes life a bit easier
    what i have found out is this,the med profession is not about getting people better, it is about keeping them coming back,they do not heal,nor try to,this would hurt their bottom line
    instead of healing with natural drugs and cures,they all use big pharma,which their drugs
    hurt more than help
    dr’s will not ever tell a cancer patient they have had a cure for it since the 30’s
    they want to use chemo and radiation,approved by big pharma,which does more damage than the cancer ever thought of being
    dr’s will never say to increase oxygen in your body,as cancer cannot live in a high oxygen environment
    this is the type of nonsense that goes on when big pharma is in bed with the fda
    dr’s will tell a patient that hydrogen peroxide,either used in an atomizer or diluted in water increases the oxygen content thereby killing cancer cells
    there are more natural cures out there that help also,but these never get brought up but infact get buried,just as did tesla’s work,cars that run on water,ect ect
    but with the same players involved with these few cases,it will stay buried as it hurts their money flow
    dentists use mercury filled crap to fill cavities,mercury is a poison,that slowly kills
    it is also put in all the flu shots and vaccines that they try to force kids to get
    something i read awhile ago struck me as funny and sick at the same time.
    the cdc mentioned that illegals coming here from mexico haven’t ever gotten
    the whooping cough shot and they are/were passing it along to others,the others they mentioned catching it are the ones who had gotten that shot already,not the ones here who did not get the shot,the ones who had already been vaccinated for it(strange isn’t it?)
    with the mercury in our mouth’s and vaccines,with the gmo frankenfood created
    by monsanto,with them poisoning our water with fluoride and estrogen,we are doomed as people this is slowly rotting us from the inside out
    but to me this pales in comparison with what we are getting coming down from the fed gov
    you might already know,i pray you all do,but anyone who speaks out against the fed gov
    will be labeled as a belligerent,on the word of one man,and be swept away,stripped of their rights
    no due process,no day in court,every legal option we had will be gone,and we will be taken
    and held indefinitely
    this is not america anymore,hitler would be so proud we stole and use his his nazi
    propaganda playbook,and use it so effectively
    it is my honor to have chatted with you 2
    gravelman it would be great to meet you in person,if you were serious of course
    i am going to be at that meeting at the adrian college,i am going to ask about
    jenkins about the property taxes and how illegal they are
    i made a huge splash,asking what i did to our sheriff when he announced his re-election bid
    at the fair grounds
    again thank you
    rederic

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