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The Drugs Do Work


In writing about Noel’s operation (it feels good to share), I’ve been reluctant to praise the quality of our health care for fear of jinxing it. Living in Brooklyn, we were always but a mile from an emergency room and on one occasion with Campbell, were very glad of that. Plus, if you read my post about Noel’s birth, you may remember I managed to get from my house to the delivery room in about four minutes flat – pulling back the curtain right as Noel’s head popped out! But with the conveninent urban location came the inconvenient urban hassles: both at birth and when Noel went into hospital at Easter (and this at two different locations), Posie “shared” rooms with selfish, loud and ultimate unsuitable mothers; it could take an hour for a nurse to respond to a call; the baby could scream even longer before someone would think to look in; and as for the food, well, we know not to go there.

Moving up to the Catskills, we were nervous about our distance from hospitals: we’re 45 minutes away from even the worst of them. (Volunteer squads take care in the meantime and after a dry run with a visiting friend one weekend who cracked her head open, we were reassured that they get to you much faster than in the City.) But in setting up Noel’s operation with Albany Medical Center, we’ve learned that health care doesn’t have to impersonal, rushed and unpleasant. (And our health care plan has not changed in the meantime.) From Posie’s first phone call onwards, we’ve been treated to exemplary service: she was treated calmly and compassionately when first discussing his apparent need for an operation (we’d gone through all this in Brooklyn, and been encouraged to wait until we were settled in Upstate and the baby was a bit bigger) after which all paperwork was forwarded in advance, tests were carried out promptly, and the surgeon made himself available via e-mail prior to the operation. When Campbell and I went to visit on Monday, we were thrilled to find nurses, doctors and assistants walking into the room every few minutes checking on baby and mother; there was a self-serve kitchen (and a relatively healthy café downstairs) in the ward; a room full of baby toys; and when I asked for directions to the bathroom, someone even walked down the hallway with me so I didn’t get lost. I almost failed to notice that Posie was again sharing a room; I can’t prove it, but I’d like to believe the other family was equally quiet as a direct result of the positive environment.

So while we agreed with the doctors that Noel would be happier at home, and didn’t object to his being released ahead of schedule, when he was up all night on Wednesday, in post-op pain, we wished we could have just pressed the buzzer by the bedside for professional help. Instead, a sleepless Posie called the doctors office first thing in the morning; after an initial phone consultation in which we were told we hadn’t got enough liquid down him overnight (reason enough to have stayed in hospital, but still…), the surgeon himself called us back for a lengthy, reassuring consultation. He also prescribed a different drug to deal with Noel’s evident discomfort. I drove a few miles to pick it up a few minutes later and by lunchtime we had a mellowed-out, dare I say contented baby. Proof positive: The Drugs DO Work.

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