Redding Man Suffers Because of Broken Health-Care System

humanity

When did we cease to be human? At what point in party division did “us” versus “them” become every man for himself?

I am frustrated, overwhelmed and rapidly becoming cynical at the thought of being able to make difference at any level.

Seven days ago a 59-year-old man had a stroke. This man has worked his entire life. He’s owned businesses, worked hard, and was a commercial truck driver. He has almost always had health insurance. He has broken his body performing manual labor, and had surgeries and car accidents. Basically, he lived a normal event-filled life.

He has a small family, and one son. That shared son is who he and and I have in common.

Barbara Ward story

At the beginning of this year, this 59-year-old man took a turn of bad luck. He ran afoul of some technicalities. He got entangled in a court case that was destined to be settled. He lost his job working for a college and lost his relationship of 17 years. Suddenly single and without a plan, he was couch surfing a bit, trying to regain his bearings and get himself on track again. He never did drugs. He never smoked. Never drank. He was raised a good Catholic altar boy.

My husband and I opened our home and our hearts to this man who was forever tied to us through our love of our son, who was about to graduate high school and head off to college. The man helped us with some projects and was doing his own semi-independent thing.

Barbara Ward story 2

At our son’s graduation.

Two months ago he lost his right foot to gangrene. Always a guy who loved to eat, he had not managed his diabetes well. He liked sugar and didn’t like medicine. The consequences of that came home to him when he got an infection and lost his right foot. It knocked the wind out of him a bit.

He finally made it out of the hospital and was working hard to learn to walk again, how to stride, healing up the very sensitive remainder of his foot, and getting a prosthesis made. He was lucky enough to get some medical coverage through Obama care during this time, and managed to get an appointment with a primary care physician and begin the process of getting the important things done.

Seven days ago he had a stroke in the early hours of the morning in my living room. Our son found him, called 911 and saved his life.

My whole world imploded. After a lifetime of being co-parents, I found myself his power of attorney. I needed to make important decisions regarding his quality of life, the care he receives, and the next steps that will determine his recovery.

He has settled into a level of disability that is staggering. He is paralyzed. He can no longer eat his beloved ice cream. He is being fed through a tube in his stomach. He cannot walk. He cannot lift himself or sit up. He cannot transfer himself or speak loud enough to be heard. His world changed, but so did ours.

I have sat up nights reading, educating myself and preparing to make sure he gets the help he needs to regain some sense of independence. I formulated a plan, researched facilities and figured out how to manage to get all the things done that were needed.

Then today, I received the costliest education of all. I learned that the system is broken; irreparably broken.

The reality of a catastrophic health crisis is this: Health care is a business. If you have fallen on hard times, you may not get the care you need, even though you have state coverage. This is the trap we have fallen into. He has Medi-Cal, and is covered for services in as much as the county offers mandated coverage for the infirm and needy. The coverage is a joke. No one accepts it. What good is insurance coverage that no one will accept? So far, every facility has DECLINED to accept him for care. I didn’t even know that was an option!

“Declined? What does that mean?” I asked.

The discharge coordinator patiently explained the scenario we are facing. This man is relatively young; only 59. If the long-term care facilities accepts him, they by law are required to offer certain age-appropriate programs for the younger patients. Rather than offer those programs for the rare younger person who suffers a stroke in this way, they simply decline to accept them.

This is mind-blowing. Not only this, but he also is a complex case. He has paralysis. He cannot swallow. He is a fall hazard. He requires a full Hoyer lift for transfer. His diabetes is poorly managed. He has speech issues. His dominant side is damaged, so he can’t write or communicate well.

The discharge coordinator also explained to me that she hadn’t worked much on his case today because she was only one person, and she had other patients that had been waiting for a bed for two weeks, a month, two months, and even three months.

These people are waiting, languishing in an acute care facility, because they could not get the care they desperately need because the facilities simply say no. They say no for a variety of reasons: They don’t like the insurance, or the reimbursement rate, or the family in general. They don’t have to give a reason. They can just say no. It is capitalism at its finest.

We are in the critical first three weeks of recovery and one week is completely gone. This is time when rehabilitation is the most effective. Skills are gained, abilities sometimes return, and yes, sometimes they do not. I am staring at the calendar, at the clock, Googling every possibility with frenetic intensity. I have never felt so helpless in my life. This man is in dire straits. He may never get better. He may not get a place to go for care, either. How is this even a possibility?

I asked the discharge nurse this today. She sighed and said, “Yes, the system is broken. This is the reality. He may just have to stay here. It happens.”

Stay there? In that tiny room that really doesn’t have enough room for a visitor. Staring at a TV with no socialization, no decent rehabilitation and no hope.

Our system is broken. The greed of the machine has caused us to disregard our humanity, to lose compassion, and to forget these are real-life people, not just statistics.

This man is someone’s son, brother and father.

I have wrestled with the option of bringing him home and caring for him myself. But I can’t lift him, and I can’t provide 24-hour care. I cannot transfer him. I cannot be the only one caring for him. Others have to be able to assist! I have a full-time job, pastor a church, and have a husband and son to provide care for.

I am beginning to doubt my ability to fix this. I don’t know how we continue as a culture when we throw away the ones who need the help the most, those who cannot help themselves. We just put them on a shelf and shut off the light and walk quietly away.

Lord help us all.

Barbara Ward mugBarbara Ward is a second generation Redding native, from a large local family, the “Webbs” of Anderson and Cottonwood, California. With a long resume of skills and interests through the years, Barbara is a self-proclaimed nerd and computer/social networking engineer as well as an Administrative Wizard which manages several local corporations while actively involved in the development of several commercial projects in the Shasta County area. Currently her passion is Co-Pastoring a local church, “Lifewalk Church” with her husband & best friend; Jerry Ward. She has one son who is currently plotting world domination with his 2016 graduation from High School (ANTHS) and is actively involved in community outreach through her Christian rock/power praise band, Remnant. Some of her best work is performed while partnering with the Good News Rescue Mission, Freedom Riders (CMA), Recovery Community and many other service organizations.

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34 Responses

  1. Randall R. Smith says:

    The notion seems cruel, heartless, unthinkable because we are so wealthy, waste so much on wars and things not needed.  But at some level, somewhere, like the wise Inuit and others, we do have a carrying capacity, a limit and we must reality.  Our health care system is broken largely because we have tried to give everything to everybody for nothing and it can’t endure.  Choices have to made, hard ones.  If you weigh four hundred pounds and have ruined your knees, do you get new ones?  If you insist on using alcohol or other drugs so that you are a menace, are you then entitled to care when you drive across a road into an auto of innocents?  If you shoot a police officer, do you get care because he tried to defend himself?  And all of this and much more was “free”.  Because I once had to help these situations and quit over the moral consequences, I have some reason to ask on behalf of those who are still there.  The system grinds us all and is not worthy.  There seems no leadership or answers coming soon.  “Lord help us all.” is all we have.

    • Barb says:

      For me, walking into this situation, my expectation was he would qualify for care, they would get him a bed at a rehab, and we would work our way through recovery.

      The shock I felt when I discovered that NO is the normal response for most in his situation was overwhelming.  People are languishing in hospitals for 100 and sometimes 200+ days waiting for an opening somewhere and for their case to be one that the facility is willing to accept.

      They do not need a reason.  NO is enough.  I never understood this was happening to people until it happened to us.  Thats why I let Doni print this blog.  Everyone needs to know so they can be a good advocate for their loved ones!

  2. cheyenne says:

    My youngest daughter is a caregiver to the disabled, with a college degree earned in Nebraska.  When she moved back to Redding she was paid $8.50 an hour and with a family tried to survive in an apartment in Redding’s high rents.  She gave up and moved back to Nebraska where she was paid $10.50 an hour and rented a farm house for $500.00 a month.  Now she lives in Phoenix and is paid good wages and has reasonable rental housing.

    California makes it impossible for caregivers to survive.  If that means I’m bashing California you are right.  The cuts they have made to healthcare for the disabled over the years are unforgivable.  Many other, mostly rural, states pay more to get healthcare workers to stay.  Nobody is going to stay through a Wyoming or Nebraska winter at minimum wage, so they are paid more.

    • Barb says:

       

      I completely sympathize.  My son who has lived here his entire life knows when he graduates college this will no longer be his home.  There is no future for our children here.  Its very sad.

  3. CoachBob says:

    “Our health care system is broken largely because we have tried to give everything to everybody for nothing and it can’t endure”! 

    Very accurate comment. It’s broken and can’t survive at a “free” level. Appreciate you pointing that out to the readers.

    • Barb says:

      This is a very good point.  In this case, he is a scant few years from retirement.  He has worked his entire life since he was a young teen.  If he were addicted and in rehab he would have a bed in second.  His biggest crime here is being 3 years too young to get decent Medicare.  Even though he quite obviously qualifies for disability now, he will not get the Medicare for 2 years.  I am very conservative and do not believe in entitled programs overall.  What frustrates me here is that this type of scenario is exactly why we have a disability system.  It was created for tragic circumstances like this.  But instead it had been bled dry by young people with bad backs, and addicts who never worked a day in their life.  He earned help now, he has paid taxes all of his life.  A hospital cant refuse care, but a long term care hospital can?  It just seems wrong that there isnt a safety net for those who fall in the cracks.

  4. jobs says:

    Try to take care of yourself because your health is really all you have.  With a little luck an good habitats you should live into your 90s.

    • Barb says:

      Thank you, I definitely am.  Both of my Grandmothers lived to be close to a hundred.  I intend to as well 🙂

  5. Rod says:

    It might take a moment or even a few minutes to determine….when and why did we start free healthcare?

    I prefer to say it started when we created health insurance.  It’s big money and provides huge returns for investors and schemers who work the system.  All retirement plans invest in the current “broken system”.  Each person has helped to destroy the humanity in health care.  It’s all about profits and returns on investment.

    Don’t blame the Doctors nor the Patients.

    Try to correctly blame the business of working the system, the healthy folks who’s only purpose is to worm their wallets into the needs of patients who require medical care.  We have created an entire class of predatory blood suckers.

    Patients and their Doctors have always tried to avoid this crap and instead focus on good medicine.  This new method of enabling government and business to intervene in the health of citizens is basic corruption.  It’s so corrupted that we put ill people in jail, rather than treat the illnesses.

    Now that the system is broken, let’s stop the inhumanity and remove the causes.  Each person has a role to play.

     

    • Barb says:

      I completely agree with your comments.  This is a broken system.  Prior to Obamacare, it was not this bad.  Now there are so many people with subsidized coverage, getting a primary care physician is almost impossible, and the wait times for new  patient appointments are months out.

      I do believe the disability system came into effect for folks just like him.  He worked his entire life.  He fell on hard times and poor health.  He paid into the system for years so that others could get entitlements, yet now, when he literally cannot do anything on his own to fix it, cannot get the same level of help himself.

      Its an awful circle with no way off.

      • CoachBob says:

        Obamacare was a boondoggle to begin with and “we” suckered into thinking it was the holy grail of health care. We just don’t learn….ain’t nuthin’ free…and if it is it’s probably no good.

        • Breakfast Guy says:

          Health care in the U.S. is way inflated, serving mostly the rich and those who can barely afford it.  Health care coverage in all of western Europe is a Human Right and available for all.  Now explain why that is “no good,” Coach.

  6. Frank Treadway says:

    Not knowing the  full story, I strongly suggest you act as his Advocate and go to the Social Security office on Park Marina Dr., they are very helpful or call their 800 number.  If he’s a Veteran, we have a very succesful VA Clinic and other VA services in Shasta Co.  If he paid into disability at his last job, seek help from numerous disability attorneys.  Call Golden Umbrella and Senior Legal Aid office.  Call the local AARP representative.  Get him support services from the local diabetes group.  There are several Affordable Care offices with friendly advocates in Redding, call them. I can’t believe he was turned down from Shasta Community Health on Placer St.  Yes, there are answers, but if you really care you’ll have to be the one to reach out to our many resources in Shasta County, complaining how the ‘system’ is broken will not resolve anything.

    • Barb says:

      Thank you for your helpful comments and suggestion.  I was an insurance agent for years and am very well versed in the resources available.   I have exhuasted them all, as has the coordinator at the hospital.  Our only remaining option is for him to say in acute care at the hospital until a bed opens or somewhere, possibly even out of state takes him.

      Unfortunately this isn’t a primary care issue.  He will never leave the hospital.  He is paralyzed, cannot walk and cannot swallow.  He needs long term inpatient care.  There is simply no facility that is willing to take him due to the coverage or his age.  Both things he cannot change.

      The system is completely broken when a person in this situation cannot get care at all and its happening to many other people in this same exact situation.

  7. pmarshall says:

    Yes the care system seems to be broken. Mr. Treadway has some good ideas for you, bt I know you are so busy — seems  you should not have to take on the entire burden. Life is so complicate4d these days; I just can’t believe the red tape we all have to go through.  I really admire  the fact that you taking care of the man. He really shouldn’t have to go through all this.  But as someone said, the caregiver may become ill taking care of someo ne — or, at least, become ill also.  I’m not much help, but perhaps God we be the ultimate care giver.  Take care of yourself.

    • Barb says:

      Thank you for your concern.  It is a hard situation.  However, once you create a life with someone, (our son) he became forever family.  I am blessed that I have an amazing secure husband who is marching down this tough road with me.

      This is a great time to take a moment, make sure those you love know your wishes.  Do an advance directive.  Pick a person who will make choices you would want if you could make them yourself.

      Its a solemn duty I have, but I will do it to the best of my ability and will not cease to advocate for better.

  8. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you for a great article Barbara.   I don’t know what to make of the medical system right now.  I tore the rotator cuff in in my right shoulder and was told  I’d probably strained a muscle.  My nephew tore his rotator cuff.  He had great medical coverage  and had twelve surgeries on his right shoulder.  He died from a pain med overdose.  Couldn’t, wouldn’t the 7th or the 8th surgeon questioned the task at hand?

    It’s a machine.  Start it up, and if there’s money in the tank it will plow forward.  My thoughts are with you at this time.  You are busy and have major obligations already in your life…..  thank you for sharing this story.  You are not alone.  Something needs to change.

    • Barb says:

      Thank you Joanne.  THIS is the point of my blog.

      The wrong folks get help.  The ones who worked hard and have a crisis do not.

      I dont know the answers, but I do know its happening to many more than just my family!

  9. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    One more thought.  You have to pay for your medical care, and at one time that was possible for most working people.  No treatment is affordable today for anyone without good insurance.  If you have good insurance, the medical conditions resulting from poor lifestyle choices can and will be treated.

     

  10. David M. Kerr says:

    I wish one of the local diabetic educators had posted.  Diabetes causes over half the amputations in America!  A man with a waist 38 inches or more, especially over 45, should see a doctor at least once a year to be screened for diabetes or prediabetes.  Even with no insurance, the yearsly cost is less than cable TV or dish.  Diabetes causes premature heart disease, sudden death, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure leading to dialysis and transplants.  The hospitals and health department put on regular screenings if you insist on free healthcare.

    Anyone who inherited the genes for susceptibility for diabetes has really no choice but to comply with the physician’s advice to exercise and lose weight.  The lifestyle changes, and sometimes medication, to get and keep your Hemoglobin A1C below 7% are easy.  Smoking is the leading cause of premature death (death below 65) and that is easy to do.

    It’s your life dude.

     

    • Barb says:

      Hi David. Yes there are some serious issues with non-compliant Diabetics. His stroke was actually caused by blood pressure issues, he had an actual brain bleed, not a clot. It was a defect. His amputation came due to an accident that crushed his toe, and then set in gangrene due to the diabetes.

      Thanks for the great information on a killer disease. Many don’t even know they have it! I do disagree however that the lifestyle changes are “easy.” They are not. Many try and fail over and over to modify their diets. It requires discipline and sacrifice that many have never developed the skills to do. They CAN be done, but require support and encouragement and much education to be done well!

  11. Barb, I thank you for sharing this story. And I thank you for going one step beyond and replying to the comments, even those that seemed to be long on criticism, short on compassion.

    There but for the grace of God.

    • Barb says:

      Doni,  Thank YOU for posting it.  And yes, it is surprising the lack of compassion and the judgement and politicalizing of a very real, personal problem.  BUT.  That is why it needed to be posted. Simply because the folks response here is a good reflection of exactly my frustration.  Its how we are being treated across the board.  Nothing could have validated my position any clearer than the lack of concern, compassion and helpful thoughts that came from posting it!  Not all of course, but most have a thread of its your own fault in it.  I suppose this is the times we live in.  I do appreciate you bringing it out!

      • No matter how a person ended up in a current post-stroke situation – lifestyle, genetics, environment, circumstances – the fact remains that this man had a stroke, and he needs serious medical care, and the days are ticking by with him being untreated and unhoused.

        Your home and care, while generous, are a Band-Aid. He needs a clinical setting with professional care, which is your struggle; to find such a place.

        And that’s what your story is about; that, and the fact that he’s just one person we happened to be hearing about through you. No doubt there are countless others, but we just don’t hear about them.

        My hope is that someone who has the solution will read this and speak up. It’s a terrible, inhumane situation that I’d expect in a undeveloped country, not the United States.

        • Barb says:

          In one million percent agreement!  This has opened my eyes to how awful it must be when patients don’t have a pit bull advocate like me!  So many have no PEOPLE to help them in their lives.  They are alone, neglected and wasting away.  Yesterday was a full day of administration ping pong.  30+ phone calls to get one simple procedure mandatory for his care.   Its hard to not just give up when trying to get facilities to enforce THEIR OWN rules.   My greatest fear is I fall sick right now, and he falls further into the cracks.  On that note I am off to take my vitamins, drink a big glass of water and take some EmergenC to protect me from those cooties in the hallways!

  12. Richard DuPertuis says:

    Barbara, here’s a second recommendation for Social Security. An SS disability comes with Medicare, regardless of age. Check it out.

    • Donna Ayres says:

      For those under 65 there is a two year wait for Medicare.

    • Barb says:

      YES!  This was my expectation too.  However, the reality is we have to wait two years.  And two years is a long time for a person recovering motor skills from a stroke.  Hopefully by the time we get the better coverage, there will still be room to recover.

  13. EasternCounty says:

    Though it’s whistling in the wind, I’ve said forever that the goal should be health care not health insurance.  But I’m not bright enough to figure how we get the first without the second.  Other first world countries appear to have better solutions than we have.

  14. Rod says:

    A statistical report was televised today.

    The normal American will spend more than $10,000 on individual healthcare in 2016.  That’s a significant increase over previous years.  $800 per month is a hefty drug and Doctor addiction.

    Individuals don’t spend that amount,  corporations and healthcare profiteers “bill” that amount.  The bill eventually gets paid by taxation or membership in an insurance “club”.

    The American healthcare business has successfully tapped into taxpayer’s naïve lack of understanding of cause and effect.  Very soon, taxpayers will vote to increase the money wasted on insurances and additional corruption.

    I sometimes wonder why we didn’t require  the Bill Of Rights to allow the freedom of choice of medicine.

     

     

  15. jobs says:

    To many fakers an takers along with their attornies and hospitals have wreaked the SSI disability system.

    Almost half should be cut from the failed program.  SSI is the life blood of most hospitals today.  They walk into a hospital ER. with a hang nail and  tax payers are on the hook for $5,000.  Some show up at the ER.

    Almost everyday with their non ER. Problems.  Shame on the hospitals for not turning them away.

    • Barb says:

      Agreed.  SSI was a black hole of entitlement for many years.  There is a real need for a safety net for those with catastrophic disability.  Like any other governmental program.  The need is there, the program is created and immediately those who live and die by the get it all for free mentality figure a way to exploit its weaknesses.  That doesn’t take away the need for the program to start with it just makes it discouraging and difficult to structure it in such a way that those who truly need the assistance get it, and those who become professional entitlement receivers do not.  Ironically the intellect and the cunning required to truly milk the system would serve them well in business in general.  It baffles me the disconnect between intellect and personal responsibility.  Remember, the SSD program is there for those who worked their entire life unlike the SSI program which is for those who did not.

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