Happy Anniversaries

This Saturday will be the one year anniversary of my discharge from the hospital after Holy Cross Germantown Hospital saved my life. I had a flesh-eating infection that one doctor said had me 45 minutes from death when I showed up at the emergency room complaining of an extremely painful red dot on my abdomen.

I have seen several stories about cases of flesh-eating infections that did not end as well as mine did. Amputations, dialysis, heart conditions, and death have stolen so much from the few people whose cases were reported in newspapers.

Some went swimming in an untreated or improperly treated body of water, including a pool. A couple slogged through flood waters to save their own lives or others’. I saw one story about the hazards of eating uncooked shellfish.

I didn’t have those sorts of exposures prior to my diagnosis. But I was about seven years from radiation therapy following a hysterectomy to remove uterine cancer. The hypothesis offered to me is that the radiation somehow made my flesh permeable and allowed the swift spread of infection across my abdomen.

I recently read an analysis of a case of infection somewhat similar to mine that speculated that carrying extra weight might improve the prospects for recovery because fat could give the infection something to consume in place of vital organs or limbs. If that is the case, then I have a new appreciation for fat. I once heard a comedian say that the best reason for being overweight was that overweight people are harder to kidnap. There might be something to that. Now there are two advantages to weigh.

I used the last year to make some improvements in my health. I am still seeing a chiropractor who helped me reverse the lack of alignment in my neck after two weeks of lying on my back in the intensive care unit. When I started seeing that chiropractor I was in constant pain and could barely move my right thumb and first finger. Now the pain and the numbness are gone. There is a little stiffness in the first finger, but the damage that was done to my nerves in my neck has been reversed.

I dropped my A1C from 7.5 to 5.7 per my last blood test. I am still taking meds for Type 2 diabetes but hope that may one day stop.

I lost weight–lots of weight. I feel pretty good most of the time. Of course, I am getting older. There are days when I grouse about the accumulated aches and pains, the sense that I am lopsided because the surgeon removed more of me from the left side than from the right and flesh doesn’t rearrange itself to even things out no matter how much I wish it would. There are days it hurts to climb steps or descend them. There are days it hurts to lift or carry. But I am alive. And the cancer that felled me in 2011 is still absent from my daily life.

I do not begrudge anyone their right to express suffering. Sometimes talking about it is the only thing that seems to lift it off of one’s back for a moment. But I am so filled with gratefulness for the work others did to save my life. I went by the hospital a couple of weeks ago to leave thank-you notes at the ER, ICU, and surgical unit. I dropped off treats as well. I wrote to the doctors whose talent and persistence helped me to recover. If you are lucky enough to have a condition that medicine can address and doctors skilled enough to diagnose and treat you, then anything is possible.

Which is why we need to look out for those whose luck is less. We need to fight for every American to have access to quality medical care. And we need to resist the arguments that it will be too expensive or that people bring their own woes upon themselves. I have survived cancer with the help of programs for uninsured individuals. I worked throughout that process in jobs that are permitted to avoid insuring adjunct professors. i survived a flesh-eating infection thanks to the insurance my improved employment situation afforded me. I am not a better person for having a job that recognizes the value of my services.

The value society derives from a healthy populace is not measured in the cost of the healthcare services but in the potential realized when people are able to attend to their health. Thank you to those who made my longer life possible. Let us offer such care to others who need it. Let us save more lives. Let’s start by ensuring the continuation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Let’s stave off efforts to cut Medicaid and Medicare. Let’s stop calling programs like Medicare “entitlements” as if the word described something a lazy person claims without cause. It in particular is paid for by workers so that it will be there when they need it. And they pay whether they will live long enough to reap its benefits or not. So it is earned. Let’s make more happy anniversaries for more people.