Aug 9 2009

IMG_0007 Even in Turkey Hollow, I know this: we could design hospital gowns that would allow folks to have a little more dignity. Not sure who originally thought that a back opening was necessary; and I will confess I have yet to find a real purpose for having it during the last nine days. Just some good old fashioned wild west raw hide would put an end to that humiliating experience hospitals seem to feel is essential for a successful stay. After five days in intensive care and another three in a more civilized room, I have nary a friend nor medical team person who has not had - at some moment - a bird's eye view of my ass. Believe me, at 63, it is not pretty. At first, with hose, cords, tubes gathered in one hand, I attempted to protect my rather large asset with the famous "grasp from behind" technique. But then as my health demanded more and more of my mental concentration, I relented and said, "What the hell, have a gander!" and surrendered my dignity for all the world (or ward) to see.

Yes, I am still in the hospital but out of intensive care and off the critical list. Thank God. Won't bore my readers with the details of my illness, my diva moments and instances of real pure drama. The prognosis is very good for a full and remarkable recovery. We actually still have no real idea of what happened and might have to live with some uncertainty a while longer. Now you can imagine how that sits with a 'control queen' who needs quick answers so that he can be in charge. In this case, those answers might not come so quickly and it is one more lesson learned from the marvelous world of medicine.

Around the country, as we engage in this vigorous health care debate, I can honestly say that my experience so far has been amazing and filled with love. Thanks to my dear friend Leo Hindery I have a good health insurance policy that not only will cover most of the bills but also played a major role in having access to the intricate and complicated care that I required. The difference between having insurance and not having insurance honestly might have saved my life. All week, as I got the needed attention, I couldn't imagine what the journey must be like for millions of Americans - hard workers - who don't have access to health insurance. There is no question in my mind that many of our neighbors are truly suffering because of the inequities of the American healthcare system.

The truth of the matter is, we have the most extraordinary medical technology in the world, amazingly talented, caring and loving medical professionals and occasionally astonishing historical breakthroughs from the pharmaceutical industry. How sad is it that the love, the wonderful technology and kindness of people that I experienced is accessible to mostly those with significant financial resources. As we say here in Turkey Hollow, "It just ain't right."

While experiencing what might be one of my greatest personal life journey challenges, I was in total awe of my loving and extraordinary support team. It totally reminded me of the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic when the LGBT community responded to the challenge of not only the disease but the discrimination. Back then the teams usually had two people in charge with access to all patient information, giving assignments to other friends to help the person in the bed. Often these support networks included men and women and gay and straight friends. These many years later, I was so blessed with a room filled with friends and people who offered unconditional love.

Ironically, as I got strong enough to view other patients in neighboring rooms - many of them devoid of visitors- I realized how much the LGBT community has to teach our straight brothers and sisters. We just need a way to eradicate the fear and the myths so we can extend to them our considerable caretaking gifts learned through our own individual trail of tears.

Please allow me to thank my friends who rallied to my side like I never dreamed possible. They hugged me when needed, called, laughed along side my bedside, helped clean up and changed tubes. They lifted the fear from my shoulders and made sure that I would never be alone in this journey. My room often was filled with the laughter that comes only from the recounting of old stories among friends. At the more difficult times, they would mop my face, give a kiss on the forehead and tell me everything was going to be alright. I can never possibly thank them enough

The doctors, nurses and medical personnel at New York Presbyterian  surpassed all my expectations. Here, the myth of cold bedside manners is just that - a myth. They were patient, talented and extremely kind. Everyone should be so lucky in a time of health crisis to be sent to this esteemed and well-run hospital. There is no way I can thank them enough. Now if they will just let me out of here! pFinally to my fellow bloggers , thank you for your support and for keeping people informed accurately when the rumors of my death - as Mark Twain would say - were greatly exaggerated. I was terribly moved by the kindness and thoughts. And to the hundreds of my readers who wrote notes, called and expressed best wishes for a speedy recovery: There is no way I can possibly thank everyone except to, well, say "thank you" from the bottom of my heart.