God bless you.
Since April of 2008, I have been fighting a brain tumor, prostate cancer, end-stage
congestive heart failure and a progressively bad back.
By the grace of God, I have been gainfully employed for 37 years as a newspaper
reporter and I also have been able to have great medical insurance coverage for my
family and myself.
But after undergoing back surgery (a lumbar laminectomy) on Monday, Aug. 10, I
found myself two days later having to verbally protest against efforts to release me before
I had experienced sufficient recovery where I could stand and at least stagger on my
Dr. Frederick Brown, a highly acclaimed neurosugeon with the University of Chicago
Medical Center, had performed the 90-minute operation on me. The operation was a
success in terms of me surviving it. But long before it could be determined whether it had
repaired my herniated disc to allow me to stand and walk without pain, a couple of lower
ranked doctors (Dt. I. T. and Dr. K. H.) were trying to get me to agree that the hospital had
done all it could do for me and to agree with their desire to release me.
For most patients undergoing a lumbar laminectomy, I am told that this operation
is done on an out-patient basis and that the patient is released either on the day of or the
day after his surgery. I was hoping for a response close to that. But because of my
high-risk status as an end-stage congestive, heart-failure patient, I was expected to be
held over for a day or two to make sure the operation had no serious, adverse effect upon
For my birthday on Tuesday, and for Wednesday, my recovery was so slow that
pain, soreness and stiffness in the area of my surgery prevented me from standing or
walking on my own. I was disappointed by this slow recovery. But I was not hopeless. I
was realistic. At my age and with my weak-circulating heart, I did not expect a speedy
response to treatment.
But as early as Wednesday morning, Dr. I.T. was suggesting that the hospital was
ready to release me and that I could continue painful recovery at home. I told him that I
could not see myself leaving earlier than Thursday and was hoping that I would be able
to at least stand and walk on my own before leaving at all or that I'd just immediately
check into another hospital.
On Thursday morning, although I had been transferred from the ICU to a regular
room at 1:30 a.m., I still had not progressed well enough to leave the hospital. But Dr. I. T.
said that the hospital might have to release me Friday because the physical therapist
said she felt I was ready to go home.
"I find it hard to believe that a doctor would release a patient based solely on what
a physical therapist says," I told Dr. I. T. "Especially since that therapist has yet to see
me stand and walk on my own."
Allow me to say that in my 40 years of going to the University of Chicago
Hospital for medical care, on the whole, I have been treated well. It is not a perfect
hospital. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had three ribs broken during my 2001 triple bypass
or had to undergo another serious operation to stabilized my sternum when some
experimental titanium plates failed to do the job. But the fact I still seek care from them
is because I have confidence in the likes of Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, Dr. Allen
Anderson, Dr. Kenneth Brown, Dr. Loveland, Dr. Darby, Dr. Fedson, Dr. Al-Sadir, etc.
So when Friday morning came, I was still in the UCMC. I had progressed well
enough to stand and walk on my own. But I remained in dire pain. Still, I felt for sure that
I could be able to leave by Saturday morning. Dr. I. T. apologized for giving me the
impression that he was trying to rush me out of the hospital. He also defended the
therapist, who gave me the impression she was trying harder to get rid of me than to help
"Maybe she did a good job helping you to recover from whatever," I said. "Or maybe
she has done a great job on everybody else you have seen her work with. I can't argue
about those possibilities because I know nothing about them. I can only speak about my
relationship of working with her and the impression she gave me."
But when Saturday morning came, suddenly nobody was anxious to push me out
the door when my blood test suggested some kidney problems. For the first time, since
I was moved out of Intensive Care, my blood was drawn and tested. I was happy about
the efficient, painless job that Joseph Wells did in drawing my blood. Hospital personnel
say that I am a difficult stick when drawing blood because my veins are so small.
"But the truth is that a lot of personnel either don't know what they are doing, may
be in a bad mood and may be a little scared at the time they are drawing blood," Wells
said. "So they don't do a good job. They have to stick the patient several times. But I
start looking for the best veins as soon as I'm entering the room. I believe I'm good at
this because I believe it's gift to be able to take blood without hurting people. This job
also requires patience as much as skill."
Wells, a native of Pascagoula, Miss., says he got his training from Northwestern
Hospital in Evanston, and that he hopes to keep working and learning so that he can
go as far as he possibly can in the medical field.
"It's all in the touch," said Wells, who is built like an NFL fullback or linebacker. "You
have to have a tender touch and you have to have a passion for helping people get
Now, it's Sunday morning, and I still am in pain as I am being transferred into the
cardiac ward to continue my recovery from the back surgery and to start preparation for
the implantation on a heart pump as a bridge to heart transplantation.
But I don't think I'll ever get over my displeasure at a physical therapist and a doctor
trying to rush me out of the hospital before I was well enough to leave even though I
had first-class insurance coverage plus Medicare as a supplement.
God bless you.