The doctor who saw me in the ER wrote in her report: "nice 67 y.o. male, flat affect, awake, alert and appropriate." I had appeared with slurred speech and a balloon in my head, had driven myself to United Hospital in St. Paul, parked in No Parking, walked in and was triaged right in to a neurologist...
I never wanted to be a nice 67 y.o. man. I still have some edgy 27 y.o. man inside me. But when the doctor talks about how you must go on a powerful blood thinner lest a stray clot turn your fine intellect into a cheese omelet, you must now accept being 67 y.o. and do as he says. Mortality has bitten you in the butt.
I like this hospital. The nurses, of course, are fabulous. Like many nice 67 y.o. men, I am even more awake and alert around attractive young women (though I try to be appropriate).
Nurses are smart and brisk and utterly capable. They bring some humor to the situation. ("Care for some jewelry?" she says as she puts the wristband on me.) And women have the caring gene that most men don't. Men push you down the hall in a gurney as if you're a cadaver, but whenever I was in contact with a woman, I felt that she knew me as a brother. The women who draw blood samples at Mayo do it gently with a whole litany of small talk to ease the little blip of puncture, and "Here it comes" and the needle goes in, and "Sorry about that," and I feel some human tenderness there, as if she thought, "I could be the last woman to hold that dude's hand." A brief sweet moment of common humanity.
And that is a gift to the man who has been struck by a stroke: our common humanity.
Rich or poor, young or old, we all face the injustice of life -- it ends too soon, and statistical probability is no comfort. We are all in the same boat, you and me and ex-Gov. Sarah Palin and Congressman Joe Wilson, and wealth and social status do not prevail against disease and injury. And now we must reform our health insurance system so that it reflects our common humanity. It is not decent that people avoid seeking help for want of insurance. It is not decent that people go broke trying to get well. You know it and I know it. Time to fix it.
Link to full column from Chicago Tribune:
Nice 67 y.o. male has brush with mortality
by Garrison Keillor
September 16, 2009