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Surrounded by Turkeys
By: Benjamin Sharit

Coming home from work Thanksgiving eve, a nurse was giving my wife instructions on health care. When I asked what was going on, the nurse said we are dismissing her.  I asked why.  She said the administrator said my wife was no longer home bound. I said, "What?" “Yes,” she replied. She was being discharged because my wife went on a cruise and is not supposed to leave home. 

On the 16th of November, a close Well Spouse caregiver (with her husband) and I took my wife on a cruise. The woman who assisted me is a caregiver to her husband who has vascular dementia. We busted our tails for four days to get my wife out of the house and give her something to remember one last time. Her husband, in his “out of the mouths of babes” personality, pointed out things for her to watch out for while she drove my wife’s wheelchair.  My caregiver friend took care of my wife’s personal needs including dumping her urostomy and colostomy bags and helping me dress her.  We took the standing lift, three bags full of pads, meds, battery chargers for the lift and wheelchair, not counting the carryon items or our clothes. It was fun for her.  My wife had the best vacation and the only one in eight years.  I changed wet clothes due to leaking drainage bags, pulled my back muscles trying to get her out of bed, blocked people while she maneuvered in and out of the elevators. At times, even the crew had to help.  But between us, we did it. Back to the nurse...

The nurse proceeded to tell me how to take care of her. Do this and do that.  Get her to a wound care doctor, make sure you flush her med port, and get her urostomy and colostomy supplies set up. After all was said and done, she told my wife to sign the discharge paper work saying she was discharged.  I was nice and listened and then, after she was done, stated the following:

She is not signing a paper admitting anything.  I don't remember anyone on your staff saying we could not take her anywhere at any time.  I have done this for 22 years. Where were the nurses when I had to take her to the doctor’s to get the wound healed when you folks sat there and did nothing about it? Get the medical supplies straight? You folks did not even keep things stocked up where we had it available.

What do you suggest I do now? Wait. I got it. Every time her wound bleeds, I will go straight to the ER and check her in. I do not remember how to change a urostomy or colostomy appliance, so we will go there for that too. I work full time, so when do you think I can get time off to do all of the above? I am open for suggestions.   

I spent my Thanksgiving weekend thinking about this.  The following Monday, I called the agency armed to the teeth with the Medicare guidelines and opened up a can of “Benjamin."  I stated to the administrator that my wife was homebound and it took three people to accomplish what we did. The guidelines say that she can attend church and even go to day care facilities as long as she has a valid reason. Also, they state that she can leave the house for weddings and reunions for family and infrequent trips out. I told her my wife has use of one hand and is paralyzed from the neck down.  If that's not homebound, what is? This was an infrequent trip and, as a matter of fact, we will never ever do it again. Not just no, Hell no! We did nothing wrong.

She reinstated my wife and tore up the paperwork.  So, another battle won; the emotional battle of the ignorance and stupidity of the health care system. I think I need another beer and a vacation soon for myself.



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