Thanks Dear Readers for your thoughtful notes of concern about my ex-husband, Bruce. He is in a “rehab facility” doing the best he can to make sure his foot remains his foot. As those of you who’ve either experienced or witnessed the debilitating effects of diabetes, Bruce’s current battle is combatting an ulcer on the bottom of his foot. He’s been coping with the none-healing open wound for years. A few weeks ago, it got infected and his doctor was too busy, I guess, or didn’t understand the urgency, to see him; as a result, the foot got swollen and burst like a blister, which caused a horrendous secondary infection. All really nasty stuff. After two surgeries to clean up the infection, days of IV antibiotics (by the time he’s done, a total of 24 days), he, and his doctors, are doing everything within their power to make sure his foot/leg isn’t amputated.
There are many lessons:
The most important: Think of refined sugar as poison, because it is. Eventually, it catches up with the body until the mechanisms go out of whack.
Second, be a bitch. If your healthcare provider isn’t responding, pats you on the head and says, there, there, REFUSE to be shelved. COMPLAIN LOUDLY. Bruce tried for a week to schedule a doctor’s appointment. When he finally went to Torrance Memorial’s Urgent Care on Lomita Boulevard, the doctor never even looked at his foot, yet prescribed oral antibiotics to address what he suspected was an infection after verifying that his 102 degree temp wasn’t COVID or the flu. Bruce never even got out of the car for an evaluation. Not good. What should have happened is he should have immediately been sent to the ER. Yes, it felt dramatic and would have cost the healthcare system a bunch of money, and that’s why he didn’t initially decide, F-this, I’m going to the hospital! In the long run, this is a case of pay me now or pay me later. Sadly, Bruce’s poor health is further compromised.
Hopefully, he will recover, but the honest truth is it is touch and go.
My ex-husband’s medical debacle has revealed to me a Second Major Flaw in America’s health care system: What happens to a patient once discharged from the hospital? If he or she is poor, can’t be independent, mobile, feed, dress and bathe themselves while recovering, they end up in a nursing home. Subpar, stinky, peeling paint, gross food, inadequate, low-paid staff facility where American seniors are sent to die. That’s where Bruce is.
He’s not going to die. Not now. He’s there to recover and get on with life, get the foot healed so he can hang out with his grandsons. But being at “Sunnyside” Rehab Center makes an already depressed person even more depressed. It’s easy to feel forgotten, useless, washed-up with no hope for the future.
Look, when you Yelp a facility and see it has two stars and multiple complaints about loved ones dying under their “care”, but you have no choice to “shop” for other facilities because you have no financial resources, you know you’re in trouble.
Nursing homes like “Sunny”side, as a result of COVID, have strict visitation restrictions:
you have to make an appointment, and they are limited
you have to wear protective masks
and, if going inside the building, you have to show vaccination records and take a COVID antigen test. Because I know fresh air is good for Bruce, we meet in the patio every night at 6:30. Our visits are filled with laughter, News of the Day, food and treats, music–anything to get his mind off where he is.
“I had Fernando paint the pantry black. It looks really good,” I say, showing him a photo.
“Bronson wants us to donate to a fund-raiser to help homeless children. If he gets enough money, he’ll be principal for the day!”
“I washed the windows.”
“I got up early to water and watch the moon set over the ocean.”
“I started re-reading Amanda Gorman’s ‘Call Us What We Carry’. ‘We write because you might listen. We write because we are lost and lonely, and you, like us, are looking and learning.‘ ” She is wise beyond her years.
He smiles and eats a bite of homemade vegan Irish stew.
“It was a beautiful day today.”
“The dogs are good.”
“Did I tell you I’m writing a novel, loosely based on my life, and the future?”
“How are you coping?”
“Did you start that book I brought? It’s supposed to be good.”
“Is there something you need?”
“I know this is incredibly hard. Try to stay positive. I’m proud of you.”
He thanks me and we hug.
The health aide opens the steel door, we wave goodbye and say “love you’s” and my ex-husband vanishes back into the room he shares with a man who doesn’t talk.
In the car, I try to compose myself before driving the now-familiar route home. The oncoming car lights burn my red eyes; I feel like I’m trapped in a steel drum tumbling down a cliff.