To Your Health

Despite what they say about journalists, I prefer to focus on the positive.

But as we were toasting the New Year this week, I was somewhat glad to see 2007 go. Despite many wonderful happenings, the year brought some painful moments in my life. And I mean that quite literally. Here's an October excerpt from my personal journal:

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It’s Wednesday evening, and I am in Room Four of the hospital emergency room. I have a good view of the nurses’ station, which is really the heart of the operation. The doctors come here to unload and pick up patient cases.

Tonight, they are treating a man suffering from a dog bite to his derriere, two women whose lives intersected abruptly on a dark highway, and an agitated patient whom the hospital staff seems to know fairly well. He screams incoherently, and puts a hole in the wall of Room One with his head.

The staff is discussing sedation, and where they should move him for the rest of the night. The first person they call is not interested in having him as a guest.

I am not particularly distraught, bleeding, or strapped to a backboard, so I know I’m low on the priority list. But after a couple of hours, Doctor A retrieves my clipboard from the station and comes in.

I rattle off my medical history and the mysterious symptoms that brought me here. After he rules out imminent death, his diagnosis is unexpectedly honest.

It’s not a textbook case. Figuring it out could become a long, drawn out process of tests, referrals, waiting lists, phone calls, and co-pays.

“And even then you might not get an answer,” he adds, before sending me on my way. Is it my imagination, or is he looking at me like some sort intriguing experiment?

Percocet in hand, I begin my trek through the health care system.

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It was quite a journey too (I'll share more in the future.) Ironically, it coincided with WXXI's By the People event on October 20. We brought 100 local folks to Rochester Institute of Technology for a daylong discussion about Health Care. After they spent the morning in small groups, we put them in the same room with these people:

Dr. Nancy Bennett, Director of Center for Community Health, URMC
Tim Engstrom, RIT professor and co-editor of Health Care Reform: Ethics and Politics
Dr. Lisa Harris, Physician and panelist on PBS's Second Opinion
David Klein, CEO of Excellus BCBS
Joe Morelle, NYS Assemblyman and Insurance Committee Chair
Sandra Parker, CEO of Rochester Business Alliance
Stewart Putnam, Executive VP Unity Hospital
Fran Weisberg, Executive Director of Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency

A great group if you've got questions about health care cost, access or quality!!! We've been showing parts of this dialogue on Need to Know - you can catch the last episode this Friday night at nine on WXXI-TV. Stick around until 11 p.m., and you'll see the national By the People program that includes footage from the Rochester event.

Beginning next week, you can also request a DVD copy of the local discussion on our Web site: wxxi.org/btp

Best wishes for 2008!

Audiences: