No more room in the inn (and hospital)

We have a relative with multiple chronic issues who is now in great pain and cannot stand up on her own. She was sent to an urgent care clinic because the hospitals are full up. She is now waiting in line at the nearest hospital to get a MRI as they cannot figure out what was wrong after the Xrays at the urgent care clinic showed no breaks.

Yet, if she is admitted, they may not have any hospital beds. You see, the hospitals are overrun by COVID patients who the significant majority of which have been unvaccinated. Yesterday, I read two things of import to this issue. In my metropolitan city of about one million people, there were only 66 hospital beds available in all hospitals within 30 miles. That was in the morning.

I also read of the death of one of my favorite singers, Marvin Aday, better known as “Meat Loaf.” Meat Loaf died of COVID after being an antivaxxer. He famously said if it kills me, it kills me. It did. In the last five months, six avid antivaxxer radio hosts have lost their lives due to COVID. Contrarily, in the last month, three of my immediate family got COVID, including me, and we recovered in a few days as all three of us had received at least two vaccines, with me having the booster as well.

Like any vaccine and any dose of medicine, there are those who react negatively to it. Some react with mild symptoms, while others realize more severe symptoms including death for an unfortunate number. But, when you divide those more severe experiences (I was just sluggish and had arm pain and a headache after mine) by the billions of vaccines in the denominator, the percentage of severe reactions is quite small.

I understand that people are concerned, but there is a lot more data to alleviate those concerns now. Yet, what I don’t understand is those who have been sold a conspiracy theory is behind all of this or that your rights are being infringed on to be made to have a vaccine as a political tactic by an opportunistic politician (think names like DeSantis, Abbott, Paul, Trump) or opinion entertainer.

If these folks had a child that would be going to a public school or any university, they would have to provide a vaccination record to get in. If they did not have certain vaccines, they would have to remedy those gaps. The rules of admission are forcing you to get a vaccine for the greater good. Why? Because the average distance between students is much closer in proximity (three feet) than the folks in general society. Schools are ripe for the passing of a contagious disease.

But, back to the hospitals. I understand elective surgeries getting placed on hold to free up space, but when acute or severe medical needs beg for immediate treatment, to have to wait is life threatening. I talked to the daughter of this relative last night. She had some choice words for antivaxxers who were making her mother wait in the lobby of the MRI wing.

Folks, there is a greater good issue that we often forget to pair with freedom. Getting vaccinated has been shown to save lives. Hospital staff are being overrun and they are begging folks to get a vaccine for the COVID patients, other patients and staff’s sake. And, yet these anti-vaxxers would like to beat on their chest to win a political argument acting tough. One thing is for certain in my mind – as the end nears for the less unfortunate unvaccinated patients, my guess is they are ruing that stubborn decision.

Our children deserve better – a repeated pre-pandemic clarion call

The following post was written a couple of years ago. Although the pandemic has rightfully gotten our attention, this story bears repeating.

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial earlier this week in The New York Times called “Our children deserve better.” It is a clarion call to our nation showing the plight of kids in America.

Here are a few quotes to frame the issue:

“UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.”

“Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record….The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.”

These are different views and sources of the threats to US children that note we have a problem. Another source I read a couple of years ago noted America has a much higher maternal mortality rate at child birth than other civilized countries, which further endangers children as well as the mothers.

Yet, these issues are not being discussed in the halls of government. We have a poverty problem in our country with too many living in or just above poverty levels. We have not expanded Medicaid in fifteen states* whose numbers are worse than these national numbers per capita. We have not addressed our national water crisis which has a Flint, MI like exposure to lead in too many cities and a volume of available fresh water issue in other places. We have not invested as we should to diminish crime and provide more opportunities for jobs in disenfranchised areas. There are several pockets of success that can be emulated in more cities.

We also need to address better gun governance, especially with the number one gun death cause by far being suicide and a non-inconsequential accidental gun death rate. And, we have not dealt with the continuing and rising exposure to technology and artificial intelligence which have taken and will take even more jobs in the future. Finally, there is that climate change thing we need to deal with.

These are real problems. And, they will get worse. Data driven analysis of causes and solutions are needed. They are both multi-faceted. Investing more now, will save huge amounts later. This is not just an urban issue, it is rural one as well. The opioid crisis is rampant in these impoverished rural areas, for example.

None of the solutions will fit on a bumper sticker. And, political attempts to oversimplify issues should be questioned. Here is an easy contradiction to spot – if people believe gun deaths are a mental health issue, then why the effort to eliminate or not expand mental health benefits?

Please make your legislators aware of these issues and ask pointed questions. These questions deserve answers, not bumper sticker slogans. These concerns deserve to be talked about, studied and acted upon.

*Note: The number of states who have not expanded Medicaid is now twelve. Here is a link to a tracking of the states who have and have not. What puzzles me is this change would help people in rural areas, which tend to vote more conservatively. So, not expanding Medicaid hurts health access, but also rural hospitals and economies, with the federal government funding 90% of the cost. As former Republican governor of Ohio and presidential candidate John Kasich said, Medicaid expansion is a “no brainer.”