Just before Thanksgiving, I experienced a Magic Mountain moment when the nice young man in medical scrubs returned to the Emergency Room with some good news and some bad news. First, the good news: I didn't have the flu. Then the bad news: I did have pneumonia. He urged me to check into the hospital and allow them to treat me. Thus, I spent the holiday as a Guest of the State.
But this term is fraught with so much heavy double entendre and sometimes even sneering cynicism, that one uses it only with fingertip caution. In this case, the federal government provides medical coverage for senior citizens.
Being a "guest of the state" implies that you could be treated luxuriously, wrapped in silk sheets and snacking on chocolate truffles, with only one problem: you cannot leave. Your government or someone else's has decided to detain you. And you are left with a conundrum: how much does your autonomy matter to you?
I allowed the hospital to process me for intake and wrap me in a cozy cocoon of antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs. Then I settled into bed and watched a movie featuring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx called Collateral. I must have dozed off for a while, but awoke with a sense of growing alarm as I realized that I was shackled to my hospital bed somehow.
Those are not shackles, I was informed; they are sophisticated medical devices to prevent blood clots due to my being sedentary position. Fine, I agreed. I informed the nurse that she could put them on me every few hours for a brief period of time, but that I would not consent to having them attach me continuously to my bed. I would rather exercise my legs myself to prevent blood clots; I do not need a gadget to do that for me. I removed the sophisticated shackling devices from my lower legs.
Once my course of treatment at the hospital was complete, I was informed that I would be transferred to a convalescent facility where I could continue my recovery. But when the medical van delivered me to that facility, an ankle lock device was attached to my right foot, as if I were a convicted felon, even though I have never been arrested. I was then informed that if I approached near the door, the device would lock the door and set off an alarm.
Am I a prisoner here or a patient? I asked. I began to feel very uncomfortable about my situation, and any trust I might have had in this institution rapidly diminished. They responded by citing bogus Medicare law: This is Standard Operating Procedure with senior citizens under Medicare, they informed me, because Seniors often wander.
The practice of citing phony federal laws as a pretext to human rights abuse is becoming very widespread all over Broward County. I began to form a plan to obtain a writ of Habeas Corpus which could remove me from this strange nursing home.
Just as I was considering a Habeas Corpus, they decided to allow me to leave the facility to use a nearby ATM machine, since there was no such machine on their premises. And, shortly thereafter, they informed me of my projected discharge date.
The fusion of Medicare and Penal Law is yet another troubling development in Florida, where there is still an ongoing search for mass graves on the campus of an old reform school for juvenile delinquents. How much this kind of abuse continues in the state is anybody's guess.
Glad to be back :-)