Sunday, June 3, 2018

Illness Stories for Profit

The local healthcare giants have discovered a new advertising strategy that must be lining their corporate coffers with gold. I was sitting in a crowded waiting room awaiting my next "experience" to begin a new health "journey" when the giant flat screen  flickered to life with an engaging story of  a profound, deep illness tale and subsequent recovery thanks to the miracle workers at the corporate hospital giant. I don't have one of those magical flat screens  in my little hovel; my 150#  Baby Huey tube TV brings in more nonsense than I can stand and all I use to get a signal is an ancient rabbit's ear antenna.

These corporate generated gems follow a predictable script and typically involve a respected member of the community such as a minister or retired kindergarten teacher sustaining a life threatening illness or injury but with treatment at "Big Bucks Hospital," is now back as a functioning member of society. Here is a sample.

Reverend Bagley was singing a hymn to the congregation with his lovely wife of 53 years accompanying him on the recently restored pipe organ. He suddenly clutched his chest and fell over backwards impacting his head on the altar rail. BBH  cardiothoracic surgeons performed a triple coronary artery bypass and repaired a septal defect that was found incidentally. Neurosurgeons promptly averted a life-threatening subdural by performing an occipital craniotomy. Now the good Reverend is back to singing in church with his grateful wife at his side. Remember -  choose your healthcare as if your life depended on it.

Old time nurses like to tell stories too but I don't think they would serve BBH's marketing needs. These stories are usually of complications (surgical are  the most profound,) that change someone's life forever. The purpose of these grim tales is to alert others of the mechanism of action so the event never happens again. Here is a sampler.

Officer Friendly was helping a stranded elderly lady change the tire on her old Ford and felt a sudden surge of disabling dizziness. He was transported to BBH where an MRI of the brain revealed a rather large juxta cortical area of increased signal uptake that could be neoplastic, encephalopathic , or vascular. A brain biopsy was recommended but the stereotactic head frame was ferrous and could be only used with CT. The lesion failed to visualize under normal CT protocols so two large bore IVs were established and contrast media was infused as rapidly as possible in a futile attempt to visualize the lesion. The fluid overload prompted a hypertensive crisis that ruptured the intracranial lesion which on autopsy was found to be a fragile arteriovenous malformation.

Somehow, I recall the later tale much more vividly than the feel good corporate fairy tale stories. Must be my age.


  1. I don't want to be someone who comments too often (& I tend to be "wordy"), but I hope you are okay OFRN - nobody wants another "health journey".

    I'm unqualified to comment on your post as hospitals here are free (unless you want to pay huge amounts for a private one) but I was reading a collection of essays by Professor Robert Manne (who is an Australian academic and a renowned writer and speaker) & came across something I thought was pertinent.

    In an essay where he writes about his recent hospital admission for throat cancer, he talks about all the staff he came across from surgeons to aides, nurses, food deliverers, etc, and says:

    "...these people's working lives were dedicated to an ancient impulse which gave meaning to the idea of a common humanity, providing aid and comfort to the afflicted. And they were required … to fulfil, on the community's behalf, what compassion, the finest of all the moral virtues, demanded. Hospitals were for me no longer places of dread to be avoided but secular cathedrals of the humanist spirit, worthy of celebration". (Robert Manne, "Living on Borrowed Time" Schwartz Publishing, Victoria, 2018).

    Thought his description of what hospitals stand for was worth posting. Best regards, Sue.

  2. I really enjoy your comments, Sue. I have Crohn's Disease that thankfully remitted as I aged. Greed has taken over healthcare in the USA.

  3. That's unpleasant OFRN, I'm glad to hear it's eased with time - there has to be some advantage to getting older!?

    Our free public health care is always under threat - there are those who would gain much financially by ceasing it - but I think any major attack on it would bring the population out demonstrating in the streets en masse. But we do have to stay diligent at attempts to privatise it.

  4. You have only developed the cynicism that actually comes with experience. Once in a while the fairy tales come true and throw you for a loop, but reality creeps back in eventually.


    Off the topic OFRN but I do love these vintage nursing videos and this British one from 1944 intrigued me from about 17.30 on with the sterilising dept and OR scenes - thought you might enjoy it. Usual 1940s voiceover...
    It's under British Council Film: Student Nurse if the link doesn't work. Cheers Sue

  6. PS: I don't know why it was of particular interest to student nurses in Guatemala (a country currently stricken with that volcanic eruption) - the link to feedback from Guatemala doesn't seem to be working.


      This link might work - sorry! S.

  7. Thanks, Sue, I just love those old videos and it's lots more fun to watch them than write my foolish ramblings.

    1. I was impressed by how tough physically the work was in the sterilising department especially OFRN - gosh they worked hard in those days. The matron appears to be wearing a military medal, I think she had an award for bravery but can't find out the details.

      I hope you don't mind my posting these things but I think it's so wonderful these films are kept they are such valuable and fascinating historical records!