In ninth grade I had scarlet fever and missed two weeks of school. My absence caused me to lose five points on my algebra grade from Miss D. I loved algebra. I had other childhood diseases and gave up my tonsils for ice cream. I had bypass surgery in 2002 and two cancer surgeries since but nothing prepared me for the ordeal which I just endured.
It all started with an increasing inability to walk until I ended up sitting on the floor in my tiny kitchen waiting for an FDNY ambulance to take me to a hospital.
When the EMTs arrived, two big guys, they could not have been more wonderful. Helped me figure out a hospital in the right network (a chapter to come) and much more. Turned out one was also a rigger and one was a volunteer firefighter who built dioramas of NYCity fire houses.
The rigger rode in the back with me and we talked the whole way. He had worked in theatre and at the top of the Chrysler Building (showed me pictures of himself up there). The firefighter drove and we got a chance to chat and share some things at the hospital.
Both took copies of the children’s book I wrote over 25 years ago, Volunteer Firefighter. This was about as good as getting taken to a hospital can be. The connection to FDNY and theatre and the kindness of these two big guys was a credit to the service.
The fact that they are the lowest paid uniformed service in NYC is an embarrassment which should be felt by all New Yorkers. The average salary for a NYC EMT is $16.61 an hour. That’s for men and women who come to help and have a life saving skill set.
The hospital chosen, out of the immediate zone, was selected because it was a NYPresby institution like the one with which almost all of my doctors are connected. Sadly, I learned that all that was expected from decades old federal requirements for records that are shared does not even exist in this hospital network.
It was in this emergency department that the journey continued with orders that were not explained, a physician who apologized for not informing me about the head CT they tried to give me without explanation, and the usual wait for a room.
This will not continue as a litany of complaints in part two but I hope it provides you with lessons that might be useful in your own journey into the depths of the healthcare system. I brought to this the independence of a man raised on the West Side, educated exclusively in NY public schools through an advanced degree, many years of service to the people of the state of NY in several of its psychiatric hospitals, and support of friends and family, particularly the mother of my children.