Friday, November 28, 2008

One Evening on the Cape

In The Ointment

A funny thing happened to Teddy Kennedy just when --as fate would have it -- the rising sun for National Heal Care Reform was dawning. He had a seizure (a seizure is a convulsion, such as a young woman might have seconds after she succumbed and breathed in the water surrounding her trapped, un-rescued body).

It was last May, one night, at his 6-acre palatial Hyannisport compound in Cape Cod. No doubt it took time for those in the household to discriminate Teddy's behavior from a typical bout of inebriated drooling and lip chewing, but when he refused to sober-up, at some point, Teddy was whisked away to the Harvard Hospital System.

If Kennedy's treatment was similar to how other notables are cared for at top hospitals, then tens of thousands of dollars were spent in assuring security, privacy, and an expeditious round of diagnosis and treatment. No waiting in line. No semi-private room. No mistakes. The best doctors called in at all hours. The best, on call, all the time.

Once when Kennedy was hospitalized at a major institution in New York, they shut down a whole floor for him, at untold cost and inconvenience to many patients. No matter. After all, Ted Kennedy is not just anyone.

But you are just anyone. That will become important.

Kennedy undoubtedly had a STAT MRI or a noncontrast CT followed by an MRI,and was quickly diagnosed -- by the radiologist on duty -- as having a brain tumor. A biopsy the next day revealed a grim diagnosis with an equally grim prognosis: Glioblastoma Multiforme.

So Kennedy's quest for health care reform, just as it is rising to prominence in the current "change" environment may be a kingdom unseen by the long-fallen prince. Because a GBM is a rapidly fatal tumor with few treatment options.

What to do?

Why Is Kennedy's Tumor Important?

Kennedy's tumor

Why Kennedy's tumor?

Ted Kennedy, after years of plastering a cellphone to his ear, developed a Glioblastoma Multiforme -- the worst possible brain tumor -- deep to his ear in the parietal lobe of his brain.

Everything about Teddy's brain tumor (and perhaps Kennedy's life) is metaphorically relevant to the history, current state, and future of health care in the United States. And, just like Ted Kennedy, that health care is about to go in the wrong direction, much as the result of this man's insistence over the years that America was in the midst of a health care crisis.

Teddy's pre-morbid opinions and actions; his disease presentation; his familial and social history; his diagnosis, treatment, care and follow-up are all alike parables created perfectly for this time and our age and in line with the very subject which purportedly formed the center of his political universe -- a universe now invaded by the most wicked of wicked cancers.

Kennedy's Tumor is an incredibly clever device of destruction that seems to have been created by someone who knew what He was doing. It can't be stopped, can't be cured. Ted's tumor, now that it is established, will grow relentlessly until it finally overwhelms him.

The misapplication of the word crisis to the care of sick human beings -- as opposed to the insurance and distribution issues to which it actually pertains was the same tumor. Planted in the public's conscience it has grown -- despite all logical and moral efforts to stop it -- to where now it is overwhelming public consciousness and drastic measures are being taken to "cure" this disease.

Kennedy's tumor is a parable with many parallels and lessons. It will be a joy to unfold it, like an artichoke, until we get to the bitter hard pit.