Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

October 24, 2013

They’re overworked, underpaid and a blessing

In five hospitalizations at four far-flung locations over the past six years and office appointments with doctors I’ve acquired a deep respect for our local health care system. I’m most appreciative of the vital role that nurses, on various levels, play.

They are overworked and underpaid. Yet, of the dozens of these modern Clara Bartons that have given me personal care, I’ve never heard a complaint about modest wages and long hours on their feet. We can thank the nursing program launched years ago at Allegany Community College for supplying us with many of them.

While nurses have been the main practitioners of my hospital recoveries, other workers at our new hospital have made important contributions.

The faithful operators of the mechanism that delivered the medication that aided my breathing turned up every morning and continued the 20-minute routine three other times during the day and night.

There were physical therapists, dieticians, and spiritual counselors who came in to add their support. If I had enough strength, an aide took me on a short walk in the hallway

My underlying medical problem is COPD (chronic obstruction pulmonary disease). I fit squarely into the emphysema category, caused by heavy smoking for half a century. There is no cure. Yet, the treatment and prescriptions I’ve received from an outstanding local lung specialist, Dr. Richard Schmitt, and others like him in Albuquerque, San Diego, and Denver, have taught a stubborn fool how to cope.

A wise, upbeat therapist attached to the new hospital here, Stacey Blank, has taught me how to maintain and wisely use my more limited life style in the fullest possible way. My internist, Dr. Muhammed Naeem, has impressed me as a thoughtful and conscientious physician.

And the best of all my many attendants throughout these years has been my wife, (even though she hates being a nurse).

I’ve come to know a wide variety of hospital nurses pretty well. There is only one I didn’t like and I have appropriate nicknames for many of them: “Happy,” (in Cumberland), “Newsey” for one in Albuquerque who brought me a New York Times every day.

Beyond the ones who provided me personal quirks, there have been the seasoned pros whom I have encouraged younger understudies to emulate.

It was my recent hospitalization in Cumberland that challenged the large team of nurses the most. I had acquired pneumonia to further complicate their tasks. This required more medications, further lessened my physical strength, and increased the supervision of their duties.

The added drugs produced a state of mental confusion and babbling on my part which the nurses took in stride. I weirdly evoked imaginary music from Les Miserables playing outside my window. When I invited a nurse into my room to enjoy the music with me, there was nothing she could do to help me — just smile benignly.

There should be a statute of Clara Barton in a highly visible place at the hospital (for which I will donate $200) and a biography of her life in the gift shop. Meanwhile, visitors to Washington should add the Clara Barton Museum to their list of activities.

Finally, a column on nursing in Cumberland would be amiss without mentioning the heroic all-around service that a Bosnian import, Mugdim Kazazic, has performed nursing people back to health.

Ask any hospital nurse that treats you there what he has meant to them. Now disabled himself at home on Race Street, those he has helped might write him a thank you note.

We can thank the architects of this comprehensive program and the generous donors who have made it so complete.

John Wiseman

Cumberland

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