A Broken Hip and a Broken System

My eyes have been opened. I can see clearer now. I knew there were problems, but I didn’t know they were this bad. The living are dying, right before our eyes. The living, our loved ones, are helpless. Victims of their surroundings. Victims of the system–a dying system that is supposed to support our dying loved ones. A system void of life, being asked to give life. As the saying goes–you can’t give what you don’t have. 

I haven’t blogged the last two days, because I was visiting an out-of-town client. My client is 92 years old and credits The Egoscue Method for him celebrating his 90th birthday (with Tony Bennett, no less!) and the two birthdays that have followed. Over the last few years his body has been slowing down. While he has been very active (he attends roughly 60-70 basketball games each year between his local university and professional teams), he’s been doing things at a much slower pace. While he used to walk by himself at the games, he started using a walker over the last year, and has now progressed to using a wheel chair. Being 92, I’m sure you can imagine that he sleeps a lot, however he’s always rested and ready to go out to dinner at 6:00.

His life changed last Thursday when he fell and broke his right hip. While reaching for his walker, it rolled out from underneath him and he went down, fracturing the femoral head on his right side. I got the call Friday afternoon that he had had it surgically repaired that morning, and I went to see him Monday and Tuesday.

I’m not sure I was prepared for what I experienced, and it had nothing to do with him or his condition. It had everything to do with his environment.

I watched as the physical therapist worked with him. She took him through some range of motion type stuff–flexing his hip, moving the leg out to the side and then back to neutral, and even had him stand up a couple of times. The first attempt at standing was what I would consider an “ok” attempt to stand. The second time was barely more than a glorified hovering-with-his-butt-above-the-mattress-a-few-inches. He wasn’t anywhere close to being vertical. She noticed that he was pretty tired and let him sit back down on the bed without asking him to stand again. And then she was gone. Twenty minutes. With no other physical activity being asked of him until the next day. I understand this isn’t her fault. She’s doing her job, and she did it well. It’s the system’s fault.

My client would spend the next 23 & 1/2 hours when the physical therapist wasn’t in the room essentially on his back. Sleeping. Sedentary. And, if I’m being honest…dying. I’m not saying he’s going to die immediately, but let’s face it…we’re all on the clock. 

I know he’s fatigued and will need to regain his energy after having surgery, but keep in mind that sleep promotes sleep. To explain what I mean by that I’ll use my oldest child as an example. When my oldest was a newborn, my wife and I were convinced that if we kept him up later at night, he’d sleep longer, because he’d be tired from staying up. Sounds like a great plan, right? WRONG! What we didn’t realize was that sleep promotes sleep. If we put him to be earlier, allowing him to get into his deep sleep cycle, he would sleep longer

It’s the same thing that’s happening to my client. He’s being allowed to sleep for the vast majority of his day. Are you ready for a really profound statement? The more he sleeps…the more he sleeps.

Sleep promotes sleep.

It was like I could see his metabolism shutting down before my eyes. Combine his sedentary day with the nutritionally-void hospital food, and that’s a recipe for disaster. Every meal was something processed, and he could pick a dessert of his choosing with lunch and dinner. Like I said before, the dying system is contributing to the dying.

The dying system is feeding him sugar and processed food, allowing him to sleep for 23 & 1/2 hours per day, and then we wonder why so many patients in a similar position as my client never make it back home. 

It’s sad, really, because the current system could change. Something needs to happen, and soon. If your loved one is in a similar position as my client was, I encourage you to push for more for them. Their life might just depend on it.

The good news in all of this is that my client is getting moved home for continued therapy. We’ll be writing a strict therapy protocol to keep him up and active, and he’ll have a full nutrition plan that includes real food and very few (if any) desserts. I have hope that my client can make a full recovery and live now that he’s not subjected to the dying, broken system.

QUESTION: What has your experience with our medical system been?