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One year later...

In the first week of August 2020, I was back home from the famous cancer hospital in Houston, MD Anderson, in which I received a brutal chemotherapy to control my lymphoma.  How the lymphoma ran away is a separate story of poor decision making by a junior doctor at MD Anderson, and me not dumping him two months earlier and starting on Acalabrutinib that has kept me alive until today.  Because of the rather sloppy administration of the support IVs, over four days they pumped into me a net 10 kilograms of liquids, and I was swollen like an elephant. How do I know this?  Because I weighed myself each day and at the peak I gained 10 kilograms. The doctor who burst in for a 5 minute visit, disputed my finding, arguing that it did not agree with the nurse's notes about my urine production. More about notes soon. I asked him quietly if mass conservation did not hold in medicine?  He was somewhat embarrassed, but then again, he was busy running from one patient to another, and 99% of my therapy was carried out by nurses and one great physician's assistant. She was from Palestine, and we found many topics to discuss. She was a total outlier. Full of initiative, ready to make decisions and correct what she saw as doctor's errors. Compare her to most of the nurses who would come to my room with a computer on wheels and proceed to typing notes without ever looking at me.  

A month after the return from MD Anderson (Sept 6, 2020), I had no hair and  lost 30% of muscle mass.  I could barely walk 200 steps. My doctor daughter, Sophie, is helping me to regain stamina before leaving Austin later that day.

At some point, one of these nurses tried to kill me with 1 liter of Rituximab injected too fast. Mustering what was left of my strength, I moaned: "Turn off this fucking machine or I'll rip it out." After looking one more time at the instructions on her computer screen, she finally did. I was in a serious allergic shock, in convulsions, and barely retaining consciousness. Guess what, the steroids and heart medication that were supposed to be in my room to handle this emergency prior to administering the IV, were not there.  The nurses panicked and it took them a few minutes to find what they needed. Luckily, I am very strong and have a strong heart, so I survived. 

Again, my advice to you is, do not go to MD Anderson unless you must. It is a bare knuckles, Republican money-making machine, efficient, cold, and hell-bent on recipes. Strict adherence to recipes is good in a giant hospital in which some nurses are not all that good, but it fails in emergencies. 

Anyway, I finally left that lovely place, but only after waiting for one hour for someone to transport me a long distance to where my wife and son could pick me up. Remember, we were then at the summer peak of COVID-19, and no one was allowed to enter the hospital. True to form, my nurse called in the service once, did not get through, left a message, and refused to follow up. After using, err, rather strong language I made her call again and transport found me in one minute. Do not go to MD Anderson if you can avoid it. In fairness, though, they have all kinds of services they might apply to you readily if you need them and have cash.

To avoid misunderstanding, I still have an excellent private insurance, and MD Anderson must have found me to be a profitable patient. Still, I saw my physician for maybe 30 minutes total over one week of my stay there.

This calls for a comparison with two much more humane institutions: UT Austin and UC San Francisco.  If you are not in a hurry, go to UT Austin.  They are young, and do not have the depth and breadth of services of MD Anderson, but they have heads on their necks and hearts.  Of course, there is no comparison between UC San Francisco and MD Anderson.  San Francisco is so much better and more humane that the rich Republicans in Houston are simply outclassed.  

Think.  The Republicans are convinced that nothing has intrinsic value and all human relationships are purely contractual.  I pay through the nose, they provide a service, and who am I to request that they also pretend to be humans, and not computer-like robots.  The Republican conviction that there should be no public services and public infrastructure is a deadly reality in our screwed up Texas and in the Republican South of the Unites States. 

Health care for everyone? Child care? Public transportation? Benefits for the employed? Some benefits for the unemployed? Simply asking these questions makes me an  insufferable liberal. You know, the kind of man people in power here detest. Real men do not believe in them virus hoaxes, do not vaccinate, do not wear masks, starve rather than ask for help, and carry guns everywhere. To MD Anderson as well? And why not? In September, it will be the law. A refreshing change of gun wearing habit that throws us back to before 1896! Yes, gun carrying restrictions were introduced in Texas in 1896. This is when the wild, wild west was stopped here.

We love Texas, the hospitable and helpful ordinary people here, and - above all - we deeply love our property in Austin.  This piece of land has become a  big part of our heart and soul. Thus, we are not going anywhere. This is our home. But we will try to throw the current rascals out through political actions.  May God save Texas (She probably has more important things to do, given the state of the Universe).

Why am I writing about all of this one year later?  Because today my daughter, Dr. Sophie Patzek, an endocrinologist and Assistant Professor at UCSF had a bad bike accident.  Going back home from work, she ran into someone's suddenly open car door.  She lost consciousness, and ambulance took her to her own hospital.  They gave Sophie an incredible treatment, with a prominent neurosurgeon personally evaluating her head CT scan in real time, and a plastic surgeon stitching Sophie together.  She was banged up rather thoroughly. Of course not everyone would get a similar VIP treatment, but you get my drift.  If you want superior care, please go to UCSF, and not to Stanford or MD Anderson.  My 4-year old Stanford story was not as bad but similar to the MD Anderson story.

Bad things are supposed to happen to parents only.  The anguish and pain we went through not being able to be with our daughter can only be understood by other parents. Childless people cannot possibly understand what I just wrote. And so it goes...


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