Last Monday night when the Vikings/Bears football game started to bore me, I went to bed. That’s when I noticed an ache in my belly. It got worse. Then it got worse than worse. When it became obvious that this wasn’t going to go away I drove to the emergency room around 1:30 a.m., got out of my truck, threw up in the parking lot, walked up to the door to the emergency room, threw up again on the snow outside the door, and walked into the building.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Emergency room physician Dr. Morales was genuinely sympathetic and caring. A really cool nurse named Andy shot me up with generous doses of morphine and humor to ease the pain, and a CT scan confirmed that my appendix had to come out as soon as possible. By 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning one of the world’s most experienced and competent surgeons, Dr. Suzanne Jelense removed what she described as a “very nasty, inflamed appendix.” I spent the next two days in the hospital getting some of the best health care that a human being can receive. Every person I encountered at Winona Health (from the receptionist, to nurses, to the housekeeping staff) treated me with friendliness, decency, and competence. Because of their care, because of some good luck, and because of the love and support of my friends, I was discharged a day early from the hospital and am doing fine.
A couple of thoughts occurred to me during my stay. First, I remember thinking about how Hillary Clinton and John Edwards want the Federal Government to run health care, and I was damn glad it hadn’t happened yet. The Feds can’t do anything right, and I can’t even imagine that the Feds could do health care correctly. But I know one thing for sure; if the Federal Government takes over health care and Hillary Clinton or John Edwards ever need to have surgery, neither one of them is going to check into a Government hospital! They’re going to use their substantial cash to stay in a private hospital with the best medical care, a hospital like I enjoyed this week in Winona, Minnesota.
Second, while it may seem exciting and romantic to have lived a hundred years ago, I realize how fortunate we are to live in this modern day. Depending upon whom you believe, the first appendectomy in the United States was performed either in 1885 by Dr. William West Grant in Davenport, Iowa, or in 1886 by Dr. Robert Hall at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. The bottom line is that if you were a farmer living in a Nebraska sod hut in 1865 (or for that matter, a wealthy East Coast industrialist) and came down with appendicitis, you were a dead man. You would have lain on your bed until your appendix burst and would have died within hours. In my case, the obituary would have read: “Here Lies Don Salyards, Dead at Age 58”. Go to the cemetery and look at the ages of folks buried there. It was a rare person who lived to be 70 or 80 years old. The reason is simple; if you became ill, even with disorders that would be routinely treated today, you probably would have died back then. Many people never made it out of their childhood years in the 1800’s.
Three weeks ago, for the first time, I became a grandfather. Since the minute that Tad and Lisa told me that my grandson, Marek, was on the way, I’ve given a lot of thought about the cool things we will be able to do together. You know, stuff like fishing, wrestling around, and going to a water park. And when he’s a teenager, I’ll break his heart by making him a life-long Cubs fan, for which he will probably never forgive me. And, if the good Lord’s willing, if I take good care of myself, if we can keep the government out of health care, and if good people like the ones that work at Winona Health continue to perform like they do, all of those dreams just might come true!