One of the joys of walking to work is making discoveries along the way. People, nature, art, and inanimate objects capture my attention as I stride toward downtown Syracuse.
This morning, I saw a pile of clothes and some plastic trash bags strewn on the sidewalk near the intersection of South Crouse Avenue and East Genesee Street. I walked past the pile, then backed up and snapped a picture. I was filled with pity as I surveyed the situation, and I wondered what happened to the owner of the clothes—likely a female. Obviously, I don’t know the reason why the clothes were dumped on the sidewalk, but there must be a sad story behind it.
Later in my foot-powered commute, I found some medical notes and records on the sidewalk near Upstate Health Care Center, close to the intersection of Harrison and Townsend streets.
Being a medical records junkie, I grabbed the papers and stuffed them in my bookbag. Later when I reviewed them, I was intrigued by the doctor’s handwriting and the medical terminology listed. I hope and pray the notes refer to more than one patient, because if one patient has all of these issues, that person is in serious trouble (or could be dead by now). Words that stood out for me: hypokalemia (low potassium), neurosurgery, pancreatic cancer, cerebral aneurysms, craniotomy (opening the skull), renal cause, liver and palliative consult.
Along with the handwritten notes, there were a few computer printout pages. They detailed the hospital admission of a 56-year-old man with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and a history of hypoxic hypercarbic respiratory failure “who continues to smoke few cigarettes a day.” The records state “the patient has been losing weight despite good appetite” and has “severe protein calorie malnutrition.”
The patient’s BMI (body mass index) was calculated at 14.4, which would make him very underweight. But the good news—he was discharged with prescriptions for oral steroids and other medications and “will continue on his routine respiratory neb (nebulizer?) treatment regimen w/ Budesonide and DuoNeb (inhaler).”
Both the clothes on the sidewalk and the patient’s records reminded me just how harsh, fleeting and fragile life can be. It doesn’t take much for us to have our shit tossed on the street or end up in the hospital.
I remember my sodium and potassium levels crashing in the past, sending me to the ER, so I can relate to the male patient’s distress. He was probably scared as he underwent a battery of tests and was examined by multiple doctors. I wonder if he’s resting comfortably at home, eating enough food and breathing without difficulty.