When thinking about where we live, one doesn’t usually associate that with death. This is something that, at one time, I never considered either. However, experiences from the past couple of years made me think about the rural area in which I live, death and the connection between the two.
I live in Marshall County, Mississippi, which is in the Northern part of the state. Our neighboring counties, such as Lafayette and Desoto, are thriving with hospitals and highly rated Doctor’s offices. But, this is a good forty-five minute drive for me. We only have one hospital, which has more pending lawsuits than Bill Cosby. We also have a few Doctor’s offices and clinics, that are lacking to say the least. I’ll get to those later, but first, I want to share with you my personal experiences that made me start to question the medical incompetence of my county.
When I was 22 years old, I had a horrible car accident, that left me with a dissected carotid artery. As a result, a carotid stent had to be placed. Luckily, the accident did not happen in Marshall County, and I was able to be taken to the MED in Memphis, Tennessee. The MED was amazing, and because of the prompt care by the wonderful Doctors there, I am able to write this today. My point in telling you this, is what if something goes wrong with my stent? Where am I to be taken in order to save my life? The MED is a good hour and a half away from me. I would be long gone by then. In addition, I doubt the one hospital in Marshall County even has a cardiologist on there three stories of malpractice. This has been a concern of mine since my stent was placed, but it is a concern that I have to live with.
One day not long ago, when I was working for an attorney’s office, I cute my finger with a box cutter while opening a new shipment of office supplies. It was obvious that I needed stitches, so I thought, “What the hell,” and decided to give our hospital a shot. I came to check in with my finger all wrapped up and bloody. There were two men in the waiting room with me that looked like they were homeless and just there for the free coffee and temporary shelter, which they probably were. In the medical world, if you need stitches, you have to get them within 6 hours of your injury. After four hours of waiting, I left. I had inquired with the staff several times, but I was just told to sit and wait. I could understand if they were extremely busy, but it was just me and the homeless men in the waiting room and virtually no one in the back. I know this because when I went to the back to ask about my waiting, I saw no patients, just people in scrubs horsing around. I felt as though I had sought medical attention in a daycare with homeless helpers.
My most important and upsetting experience includes my sweet Mother. My Mother has a severe latex allergy, which is referred to as latex anaphylaxis. This is not just a matter of don’t use latex gloves. Latex is in a multitude of common items such as rubber bands, shoe souls, fabric softener sheets and the list goes on. Her allergy is so severe, exposure for her can be deadly. When she begins to have an attack, all of her systems immediately begin to shut down. She has Epi pens, but still requires immediate medical attention. When this happens, I rush to her home (she lives right next door) and rush her to the hospital in the next county. But, as I said, it is about forty-five minutes away. When I finally arrive at the hospital, she is near death and usually unconscious.
One night she had an attack at a friend’s house nearby, so I rushed over right away. Her friend had already called 911 and told the dispatcher she was having an anaphylactic attack due to a severe latex allergy and to send an ambulance right away. Ambulances around here are with separate Medstat stations. They respond according to location and either take the patient to the nearest hospital or the hospital specified by the patient or the patient’s family. Mother was getting worse even after two Epi pens, and I just knew I was about to watch my Mother die there in the floor. The ambulance finally arrived and the two men (if that’s what you’d call them) carelessly got out and started to the house as if they were headed to lunch. I said, “Please hurry! My Mother is dying!” They finally made it inside the house, and they were covered in latex! The dispatcher had told them it was a shortness of breath call. We them had to waste more time and explain latex anaphylaxis to them. When asking them to at least remove their latex gloves, they took it personal, and the driver stomped off like an angry toddler. So, my Mother’s life was in the hands of these clowns. I asked them if they were going to help her or just keep staring at her (which they were doing because they didn’t know what to do) to which they threatened me with calling the sheriff’s department. An hour after they arrived, we finally began the forty-five minute drive to the hospital. We finally arrived and thankfully she survived, but it was a horrible experience. The next day I called the Medstat station to see what went wrong beginning with dispatch and to let them know the careless attitudes of their EMTs, but to no avail. The ignorant manager did not give a damn either and addressed none of my concerns.
This is my biggest fear about living in such a rural area with no immediate or efficient medical access. In future attacks, I will just have to administer my Mother’s Epi pens and pray I can make it to a decent ER in time.
The few Doctor’s offices that we have are no better. None of them accept new patients, and they all seem to cater to Medicaid recipients, being mostly pregnant teenagers. Because after all, we are the number one state for teen pregnancy. Another number one that we hold, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is number of annual deaths. Mississippi has more deaths per year than any other state in the country. I can’t help but relate this to the lack of adequate healthcare. If we had proper medical attention and easier access to decent hospitals, would that number decline?
I go back to my wreck that I mentioned in the beginning of this article. Had I wrecked anywhere close to home, I truly believe that I would be a head count in that annual death rate. I just want people to know the some of the sacrifices that are sometimes attributed to small town living. I love living in the country. It has been my home my entire life, and I am proud to say that, but I am not proud enough to die over it.