22

Feral Purrfessionals: Cats to the Rescue

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We last saw Katie Calico and her friend Elise at the end of their first year at Mid-America Animal Tech. They were studying medicine to be able to help treat feral cats. You can read the story at Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. In the last part, Katie received a scholarship to work with Maria Meowski at her clinic for feral cats. Also in that part, Katie’s mother and Elise’s dad (the dean at the school) married each other.

Katie and Elise have graduated from Animal Tech. Elise has continued to work at Maria’s clinic and loves it. She plans to stay there for the foreseeable future. Elise is working as a lab instructor at the school.

 One day, Katie got a call from her stepfather Edgar asking her to come to the school for a meeting. When Katie arrived, she saw that Elise was there, as well as several other graduates.

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Edgar: Thank you all for coming. I received a call from a human doctor asking for our help.

Maria: Why do they want our help?

Elise: They have some kind of sickness going around that’s really contagious.

Susie: What’s that got to do with us? Do they want to make us sick too?

Edgar: Nothing like that. Whatever this is, cats can’t get it. But human doctors and other medical personnel are at significant risk, particularly when people first some into an emergency room or clinic.

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Katie: Why is that?

Edgar: They don’t know whether the person has this sickness or not.

Katie: What type of sickness is it?

Edgar: It’s a virus that attacks their lungs and their breathing.

Maria: That sounds awful.

Edgar: The humans are very concerned. It’s not just the virus itself. If the medical people get it, they won’t be able to help the others.

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Susie: What do they want us to do?

Edgar: A lot of the clinics have stopped seeing walk-in patients. Everyone has to call first.

Elise: But hospitals have to stay open.

Edgar: They want us to be the face of the hospital. There would be a cat at the front desk. Cats would also be doing triage for the emergency room.

Josie: Exactly what does that mean?

Edgar: You would be the ones who greet the people, take their temperature, and type out their symptoms. There would be two cats working as partners.

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Katie: When does this start and how long will it last?

Edgar: They’d like you as soon as possible. They don’t know how long they will need you.

Katie: What about our current jobs? I definitely want to keep working with Maria.

(The other cats nodded.)

Edgar: I’m sure you can get a leave for this situation. I can speak with anyone who has questions.

Josie: I’m not sure I want to do this. Humans have turned a hose on me and chased me away.

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Edgar: No one will be forced to do it. It’s entirely up to you. Is anyone interested?

All of the cats raised their paws, even Josie. They knew it would be an excellent opportunity to learn new skills. Even if they were practicing on humans.

Edgar: Excellent! The humans will be very happy to hear it. I’ll email you your assignments as soon as I know.

The cats left, nervous but excited.

Next week: Will the cats and humans work together effectively?

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Pictures courtesy of Google Images.

2

Bedlam in New York – The Conclusion

(This is part 3 of a 3-part story investigating Stringham Hospital, a psychiatric facility, and the doctors associated with it. Previously we heard an account from a former patient about his stay there and the story of our undercover work. Patient names have been changed to protect their privacy.)

You may be aware that Stringham Hospital closed at the beginning of this month due to the investigative work done by this paper. Once we had finished putting the pieces together, they painted a very ugly picture of what had been happening.

Patients became aware of the medical offices of Drs. Igor, Boris, and Bela from flyers posted on lampposts and subway walls in middle- and lower-income neighborhoods. They were written to appeal to the employees of the uptown millionaires and disgruntled plant workers:

Tired of the Bosses Getting Better Medical Care?

We can help you get first class service without the first-class price!

Visit Doctors Igor, Boris and Bela today!

No waiting!

Cash and all Insurance Accepted!

Call 212-555-5522 for an immediate appointment!

Callers would be given same-day appointments to meet with one of the doctors. The receptionist would call the insurance company to determine the person’s coverage.

If the person was paying cash, they would be given a “complimentary” bottle of sugar pills and sent on their way. If they had complete coverage under a union policy, the receptionist called Stringham so orderlies could come to office to pick up the patient. If the receptionist couldn’t get the required information or the insurance was less comprehensive, the patient was given a follow-up appointment so Stringham could decide whether adequate payment could be made.

When the patient arrived at Stringham, he was taken directly to the Burmese cat panel and admitted to the hospital. An insurance claim was initiated with the notation that it was an involuntary admittance and there was no projected date of release. The Siamese doctors received payment for each patient admitted.

Once the animals were admitted, they were taken to one of six rooms. On a rotational basis eight animals were taken from each of the rooms for “exercise”. When they arrived at the lab, Michele told them that they would be testing a new anti-psychotic drug.

Michele spoke with each of her subjects to determine which four would be easiest to control. The others were to be given a lethal injection and taken to a disposal site. The drugs being tested had been created by Dr. Stein in hopes of creating a success that would make him a rock star of science.

The only heroes in this story are the cats responsible for the disposal of the unwanted test subjects. Somehow they managed to dilute the lethal dose so that the animal was unconscious but not dead. The cat responsible for disposing of the bodies would take them to a remote part of the city and leave them to wake up. There were six cats involved in this part of the operation.

Aftermath:

The Siamese “doctors” turned out to not have medical licenses. They have been convicted of practicing medicine without a license, insurance fraud and illegally receiving kickbcks. They are currently serving a sentence of six months as “ratters” at the federal penitentiary. They will then be under house arrest for another six months at a public housing project and probation for the rest of their lives. They are required to return all money they received illegally.

Dr. Stein was convicted of malpractice, insurance fraud and unlawful imprisonment. His medical license was revoked. He will spend a year as “class pet” for a first grade class in an undisclosed Staten Island school. He will then spend a year under house arrest and probation for the rest of his life. He is required to return all money he received illegally.

Michele was convicted of attempted murder, assault, and unlawful imprisonment. She will spend the rest of her life as a “bad example” during police presentations to school children. She is living in an undisclosed precinct, ratting for them at night.

The other four Burmese were convicted of unlawful imprisonment and insurance fraud. They have each been sent to a shelter specializing in dog adoptions to act as “ratters” for six months. They will then spend a year under house arrest and probation for the rest of their lives.

Orderlies who had been with the hospital for more than six months were convicted of cruelty to animals and sentenced to a year’s probation. They are prohibited from working at any medical facility for the rest of their lives. Orderlies who had been with the hospital for less than six months were not charged.

The six cats who assisted the patients in escaping have received honors from the city and placement in fast-track positions at Gibbons Medical Research.

The patients are receiving whatever psychological and/or mental health treatment they require and will receive job placement training when they are finished if their prior positions are no longer available.

Ed and Pavlov have formed a private investigation partnership specializing in medical fraud.

 

6

Dying Sucks

Please excuse my language. I’m not sure “sucks” qualifies as an official bad word, but it doesn’t seem very polite. My mother died a week and a half ago, and I’m in a pretty bad mood.

Her death was not unexpected, but it happened suddenly. The end was not bad, especially considering what had preceded it. Before I go any further, I would like to stress that I am not complaining about the medical care she received. It was wonderful and compassionate. The nurses and aides went above and beyond anything I would be capable of.

They say that from the time we are born, we begin to die. I’m sure there’s a scientific basis for that statement. However, I also know that at some point we begin the end-game. It’s the point when the doctors start weighing the benefits of a procedure against the chances the person will not survive it or will suffer more harm than good from it. It is also the point when they start saying things along the lines of, “For someone your age and with your chronic conditions, here is what we expect …”

I have read many articles about the cost of the last year/six months/final illness of life. I’m sure they are no exaggeration. Since the end of last August, my mother spent one day not in a hospital/rehab center. Additionally, the last three days were in a nursing home. She started with shingles and pneumonia, then went to rehab. She was home one day when she returned to the hospital with pneumonia. She later went to rehab with a week in the middle spent in the hospital. The only reason she got out of rehab was because she “plateaued”, a nice way of saying the rehab wasn’t doing any good.

I did a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education as part of my religious studies. I worked in a hospital as a chaplain intern. One of the priests there said that the medical community does not like to talk about death with families. And families do not want to hear it. doctors are trained to save lives, not monitor the end. I think there is a certain truth in his opinion. There was no point in sending my mother to rehab. Her heart and lungs were failing; there was virtually nothing left to rehab.

We had chosen a very nice nursing home (they still use that term). My mom liked it, we liked it, and it was only a couple of miles from our house. Mom would have been much happier there in my opinion. The staff is very interactive with the patients, and we would have been able to visit much more frequently. However, due to the amazing amount of paperwork involved, it is much easier for the hospital/rehab to get a transfer than for a family to request a bed. (This is the case in Michigan; I do not know about other states.)

However, the rehab my mother was at was not particularly cooperative. The home had a bed on December 27, but the rehab didn’t release her until January 10th, the last day her insurance would cover them. At that point they told me that our chosen place might no longer have an opening but that she was welcome to stay where she was as a cash patient.

My mother has been sick for a long time with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When my dad died in 2012, both the doctors and family were surprised she had outlived him. The next year and a half was a slow, steady decline both physically and mentally. My dad had been her caregiver to a point she had not realized at the time. He was always there when she needed him. She missed him horribly and there was no way to fix the problem.

Her memory had been bad for quite a while. But, as you may know, dementia has a tendency to slither in and gradually increase. She knew the four of us at the end, but confused the names. Phone conversations were a challenge. None of us lead very exciting lives, and calling every day meant a struggle for things to say. She wouldn’t want to hang up because she was lonely, but dead silence is a little creepy after a couple of minutes. I guess there was some advantage in her not remembering most of what we talked about, since we could repeat the same things several times.

Her hearing had been decreasing for quite a while, although she only admitted it recently. Even toward the end, I wondered how much of that was hearing and how much was mental. I’d have to shout to get her attention, but if we had a conversation in the back seat of a moving car, she would participate from the front seat. I think she may have been having trouble connecting words with their meanings. Regardless, in the end, it was a lot like talking to my teenagers.

She couldn’t read by the end because her eyes got too bad. She always had the TV on, generally to news, but didn’t seem to be aware of what was being said. If I brought up a major news story, she generally didn’t know what I was talking about. So she basically sat and thought about how sick and lonely she was.

It was a lousy way to live and a lousy way to die. At least she knew I was there at the end. (At least I think she did; her breathing calmed significantly when she heard my voice.)

She was jealous of the way my dad died. He drove to his last doctor’s appointment (and drove well) and was mentally sharp to the end. We saw him on Sunday in the hospital, he went into ICU on Tuesday and was basically unconscious until he died  Thursday night/Friday morning. The more she suffered, the more I understood the jealousy.

9

You Lost All of It?

I will admit to being one of the least organized people around. Sadly, one of the best parts of my job is the awful uniform I have to wear. Since they tell me I have to wear one of their shirts, khaki pants, and a blue fleece over the shirt, I never have to get up and spend 10 minutes trying to figure out what to wear. Yes, I know. You’re supposed to pick it out the night before and put it aside so all you have to do is wear it. I could never get motivated enough to do it. So I’d wake up with the “perfect” outfit in mind. Then I couldn’t find the blouse I had in mind. Or any blouse that would work. Or realize that the sweater really didn’t match the skirt. Or the tights were dirty.

I can never find my keys. My husband told me to always leave them in the same place. Silly man. If I could remember to do that, I wouldn’t keep losing them. I’m the sort that comes home on a good day and leaves my purse, gloves, keys, sunglasses, etc. all in one place – preferably on the floor behind my chair in the dining room so I can find them in the morning. If I’ve been shopping, I drop things where I can before I lose the bags I’m carrying. If I’m upset, things end up in whatever room I find someone to complain to (even if it’s the cats). As much as I love my cats, they are not at all helpful in finding lost keys.

My daughter gave me a stuffed Tigger key chain. Tigger is too large to comfortably fit in my coat pocket. Tigger has a bad habit of walking away from where I put him. How else to explain continuing to lose keys that are attached to a stuffed animal? My husband got me one of those electric tracker things. You put a fob on your key chain and the base unit someplace safe. If you can’t find the keys, press the color corresponding to your fob and it will beep. Assuming you remember what color you used. And have some clue where you left the keys.

I recently completed a three-year course in religious studies. I really enjoyed it. Especially when I put the books somewhere obvious so I would remember to do the homework. And remember to take the homework with me. And remember where I put the folder so I could take the homework with me. Luckily, most studying comes easily to me, so I could usually fake it if I couldn’t find what I needed. The strangest part was that as soon as I got home, it would magically reappear.

I tried to do better with the papers that my kids brought home from school. As soon as they would hand it to me, I would sign it and give it back. It worked really well with my daughter. My son, if possible, is even more absent-minded than I am. Between us, we have spent more than a week trying to get something back to school, while my daughter reminds us that the deadline is getting closer. I thought the Internet was supposed to have made us a paperless society by now? Why am I still signing all these forms?

I just found out what happens if this personality trait goes corporate. My mother recently spent a lot of time in hospitals and rehab centers. “Her” hospital normally sent her to rehab facilities somewhere in their general vicinity. This fall, we got lucky and they sent her to a place out here. Unfortunately, she went back in the hospital and was sent to rehab in a very nice neighborhood that isn’t close to either her house or ours.

I should have had some clue there would be a problem when I filled out the inventory of her belongings and they told me they would file it. Not put it in her file. File it. That is the last anyone has seen of the list. It’s not like there was anything too significant on it. But it was all the clothes she was going to wear while she was there.

Mother got pneumonia and had to go to a very nice hospital in the very nice neighborhood. Too bad she was too sick to eat; the food was delicious. Since the rehab center sent Mom over, and she was returning to the rehab center, I didn’t think anything of the clothes in her closet. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

After a few days, Mom returned to rehab. She had no clothes. I called and asked the person answering the phone who I should speak with about the clothes, explaining that Mom wasn’t a new resident. That person didn’t know but said she would forward the message to the social worker. It seemed a little odd that the social worker would have nothing better to do than look after clothes, but who knows? I have no idea what happened next because there was no follow-up at all. I called again and they found the clothes that my mother was wearing before she went into the hospital with the dirty laundry. I guess that makes sense. She’s only been gone a week and a half. What institution does laundry more often than that?

My mother asked the nurses and aides. They have no idea (obviously) but offered to help find out. One of the therapists calls me and told me that no one on the floor can find the clothes, but she will talk to housekeeping. Once again, silence.

In the meantime, I had to buy clothes so Mom could come over for Christmas. A few days after Christmas, I received a call from Housekeeping. No one told them my mother wasn’t a new patient. Her clothing had been in storage the whole time. When I was ready, I should call and they would have the stuff ready.

Last Thursday, the rehab center called and said that Mom would be released on Friday to be taken to a nursing home. I called Housekeeping and told them that my husband would pick up the clothes when he picked up my mother. Fine. They would be in a box in her room.

Guess what? No clothes Friday afternoon. My husband did his best to get them to understand that he wanted the clothes. He said that if they couldn’t find the clothes, he wanted payment. Someone “in charge” said she would find the clothes and send them to us. I had to buy more clothes for the nursing home.

What I can’t figure out is what they would have done with the clothes in the week she was at the hospital. My guess is that someone stole the clothes to resell them. There has got to be a huge market for used polyester pants and white cotton socks.