Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Dick Geary
Guest Columnist 

Dick Geary: Recovering from pneumonia and a few other things, and thankful for help

 

For most of my life I've considered myself to be a misanthrope, harboring a soft contempt for my fellow humans. I think that philosophy was a contrivance to protect my own fragile and shallow ego. The events of these last two months proved me wrong in my sour opinion of the human race.

I lived in Brazil for the last two-and-a-half years, and about a month ago became quite ill with pneumonia and a few other things. To complicate the situation, I found that a fellow I trusted more than anyone in that country had been robbing me for some time. I was broke in the U.S. and broke in Brazil.

The country has governmental healthcare, but it is horribly overcrowded, understaffed, and underfunded. It's not the place to go when you're sick.

I had noticed that I was getting weak, especially in the legs, but I still led a normal life. I got up and made coffee every morning about 4 a.m., then the cat and I watched TV until 6:30 when we walked a few doors to have a morning snack with the neighbors who have a small shop.

About 7 a.m. I went to the restaurant where I had coffee with Maycon. Then I started my day by cleaning up the kitchen and washing the pots and pans from the night before, plus helping the cook get ready for the day. It was very mundane work, but pleasant.

Then one day a new acquaintance stopped by my apartment. When she noted how my physical condition and my lifestyle had deteriorated she told me I was going to the hospital. I didn't even think I was sick. We didn't even know each other's last names, but she was concerned enough to take two weeks out of her life for me.

So, we went to a private hospital, where as soon as they saw me, put me on a gurney and started some IV fluids. The doctor in charge ran a blood panel and they took me to a room where I was to lie for the next two weeks watching liquids drip into me. I was never without them.

When you're sick in Brazil, you don't do much more than wait. The doctor would tell me that she'd be at the room the next morning to discuss some test, but often it was a couple days before she'd appear. So I waited, watching TV and the mysterious liquids drip into me.

They finally decided that I was suffering from pneumonia and started treatment which amounted to little more than different colored liquids being fed into my veins, many of which had collapsed by then.

And so it went – IV's and television while I was getting weaker. The friend who took me to the hospital stayed in the room with me, as is required in Brazil when the patient is over 60 years old.

Once or twice a day she'd hobble me to the bathroom, give me a cigarette and a lighter, then leave me alone to enjoy my addiction for a few minutes. I finally realized how weak I was when one day I didn't have the strength to strike the lighter, and had to ask Rosana's help.

It took some time, but the IV's and pills began to have some effect and I could at least get off the toilet by myself. But then my feet began to swell from all the liquids in me. They looked like a couple of fish that had lain too long in the sun, but the swelling would go down if I hobbled and limped around the room for a while. I couldn't even get my flip flops on because my toes had disappeared

And during this, while I was laying on my back worrying about paying the expensive hospital, some friends of mine took pity on me and told me that Maycon had been stealing my money for some time, and that's why I was destitute and in danger of being shuffled off to public health care.

So I sent out a weak and chagrined cry for help. The response was humbling, especially given all the years of arrogance I had manifested. 

My sister took charge of the legalities, and through a lot of expense and effort, including a trip to Brazil to fetch me, had me in the ER in Missoula within ten days. I don't know how many people helped financially, but I got cards and money from those who had only read my articles.

The experience was unpleasant, and I hope it's changed the way I consider others as well as those who showed great generosity to a fool who couldn't even take care of his own health or his money.

I give my very humble thanks to all of you.

 

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