It is 7 a.m. and I have been up since 6 which is unusual for me. I think my hip surgery, medications and a slower pace in my lifestyle have left me with readjusted sleep patterns. For years my friends who are early risers have told me the morning is the best time. While I see you can get more things done, I will say, "Mornings, not so much!" But will try to adjust to whatever hand I am dealt.
As I was laying in bed doing my exercises this morning I was thinking about rural medical care. For many years every little town had a doctor who birthed babies, did emergency surgeries, took care of sick people by making house calls, but those days are done. In most cases small towns are served by a P.A., physician's assistant, who handles all the emergencies and gets people to the towns with more medical facilities when needed. Here in Glendive we head to Bismarck or Billings and from there they send you on to other places such as Denver. Some people head immediately for the Mayo Clinic but whatever you decide it means hours of driving or airplane flights. It is not fun having to make those decisions.
Our community is fortunate that one of our young local women, now an orthopedic surgeon, married a local man and has returned to town part time. She has a solid practice in Cheyenne, Wyoming, so commutes back and forth every month. It is a 600 mile trip for her over some pretty rugged Wyoming country. But having her here has been a boon for us all.
Her mother said her daughter, the surgeon, was surprised at how many cases of old injuries she was seeing. But that is typical of frontier living. If you are a rancher, farmer, small business man or woman you don't have time for long trips to the doctor and several months of not being able to get to your work. You work through the pain and stiffness and keep going. Having a surgeon here means that at least you can have local care, local hospital and not feel so removed from what is familiar.
It is amazing to watch the rural medical system at work. It is a real struggle to provide local care in areas where the population is wide spread and minimal. Numbers of patients do matter. This is especially true in our nursing homes. More and more people are trying to stay in their homes longer, but getting home health care is another issue as well.
Those of us who live in the rural areas are very cognizant of the limitations and the needs and it can be scary sometimes, but neighbor helping neighbor is what makes the difference. We are very grateful to doctors who come from outside and stay so we can build up a relationship with them. Local nursing staff is another issue. When I was in the hospital in November it was fun to be cared for by young women I knew -- that I had had in school or as in two cases in confirmation classes at church.
I have also had lots of physical therapy the past year. Our hospital has a unit but there is also a privately owned place in town. It is well and professionally staffed. Both work hard to get locals back on their feet after surgery. It is another dimension of long-term medical care that is so important.
We watch the papers carefully when it comes to funding rural medical care. We know what it means to be without and no one wants to go that route.
There is something to be said for having a local hospital where you can be visited by friends and family and be close to home. Even when the end of life is near, there are familiar people walking with you on the journey. Medical care is not just in the numbers and the dollars. It is why we fight so hard to at least keep what we have.