Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year… (Merry Sickness and a Happy Penu-monia)


Life is filled with ironies. It was strange having an article published on Christmas Day about how much I enjoyed our traditions around the holidays. Odd that this would be in the paper seeing that December 2019 was one of the worst Decembers I have ever had. You see on December 19th I had a bad reaction to Benadryl that I was given via my chemo port.

My right hand started twitching and shortly afterward my left hand joined in. Soon my legs started and finally I was flopping around in the recliner I was sitting in like a fish out of water. If I would have had the foot rest down, I swear I would have ended up on the floor. When the nurse came over, there was a look of panic on her face. She stopped the Benadryl drip immediately and started a saline flush. Then my Oncologist came over and told me that he had been practicing over 30 years and had never seen anyone have an adverse reaction to Benadryl, an antihistamine used to relieve symptoms of an allergic reaction.

They called for an intensive care ambulance that took me to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital where they gave me a cat scan of my brain to see if the twitching could have been caused by my cancer metastasizing in that area, but the scan didn’t show any. They also x-rayed my lungs to check for Pneumonia.  Again all clear. We got home from Millard Fillmore Suburban late that night.

Then on December 24th, I went to ENH (Eastern Niagara Hospital). You know you have been to the hospital too much when you go to sign in and the person at the admissions desk knows your name. I was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted. I spent 8 days flat on my back with an IV and oxygen shoved up my nose. I missed the Christmas Eve family celebrations and the Christmas Day get-togethers that I love so much.

Finally, on January first, I was released to go home. I am now walking around dragging a blue hose that is hooked up to an oxygen machine and am now limited to living in just the downstairs of my home.

Eastern Niagara Hospital has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to hospital officials. We are so blessed to have a small local hospital right here in our community. I understand that they are having trouble overcoming a number of the financial burdens that were incurred over the past ten years. I hope they are able to emerge from this without closing.

According to, hospitals have been closing at a rate of about 30 a year. In every year since 2011, more hospitals have closed than opened.

I will say that each and every one of the staff members at ENH were professional, pleasant and took the time to explain everything to me.  Many of the nurses, aides etc. knew me from previous visits and even when they weren’t assigned to me, they would stop by just to say hi.

I would mess with dietary by taking components from other dishes and combining them to make a new dish not on the menu. One breakfast I had them make me a breakfast sausage sandwich by combining a bulky roll, a sausage patty, a fried egg and a slice of cheese. Bam! New meal “off the menu”.

For dinner they offered pasta with grilled chicken or meatballs. I had them put down a bed of Rotini, a couple of smashed meat balls, a layer of cottage cheese, a slice of provolone cheese and some Marinara sauce on top “Deconstructed Lasagna”. It was good.

Dietary finally got even with me though one day. I ordered 2 pancakes, 3 syrup and a chocolate milk for breakfast, making a remark about a 5 year old’s breakfast. When I lifted the lid, there they were, Mickey Mouse pancakes. This made my day.

Some rural hospital closures are strategic decisions that are the result of mergers and acquisitions but others are caused by the inability to stay profitable says I have been to a few large hospitals and a few small “rural” ones and it seemed like you were just a number at the big hospitals. Patients who live far from major cities might be left with even fewer hospital choices says the American Hospital Association.

One of the reasons I bought my house where I did was because the hospital is only a half block away from me. If you look out the back of ENH you can see my home.  This has worked out quite well for me. Whenever I would injure myself at home, I would just walk over to the ER.

If ENH closes, I would have to drive 16 miles (or about 30 minutes according to to get to Millard Fillmore Suburban. Even if I was to cut this time in half by taking an ambulance, a lot of bad stuff can happen in 15 minutes.

Norb is a writer from Lockport, New York.


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