Roach: The flu and other things

Due to the flu, he experienced Madison health care
Roach: The flu and other things

Like many, I was recently struck by the medieval flu bug that has been dropping folks all over town. The Roach men are proud owners of asthmatic lungs, so the malady had a more profound effect on my breathing, which resulted in a fun ambulance ride and a four-day stay in the hospital.

Further, the strange variant of the flu virus and ensuing pneumonia that it fostered required that I be placed in isolation, which made me feel as if I were a Martian that some Boy Scouts had stumbled across in an Iowa cornfield. Or that creature in “The Shape of Water.”

Ever the lucky guy, I received stupendous care. But what struck me most was not just the quality of care, but those who provided it.

The roster of professionals who helped me with my brief health crisis stand in beautiful contrast to the dark image of America that President Donald Trump and his frightened toadies tweet at us every day.

The young woman who put the first IV line in my arm in the ambulance was Latina.

The button-downed nurse who took control of me in Bay 5 of the UnityPoint Health – Meriter ER was Mustafa, a native of Gambia.

My X-ray tech was second generation Tibetan. He played soccer at James Madison Memorial High School. My phlebotomist was of Chinese descent.

The clerk who took my admitting information was Eastern European. My admitting physician, they call them a “hospitalist,” was a wicked-bright Israeli, who now lives in Madison with his wife and children.

Of course, there was a healthy smattering of other health care workers from more traditional Wisconsin stock; Norwegians, Italians, Irish and Germans. They came to America generations ago for the same reasons that Gambians, Tibetans and Albanians come to America today–freedom and opportunity.

On this day, there were professionals of all skin tones who helped me and my family. They were not rapists, drug dealers or murderers. They were professionals providing critical care in the most compassionate and skilled ways imaginable.

Later in intermediate care on the eighth floor at Meriter, I was placed in the able hands of caregivers who were, with the exception of one guy, all women. Smart, caring, organized, professional nurses, nurses’ aides, respiratory therapists, blood pullers, tech monitors and janitorial staff. Not one of them seemed remotely like the women who participated in Trump’s beauty pageants. These were women you judge by their smarts, not by their hair and swimsuit.

My care was best illustrated by the night nurse Rochelle who gave me the news about just how complicated my diagnosis was. After donning isolation gear and handing me a sheet about the virus I had, she sat on the edge of the bed and said simply, “Tell me about yourself, John.” It was a beautiful touch of humanity in the midst of the beeping machines that monitored my lungs, which sounded way too much like someone was emptying the recyclables.

Among the drugs they had me on was morphine, used to quell my locked breathing muscles. I told her about my kids. My daughters in Chicago and my son the singer/songwriter in L.A. She asked to hear his music. So, at 3 a.m., with a little morphine in me, I am playing my son’s song to the night nurse. That’s the kind of thing that heals you fast.

The spectrum of folks who helped me served also as a reminder of just how great health care is in Madison. And just what a wonderful hometown I have. And how lucky I was to grow up here, return here from Chicago with my wife and raise our three children in one of America’s greatest small cities.

But judging from his reaction to Mayor Paul Soglin’s candidacy for governor, Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t think Madison, our state capital, is a very nice place at all. Walker’s reaction to Soglin’s announcement really didn’t have much to do with the mayor, who is fair political game. Instead, Walker chose to attack Madison, saying that “the last thing we need is more Madison in our lives.” He also erroneously proclaimed that “businesses have left and murders have gone up.” Walker from Milwaukee is going to lecture Madison about murders?

So, as someone who is a native Madisonian who has been blessed in both the past and the very recent present by its people and resources, I’ll offer Walker some advice.

If you don’t like Madison … leave.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at