Friday, November 24, 2017

One of many things that's been broken lately

 Here's a guest opinion column that ran Friday, Nov. 24, in the Arizona Daily Star.

By Tom Walker
Special to the Arizona Daily Star
One nice Sunday in mid-October, I fell down and couldn’t get up.
I wish I could say I was doing something really exciting, like climbing one of Doug Kreutz’s craggy mountains. But what really happened was, I was putting out the trash in front of our house. Made it back to the garage, then passed out because I thought I could perform this arduous task without my portable oxygen machine. And I collapsed on the garage floor with my ankle twisted beneath me.
Fortunately, Linda, my wife, was right there and brought out the oxygen machine, which revived me enough to let me get back on my feet.
Right away, my right ankle started hurting and swelling and turning all kinds of unnatural colors, but I thought it was just a bad sprain.
Next morning it was still swollen and hurting, so we decided it was worth a trip to urgent care.
The doctor there took a look at the X-ray and said I had a broken fibula, the small ankle bone located on the outside of the leg.
The tibia, or shinbone, is the weight-bearing bone. However, continuing to walk on a broken fibula could result in a compound injury, in which a jagged piece of bone pierces through the skin.
Bad stuff can follow, like infections, gangrene, lions dying in the snows of Kilimanjaro. Bad stuff, indeed.
My new best friend
So they fitted me with a heavy boot to protect the ankle — but don’t put any weight on it, they cautioned. And they sent me off to the emergency room at Northwest Medical Center. And then followed five weeks of treatment and therapy — five days at the main hospital, and four weeks at Mountain View Care Center.
I’m very happy to report that everyone involved in my treatment did absolutely exemplary work. I want to especially give a shout-out to a big, always friendly, physical therapist named Allen Brown.
Allen helped me get on my feet again, learning how to hop on my left leg using a walker. And Saturday, Nov. 18, they sent me home with many a handshake and hug.
And that brings me to the main point of this story. Hospitals are expensive, whether you’re there for a simple broken fibula like mine or for a multi-surgery shattered ankle suffered by my ironworker roommate after a fall from a scaffold.
I haven’t received a final bill for my treatment yet, but I’m sure the Medicare Advantage co-payments are going to run into many hundreds of dollars — if not thousands.
One saving grace in the past has been the fact that we could use those costs as itemized medical deductions on our federal taxes.
Now, Trump’s Republican Party wants to steal that deduction as well as many others so their billionaire donors can afford to buy more yachts and private jets.
Their $1.5 trillion raid on the U.S. Treasury eliminates the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, handing more huge, undeserved windfalls to the rich.
Meanwhile, it chops away at Obamacare subsidies and Medicaid.
Doctors can repair even my roommate’s badly shattered ankle. I’m not sure our country can survive the damage the GOP wants to inflict on middle-class taxpayers.
I’m calling Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake regularly, urging them to block this unholy mess of a tax cut for the rich.
I don’t know what else to do, except what I’m doing now: Write.
Otherwise, we’ve really fallen down and can’t get up.

Tom Walker is a retired journalist who has worked at the Arizona Daily Star. He now writes novels and blogs. Contact him at

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