Just following up on on diary I had up the other day about the Florida TB outbreak. For the heck of it I did a quick search of the New York Times on Florida Tuberculosis. Not one hit about the worst outbreak the CDC has seen in 20 years. A lot of older stories about TB and HIV. But, one story that did come up was about the A.G. Holley State Hospital from June 12, 2010.
Yeah, the one the state closed just as they were starting to find out how bad the outbreak really is. The story makes clear how the politicians had been trying to close it for years. It also makes clear just what it takes to treat TB effectively these days. It also shows what can happen when medicine is focused on treating patients and not just their illness.
Just keeping Holley air-conditioned costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to administrators, which partly explains the state’s interest in moving and privatizing the program.It's the kind of story that makes you think about what kind of world we're living in, what kind of world we're headed for. Every day seems to bring news about the world becoming a harder, meaner place. Our political system is breaking down, as
Employees and patients, however, argue that the specialized care at Holley is a bargain for public health. Holley is a leader in research on drug resistance, and 93 percent of those who enter end up completely cured.
Patients also leave with more than just stronger lungs. Maintaining old sanitarium ideals, Holley offers care beyond TB, whether dentures and eyeglasses or cultural activities, including outdoor classical music concerts for the noncontagious. Many Holley residents who hated arriving end up leaving profoundly changed.
“It’s not uncommon, as patients get better, for them to see this as a second chance at life,” says Dr. David Ashkin, Holley’s medical director, a Brooklynite with a hard-rock ’80s mullet. “It’s very spiritual and life changing to go from nearly dead to alive.”
Most days in fact are a mix of profound appreciation for life, and gnawing sadness at the limits of institutionalized existence.
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
Knowing that that hospital is now closed, knowing that the TB outbreak is no longer confined to the despised and the destitute, well it's not the kind of thing that lets a body sleep well at night. Maybe I'm paranoid, but it seems as though the press in this country is doing its best to keep this story quiet. I could speculate why, but it seems to me that a sense of shame that this is happening in America may be part of the reason. It's very much in the "we don't talk about such things" tacit agreement that leads to death in the silence.
It also is of a piece with the almost frantic way our so-called leaders are dodging all of the serious problems on the campaign trail. Nothing about climate change; nothing about the reluctance of the powers that be to do anything serious about unemployment, no outrage over Republican plans to strip millions of any chance at health care, numbness in the face of a financial sector that answers to no one even as it robs us blind and politicians seek a grand bargain to impoverish us all in the name of a "grand bargain" based on lies and delusions.
Sean Hannity keeps warning that "America as we know it" is about to disappear. Judging by the way things have been going for the last 30 years, that might not be such a bad thing - depending on what replaces it. "Morning in America" is over; night is falling and it's a long time till dawn...
I titled this diary after one pop song reference. Let me close it with another that seems fitting: An American Tune.
Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 4:12 AM PT: And then there's the news from Colorado this morning.
God help us all.