Thursday, April 22, 2010
THE LADY AND THE TIGER ... A true story from the DK memory bank.
It happened about 50-yrs ago, so that puts it within the time frame of Sue Lowden’s rustic era of chicken-bartering for healthcare. [note many insightful local LV comments in that link]
It happened in Nevada where Sue Lowden is currently trying to trade in her go-go dancing boots for Harry Reid’s Senate seat.
The story starts late one night in the parking lot of a bar outside Las Vegas. It involves a young woman and a couple of her young man friends. The fact that these three young people had probably already had a few drinks should be mentioned but not held against them. They were of (barely) legal age and not legally drunk.
From the crowded dusty parking lot of this small dive somewhere near the old Boulder Highway, the three young people could hear the bar’s loud thumping juke box music and were anticipating ordering a few beers, maybe dancing and/or playing some billiards before calling it a night.
Walking through the parked cars toward the bar, the young woman spotted movement in the back part of a station wagon. It was hard to see very clearly in the unlit parking lot but it looked like a large animal. Just like the rest of her family, the young woman was an animal lover. Not in the Rick Santorum sense or even in the Animal-Rights-Activist sense. She had grown up with a menagerie of animals (horses, cows, pigs, peacocks, chickens, parakeets, hamsters, dogs, cats and even a monkey) which had instilled in her a respect for and intense curiosity about animals. Think Ellie May Clampett.
So it was not out of character for the young woman to stop and peer into the dark station wagon where she could barely make out some kind of animal restlessly pacing around. She would later say she wanted to verify that the animal was OK, that it had water and some cracked windows for air. She was also very curious about what the animal was.
The guys tried to push her along toward the bar’s entrance. They could almost taste the beer already. They teased her, “oh it’s only some big old sheepdog, pacing around, c’mon hurry up, or we’ll go in without you, plenty of other women in there want to dance.”
But the young woman had already determined this was no sheepdog.
It was big and hairy, like a sheepdog, but she was now close enough to hear it growling, and that growl wasn’t anything like a dog would make. What could it be?
She stopped at the rear of the station wagon and saw the back window was indeed cracked about 6-inches for air. The animal was growling louder now but the woman was still not able to see what it was, so she moved closer to the cracked open back window. Did I mention she had probably already consumed a few drinks?
In the back of the station wagon was a pacing tiger. He was tame enough to be considered someone’s pet. Fifty-years ago owning this type of pet was not exactly outlawed, especially in Nevada, home of freedom-loving americans. But the tiger had been left alone in the station wagon too long tonight. The owner was so busy drinking and dancing that he forgot his tiger might be getting restless.
All night, the tiger had seen human cars with their bright headlights pulling off the Boulder Highway into the parking lot. The cars were loud and made sounds much like he did when he purred. The car sounds would then merge with crunching gravel sounds as the cars found parking places, then abruptly cease, to be replaced by loud car doors slamming and people moving around out there in the dark. The dark didn’t matter to the tiger for his eyes were like night-vision goggles.
He could see details and hear sounds and smell odors that no human could detect. He had heard people laughing, people arguing, he had seen some pushing and shoving each other, not always in a friendly way. Earlier a man had walked very close by his station wagon. The man had stopped and urinated, an act the tiger thought of as marking his territory. All this human action had upset the tiger. He could not get the human urine stench out of his nostrils. Strange men should not be marking territory so near his station wagon. Where was his owner? The tiger paced restlessly.
Now a young woman had appeared near his station wagon. The tiger paced and growled, but the woman did not understand his territorial warning. She had come so close to his open back window that she seemed to be trying to get INSIDE his territory. He could see her long light blond hair (so light blond it was almost white) and smell her human perfume mixed with beer breath. He could hear that her man friends had walked beyond the station wagon and wondered if they were trying to surround him.
The tiger now heard the woman’s voice, a high light happy voice, nothing like his human owner’s voice which is the only voice the tiger thought should be allowed into the station wagon territory.
In fact the woman had just told her companions, “Wait up a second, I want to see what this big guy is and make sure he’s OK in there”. Then she lowered her face to peer into the back window opening.
That was when the tiger struck.
He could not get his head through the 6-inch opening. The window was only cracked that much for fresh air. But he could definitely reach out a paw and take a swipe, which is what he did. His paw was powerful and his claws were intact, though not quite as sharp as they would be if the owner did not file them regularly.
If the woman’s head had not been so close to the window, the tiger’s paw would merely have swiped at air, and this story would not be germane to Sue Lowden’s hair-brained chicken-bartering for healthcare idea. If the tiger could’ve gotten his head and teeth through the opening, this story would not be a healthcare story, but would instead end at the mortuary, for his chain-saw teeth were also intact, albeit filed down.
Where the tiger’s claw connected with the woman’s face it tore a quick gash along her cheek. But the damage did not stop there. The tiger was so outraged at the violation of his territory, and further inflamed by the blood he’d drawn on the woman’s face, that he now thrust out his extended his paw to the point of hurting himself, putting a mighty effort into tearing a deep ragged line down the woman’s neck and upper chest. This was as far as he could reach through the angle of the window opening. It was enough.
The woman screamed and the big cat roared and raged.
Even though her friends were almost inside the loud bar’s entrance now, they could hear her scream mingled with what to them sounded like all hell breaking loose.
They ran back to find her laying on the ground, groaning and bleeding, with a raging tiger roaring inside the station wagon, pawing through the back window. It must have seemed as if the tiger would break the window any minute and kill them all.
Trying to avoid the tiger’s swiping paw themselves, their slightly beer-adled brains directing them to get the woman out of harm’s way and to medical help immediately, the two men did not rush back into the bar to call an ambulance. They picked her up, laid her in the back seat of their car, stuffed an old towel onto her bleeding face and chest, so much blood it soaked the towel red immediately. They drove to the emergency room of Sunrise Hospital, the closest and only hospital on that side of town, a 5-minute wild ride in the late night light traffic.
Of course an ambulance would’ve known which hospital to take her to, but an ambulance would’ve taken more time to get out to Boulder Hwy and many more minutes to transport the bleeding woman … for as it turned out, she had to be transported clear across town, a good 30-minute drive … and this is where a horrific story becomes unnecessarily nightmarish because the system of healthcare that Sue Lowden and others who oppose universal healthcare, the system that was business as usual for the era that Sue Lowden so fondly remembers as bartering for healthcare, did not in fact exist.
Picture now, the three young people arriving in the Emergency Room. The young woman is bleeding profusely from large gashes on her face, neck and chest. She is moaning and in shock. The young men are babbling about a tiger. Yeah, sure ... they all smell too beery... like they were having a little too much fun. The ER staff wheeled the young woman away on a gurney to look her over.
The young men were immediately accosted by hospital personnel:
***Hosp: Does your friend have health insurance?
***Hosp: Then you will have to pay cash up front.
***Men: How much cash?
***Hosp: $200 to begin treatment.
***Men: we don’t have that much cash on us.
***Hosp: can you call a friend or relative to meet you here in the next few minutes with the cash?
***Men: not likely.
***Hosp: then we will have to transport the young woman by ambulance to the county hospital.
OK, if you don’t remember this era yourself, ask your parents or grandparents. 50-yrs ago $200 was more than most people’s paychecks. It was more than a month’s rent and utilities. People did not walk around with $200 in their pockets. Even a decade later, I remember thinking I was really flush if I had $50 cash on me. These young people did not have $50 cash between all three of them. They were just regular people who went out for a few drinks and ended up being attacked by someone's pet tiger.
So to wind up the story of the Lady and the Tiger: Sunrise Hospital, the closest and only hospital on that side of town, refused to treat the young woman. She did not have insurance or cash and they did not consider her wounds to be life threatening “at the moment”. The most they would do was apply pressure to the bleeding wounds and arrange ambulance transportation to the county hospital, which was on the other side of town, a 30-minute drive.
During the ambulance drive to the county hospital, an EMT discovered that the nasty gash on the young woman’s throat was so near her jugular vein they were afraid that the jostling of the ambulance might cause it to burst!
When she arrived at the county hospital (actually at the time it was not yet a designated county hospital, it was still Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital, but it was the only hospital that did not require proof of health insurance or a cash down payment), she was rushed for emergency treatment.
The E.R. staff there were horrified that Sunrise had not even cleansed or disinfected the wounds. Apparently Sunrise had not taken the tiger story seriously. So now So-Nev-Mem was dealing with infected deep gashes. Tiger's claws apparently harbor many nasty toxins.
After the young woman was stabilized, a kindly doctor consulted with her about stitches. He told her, "You will be scarred, there is no way to avoid it, the gashes are too deep, but if we are lucky your facial gash won’t be quite as bad as the others."
By this time, some of her humble family had arrived at the hospital. They timidly asked the doctor if in his opinion she had received immediate treatment at Sunrise, would he expect less scarring. The doctor, like most doctors, followed an unwritten code about not trashing other doctors. All he would say was he would do everything he could to make the facial scar as small as possible. The humble family did not pursue.
That young woman was my Aunt, my mother's youngest sister. Fifty years later, she still bears visible scars of her tiger experience. Neither she nor her family could afford expensive reconstructive surgery. The scars are tight and painful, even today, and much of the underlying muscle tissue never regained sensation. The ugly gash on her throat serves as a roadmap of exactly where her jugular vein is. But as the kind doctor had hoped, her facial scar is not nearly as noticeable as those on her neck and chest.
The invisible scars are harder to quantify. She was not given immediate medical attention merely because she didn’t have $200 on her person to begin what would be a long and painful recovery. That has to have affected her psyche, made her think she wasn't worthy of medical treatment ... in this land of the free and home of the brave, she should've just accepted it was her lot in life to be slashed by a tiger, sucked it up and prayed that jesus would make her better!?!
Could my Aunt have bartered for immediate healthcare, as Sue Lowden has suggested? Bartered with what? She had nothing. She was bleeding and in shock. What was she supposed to do, offer to blow the damn doctor and scrub the ER floors?
Maybe Ms Lowden formed this idea of bartering for healthcare when she was go-go boot dancing in her mini-skirt on a Bob Hope USO Tour. Certainly many of the soldiers she was entertaining had ideas along that line.
Harry Reid may not match my idea of a fire-brand US Senate Leader, but he has been a good senator for Nevada. He stopped Yucca Mtn from being developed as a national nuclear dump site and he pushed healthcare reform through the Senate.
Sue Lowden isn't qualified to lick old Harry's testicles.
Oh in case you’re wondering, the tiger and his owner were never identified. The station wagon’s owner was not known in the bar, as the young woman’s friends and family found out on their own. The family naively thought the tiger owner was probably not even aware of what had happened and might agree to reimburse the medical bills if he could be found. Naive and humble. Surely when the tiger owner finally stumbled out of the bar, he must have noticed how agitated his tiger was, probably favoring one of its forelegs, maybe he even saw all the blood around the rear of his station wagon. The bar owner theorized that he was probably just driving through, just another man with a "pet" tiger in his car, yeah, so common in Vegas. I don't think the story of this late-night tiger mauling even made the local news. Just another tiger mauling in Vegas, right? cue Siegfried and Roy ... maybe they can send some of their special tiger manure to Ms Lowden ... as a campaign donation ... in barter!