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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Immigrants Saved My Life

Donald Trump Would Have Had Me Dead

I laid in a hospital bed as Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee. The guy that wants to close the borders to both goods and talent is speaking simple slogans that has millions enchanted.  What would have been my chances of survival without the extended division of labor requiring talent of many shapes, sizes and colors if Trump-like policies had been embraced in America?

Economist Murray Rothbard reminds us:

“For just as an ever-greater division of labor is needed to give full scope to the abilities and powers of each individual, so does the existence of that very division depend upon the innate diversity of men. For there would be no scope at all for a division of labor if every person were uniform and interchangeable.”

Specialists Spring into Action

Before, I imagined being taken to the emergency room via ambulance, like on TV medical dramas. But, like much of life, it was more pedestrian. “I want you to get in your car and drive yourself to the emergency room immediately,” my primary care physician told me,”and give me your wife’s cell phone number.”

I have news for Mr. Trump, many critical to my care and recovery are not from the US…

An hour later, after driving from a nearby town, where I work, to the hospital in northwest Las Vegas I made it to the ER, checking in at 2:30 or so, with a temperature through the roof. By 6:30 that night I was on dialysis. My kidney doctor believes I had gone without kidney function for a week prior to admission. My creatinine level was an astronomical 21 (normal is 1-1.3 for guys my size).

From the time I checked in to dialysis, it was a whirlwind of specialists thrillingly combined with the massive capital improvements of a modern hospital. Two cheerful ER nurses dressed in colorful gowns, biker do-rags, sunglasses propped on their heads gurnied me to a CAT scan and then to have a nephrostomy bag sewn into my back and a tri-port sewn into my neck to facilitate dialysis treatments and daily blood draws (made between 2am and 4am).

Just under a local anesthesia, I could hear the light-hearted banter between colleagues as they attended to me. All worked confidently and quickly. Each performed their specialty with great skill in the effort to save me and my kidneys.

Saved by an International Team

I have news for Mr. Trump, many critical to my care and recovery are not from the US, but from places like Romania (my charismatic infection specialist, ironically a Trump fan), South Africa (my nephrologist), Philippines (various nurses and physical therapists), Haiti (dialysis technician), the Congo (physical therapy) and so on.

Blocking the borders can only serve to truncate the division of labor’s continued deepening and in the case of hospital patients, make survival and recovery more problematic.

As Rothbard pointed out, not all humans are of equal ability. That is certainly the case of hospital staff.  There are two working shifts of 12 hours in a day and I am assigned an RN and and a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) for each shift. Satisfaction is always a function of what I need during a particular shift matched with the skills and preferences of the particular nurses assigned to me for that particular shift.  The days of sponge bathes and Candy Stripers are long gone. The nurses are union employees, there is no room for volunteer labor. I’ve watched nurses step on trash on the floor and not pick it up and had an RN tersely tell me push my call button instead of getting me some water.

As a patient, I didn’t have much to bargain with for the time and attention of nurses, other than a positive attitude and politeness. I reasoned that nurses would see who they had to first and who they wanted to next. My condition was not in the “had to” category after I left ICU after 4 or 5 days.

The greater productivity of work under the division of labor is a unifying influence.Help with grooming and receiving a fresh gown falls to the physical therapy employees who are amazingly helpful, from finding me a comfortable chair to washing my swollen feet. An occupational therapist noticed my tremors and went out of his way to find weighted silverware to aid my eating. A big thanks goes to the dialysis tech who noticed my struggles with styrofoam cups and found two large, covered mugs that made drinking water much easier. Her high empathy level no doubt had something to do with her personal struggles with Lupus, Crohn’s Disease and, like me, kidney stones.

It is a large kidney stone that is the genesis of this story. A problem that at this writing has still not been solved, but will, by laser or otherwise. My urologist wants nothing to do with it until my creatinine level is normal (it is down to 2.30).

Comrades in a Joint Struggle    

Ludwig von Mises explained,

“Once labor has been divided, the division itself exercises a differentiating influence. The fact that labor is divided makes possible further cultivation of individual talent and thus cooperation becomes more and more productive. Through cooperation men are able to achieve what would have been beyond them as individuals. (…)
The greater productivity of work under the division of labor is a unifying influence. It leads men to regard each other as comrades in a joint struggle for welfare, rather than as competitors in a struggle for existence.”

One of Murray’s students who worked in emergency care told me during a visit that he was amazed dialysis machines are now mobile and can be moved room to room, where I received my five treatments. Another of Rothbard’s pupils, held up his phone and said, “without government, this is how big dialysis machines would be.”

Although he’s right, I’ll get back to railing about government’s interference and what could be or should be when I return to my feet. For the moment, I’m just thankful for the division of labor and the divergent skill sets that combined to heal me.

Doug French writes from a northwest Las Vegas hospital.