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Don't You Worry About a Thing

What will the future of health care in Western New York look like?

In the following four stories, an interwoven cast of patients and health care providers - Barry Glover, Miranda Trimble, Don Castle, Laura Castle Clark, Felicia Johnson, Tony Tomasello and Anita Wallace - interact with each other on a single day in 2018, Friday, June 22, to be exact. The date is the same in each story but each Friday has been reached along a different path, with distinctly different outcomes for all involved.

The Story

In 2012 Congress finally passed a sweeping health care reform bill but stopped short of making it universal coverage:

  • All Americans had the chance to get insurance with a variety of providers.
  • Diagnostic testing increased.
  • Health care became a part of the economy, producing two of every five jobs.
  • Despite hospital mergers and sharing of resources, the blizzard of complicated regulations and forms left many people confused.

24 percent of community conversation participants said this story most characterizes health care in WNY today

Last night Miranda felt as if a truck had driven onto her chest and parked. The pain was unbearable, and her husband punched 911.

Soon someone was next to her, clamping a plastic mask to her face. Then she was vaguely aware of being wheeled and jostled, of sirens and beeping machinery, of a strange voice: "You're having a heart attack, Mrs. Trimble. Stay with me now." She could remember little else.

Now, today, she woke tired and incredibly sore. She knew Ben was in the room with her, had been there for some time because his voice was floating in her head. She blinked, and he smiled down at her, letting out a long breath.

Later, a cardiothoracic surgeon named Tomasello stood at Miranda's bedside in the Stroke and Cardio Center, writing on a clipboard. He already had most of her medical history but asked detailed questions to fill in the gaps. When she answered yes to smoking, he said, "You just quit." Then he described the biosynthetic-cellular stent he had inserted last night, as well as the exercise therapy and dietary changes she would begin.

"This is going to cost me a fortune, isn't it?" she said. "Isn't there something simpler, a new medicine or something, maybe a membership to Weight Watchers."

"You're going to get plenty of medicine," the doctor said. "Insurance will cover it, but you're on your own for Weight Watchers. Don't worry. It's not too late to get your life back."

No one in the room knew that in five months, without supportive counseling, Miranda would abandon her exercise efforts and fall back into her old eating patterns, that in six she would discover an unfinished pack of cigarettes in the back of the kitchen junk drawer and begin smoking again.

No one knew Miranda's second heart attack was just fourteen months away and would require a quadruple bypass, but everyone understood that however much any life-saving procedure cost, it would be done.

Across town, in an independent imaging center, Felicia Johnson lay still inside a narrow tube. Repeated doctor visits, prescription painkillers, physical therapy, two chiropractors, yoga, special supports for her car and favorite chair at home - and still the pain in her lower back brought tears to her eyes. This, her second MRI, had been ordered by her new doctor, Anita Wallace, a pain specialist who wanted fresh film before attempting cortisone shots in her spine. "Ah, that stuff doesn't work," a neighbor had told her. "I got it in my shoulder and it still hurts like the dickens." But Dr. Wallace had assured her that with the almost limitless medical choices available today, they would find a way to make her back pain disappear.

Thirty-five miles away, Laura Castle Clark sat in a crowded rural doctor's office waiting for the doctor to breeze through, as usual, but hoping this time he would take an extra moment to reassure her that the recent spotting was nothing to worry about. Laura hated coming to this office - too long a wait, too many patients, too little time to ask questions, too many tests. But Rogers was a good doctor who had managed many high risk pregnancies and delivered healthy babies. Laura prayed he would spare her another miscarriage.

Her cell phone chimed, and she slid the display into talk position.

"Honey?" It was her mother. "I called the house but got no answer."

"I'm at the doctor's office, Mom, just waiting to be seen."


Laura heard the hesitation in her mother's voice. "What is it?"

"Dad and I were on our way out to see you - we have some things for the nursery - and we were almost at your house when we had a little accident."

Laura sat up straighter. "An accident? Are you all right?"

"We're fine, but Dad had a little tightness in his chest. The state police insisted we go to the nearest hospital. By the time we got there, ER doctors had uploaded our medical records from MediStat. They examined us both and X-rayed us and compared Dad's EKG to his last reading. We're okay, but the car had to be towed." Her mother sighed. "Here we are trying to surprise you and now we need a ride."

"Sit tight, Mom," Laura said. "I'll be there in ten minutes."

"But, honey, your appointment..."

"I can wait in line tomorrow just as easily as today," Laura said, relieved her parents were all right. "Ten minutes."