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Steve Lunetta: A broken system?

Right About Now

Posted: March 14, 2010 10:59 p.m.
Updated: March 15, 2010 4:55 a.m.

At the end of 2007, my wife Trish and I decided to take the kids on a fun family vacation. Being one of the few families that owns a timeshare and actually enjoys it, we decided to exchange our week for a resort in scenic Manson, Wash. by beautiful Lake Serial Killer.

Well, it’s not really called Lake Serial Killer. But by the end of our week, I felt like our vacation had been murdered.

We had gone to Manson in search of a fun skiing vacation. There was 12 inches of fresh snow on the ground, a beautiful condo by the lake, fun munchies in the kitchen, puzzles and books galore and no deadlines or commitments. Everything was perfect.  

On the first day, we went skiing. The kids went snowboarding, which appears to be just skateboarding without wheels. And a lot more out-of-control. But they were having fun and that was all that mattered.

My wife, however, was not having fun. By noon, she was having stomach pains and was feeling miserable. She was forced to sit in the lodge and watch the fun, being unable to move around much.

“Its just some cramps” she said. “Nothing important. I’ll be fine in a bit.”

Was she ever wrong. By midnight, the pains were bad enough that she could not sleep. The pain level was beginning to slide into the “labor-like” category where the pain is akin to delivering a 200-pound calf — sideways.

We decided to go into the Manson Emergency Room. Besides Cletus the Town Drunk, the Manson hospital was essentially empty. Fortunately, that meant my wonderful bride got all of the attention from the ER staff.

The doctor on duty spent a few minutes with Trish discussing the pain and immediately suspected a kidney stone. A quick X-ray confirmed the suspicion as a blockage in Trish’s right kidney. A sense of relief overwhelmed me.

Unfortunately, Manson did not have the equipment to remove the stone so she had to be transferred to the hospital in Wenatchee, 45 minutes away.  

As I followed the ambulance through the night, my concern turned to fright as the driver suddenly turned on his lights and accelerated to 90 mph. Something had happened and I was clueless.

When we arrived at the hospital, I found that my wife had gone into seizures. The ambulance crew made the right call and got her to the hospital pronto.

Wenatchee, the jewel of central Washington, is best known for being in the pathway of a large dam that lies just to the north of the city. “Great,” I thought. My wife will be in the hands of some podunk doctor in a little hick town in the middle of nowhere.

Now it was my turn to be wrong. Doc Holiday (not his real name) immediately assessed the situation and determined that she needed to be in surgery immediately. I found out later that the good doctor was a Stanford-educated urologist who graduated summa cum laude.

I asked him what he was doing in the middle of nowhere. “My wife is from here, and I love my wife” was his simple reply. We had stumbled upon a diamond in a most unexpected place.

The surgery went well and they removed several rocks from my bride. She was plugged up real good. Doc Holiday came out and talked to me after the surgery for about 30 minutes. His care and concern for me and my wife was real and it showed in everything that he did.

Over the next several days, the staff at Wenatchee Central Hospital took great care of Trish and me, allowing us to leave after four days to save a couple days of our vacation.

But this is the truly amazing thing. This small hospital in the state of Washington took my health insurance without blinking. Blue Cross paid the bills to both Manson and Wenatchee without argument. I think I paid a grand total of $100 for the ER visit. I calculated that the end bill was close to $130,000.

For those of you who claim that the system is broken and in need of a massive overhaul, I say “no.” My family’s experience has not been perfect but I have a wife today because our system does work.

Let’s not destroy a system that works. Let’s fine-tune what we have instead of implementing an unsustainable and doomed health care program.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Right About Now” appears Mondays. He can be reached at


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