As I write this our good friend and blog contributor Martin Bayne is preparing to be discharged from the ICU at St. Lukes Hospital in Bethlehem, Penn., and admitted to Phoebe Ministries nursing home for short term rehab to recover from pneumonia.
Besides being a leading voice for disability rights and culture change, Martin has himself been living over a decade in various Assisted Living facilities as a result of Parkinson’s disease. Martin called me from the hospital today asking if ChangingAging would help him chronicle his journey of recovery as he transitions to short-term rehab to regain adequate health and mobility to return to his home at Sacred Heart Assisted Living.
Martin said that he was closer to death’s door this past week than any other time. He had a fever of 103, suffered hallucinations and blacked out two days. He remembers his doctor leaning over him at one point and saying, “Martin you are one sick puppy.”
Living with Parkinson’s disease makes Martin no stranger to health crises and visits to the ER. About four years ago a first year medical intern changed Martin’s Parkinson’s medication to Ropinerol without alerting Martin or his other doctors. Martin suffered a severe adverse reaction to the drug, which sent him into a state of psychosis. He was transferred to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, N.Y., where he had a psychotic break. Martin said that three nursing aides to beat him to unconsciousness in a shower to subdue him during the psychotic break, causing two pulmonary embolisms. Martin did not press charges or report the attack. He spent the following 12 months in seven different hospitals recovering.
Since that episode Martin has lived at Sacred Heart where he says he has “really fallen in love with my fellow residents.” He is an active member of the resident’s council and spends much of his time video recording interviews with his fellow residents, especially those close to death. He also runs his own blog, The Voice of Aging Boomers, contributes regularly to ChangingAging and has written for the Washington Post and appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terri Gross.
In addition to being a journalist and a zen monk, Martin is also a leading expert and broker of long term care insurance. Thanks to his decision to invest in a policy for himself in his early 40s, he has been able to live in Assisted Living this past decade rather than in a nursing home on Medicaid.
That could change over the course of the next few weeks. Martin must progress enough in short term rehab to qualify to return to his home at Sacred Heart. He is currently wheel-chair bound and must become ambulatory again.
I asked Martin what he fears about this transition and the first thing he mentioned was showering. I thought he was referring to the attack he suffered at Ellis Hospital, but he said showering is an activity he worries about every time he does it due to the risk of falling. In fact, at Sacred Heart Martin has his shower every day at 1 a.m. He does this because the night shift nursing assistants have less turnover than the day shift, so he has more confidence in their ability to safely assist him in the shower.
In a couple hours Martin will go through the intake process to enter a nursing home. He will go from living in a private room to having a roommate. He will be surrounded by people he has never met before.
As he has long done, Martin says he hopes to provide a voice and a first-hand account for an experience that most people must endure voiceless.
I will provide brief updates on Martin in the comments below and share news updates as I receive them.