Jay Beeler

On the day that the last issue of the Beachcomber came out my wife, Anita, and I hopped onto a JetBlue flight to New York. The trip was in anticipation of attending a wedding in Lancaster, Penna., which happened this past weekend.

Unfortunately she took the word “trip” literally outside the JFK JetBlue terminal, fell and broke her hip while I was retrieving our bags. “This was not a very good way to start a vacation,” I thought.

With the assistance of red coat terminal staff and a NYPD airport officer we arrived at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in the New York Queens Borough. It is a very busy, Level 1 trauma center that quickly assessed the situation and had my wife in cue for surgery within 12 hours.

If you must get stuck in any city and any hospital for six days, Jamaica (population 217,000) is the place to be. Everyone was super friendly, helpful and the hospital staff was excellent. This was not like anything I remember about the people of New York from decades ago.

Jamaica Avenue from my hotel on 162nd Street to the hospital one mile away is packed with hundreds of small businesses in every block, with numerous delicatessens, 99-cent stores and fresh-fruit stands. In addition to countless buses and taxis, the streets are filled with middle-class Americans, all polite and friendly, representing every conceivable nationality. “My people,” I said to myself, thinking how much it reflected the international flavor of Long Beach.

Applebees Restaurant was one of the few that I discovered near the Comfort Inn that could handle more than a hundred customers at a time. This was the place to go for lunch when my sister, Margie, niece Sue and her husband, Lew, drove up to visit us from Pennsylvania. Nephew Joe also surprised us, driving from Massachusetts. This was a 2.5-hour drive from their homes and a most-appreciated gesture.

The hospital set us free on Friday with a walker, medications and the necessary supplies to get us back to California. We drove to Lancaster, Penna., to stay at the home of Sue and Lew Doub, where a wheelchair was made available to aid in the transport of Anita. Quickly you learn that dealing with someone with a disability can take 10 times longer for the simple things in life, like bathroom breaks or getting into a car.

Although a few minutes late for the ceremony, we fulfilled our goal that was planned many months in advance. The wedding, reception and Sunday brunch that followed were well planned and executed. Brian and Alyse Doub are husband and wife, now honeymooning in Hawaii.

JetBlue was fantastic, setting aside two front-row bulkhead seats with a porter who stayed with us from curbside through security to the departure gate. We received the same assistance upon arrival in Long Beach on Sunday night.

In the 1980s I was one of the board members involved in setting up the SCAN Health Plan, known at the time as a Social HMO or “SHMO.” My wife selected doctors from HealthCare Partners when we signed up for SCAN three years ago. Well in advance of our return to Long Beach the wheels were set in motion by her primary care physician, Marvin Zamost, for her to see an orthopedic doctor in Long Beach to handle her post-surgery needs.

Monday morning a case management specialist called to advise that we would receive a device that makes it easier to use the toilet and also works later on as a shower bench. It was delivered to our home Monday afternoon and worked like a charm. By Tuesday we had a visitor to assess Anita’s needs for home care and physical therapy.

Kudos to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, JetBlue, SCAN and our east coast family members for turning a negative situation into a positive experience that we will surely laugh about and cherish in the years to come.

The Doubs are planning another wedding for their daughter, Rebecca, in Washington, DC, in January that we plan to attend. This time I’m guessing that my wife will be using that fancy cane that our son, Jeff, presented to her on Mothers Day.

And, yes, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.


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