Obama Plays Nurse
Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis
Pool Report Provided By The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz:
Dr. Barack reported for duty at 7 am and made the rounds with a cardiac nurse. He seemed absorbed by the medical details and peppered Kate Marzluf, 26, with questions. He asked four patients about their insurance coverage and brought one a breakfast tray. He also took a good-natured swipe at the press. The setting was a cardiac unit at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Obama wore a white shirt with sleeves rolled up, gray slacks and was wired for sound. He began by greeting the nursing staff and sat down with Marzluf, who showed him the charts of the five patients she was working with, which included their allergies and which procedures they were slated to undergo. “This is all in code, huh?” Obama asked. They stood and looked at computerized monitors displaying the vital signs of the patients with green graph lines. Obama stared intently at one patient’s squiggly lines. “How come it’s so messy?” he asked. “How old is she?” Next they slipped into the supply room, where Obama watched Marzluf put cups and needles into a plastic tray. “I know this is a stupid question,” he said, “but how do you make sure you’re not mixing stuff up?” As the nurse talked about the morning’s procedures, Obama said some of it “makes me feint just to think about it. You’re not drawing any blood, are you?” The senator asked about the practice of nurses working three 12-hour shifts and tried to pronounce the medicine Toprol. “Is hospital food not as bad as it used to be?” he inquired. Marzluf declined to take a stand. Obama asked whether most patients are cooperative and she said they are. Drama ensued as Obama was given the task of wheeling a computer cart into the first patient’s room. “See, I’m finally doing something,” he told reporters. “I’m rolling.” Patient No. 1 was Shelby Davis, 17, of Mineral Point, Mo. Obama gave her a tray that featured milk, a banana, and a mystery substance under a metal cover that your pooler failed to uncover. Obama exchanged a few words with Shelby but had a longer conversation with her mother, Katrina Davis, disclosing that today is his daughter Sasha’s 7th birthday. Patient No. 2 was Charles Long, 39, of Belleville, Ill. Obama watched him get a shot and be examined with a stethoscope but did not take note of the fact that Long is one of his constituents. Patient No. 3 was Raymond Bisher, 52, a former police officer from St. John, Mo., who retired after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 1998. Bisher noted that his blood pressure on the monitor next to him appeared high. “When reporters are around me, my blood pressure goes up too,” the presumptive Democratic nominee informed Bisher. Bisher’s pressure, for the record, was 130/90. Obama did not disclose his. Obama had the longest conversation with Bisher, who described how his wife, who has rheumatoid arthritis, is working two jobs, and how his disability payments don’t amount to much. He also said one of his four sons is serving in Iraq. Obama perked up when Bisher said that his wife takes weekly shots that cost $1,500 apiece. “That’s $6,000 a month. Wow,” Obama said. He assured Bisher that he would make health care “a big priority.” “Your wife sounds like a good woman,” Obama said, adding: “You tell your son we’re thinking of him and praying for him in Iraq.” Patient No. 4 was Judy Ladage, 62, of St. Louis, a disaster response coordinator for the Lutheran Church. Obama seemed impressed by her work and the fact that she was in the hospital for a preventive procedure, to “close a little hole in my heart,” as she put it. Obama said the health care system “ends up being a lot cheaper” when patients get preventive procedures ahead of time. That ended the tour, touted by the campaign as the first in a series of efforts to accompany people on their working rounds. Obama spent an hour and 20 minutes with the nurse, after which everyone’s blood pressure returned to normal.