By DANIEL WOLLASTON
I have resided in Fredonia for 37-plus years. I have two grown children who reside in the area and, hopefully, they will be able to stay in Chautauqua County. I believe in God and try to do something good for someone every single day. I believe in the Golden Rule and truly believe that if you treat people the way you want to be treated, you will be treated that way also.
On March 5 of this year, I had to undergo a complete hip replacement. I can tell you unequivocally that, if you want a vacation, try something else! I was released from the Erie County Medical Center three days later and was transferred to the Chautauqua County Home. With all the bad press, I was a little nervous, but what happened next was the greatest and most pleasant surprise of my life. I have been in many of the hospitals in Buffalo, both St. Vincent's and Hamot Medical Center in Eire and even the Cleveland Clinic, yet the personal and professional care I received at the County Home was far better, more personal and more kind than I have ever experienced elsewhere!
Every morning, between 7:02 and 7:04 (and I mean that exactly) a very personable young man from physical therapy would appear in my room (like a rooster!) to get me awake and start my day. His name was Matthew. He always had a smile on his face and something nice to say. He would supervise and assist with my washing, daily as well as two showers a week. I have never been so impressed with someone so young (early 20s, say 21 to 25). Once I was dressed, he would leave while I had breakfast. Soon after, someone from physical therapy would bring me to the therapy department. This was a huge room with every conceivable device and piece of equipment for occupational or physical therapy I had ever seen or read about!
My biggest surprise came when I saw an old friend of mine who had recently joined the staff, unbeknownst to me. This was Anthony Scarpino, a local physical therapist who knows all of my body's problems and had been my personal therapist for over 10 years. So, I found myself in a top-notch facility with someone who knew me as well as any doctor in the county, if not the entire state! I was speechless at my good fortune.
First shift is very busy, with a hectic schedule of waking, washing, dressing, medicating, scheduled appointments, nursing care and two meals to supervise. Somehow the staff does it all, like clockwork, with no confusion or problems evident. I was amazed! Meals at the County Home are served at 7 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. on the dot. Because I was wheelchair mobile, I was brought to the dining facility for lunch and dinner. Luckily, I was seated next to two men who were so nice to me that I was once again totally unprepared. It turned out that I knew both men, years before. Catching up with everything that had happened took up many conversations. For a facility which serves several hundred meals a day, the food is particularly good. Most of my complaints result from the doctor's "no salt added" rule than any flaw with the food!
Second shift gave the people working more time to interact with the patients. These people were nothing but outstanding. As usual, your medications were delivered exactly on time and any requests were handled smoothly. Bedtime was the only busy period, as everybody was tired and ready for bed. Since I was on the rehabilitation ward, almost everyone sat up during the day to strengthen their bodies, as well as alleviate the chance of pneumonia from lying in bed. A few of the people who took care of me were so devoted to their jobs that I will forever be in wonder about how they do it, week after week, month after month. These people will always have a place in my heart and they know who they are.
Third shift dealt with all the problems of the infirm and elderly. The bells rang continuously. Some of the employees walked the halls, anticipating a bell ringing and hoping to be nearer to it so that it could be answered more quickly. There were scores of total bed changes and rushing to bed alarms as the patients tried to get out of bed on their own. These are special care givers, who are transferred around to avoid burnout. They are a special breed, indeed.
In conclusion, I have learned firsthand that selling the County Home would be a gigantic mistake. The savings would last only one budget year, with a rise in taxes inevitable the following year, with no facility to be proud of still county owned. This is political expediency at its worst form. The losses currently being incurred by the County Home amount to less than one-half of 1 percent of the county budget! Surely, such a small amount could be cut somewhere. If not, every single person who knows someone who is in the County Home would gladly pay the small amount in taxes to put the Home back in the black. I will!
For over 100 years, the people of Chautauqua County have owned a facility to care for the aged and those who cannot take care of themselves. This is a source of pride to me! Now is not the time to desert those of us in need. The care I received was completely paid for by my insurance due to the cost cutting measures in use now. If an insurance company is confident they are receiving a fair price, doesn't that prove that the Home is doing the job for which it was intended? The number of people over 100 years old at the home is fair higher than on the outside. Is this an accident, or does it prove that their great care extends people's useful lives?
Please, please visit the County Home and observe what goes on there before you make up your mind! I know that they cannot cure everybody, but look at the results.
Write me with any questions you have. I promise to reply to every single letter I get. Like the arch in Brocton, let us keep what is worthy of being kept!
Daniel Wollaston is a Fredonia resident.