Can the New York Times Save My Mother?

Jun 22, 10 | 7:55 AM   byMichael Wolff
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My mother, an old reporter whose cranky opinions have often informed this column, is being kidnapped by strange men and having conversations with the long dead when she is not parsing bizarre conspiracies from her bed at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan. And I am beside myself with worry and grief.

Various psychiatrists—among them, a most arrogant and pompous Russian: “You appear agitated,” he says to me—have come by and recommended doses of anti-psychotic drugs that threaten to reduce her even more (while keeping her quiet at night). They have, too, sent her to CAT scans which have kept her lying on a gurney in an open hall for hours (somehow she is always snatched in the few moments of the day when her family is not around) turning her into a further screaming and hallucinating Mimi. And, indeed, restrained her, diapered her, and left her to soak in her own urine for the night.

Her doctors—a mostly uncommunicative and distracted bunch—have been able to shed little light on how my mother’s successful valve replacement surgery has resulted in her losing her mind.

Fortunately, journalism can provide the answer. The New York Times, in a front page story yesterday, explained that my mother has “hospital delirium.” This is a condition which affects older people and which is brought on pretty much by all the things these morons are doing to treat her.

It is of course reasonable to ask why the New York Times knows this and doctors charged with caring for people jumping out of their skins do not. The answer must be that most of them don’t follow the developments in their own profession—and certainly not developments outside of their own specialties. Actually, it turns out they don’t even read the New York Times (they were all mystified when I tried to discuss this story with them yesterday).

The crisis in health care is not just one of economics and brute bureaucracy, but of vast, stubborn, insidious mediocrity. Hospitals are a know-nothing culture and business. Bodies shoveled in and out of bedlam.

The Times’ story is a heartbreaking one—as good a story of the successful operation and dead patient as has ever been written. The body is salvaged but the person you love is lost, and, indeed, soon enough dies—although not before being shunted on to a nursing home, on someone else’s premises—of the delirium the hospital has served up.

It is, as my mother pointed out yesterday during a moment of remarkable clarity, or in reaction to dreadful events unfolding on whatever planet she’s visiting on her delirious journey, “a horrible fate.”

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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