It was 20 years ago today, that Sergeant Pepper…no, that I, as a fledgling editor of an upstart publication, contacted incoming NAMES CEO Bill Coughlan about an interview for a profile in the very first issue of HME News, which was to hit the proverbial newsstand in May of 1995. I had just come back from two years in Vietnam, and I was resuming my career in newspapers, this time on a trade business newspaper in a very particular industry.
As I tried to make sense of what was happening in the HME industry in the spring of 1995, the discombobulation was great. I remember coming home from work one day and draping myself over a bed in the room my wife and I were letting, and groaning. I’m in over my head, I told her.
I wasn’t, of course. And I shouldn’t have been groaning. By sheer coincidence, I had actually worked as an HME tech driver for a spell in early 1990 in Santa Cruz, Calif., for a company called Mid Coast Medical. I had set up semi-electric and full-electric hospital beds. I’d hauled oxygen concentrators into homes, and knew my way around a Hoyer Lift. But this, writing about HME, was all new to me.
And none of it, as I read the headlines of HME News today, 10 years after I left the paper to go back to Vietnam for four more years, is new. Competitive bidding is still on its way, as it was in the spring of 1995. Shelly Prial still has some very definite opinions (My best to Thelma, Shelly). And David Miller, well, I’m guessing he doesn’t have that beard he was sporting after his retreat to Costa Rica all those years ago. (Maybe that’s why I left HME News, inspired by David’s sea change.)
I was, literally, in my 20s when I started writing for HME News. Just a kid, really, editorializing about this or that having to do with power wheelchairs and smart CPAP. And I’ve turned 50 in the same month that HME News turned 20.
There’s something to be said for longevity, and just plain staying home. Every one of you in this industry are big believers in both those concepts, yes, because they are the ways and means of your livelihood, but also because it’s still a cost-effective solution to one of the most urgent problems facing Americans today—the cost of staying alive through the sunset.
So many of us today are advocates for measures that just ain’t a public good, but in home health care–in the provision of home medical equipment, especially–you can feel good about what you do. We’re polarized on almost every last little thing in America, but there are no two sides to home health care. Everyone’s for it, and we’re all drifting toward it, whether we like it or not.
I’m making contingency plans for my own parents now, in Florida, and in a home that will enable as much equipment as we can wheel into it when the time is right. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me, in the same way I was never supposed to be a recipient of that AARP thing that came in the mail.
I’m too young to be nostalgic, but I am, and I blame the heritage that goes with my last name for that. A bunch of weepy folks, lamenting this or that.
I was calling up guys like Joe Lewarski 20 years ago, Mario LaCute and John Durkee, Jeff Baird. I always liked getting Lou Slangen on the phone; he was enthused about everything. Cara Bachenheimer always returned calls, and always seemed to be right about everything. Asela Cuervo, too.
I think of Carolyn Cole in the Heartland, and when I think of Van Miller, I think of Southern hospitality. Thing is, Van’s from Iowa. Bob Fary, if I called Bob today, the first thing I’d ask ol’ Bob is whether he’s slapped a Hilary Clinton bumper sticker on his car yet.
Tom Ryan, on 9/11, I can still hear the emotion in his voice as he talked about getting ready to do his part with all the equipment he had, but how no call had come because getting wounded on 9/11 wasn’t what really happened to New Yorkers that day; dying was.
I’m nostalgic, too, for newspapers. I still sit down to a big fat one every Sunday morning, and don’t come up for air for hours. They’re still important. We still need them. The paper. I miss it.
Now, about that headline, ask Mario LaCute. I bet he remembers. Then again, if I’m 50, well then Mario must be… I’m not going to say in a facility. I hope he’s at home.