Silver Surfer

Alvin, a tech-savvy 84 year-old with a kidney disorder, manages multiple medications, an exercise regime, and a busy social life. During a brief stay at Dalton General Hospital, he actively participates in his care.

Alvin is an active elder who is web savvy. He utilizes the internet to keep his sister informed about his developing kidney condition. [dial-up OR broadband]

Alvin e-mails his sister about his brief stay at Dalton General Hospital and his participation in the ACE unit’s promotional video.

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Alvin Lutz is a tech-savvy 84-year-old widower who keeps in contact with his family via e-mail.

March 13

Dear Allison,

How’s my busy little sister getting along? Did you celebrate the twins’ birthday last week with Robin and Jake? These are the times when I really wish Edna and I had children—I can only imagine how much fun it must be to chase around those grandkids of yours!

I’m writing to tell you about a funny thing that happened to me last week when I was having more trouble with my pesky ticker and kidneys. Everything’s fine now, but I ended up having to spend a night at Dalton General.

Now, if Edna were still alive, she would’ve probably had another heart attack if she found out I spent the night at the hospital, so before you get all worked up, let me just say the hospitalization wasn’t as bad as they’ve been in the past. This time, believe it or not, I actually had a little fun at the hospital after the docs fixed me up.

I know you’re thinking fun at a hospital is an oxymoron, so let me explain. While I was recovering the morning after my kidneys gave out (more about that later) a camera crew knocked on my door and asked if I’d like to appear in a short film they were making. The producer said they were trying to capture some video that would show how unique Metro’s Acute Care for Elders unit is—they call it ACE for short.

You know me, I was happy to ham it up in front of the camera. I had a little trouble mustering up my old, booming, broadcasting voice, but the taping went well. I think the crew was pretty impressed when I told them how my voice used to be mistaken for James Earl Jones’. Here’s a link they sent of me going on about my former career.

Alvin tells the video crew about his career in broadcasting [dial-up OR broadband]

It sure was a hoot to be in front of the camera again. The head of the ACE unit interviewed me about what I expect from the nurses there, and they filmed me being discharged from the hospital too. Working with the fellas in the film crew really helped me to forget the awful night I had the day before, the nerve-racking incident that got me stuck in the hospital in the first place.

It started last Monday afternoon, when I began getting this awful metallic taste in my mouth that wouldn’t go away. When I was fixing dinner in the kitchen, I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach, and I had to take a seat to catch my breath. I thought the take-out I got for lunch wasn’t agreeing with me, but then I noticed that my feet had swelled up far more than they normally do. After I looked up all the symptoms on-line, I decided to call the ambulance because I realized that either my kidneys could be giving out or I was having congestive heart failure! It turns out that the symptoms for the two conditions are very similar.  When the doctors finally had a look at me, they determined my kidneys were the culprits, and the ticker was OK; so that provided a tiny bit of relief.

Website on acute kidney failure that Alvin consulted

They hooked me up to a dialysis machine at the hospital and sedated me. When I came to, the doc told me that I’d have two more prescriptions from now on—that’s five pills every day now! He said that if I don’t stick to my diet and keep doing my exercises, I’ll probably end up hauling around a portable dialysis machine…that sure would put a damper on getting around. I mean, how could I have the guts to ask Margaret Jenkins out on another date if I’m toting around a big clumsy machine on wheels?  Here’s a link to a video of a fella hauling one around.  You’ll have to watch an ad before the thing starts – that’s how they getcha!

Portable dialysis machine in use

I’ve got to run to a book club meeting, but I’ll be sure to write again soon. The film crew at Metro promised to send me the footage that I starred in. I’ll be sure to send it along so you can see your big brother in the spotlight!


Alvin sends video clips to his sister of his appearance in the ACE unit promotional video.

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Lyn Benedict, CNS, head of Metro General’s ACE unit interviews Alvin.

March 18

Hi Allison,

Thanks so much for your get well card. I got one from Robin’s family too. Little Celia drew a nice picture of me in a hospital bed with her crayons. I’ve got it on the fridge. Margaret stopped by after our book club meeting yesterday and she thought it was just the cutest thing. I’m recovering surprisingly quickly and my feet aren’t nearly as swollen as they were. I guess all these new drugs are working after all. I feel pretty refreshed.

I just heard from the video producers who are putting together the film about the Acute Care for Elders unit at Dalton General. It turns out they’re making the video to show to our state legislators. They want to encourage them to approve the funding to build more ACE units in other hospitals throughout Ohio.

I’ll probably write a letter to Congresswoman Sutton this evening about it too—I guess it couldn’t hurt. I’ll give a first-hand review of my stay there to let her know how nice these ACE units are. They had carpet instead of cold tiles on the floor and nice, big windows too. There was even a common living area for the patients to use where you could sit and read, put together a puzzle, or just socialize. I only wish they had an internet hook-up!

Despite all the niceties, though, I think their staff may be a tad over-worked. You’ll see in one of the video clips I attached how I complained to the head of the unit, Lyn Benedict, about how I couldn’t get the nurses’ attention when I buzzed them. I needed to use the restroom, but I couldn’t because no one came to unhook me from my dialysis machine after I rang my bell. I had to hold it for twenty minutes—with a pair of bad kidneys, mind you!

In the second clip, you’ll notice that the nurse conducting the discharge goofs on one of my medications! She said I should take Metoprolol, even though I’m on Coreg for my blood pressure; good thing I caught that. It seems like whenever my file gets moved from one hospital to the next, my meds always seem to get all mixed up. I really have to stay on top of it to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Do you think the video editors will use any of my parts in their film for the state? I bet I’ll end up on the cutting room floor!

It sure was nice of them to send the footage along, though. I told them that you would probably love to see it. Enjoy the show!


Alvin talks with Lyn Benedict, CNS, about his health. [dial-up OR broadband]

Alvin is discharged from the ACE unit. [dial-up OR broadband]

Alvin e-mails his sister about his new home nurse service and his costly prescriptions.

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Alvin’s prescriptions cost him over $2,000 annually.

March 23

Dear Allison,

You know you’re getting old when they start sending nurses out to your home to make sure you’re still holding together. After my little kidney episode earlier this month, Dr. Rodgers thought it would be best for me to have a nurse visit twice a month. She came for the first time yesterday and she seems nice enough. Her name’s Casandra and she wanted to make sure I was still avoiding sugar and salt and keeping up with all my meds…even she was surprised with how many I’m taking—Coumadin, Flomax, Coreg, my beta blocker, a potassium pill three times a day, and Augmentin. What do they have you on these days to help with the hip replacement?

She said that lots of older people are using this new Nintendo Wii to keep fit. Apparently, you can play tennis and golf, even bowl. I was a little wary but I did a little research, and sure enough, senior citizens really are going bananas for this thing. I’ve includes a couple links if you’re interested; one’s an article I found the Chicago Tribune about this senior craze, and the other is a video of a nursing home Wii tournament!   I could see you and the grandkids having a ball with this. Now if only I could get my insurance company to buy me a Nintendo!

Chicago Tribune article “Wii Bowling Knocks Over Retirement Home”

The Erickson Communities senior Wii Bowling Championships

The insurance company does cover Casandra’s visits though, which is lucky, because my newest pills aren’t 100% covered. I figured out last night that, even with insurance, I’ll still have to pay about $2,000 a year out-of-pocket for all these meds. This is why I’m including a link about House Bill 676, The US National Health Insurance Act, that I told you about a while back – it’s the one that Senator Brown supports. If it ever got approved, I think it could really help to keep prescription drug prices down. All of my older friends in the book club are getting stuck with these ever rising prescription costs. It seems like ever since that Prescription Improvement and Modernization Act was signed back in ‘03, the drugs started to become pricier—I thought the whole purpose of the thing was to make them cheaper for seniors! I’ve pasted a link to an article from Duke that lambastes the Act, if you’re interested.  My neighbor Marty claims he goes online and gets the cheap knock-offs from Canada and Mexico—but I’m too chicken to dabble in the black market.

A brief summary the United States National Health Insurance Act

An article from the Duke University Law & Technology Review regarding the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003

All in all, though, despite all the hassle, I’ve still got my health, and that’s what’s important. This whole kidney scare has got me appreciating every little ounce of life that much more. I feel petty lucky to still be as active as I am, and the thought of hauling around that dialysis machine is really motivating me to me to keep at it. I’ll take a video game machine over one of those things any day of the week! Speaking of, I think it’s time for your 84 year-old older brother to drive himself out to the mall so he can buy himself a new toy. I’ll tell you all about my new Wii after I give it a swing.

All my love,