Capitol Update: For Rep. Stogsdill, heart attack last weekend underscored importance of Medicaid expansion

Rep. Jerry Stogsdill
Rep. Jerry Stogsdill

Each legislative session, we provide northeast Johnson County’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill submits this week’s update:

My column today is slightly different than my previous columns in that a lot of it is personal with some politics thrown in at the end.

PERSONALSaturday, May 13, was Going Great…..and then I Died….and then I Came Back!

Saturday May 13, 2017, is a little fuzzy but I do remember the general outline. I was getting ready to take my wife, Deanna, to the airport for a trip down to see her sisters in Texas. After taking her to the airport I was planning to attend the Johnson County Democrat’s 2nd Saturday Breakfast Meeting at the Lucky Brewgrille. Neither one was going to happen.

As soon as I sat down in the car, an indigestion level pain in my chest went nuclear! I knew immediately that I was having a heart attack. Fortunately…VERY fortunately…we live about 10 minutes from the Shawnee Mission Medical Center. My wife called ahead and they were ready for us when we got there. I remember walking in and setting down in the wheel chair and that is when things get fuzzy.

According to those who were there, I went semi-conscious as they rushed me up to the “Cath Lab.” I do remember a lot of quick and well organized activity as they prepared to run a wire up through an artery and into my heart in order to clear the blockage that had caused the attack. This blockage was in an area of the heart that they call the “widow maker.” Very glad I did not hear that description until after everything was over.

During the early part of the procedure my heart decided to go full out contrarian and stopped altogether! The cardiac team called a “Code Blue” and had to shock my heart 12 times before it decided it had had enough of that and came back online. To say the efforts of the cardiac team were heroic is a vast understatement. They had not given up on me and had literally tried a dozen times to make sure I made it back to life.

After starting me up again, my cardiac surgeon, Dr. Anthony Albracht, and his incredible team inserted three stents in the “widow maker” and sent me up to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. I cannot express enough gratitude to Dr. Albracht and his remarkable team for saving my life. Sunday I was feeling good, Monday I was feeling really good and they moved me to the regular Cardiac Care Unit. After some additional therapy on Tuesday from some very talented and extremely caring doctors, nurses and staff, I felt great and I was good to go home on Wednesday! Amazing…gone on Saturday, back home feeling great on Wednesday! I am a lucky man to have had quick access to such a talented and caring group of medical professionals. Today, I am feeling fine, have gotten a clean bill of health and have been given clearance to go back to work in Topeka this week. Yes, I will be taking it easy!

I also want to offer my sincere thanks for the many texts, e-mails, cards, phone calls, letters, balloons and visits I received last week from family, friends, constituents and my colleagues in the Legislature both Democrats and Republicans. I try to keep the personal separate from the political in Topeka and in light of the messages of support I received from both sides of the aisle last week that philosophy seems to be working out.

I want to say a special public thank you to my wife, Deanna, who was with me every minute last week. She was certainly a major reason why I am still here today and why I have had such a speedy recovery. I can’t really thank her enough.

PERSONAL/POLITICAL:

This experience has really made me reflect on the importance of what we do in Topeka and the responsibility we have to our constituents to make decisions based on their best interests not on politics. Medicaid expansion certainly came to mind. If I had lived in a town where the hospital had closed, due to a lack of Medicaid expansion, and the nearest care center was sixty miles away, I would not be here today. If I had been one of the tens of thousands of Kansans who cannot afford decent medical insurance I might have hesitated to seek help and I would not be here today. These scenarios are very real for far too many Kansans.

No Kansan should have to die because of blatantly partisan political decisions being made in Topeka. Earlier this session the Kansas House and Senate both passed the Medicaid expansion bill. Doing so would save lives, keep a significant numbers of hospitals open and provide a real economic boost to the Kansas economy. I was very proud to have voted yes to pass that bill.

Unfortunately, our governor, who had promised to let the Legislature decide this issue, immediately reneged and vetoed the bill. The House came up two votes shy of overriding his veto and the Senate three votes shy. In light of that vote, a mere handful of Brownback loyalists in the House and Senate have managed to deny adequate, affordable and available healthcare to thousands of Kansans. Billions of the federal tax dollars Kansans have sent to Washington, which should have been returned to the state in the form of Medicaid expansion dollars, are now going to other states for their Medicaid programs.

All of this is happening because our governor and his loyalists in the legislature have put ultra-conservative Washington politics above the best interests of the citizens of Kansas. Because of their allegiance to the ultra-conservatives in D.C., Kansans have and will continue to die, our hospitals will continue to close and our economy will continue to suffer. When I get back to Topeka I will continue to fight to see that we DO pass Medicaid expansion legislation.

When I needed it, I was very lucky to have had excellent healthcare facilities and medical staff available. That availability saved my life. I am making it a personal mission to see that every Kansan has that same life-saving opportunity. I hope you will join me in contacting the Republican leadership in the House and Senate to make sure we are able to again address this issue before the end of the session. I would also encourage you to contact the Governor’s office, suggest he keep his promises and demand that he not stand in the way of much needed Medicaid expansion in Kansas.

POLITICAL:

This is a short section because the Kansas Legislature seems to be in the political doldrums. All last week I kept in touch with my colleagues in Topeka and they are feeling the same frustration I am that the system seems to have slowed to a crawl. The Governor and his remaining ultra-conservative loyalists in the Legislature have created an environment that has not allowed us to address the creation of a fair and balanced tax plan, a school finance formula that is both equitable and adequate and a structurally balanced budget. All of these issues are STILL in committee even though we are closing in on our 100th day in the session! Hopefully, this week, we will see some movement on these issues, as well as the “guns on campus” and Medicaid expansion issues. I will keep you informed.