Wednesday, April 13, 2011

and i wanted to say...

i was sitting in the waiting room at the oral surgeons office, along with about 25 other people. there was a row of chairs facing me and another row that backed up to that one. and on that row was sitting a couple that i would guess to be pretty close to the other side of 79 yrs. old. he was obviously the one that was to be the patient and also, just as obviously, he was a little hard of hearing. so, his wife had the clipboard which held the papers requiring you to fill out your life history, and she was having to stop now and then and read the questions out to him when she was unsure of the answer. and i know from experience that when you live with someone who can't hear all that well, that you tend to speak a little louder than you normally would. it just becomes habit. so, while the rest of us were either reading a book or glancing through a magazine or just sitting there quietly, we were able to hear her voice just a little above the usual noises in a waiting room. SHE: "how much do you weigh, honey?" HE: i didn't say anything." SHE: no, i asked you how much do you weigh?" HE: oh, i don't know, about 175." SHE: "what are you here for today?" HE: i'm here to see the dentist." SHE: i know, dear, but they want to know what trouble you are having. which tooth is hurting?" HE: well, on my right side. on the bottom. i think part of the tooth broke off." she fills out a few questions on her own, and then we hear this. SHE: "do you have trouble urinating?" HE: "no, no i don't have to pee right now. i went before i left the house." SHE: "do you have trouble maintaining an erection?" HE: making what? SHE: never mind, i can answer that one myself." of course, everyone in the room is doing what they can to stifle their laughter. some are holding magazines in front of their faces, some are completely turning around in their chairs and some are looking anywhere but at the person across from them.

and i'm sure we were all wondering the same thing...WHY in the world would an oral surgeon need to know the answer to that question? it bordered on stupidity. even the lady asking her husband the questions finally got tired of the ridiculous questions and stomped off to the front desk with her clipboard, muttering to herself..."i'm not going to sit here and answer these kind of personal questions." this event happened BEFORE i became the caretaker of both of my parents.

Neither of my parents are in the best of health and a few years ago i stopped working so that i could stay home and be available to help them. they were neither one able to drive anymore and my mother was no longer able to keep up with the house of the size they live in. i would go over there in the mornings and clean the house and fix them a big dinner and run their errands for them. and over the years, as their health has worsened, we have begun to spend quite a lot of time at dr. offices. between the both of them. we go to internists and dentists and cardiologists and podiatrists, and urologists and neurologists and pain management drs., and eye, ear and throat specialists, and opthomologists, and dermatologists, just to name a few. daddy has aqua therapy twice a week at the rehabilitation clinic, to help him keep his muscles working and to help ease the pain in his back.

 and mama has to go once a week and have a protime blood test done, because she has atrial fibrillation and has to take a blood thinner, so it's very important to make sure that her blood is neither too thin or too thick. we call Walgreens our second home and the people that work in the pharmacy dept. know us by name.

daddy is diabetic and has macular degeneration, which causes you to lose your eyesight. his vision has deteriorated over the last couple of years to the point that he only has partial vision in one eye, and even in that eye he describes his vision as if seeing through a fog. his hearing has also begun to get worse. i take both of them to all of their dr. appts., and with daddy, because he can't see, i have to do what the lady at the oral surgeon did, and fill out all of the paperwork. and after doing it time after time, i know the answers to most of the questions by heart. but, every now and then one of the office managers will decide to make you start filling out a new form, every single visit. and they have these stupid systems to "rate your level of pain." case in point: daddy and i were at the pain management center where he goes to be treated for spinal stenosis in his back. and this place is always packed full of people and they are always running behind schedule. which means you can sometimes be there all day long. so on this one particular visit, they gave us one of the new forms to fill out. and i have to read the questions out loud to daddy, who, remember, is a little hard of hearing. and by the way, while i mentioned earlier that we who live with someone who is hard of hearing, tend to talk a little louder when speaking to them, they also tend to talk a little louder. i fill out his name, date of birth, address, ss#, and a page of all of his current medications and their dosages and strengths, and then i get to these types of questions. ME: "where, on this little figure of a man, is your pain located. they want you to fill in the areas you have pain with your pen." DADDY: well, lets see. it's in my back, the lower part of my back. and my legs are weak and i can't keep my balance when i walk. " ME: on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain in your life, how would you rate your pain?" DADDY: i don't know, it depends on what i'm doing at a particular time. i guess about an 8." and because i have been to this office many times and know what to expect in terms of waiting to see the dr, I WANT TO ANSWER...WELL, IT DEPENDS.RIGHT THIS MINUTE WHILE HE'S SITTING HERE IT IS MAYBE A 4, BUT, BY THE TIME HE SITS IN THIS HARD CHAIR FOR 3 HOURS, WHILE YOUR STAFF IS BACK IN THE KITCHEN EATING THEIR LUNCH OR DRINKING THEIR COFFEE WHILE DISCUSSING LAST NIGHTS EPISODE OF THE BACHLEOR, AND TALKING ON THEIR CELL PHONE TO THEIR BABY DADDYS MOTHER OR TAKING THEIR 10TH SMOKE BREAK OF THE DAY, AND BY THE TIME THE DR. IS ACTUALLY READING HIS CHART, IT WILL PROBABLY BE AT LEAST A HIGH 10, IF NOT OFF THE CHART COMPLETELY." ME: which best describes your pain...shooting, stabbing, throbbing, burning, itching, tingling or numbing? DADDY: hmmmmm...well again, it differs according to what i'm doing. it's hard to describe, i guess just say throbbing. AND I WANT TO ANSWER...WELL, YOU KNOW, IT STARTED OUT THIS MORNING ITCHING AND TINGLING. AS THE MORNING WORE ON, IT BEGAN TO THROB SOMETHING AWFUL AND IT COULD BEST BE DESCRIBED AS A FEELING OF BEING STABBED IN THE BACK WITH A KNIFE. AND THEN HE CAME HERE AND HE'S BEEN SITTING IN THIS HARD CHAIR FOR SO LONG THAT HIS LEGS AND HIS BACKSIDE ARE BEGINNING TO GO NUMB. AND HIS BACK IS THROBBING AND BURNING REALLY BAD NOW, AND IT'S NOT REALLY A SHOOTING PAIN IN MY BACK, THAT PAIN IS IN HIS DAUGHTERS HEAD AND IT IS SCREAMING OUT THAT SHE IS GOING TO SHOOT SOMEONE IF THEY DON'T GET OFF THEIR BUTTS AND DO THEIR JOB. BECAUSE THESE PEOPLE SITTING OUT HERE ARE IN PAIN! ME: do you have trouble urinating, is their blood in your urine, or does it burn when you urinate? DADDY: no, i take diuretics, so i urinate pretty much all day long. ME: are you constipated? DADDY: well, i'm not constipated right this minute, but yes, i have been constipated before. do they mean have i EVER been constipated? or am i right this minute? ME: i don't know. DADDY: just write off to the side that i've been constipated many times, but i'm not right now. ME: do you have diarrhea? DADDY: a little bit too loud..."well, they mean have i EVER or do i right this minute? because i don't have it right this minute, but i might have it in a little while because of that fried food you cooked for lunch. sometimes fried food gives me diarrhea. just don't answer that one yet, and we'll see if i have it by the time i get in to see the dr.." i'm getting really embarrassed at this point. i notice some people looking our way and a few magazines going up over faces. i plunge ahead. ME: do you suffer from ED? (oh my goodness, i can't believe i am having to ask my father these questions.) DADDY: what is that? ME: never mind, i'm just putting no to these next few questions. DADDY: well, i need to know what they are, you might not know the answer. ME: i know the answers. DADDY: but i want to hear them anyway, just to make sure. you might answer wrong on something that could be very important. ME: ok... are you pregnant? when was your last period? have you had a mammogram in the last year? are you impotent? do you have hemmorrhoids? DADDY: alright, just put no to all of those. AND I SAY... are you sure? there is no chance you MIGHT be pregnant? because if you might be pregnant and they have to do any x-rays it could be dangerous to the baby? DADDY: i'm not pregnant. i march myself up to the front desk with my clipboard, muttering to myself, much like the lady at the oral surgeons office. WHY do they need to know these kind of personal questions to give him a prescription for his back?

i took him in to get a colonoscopy one day. he had to drink a gallon of whatever that stuff is they make you drink, and it cleans you out real good. then i walk with him to the room where he is supposed to remove his clothes and put on a gown. i have to hold his hand when he walks, because his balance is off, and this, for some reason, gives the nurses the impression that i am his wife, instead of his daughter. so i have to let them know that he will need some help and that it's not really appropriate for his daughter to be the one taking his clothes off. i wait out in the hall and they take him back to the procedure room and do their thing. i go out to the waiting room, to wait. and soon a nurse comes and gets me and tells me to go the recovery room, that he will need to stay there for maybe a half hour or so. so i go back and they wheel his bed in there and pull the curtain closed. there are several little rooms in a semi circle, all full of other patients who have just had their own procedure done. and the nurse walks in and proceeds to tell us that before he can be discharged he has to pass gas. a lot of gas. and that she needs to hear it. AND I WANT TO SAY.."WELL, I CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO BE THERE TO HEAR IT...THAT'S NOT MY JOB! but... not only am i forced to sit there for 30 minutes listening to my father pass gas, but i have to hear all of the other patients doing the same thing. WHO wants to go to work everyday and have THAT job?

my mother suffers from back pain too. only she has several things wrong with hers. spinal stenosis, spondylosis, degenerative disc disease. and she takes pain medication, which in turn makes her extremely nauseated to the point where she can't even lift her head. she has to lay in bed most of the time because when she stands up, the pain is agonizing and the nausea becomes so bad that she can't walk. so, she goes to the dr., in a wheelchair, because the pain has now run down into her leg and she can't lift her right leg at all. after the filling out of the stupid questions, she is finally taken to an exam room 1-1/2 hrs. later. and we sit. and we wait. and wait. and wait. and then i get...ummmmm...a little ticked off shall we say. and i go hunting down someone to find out what is taking so long. i go to the front desk and there i am confronted with a young male receptionist, with spikes in his hair, which is jelled to the max and who is holding his hand and running around the office screaming, "owwww...owwwww...oh, My God...ooowwwwww. i think he has cut a finger off or something and someone comes running over to him, asking him what is wrong...and he actually says...i just chipped one of my fingernails. and i just had them done yesterday. AND I WANT TO SAY...OH, GET A LIFE, YOU LITTLE DRAMA QUEEN AND STOP THAT CRYING OR I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!! (that's what my parents used to tell us when we were little.) i explained to him that we had been waiting a very long time and my mother was sicker than a dog and she needed to see someone NOW. and he informed me that the nurse practitioner that will be seeing my mother is in with another patient and my mother will be next. i reply that she is so sick that we don't think she can wait much longer. she is in excrutiating pain. she is throwing up into a plastic bag and the receptionist says that he will let her know right away and that it shouldn't be much longer. i go back to the room and we wait. and we wait. and then i can't wait anymore. i'm getting really, really angry. and it takes a lot to get me angry. mama tells me to just wait a little bit longer, because she knows that when i get to the point i was getting to, that somebody is going to feel the wrath. i open the door, because it's stifling in that room and my senses are accosted with the smell of garlic. very strong garlic. and i follow the smell trail and it leads me right into the kitchen/breakroom, where the entire staff is partaking of the nice lunch provided to them by the nice drug rep that came in WAY AFTER we did. now, don't get me wrong, i don't begrudge them eating lunch. they have the right to eat when they work all day. BUT, when they have a waiting room overflowing with people who are in agony and are sitting there for hours on end because they were overbooked to begin with, and the staff is all sitting in the kitchen eating Olive Garden, while the patients are being told that they are running behind schedule due to an emergency...well, that's just WRONG! and the nurse practitioner who was "in with another patient" was right there in the middle of them, with a breadstick in her hand and a mouth full of salad! and i, very politely, ask her exactly how much longer she thinks it will be until she finishes her lunch, because my mother has been waiting for hours, with a plastic bag held to her mouth and i think she might need a fresh one in the next minute or two or somebody is going to be cleaning that exam room floor after eating that nice pasta dish. she comes right then. and she apologizes for the "delay." and she looks at my mother with a smile on her face and says "hello, Mrs. Willis and how are YOU today?" and mama says, "i'm doing okay." AND I WANT TO SAY"...WELL, SHE'S NOT QUITE AS GOOD AS SHE SHOULD BE. SHE HASN'T EATEN ANY PASTA OR BREADSTICKS LATELY, OR, FOR THAT MATTER, ANYTHING ELSE. IN WEEKS. BECAUSE SHE CAN'T KEEP ANYTHING DOWN. SO SHE'S LOST 32 LBS. IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS AND SHE STAYS IN BED 95% OF THE TIME, BECAUSE THE PAIN IS SO BAD THAT SHE HAS TO BE LAYING DOWN TO GET ANY RELIEF AT ALL, AND SHE CAN'T GO OUT ANYWHERE WITHOUT CARRYING A PLASTIC BAG IN HER HAND BECAUSE SHE STAYS NAUSEATED 24 HRS. A DAY. AND RIGHT NOW SHE'S HAVING A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE BREATHING BECAUSE THE SMELL OF THE GARLIC FROM YOUR OLIVE GARDEN PASTA AND BREADSTICKS IS OVERWHELMING HER SENSES...BUT, OTHER THAN THAT,...SHE'S ALIVE AND ABOVE GROUND AND THAT BEATS THE ALTERNATIVE, WOULDN'T YOU SAY?" she decides she needs to get an x-ray of her back.

i wheel her back to the x-ray dept., where she is given a choice of two robes to put, a little short paper thing that opens in the front and doesn't come anywhere near to both ends meeting in the middle. OR, a ginormous one that you could wrap yourself up in like a burritto. she opts for the latter. and then they hand her a pair of thin, tiny white shorts with a drawstring, and a tag that reads, "one size fits all." FITS ALL OF WHAT? A TWIG? she handed the shorts back. a very young boy, with half blond/half brown, hair and a nose ring, that looked to be about 15 yrs. old, comes and wheels her in to the x-ray room and puts the locks on the wheelchair wheels and says to her, "ok, sweetie, i need you to walk across the room and climb up on that table, using that box as a step and lay down on your right side." and she just stares at him, dumbfounded. AND I WANT TO SAY..."LOOK HERE, SWEETIE, SEE THAT WHEELCHAIR THAT SHE'S SITTING IN? SHE'S IN IT BECAUSE SHE CAN NOT WALK. AND SHE IS HERE TODAY, TO SEE THE DR. BECAUSE SHE CAN NO LONGER LIFT HER RIGHT LEG! WHICH MEANS THAT SHE WON'T BE WALKING OVER THERE AND CLIMBING UP ON A BOX TO GET ON A TABLE THAT HAS NO RAILS, ALL WHILE HOLDING ON TO HER PLASTIC BAG THAT SHE IS VOMITING IN! SO IT KINDA LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE GOING HAVING TO HAVE TO WORK OUT SOME OTHER KIND OF ARRANGEMENT!" but, mama is a real quiet lady. she won't tell him any of that. she struggles to stand up by herself. and then falls back into the chair. and gets violently sick. and THEN he decides that maybe she needs some help. when the x-rays are done, i wheel her back to the exam room and we wait some more. and FINALLY, the dr. himself comes in.

and he sits on his little stool and leans back and right in front of my mother and myself, begins to do i say this without being crude...scratch himself. in a place that should only be scratched in private. 

all while looking us straight in the eye. and i don't mean just a quick scratch. i'm talking about the kind of scratching that maybe means he has a bad case of chiggers or red bugs. the kind of scratch, that seems endless. and what do you do? where do you look? and he starts asking mama about the pain, but by then, her mind is not even comprehending his question because it's trying to find a place to escape to, to keep from watching him scratch. i'm telling you, it was embarrassing. to us. not to him. she tells him that she thinks the pain meds are what is making her nauseated and he says, ok, then i am going to switch you to the liquid instead of the pill form. and the visit is over. just like that. she gets the new prescription filled and when she goes to take the first dose, she can not swallow it. the taste is horrible. worse than Nyquil horrible. she can not keep it down. the pharmacist suggests she bring it back and he will add cherry flavor to it. still, horrible. my sister tries it. no can do. so, it's back to Dr. Scratch. and hoping that his "problem" has been resolved. she gets in the room and she tells him she can't swallow the stuff and he takes a swig himself! and he is still scratching! AND I WANT TO SAY..."STOP ALL THAT SCRATCHING!!! GO FIND YOURSELF SOME OINTMENT OR SOMETHING TO TAKE CARE OF THAT ITCH AND THEN GO WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP AND HOT WATER BEFORE YOU COME BACK IN THIS ROOM AND TOUCH ANYTHING!!" but, he just sits there and writes her out a prescription for a different kind of pain pill. and we leave there, again, disgusted.

i am not a mean person. really, i'm not.

but i AM an advocate for my parents healthcare. they have worked hard all their lives and they have paid taxes and social security and they are good people. and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. as do millions of other seniors. many of the dr. offices today are staffed with some of the rudest people i've ever come across. they are there, eight hours a day, not because they care about the people who come to them for help, but because at the end of the week they get a paycheck. and it's sad. and it's wrong.

one of the drs. that my mother went to, after hearing about the agonizing pain and the unrelenting nausea, put his hand on her shoulder and she said, "i feel like i'm dying." and he said "it's not the end of the world. you must decide which you can live with, the pain or the nausea?" AND I WANTED TO ASK HIM..." AND YOU, DR.? IF THIS WAS YOU, WHICH WAY WOULD YOU CHOOSE? TO LIVE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, IN BED, UNABLE TO MOVE BECAUSE THE PAIN THAT RACKS YOUR BODY WHEN YOU DO, IS UNBEARABLE? OR WOULD YOU RATHER LAY FLAT ON YOUR BACK THE REST OF YOUR DAYS SO NAUSEATED THAT YOU CAN NEITHER EAT OR DRINK AND JUST WASTE AWAY?


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