Monday, December 04, 2006

Consternation and Potatoes

Things seemed to be improving. I wrote of his situation recently and was encouraged by some signs of improvement reported by his wife and the visiting nurse. Now, things just seem to be going downhill.

A call from the visiting nurse today informs me that he is increasingly unsafe in the home, the family not really coping as would be desired, and the patient's health at risk. Nightmares, violent dreams, wandering through the house at night, smoking in bed---not very good signs, I fear.

So, many telephone calls later, and we manage a direct admission to the hospital without a trip to the emergency room. Not an easy task. The primary doctor pulled some strings and I received a harried call at 1pm that a bed was ready and the patient needed to get down there as soon as possible. I reached his wife, and she agreed to get him there within the hour.

Five hours later, I'm washing potatoes for dinner and my cell phone rings. The Caller ID shows me that it's the hospital. "Oh good," I think, "the admitting doc is calling me for my input." Maddeningly, it's the Admissions Department. The patient never showed and the bed will be given to the next patient forthwith.

I call my patient's family. "Oh, he's out with his nephew," is the response I receive from a rather blase family member. "Do you want his cell phone number?" The potatoes need cutting but I'm steaming mad.

One call to the aforementioned cell-phone yields the information that the patient wants to go "tomorrow". The nephew says, "He's tired."

"First of all," I said, "do you realize how much work went into getting this bed for your uncle? Second," I continued, "just this morning, he insisted that he bought a plane in Puerto Rico yesterday. Are you giving him control over when he goes to the hospital when he can't even feed himself and thinks he's in San Juan? Aren't you all even a little worried?"

"I'll have him there in forty minutes," he responds.

I resume preparing the potatoes and Mary comes home to see the look of consternation on my face. In some ways, it's no different than my patient who just didn't show up for her cholecystectomy and liver biopsy. "I was busy," she said when I called her, incredulous that she would no-show for surgery.

Sometimes I wonder what it is we're doing. Sometimes I wonder what my patients and their families are thinking. Sometimes I would like my forehead to make repeated contact with a nearby wall. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to wash potatoes from 9 to 5.

At any rate, my hope is that by the time I post this missive, my demented patient is happily or unhappily ensconced in a safe hospital bed, and the grand neurological work-up can commence. Meanwhile, I'll get some needed sleep and leave the forehead banging for another day.

Small potatoes in the bigger picture? Sure, but at times like these, there's nothing like a blog when one needs to kvetch.
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