The call you don’t want to get

Here is a picture of my bro from two years ago. He looks the same. Hard to tell how stubborn he is from the picture.

This past Sunday the phone rang at 8 a.m. That timing always sends goosebumps down my spine. The telemarketers aren’t up yet and neither are my retired friends. It has to be bad news.

It was. My brother, who has had chronic but managed asthma for decades, had an asthma attack and couldn’t breathe. Instead of calling for an ambulance, he called me. Fortunately the cats were fed and I was dressed so my response time equaled or surpassed an ambulance. (Please note that this was pre-coffee of any sort. I deserve angel wings for not going to Starbucks first.)

Now where do we go? The traditional ER is my least favorite option with its long waiting time (often in excess of four hours). I knew I’d have to wait with him. I couldn’t drop him off at the curb like a drug deal gone wrong.

We decided to try a neighborhood medical walk-in center. If they couldn’t treat him, we would go to the ER. (If that was necessary you could put the bamboo shoots under my nails! I did one of those trips a year ago and I’m still in recovery.)

We were fortunate. We walked right in. They had all the necessary equipment and drugs to treat him.

Now let me tell you about my family. We are not good patients. None of us (although I listen better than the others!). When we take our clothes off we cannot hear or understand anything a medical person says. (No, he only had to take his shirt off! I don’t want to see my brother naked, it would be etched on my retinas forever!)

We have no memory of what was said or we chose not to remember if it’s stuff we don’t want to do. The category of what we don’t want to do follows: make doctor appointments, see any doctors, any tests, do anything that changes our routine. We absolutely do not want to be admitted in a hospital. Never! That is the worst!

In a nutshell we like to stick our heads in the sand and pretend it never happened. That behavior starts two seconds after we realize we are not going to die. At least not that day.

I understand this. It’s from years of following through and having no answer or solutions for symptoms. It’s from years of sitting idly in doctor’s waiting rooms among really sick people wondering how easy it is to catch leprosy. It’s from having this test and that test and nothing is definitive. It’s from a lot of waiting and no answers.

We seem to have conditions that aren’t explainable. Not standard. As an example, I had undiagnosed chronic appendicitis for ten years (from age 12 to 21) with periodic excruciatingly painful attacks. It took ten years to find it. I lived through a whole series of idiot diagnoses (like a cyst on my ovary) and intrusive tests that involved orifices best left unmentioned. Finally I was rushed to the hospital with an incredibly high white blood cell count. My appendix wasn’t in the standard place so my case wasn’t textbook. (Toss that damn textbook out!) I’m lucky it didn’t burst.

My brother is doing well although we still have the undertaker on speed dial. He is stubborn as hell. We have not been able to get him to do the follow-up doctor’s visits but I get it. It’s in the genes. I promised my primary care doc in April that I would do a follow up with my GI doc and so far it’s not on the books.

Is your family good at medical follow-up? Or are you all a bunch of block heads too?

 

 

89 thoughts on “The call you don’t want to get

  1. I’m glad your brother is doing well but confused why he called you first. I’m sure there was some logical/illogical thought process that lasted all of five seconds It’s tough to be stubborn when it comes to health. I don’t rush but I don’t wait too long either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure as he thought he wanted to go to the ER. It makes more sense to go by ambulance as you get better priority. I talked him into a walk in center instead. His wife can’t drive so she couldn’t take him. I’m next on the list.

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  2. My daughter is an emergency RN with tons of experience. We have her on speed-dial and she’s saved us more than once. I tend to trivialize serious conditions and over-react to minor. This isn’t deliberate, but I don’t seem to know when I should be alarmed. Our daughter is our safeguard. I am so glad your brother is doing better, and a little amused that he called you first. But that would be me, too, when probably emergency services was a better gamble. Thankful your story has a good end result!

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  3. Pingback: Random 5 for November 25 – Birthdays, electronics, brother, people, holidays | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

  4. Your brother must have nerves of steel to call you instead of an ambulance when having an asthma attack!! Breathing is highly underrated! Thankfully he is ok and you get major bonus points for being there – pre-coffee!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Technically he didn’t call. He couldn’t breathe to speak. His wife called. Pre-coffee is tough. I kept hoping that somewhere I could get a cup but it didn’t work out like that. Fortunately we were back at his house in under 2 hours.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So sorry for your brother and the ensuing, pre-holiday drama. I’m always flummoxed by choosing between an emergency room or walk-in clinic also. My insurance makes it clear they’d prefer the clinic, but I know they’re only speaking from a dollars and cents point of view. I’m glad you found a decent clinic with the proper equipment. I hope he continues to recover.

    My wife is more like your family, and I go in the other direction. I’m a little over-obsessive about following orders, follow-up appointments, etc. But your factoid about IBS in the comments above is actually quite helpful because someone in my family was recently told the same thing by her doctor. – Marty

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    • Unless you have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, there isn’t much they can do. You learn triggers and change your plans on a bad day. Still there are far worst chronic disorders so I consider myself lucky. The wait time in our local ER is too long so unless you are having a heart attack, I don’t recommend it. I had a friend with a wound that was bleeding and he got no priority. The wait that time was 6 hours.

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  6. Oh, goodness, I’m so glad your brother is okay now … stubbornness and all. My family is good enough about annual checkups, but my mom is now 95 and she attributes (in part) her longevity and relatively good health to seeing her doctor as little as possible. My husband and I are a bit more proactive but still … We. Trust. No one. We meet every surgical recommendation with severe skepticism … and we’re usually right 😉 Still, I hope the next time your brother has an asthma attack, he calls the ER or at least waits until after you’ve had your coffee 😉 Happy Thanksgiving, Kate.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, indeed. I had endometrial cancer when I was 43. I understood the need for a hysterectomy but I argued against removing my ovaries. I wasn’t ready for menopause. Between my doctor’s insistence and my husband’s research, I had to give in. It turned out all right 🙂 But we learned from that experience how important it was to do our own research, especially if we’re skeptical of the doctor. In that case, it was life or death so there was little argument; more just wanting to educate ourselves to make sure we were doing all we could do. When it comes to quality of life, though, it’s a real balancing act because surgical outcomes aren’t always positive.

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  7. I keep my head in the sand. I can go with someone to a doctors office, and my blood pressure goes up. I’m finally at the age, that I accept the equipment is starting to fall apart. I don’t like it, but there is no reversal. Plus, it helps that they have medicated me to keep my stress under control after the massive heart attack a year ago. I think a meteorite could hit my car out front, and I would make myself sick laughing.

    I’m glad your brother turned out to be alright. I really appreciate the good laugh at the description f your family and medical issues/doctors.Hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You are such a good sis. And your brother knows it and trusts you (not the docs). But… he should follow up with his doctor appointments! Your appendix story is horrible. I search hard and long for a doctor I like, trust, and who treats me like an equal. And when I find her, I listen to her recommendations and we talk about my medical strategies. Win/win.

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    • Connecting with a doc is a really great thing but so rare these days. I have a good primary but he usually shuffles me off to a specialist. I had a really great cancer doc who in addition to treating me, talked me off the ceiling a couple of times. He retired last year. I am very vocal about what I will do and won’t do. No point in wasting everyone’s time. I routinely get sick on antibiotics so I don’t want them unless I really need them. Even then I don’t want to take for 10 days. Guidelines are generalities and everyone is different.

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  9. I should find a good GP and don’t have one now. I do have to go to the allergist once a month for shots for hayfever, mold and dust and have done that regimen for decades. But going for a regular check-up, not really done that. Eyes and teeth … yup, make sure I go there, but fall short in the other categories. My mother was hit by a car at age 11 and spent four years in the children’s hospital, then underwent 42 operations over the course of her lifetime. We saw orthopedic specialists and she had chronic cellulitis so she treated with a dermatologist and an infectious disease doc as well. I think that because of seeing my mom with her many doctors and diagnoses and medications, it has soured me on having too many doctor appointments – yes, I am stubborn. My boss said to me that you need to have a “baseline” physical to rule out issues as you get older … my answer was that heart disease runs in my family, my mom had an arrhythmia and my maternal grandmother and her 8 siblings all died of heart disease. I had a physical at age 30 and a treadmill test and passed. I should not be flippant about it and more proactive. My father’s appendix burst and I was just a kid … it was when we still lived in Oakville so I was under ten years old. My mom didn’t drive and am ambulance had to come to the house. After that I was paranoid it would happen to me.

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    • Everyone has their stories about the medical profession. Both of my parents died of heart issues. I had a complete work up with treadmill and a few other tests and I checked out fine. I have an extra heart beat which is not unusual. What is unusual is that I can occasionally feel it but it doesn’t put me at any risk. Still the heart group wants me to come every year so they can listen. I have my primary do it at my annual and haven’t gone back since. Protocol for my gyno went from annual to every other year and I’m good with that. Less is more. I do go when I have an issue.

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      • I should be proactive and do a heart test again, but I gave up red meat and don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol so I just leave it at that. My mom had a nitro nearly every night – her fluttering heart would wake her up … my grandmother had the same thing and her doctor told her to have a glass of sherry or brandy every night just before she shut the light (when she was already in bed in case it went to her head or she got dizzy ) … we all laughed at that because here was my grandmother with her shot glass and her bottle on her nightstand … she claimed she slept like a baby. Before that regimen, she would say she could hear the pounding of her heart reverberating on the mattress.

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  10. I’m so glad he is OK now but that kind of a phone call & day is enough to put you BOTH in the hospital from the sheer stress of it all!

    I would say that our family is split — an older brother hasn’t been to the doctor in God knows how long, a sister goes regularly, another sister when she has to and another brother when his wife makes him. I’m somewhere in the mix of all of that, as the youngest kid.

    There’s a part of all of us that just doesn’t want to “deal” and I get it. Hubbs is very much that way …

    Take care!
    MJ

    Liked by 2 people

    • Most of us are a “head in the sand” type although I will go if I think it’s serious. Leaning towards hypochondria, I can get extreme (each headache is a tumor, etc.). Over the years, I have learned to wait it out just a bit and most of the time it clears up on it’s own.

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  11. We are a family of blockheads. I only follow-up if I consider it necessary and have only been hospitalized three times – childbirth, childbirth, cancer. A brother-in-law recently had two mild strokes before he would agree to go to the ER and agreed to be admitted. He lasted for four days and he left. I suspect it was AMA (against medical advice). However, he is following up some! Your brother is lucky to have you. I hope he stays well and takes care of himself. (I had to chuckle with the undertaker on speed dial!) Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t been hospitalized since the 70s. Fortunately almost all surgery is outpatient now and I like that. Somehow I feel safer having my husband with no medical background take care of me than a flock of nurses. The last time my brother was hospitalized (over 20 years ago) he was so bad the nurses hid his clothes because he kept getting dressed to leave.

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  12. I think we all follow medical advice and get follow up appointments because we can’t stand having Genius Judgmental Doctor Sister rake us over the coals for being stupid.

    We might not love doctors, but we loathe hearing any sibling say, “What did you think was going to happen, you idiot?!”

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    • It depends. I went to a doc (for my IBS) who outright told me that she couldn’t do anything for me, then scheduled me for a follow-up in 3 months. I quietly canceled that from home the next day. We don’t have a doctor in the family, just a bunch of engineers.

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  13. I have no idea who my GP actually is, other than he is difficult to see. You cannot make advance appointments to see the same doctor or any doctor actually, and we discovered purely by chance that the head Honcho doc only works one day a week anyway, leaving it to locums or senior nurses. The sit and wait clinic M – F is in uncomfortable surroundings, erratic, selective (if the doc doesn’t like you, you are ignored) and a waste of a day waiting. ER (or A&E here in the UK) is four hours minimum, but we have discovered a 24/7 out of hours GP at another hospital where the wait may be a couple of hours, but they actually listen to you, though depending on nationality, understanding both ways can be confusing or restrictive. I despair, and keep silent if I don’t feel well, hoping it will just go away. It usually does, apart from Humphrey, but then Hubby found him, not me and he was instantly on the way to being toast.
    Hope your Bro is OK now. Mine hasn’t been well either, but there’s no way I could help get him sorted as he’s on the other side of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Whew. I’m so glad your bro is okay.

    Boy, how you described undiagnosed issues, not getting answers or solutions and finally not going back anymore, is MY life. I’m in chronic pain, for years, and have never received answers or solutions. The chiropractor helps somewhat, but not enough to make the pain go away. I’ve also had a couple of nightmare experiences in ER.

    I hope all is better now and that you guys can enjoy Thanksgiving. Blessings to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Glad to hear your brother is doing well. It’s a challenge to deal with peeps who know what they ‘should’ do then promptly don’t. Often times a near fatal scare makes us changes our ways, then again, sometimes we just want to go out on our terms, even if when it means cutting life short. As for not enjoying all the ‘fun’ the medical industry provides, it should be a wake up call that something is seriously amiss in our for-profit healthcare system. Maybe we should stop rewarding endless tests, and instead reward doctors and hospitals for healthy outcomes. Till then I guess I’ll be in the sand basement hoping the system comes to its senses. The current way cannot be sustainable in the long run.

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    • Neighborhood walk-in centers for night and weekend emergencies (which is the only time my family gets sick) has been a godsend. I had multiple stings from a group of wasps when I accidentally put the hose on their home. I blew up like the Michelin tire guy. I was so grateful I could drive a few blocks and get a cortisone shot and be out in an hour. Waiting for doc appointments or (gasp!) going to the ER are deal breakers for many people. I wish there was a simple medical scan that could do it all. I can dream.

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  16. Kate, I am so happy your brother is doing well. His message made me laugh so hard I got laugh tears!!!! I am a member of the head in the sand group AND a block head! I can’t stand tests. I pretty much wait until whatever it is becomes an emergency… ridiculous. I also get all the weird things. Check out dermoid… I had one on my right ovary and it ruptured. My surgeon took a picture of it for me and it looked like a slice of pizza!

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    • Yikes! Back then the only test they did was a lower GI which showed nothing. There was nothing to see unless I was in the middle of an attack and I couldn’t get into the doctor fast enough. The attacks typically lasted 8 to 12 hours. They always said the ovary cyst would go away by itself. When we got a young new doctor in the area, he wouldn’t let it go. He scheduled me for an exploratory operation but they started in the appendix area first fortunately. Otherwise I’d have a big smiley face scar on my abdomen.

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  17. I haven’t had a mammogram in 10 years. So. No?
    But I am trying to be better.
    I go to the regular doc as required by my prescription follow ups. I get tests that are for symptoms that scare me. But I am not good at getting things that are recommended periodic screenings.

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  18. Kate, just a reminder, my undertaker is also my golf partner. Whenever he gets a call from me that time of the morning I either have a T-Time above the grass, or one scheduled under the grass!!!
    Tom

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  19. I’m happy to hear your brother is okay, Kate. I can relate to not following up after having no answers. When I got sick in my early 20’s with Crohn’s it took years of testing to determine what was going on. Once it was finally diagnosed and under control, I miraculously went into remission, or so I thought. Since I wasn’t having any typical symptoms for a few years, I blew off my regular colonoscopies…big mistake. I was just so sick of doctors…I needed a break. When I got sick again I went to a new doctor, since we’d moved out of state, and I found out the Crohn’s had been quite active for a number of years and had spread throughout my intestines. Since then, I go every year.

    Liked by 1 person

        • I had a bad experience last time and have been refusing to get another one. I’ve had a lot of them over the years because of IBS but they have never found anything. You are now on my list as someone to talk to if they force me to do it again.

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          • Did you react to the prep? A few years ago, my mother had a horrible reaction and came close to going into cardiac arrest. Now she does that mail away method that you see advertised. Of course, that’s like conducting a science experiment. Since she has Alzheimer’s, my poor father is the scientist. Let me know if you have questions!

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            • Yes. I got very sick and let’s just say it took a gallon of bleach to restore my bathroom to its former glory. After the procedure I was incredibly sore. I had many before but this one was different. I feared they did some internal damage that had to heal. I tried to explore that send away thing with my primary but he wants me to talk to my GI about it. Catch 22. I was to my proctologist (so many docs) maybe 2 years ago for a fecal blood test. All negative. I reach the 10 year mark for my last colonoscopy in 2020. I’ll go before then. Maybe.

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