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?