Thursday, February 11, 2016

Your Diagnosis, Please (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

I told the dispatcher the pertinent details about my dad, then told her about our electric gate at the entrance to our driveway and asked if I should go down to the road to open it for the ambulance.  She said, "No, give me the code."  I gave her the code and told her that the EMT's would have to get out and re-enter the code to close the gate as soon as they came in, because we have a milk cow who does not generally miss an opportunity to escape.  She assured me this was not a problem and would be communicated to the ambulance personnel.

With great difficulty, I managed to get Dad across the house and back in his recliner.  Emma arrived, which was a great comfort to me.

The ambulance pulled in, plus one EMT in his own Dodge diesel truck.  Soon the EMT's crowded into the family room where Dad was sitting.  I think there were three guys and one lady.  The lady, a redhead, began firing questions at me.

"What's his diagnosis?" she demanded.  I struggled mightily to figure out how to answer that question.  My dad has numerous health issues.  But she seemed to want one diagnosis that summed him up completely--one neat little label that would de-humanize him but efficiently generate a code and a treatment plan.  At least that is what ran through my mind.

I was at a loss.  Her stressful tactics were making it difficult for me to organize my thoughts.  "I can tell you what medications he is on," I volunteered weakly.  I started enumerating them, and one of the guys interrupted.  "He's also taking these," indicating several prescription bottles that he had rounded up from a basket in the breakfast room.

I went over, read the labels, and told him that Dad was no longer taking those medicines.  But the stress of the questions from the lady EMT, the effort of thinking about the prescriptions, and the sinking feeling I got from realizing that he had gone un-invited into another room and rifled through my parents' things just seemed to suck the life out of me.

Then the redhead asked me more questions and asked for Dad's ID and insurance cards.  I got them.

I began to wonder if the dispatcher had sent a SWAT team by mistake.  Maybe this was a drug raid, not medical assistance.

One of the guys asked my dad what year it was.

"1972," Dad answered.  I remembered that was the year Dad bought my mom a Volvo station wagon.  He gave me lots of talks back then about the built-in obsolescence he was seeing in American cars.  That's why he bought the Volvo.

"Who's the president?" the guy continued.

"Oh, I know," Dad said confidently.  "That colored fella."  I stifled a giggle.  He grew up in Alabama during the Depression.  He never has gotten the hang of calling negroes "black."

I tried to tell the redhead that I thought Dad might have a UTI and that his temperature had been slowly creeping up.  She was dismissive of my suggestion about a UTI and told me that they would now take Dad into the ambulance to evaluate him.

Suddenly, I remembered the gate and asked Emma to go check and make sure that they had closed it. They had not.  Luckily, Fiona had not seen it.

The redhead came back in to give me her report on Dad's evaluation.  "Everything checks out fine," she asserted.  "He is not a diabetic; his lungs are clear; his temp is 98.7.  The only thing wrong is his blood pressure is very high.  Of course, we can't do labs in the ambulance, so we'll go ahead and take him to the ER."

I wanted to tell her, "Why, thank you very much!  The only reason I called you was for you to take him to the ER!"  But I bit my tongue.  I told her that his normal temperature was around 97.4 and that 98.7 was not normal for him.  I mentioned again that I feared he had a UTI.

"Has he had a foul smell to his urine?" she asked.

As Dad has some trouble with incontinence, and I wash all his clothes and clean his bathroom, I knew the answer to that.

"No," I said.

"Any burning while urinating?"

"I don't know for sure, but he has not complained."

 "You know, he's 82.  At some point you're going to have to consider that he has Alzheimer's or dementia," she pronounced authoritatively.

Disgusted, I thought to myself, "Ah, she finally provided the single diagnosis that she was looking for,"

Aloud, I said, "But this is a night and day difference with my Dad.  He wasn't like this yesterday.  And one of the new medications he is on can cause UTI's."

She didn't roll her eyes, but she managed to convey the same idea with one condescending glance.  I felt sick, humiliated, and angry all at the same time.  She turned and left.  Feeling slightly disoriented, I walked to the kitchen window to watch them leave, only to find that they had backed the ambulance across our large gravel parking area and into the soft ground of the pasture.  They were stuck.  Big time.  I walked away, shaking my head.  This was a nightmare.

Later Emma told me that she saw the redhead get out and point to our hangar, directing one of the guys to go in there and get a board to put under the driver's side rear wheel.  He did as he was told, but he did not get the ambulance unstuck.  Eventually the EMT with the Dodge truck, who had left earlier, was called to come back and pull the ambulance out.

The ambulance finally left, and I talked with the guy who had pulled it out while he put away his chains.  Emma jumped on her bicycle to go check the gate.  It was open.  She grabbed Fiona on her way back.  As the guy with the truck was leaving, he met Emma returning, and they exchanged a few words.  She was leading Fiona by the haltar.

I went back in the house to collect my thoughts and the things I would need for my sojourn in the ER.  This took about 20 minutes.  As I drove down our driveway, I saw that once again, the gate had been left open.  The EMT in the truck exited the gate without closing it.  I called Emma and told her.  She couldn't see Fiona anywhere on our property, so as I left for the emergency room, she left in her car to look for Fiona.  What a day.

And it wasn't over yet.

To be continued.


Fotofule said...

Pt. 3?

Would love for us to be able to curl up with hot chocolate and watch "Sweet Land" again :).

Wendy Haught said...

Sorry, Bev, I'll try to work on Part 3 tomorrow.

Hot chocolate and Sweet Land? Not sure where that came from, but I love the way you think!