Today in My History
2001:Don't Look Back
2002: Aging in Rochester
2003: Dim Sum
2005: Where Am I? How Did I Get Here?
2006: Battered Woman Syndrome
2007: Technological Quagmire
2008: Napping with Kate
IN MY OPINION
Gem of the Ocean Books Read in 2008
"The Black Echo" NEW FEATURE!
Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
VIDEO OF THE DAY / WEEK / WHATEVER
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KAISER LABYRINTH17 February 2009
When your kids grow up and you are in that period of life when your health is fairly stable and the worst thing that you need to see a doctor for is routine tests, you kind of forget all the misery that you endured with children and trying work the system -- the endless waits on the phone (I've clocked up to 30 minutes waiting for someone who put me on hold to come back), the endless waits in the waiting room (I once waited so long with Jeri that by the time the doctor actually SAW her, her 105-degree temp had dropped to normal and I felt silly taking this once limp, now active toddler to the doctor when she clearly was perfectly fine), the trooping all over the place for one test and then another (can we ever forget this memorable experience?)
You get glimmers of it when there are emergencies, like the orthopedist who spent a total of (by my watch--and I was timing him) 4 minutes with me at the follow-up appointment for my dislocated shoulder (after I'd been in the waiting room for over an hour), 2 minutes of which were spent critiquing the book I was reading and the other 2 saying I was fine and never mind about my knee; it will heal just fine--and we all know how that turned out, don't we?? The shoulder is fine and I still can't ride a bike because of my knee!)
But it's days like today which bring all those surpressed memories bubbling up to the surface again. Oh, don't get me wrong. Having worked with a lot of other insurance companies, I still think Kaiser is the best -- but it doesn't mean I can't bitch every now and then.
I had a call from Peach while we were in LA, saying my mother was having pains in her chest region. They didn't sound like typical heart pains, but I did call her. She was angry that Peach had contacted me and said that it was "nothing" and fiddlesticks she didn't need a doctor and that she would never tell Peach or me anything about her health again. But I told her that since by her own admission the pain had awakened her and even as we spoke, there would be a sharp intake of breath when another spasm hit, she really should go see her doctor.
"It can't be my heart," she assured me. She said a doctor once told her that her heart was so healthy she would never die of a heart attack.
No, of course she hadn't taken any medicine. She had just "walked the pain off." I insisted that she at least call the Kaiser advice nurse, which she promised to do. The nurse didn't think there was an immediate emergency, but thought the doctor should see her the next day, so she made an appointment for this morning. I said I would drive down and go with her, which she also poo-poo'd because it was so far and the weather was bad and...and...and...
But I wouldn't let her talk me out of it and so this morning I drove down there, in a rainstorm, and we presented ourselves at the office for her 10:15 appointment. I was glad that she had asked me to go into the exam room with her, since I speak "medicalese" and could help her understand what the doctor told her.
We actually got called into the doctor's 5th floor office pretty quickly. Not my mother's regular doctor, who is away for a week, but someone who is filling in for her. She was very nice and, like everyone else, couldn't believe my mother was 89. (In fact, some woman in the elevator asked if we were sisters, which naturally made my mother's day!)
It was pretty easy to reproduce the pain so she could tell exactly where it was. By the position, it didn't seem to be heart or lungs. She thought it might be the start of shingles, but since my mother first started having these pains 3 weeks, and there was no outbreak of the typical shingles rash, she figured that probably wasn't it. But just to be sure to rule out all these things, she'd send her for tests, which included an EKG, x-ray, and blood work. Each of these things was in a different location on a different floor.
I'm not sure which is worse--going to Kaiser on a regular day when there are 10,000 other people there, or going on a holiday when there are only emergency type patients, but also only half the staff, which means that the wait time is ridiculous.
The EKG wasn't so bad. Again was the "you can't possibly be 89!" and the heart was so steady that, heck, even I could tell this was a disgustingly normal EKG. (Her blood pressure had been so good that it was probably half of mine, on both the diastolic and systolic!). That was on the 3rd floor.
Then down to the first floor for x-rays and lab work. The x-ray was uneventful (and again within normal limits, apparently), but the lab was a nighmare. I've said this before...anybody who has read things I've written or looked at my relationships with people from foreign countries would be hard pressed to find any sort of prejudice here, but please, please, please--no matter how qualified a person is, if that person is a patient's entree into a medical procedure, make it someone who can be understood! The woman kept asking if people had come "from the orchard." I couldn't figure out what in the hell she meant. I listened to her for nearly 30 minutes (yes, we waited a long time) and she kept calling out if anybody there was coming from the orchard. It finally dawned on me that she wasn't saying "orchard," but "urgent care."
She gave my mother all her papers, a number, and a container, told her to "give a urine sample and then take a seat." So she did. She left her urine sample and joined me in the waiting room, where there is a sign saying that more urgent cases would be taken first so that you might not be called in arrival order, but my mother was there for chest pain and every single other patient (including one who was there for blood work prior to her chemotherapy treatment tomorrow) was sent to the blood draw stations and we were still sitting there. I finally went to the desk and asked the woman why all the other people had been served and my mother was still sitting there.
"She was supposed to sit over there," she said, indicating the draw station. Well...she never SAID that. She just told her to "have a seat."
So we finally got all the tests done and went back to the fifth floor, which said that the office was now closed until 1:30. Fortunately, however, once I called out, they came to the desk and said that the doctor had been waiting for us.
Final diagnosis -- who knows? She knows what it's probably not. She doesn't have all the blood work back yet, but her best guess is costochondritis, which causes pain and tenderness in the location where the ribs attach to the breastbone and which most often occurs on the left side of the chest, which is where her pain is.
Then my mother felt guilty for "bothering" the doctor and apologized for taking up her time for "nothing." Sigh. I'm trying to get her to understand that she pays over $200 a month for Kaiser insurance and if she never USES it, it's like throwing the money away. I'm hoping that will have an impact.
One thing, however, which was blatantly clear, was that she really shouldn't go to the doctor alone. I really don't think she would have found her way around to all the offices today without someone with her. She may not look 89, but she is 89 and the memory cells are having a difficult time firing effectively these days.
After we saw the doctor, there was more line-standing while she turned in a couple of prescriptions to be refilled and then we went off to lunch at a club near her house, which was a lovely way to end our day together--and wash away the memory of the nearly 3 hours we had spent at Kaiser!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
My first "Bri art" for the fridge!
MILES TO NOWHERE: 96.5 miles