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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Seemed like an Eternity....... If you're "just tuning in" this post may leave you wondering what the heck I am rambling about, I hope you take the time to go back and review my earlier posts so you can catch up with our story. I very much appreciate your thoughts and comments.
For anyone who has been along for the whole wild ride - Thank you!

Seemed like an Eternity.......

I was almost jogging down the corridor when I noticed the Social Worker/Discharge Planner stepping out of moms’ room, I quickened my pace and was nearly running as I was cut off by a bed being wheeled into the intersection.  I wasn't close enough to yell to her without disturbing the entire Acute Rehab Unit, so I kept my eyes on her to watch which way she went.  It’s been my experience that hospital staff disappears pretty quickly sometimes, especially if you REALLY need to talk to them.

I had seen the Discharge Planner turn left at the intersection right by moms’ room, so I turned right hoping I could catch her.  I didn't see her as I turned the next right either.  Assuming she had slipped in to another patient’s room, I took another right and headed back down the hall towards moms’ room; I was almost there when I heard my name being called from behind me.  I was startled to see the very person I had been looking for running to catch me.  As the planner approached me looking very serious, I got nervous and started babbling an apology for being so late.

How had I become so indoctrinated as to even think I needed to apologize?  I wasn't even that late when you consider how much time I had wasted waiting around for them over the last two years (them being doctors; nurses; therapists; AND discharge planners among a host of other medical professionals).  At some point I realized my PTSD had kicked in; my apology had taken on a defensive tone, my stance was aggressive.  Adrenaline was pumping through my body; I could feel my blood pressure rising and my “fight or flight” instincts taking over.  Since “flight” wasn't an option (I couldn't leave mom), I was ready to fight.  I instinctively jerked my arm away as the planner reached toward me; her smile and soft voice caught me off guard, “It’s OK, you’re not late at all”.  Huh?  “I've scheduled transport to the SNF for tomorrow afternoon”, the planner smiled again.  Huh?  I couldn't believe what I was hearing and my mind started wandering.

I reminded myself I was in a different place at a different time with a different set of circumstances; for the most part these people were team players.  I tried to put myself in the discharge planners place; it was her job to make sure people didn't overstay their welcome, meaning no longer than the insurance companies decided they should stay, regardless of what was really in the best interest of each individual patient.  Gone were the days when your family doctor took care of everything, except the most major of surgeries, often right in his office; many times tackling multiple afflictions and even multiple family members in the same visit.  We no longer lived in a society where you stayed in the hospital until you were well; you only got to stay until you were “well enough” according to some guideline, in some manual, written by someone who may or may not have the qualifications to determine the necessary medical intervention for any given diagnosis.  It seems nothing is determined on a case by case basis taking individual needs in to consideration anymore.  Wait!

Had the planner said “tomorrow”?  Did I just here her say it was due to the “unique” nature of moms’ health; the need to assure her safety and as much continuity in her care as possible?  Maybe humanity in healthcare hadn't been completely eradicated from our system; maybe there was still hope - I did see a double rainbow that day.

You’d think with all that going through my head, I would have said more than, “Thank you.  What time”?  The planner assured me she would let me know what time the van would be there as soon as she knew for sure.  “Try to get some sleep tonight, tomorrow is likely to be a long day for you”, the planner smiled and gave me a hug.  As I walked in to moms’ room I was wondering how horrible I must look for everybody to keep telling me to get some sleep.  “Hi Honey”, my mother smiled sweetly, “you look tired”.  Ugh.  Now I really wondered how bad I looked!
I spent the next couple hours gathering the incredible amount of stuff we had collected since mom had been in rehab.  I figured since I didn't know what time we had to be ready to go the next day, I better get things together that night.  After taking the last load of stuff to my car, I ate dinner with mom and then helped her gather what she needed to get ready for bed.  With her teeth brushed; face washed and creamed; pajamas on; and her bedside table arranged so she would be able to reach what she might need, I kissed mom goodnight.  I decided the discharge planner was right, tomorrow was going to be a long day.

It was around 3:30PM July 31, 2013 before the van showed up to transport mom to the Skilled Nursing Facility I had chosen for her.  As I followed the van through rush hour traffic, I prayed I had made the right choice.  I really wasn't sure mom could handle much more in the way of medical errors or neglect without serious consequences.  Of course my primary concern was for mom, but I wasn't very fond of the idea of going to jail either!

I relaxed a little as we pulled in to the parking lot and mom was very gently lowered from the van and wheeled through the front door; she was greeted warmly and we were led to the wing mom had been assigned to.  I was feeling even better when the doctor who had been assigned to mom was waiting in the wing where mom was to reside for the next 3 weeks; I liked his immediate assessment of both mom and her medications.  Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.  Maybe?

“We can’t put her in there”, the nurse sounded irritated as the CNA started to wheel mom toward the room she had been assigned; the room we had agreed would be marginally acceptable until a private room became available.  Evidently they have a policy that two patients with the same name cannot be placed in a room together.  OK, it made sense; they don’t want to increase the risk of medication errors, I can understand that.

It was like we were frozen in time, nobody moved; we all just looked at each other.  OK?  What now?  Did they expect ME to have an answer to this dilemma?  Nobody seemed to know what to do and being so close to five in the afternoon, all the "powers that be" were gone for the day.  

Mom was exhausted and clearly getting uncomfortable.  "Page somebody", I nearly screamed.

And, there we sat for what seemed like an eternity…………………

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