Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Animals Are Treated Better Than Old Men

in this country.

I mean like for real.

Cat went into the hospital Friday morning. I told them he was blocked. Yes, it cost me $125 just to walk in the door. Yes, half up front of the high estimate of $1268.00 before they treated him. But the minute I coughed up the money, they started working. It took me maybe two hours tops.

Poppy went into the hospital Saturday morning. The Professor told them he was leaking yukky stuff. It didn't cost anything up front... he's got good insurance. They worked on him right away, but mainly because folk recognized signs had been missed and he was pretty sick. Don't want a lawsuit. He got admitted and got a bed in about 12 hours, tops. All things considered... that was fast. Damn fast. When Shoefly's mother gets taken to the ER they sit around till her brother starts calling in favors.

Vet called me every day about the same time to report progress. Even when that vet went off duty for the long weekend, two other vets called, fully informed and were able to tell me how Cat was responding to treatment. They noted that he was "fearful", yet beautiful and tried to make his stay pleasant.

The fam went down to visit Poppy. The Professor happened to corner a doc who gave her some information but nothing very specific. Didn't particularly note any concerns about anything. I mean concerns on Poppy's part. Nobody cared that he was fearful or concerned.

I had been told that Cat would get out on Monday, and on Monday morning when the vet called to check when I'd be coming, I told her about 2P. So on my way down I spoke to Bigbear who said Poppy was asking for a falafel, and could I go bring him one and check on him on my way to the ASPCA. The hospital is pretty much in the same neighborhood.

I hate seeing Poppy in the hospital. I really do. I prefer that my Poppy always be what I remember him being... taller than me, strong, funny, in control. I remember all those nights he held me as a kid, me struggling to breathe, asthma constricting my lungs. Him telling me "Trust in the True God, you're going to be OK". When ever I REALLY hurt, I go to Poppy. And I know it's my time to give that back but really, quite honestly I hate it. But I went... I brought him falafel. We sat and he tried to eat, shifting uncomfortably in the bed.

Nurse came in and said "So you're being discharged today?"
"I am?" he asked. Nobody had told him. The doctors had been around and said he "could"... but Poppy (like me) is a literal man. "Could" does not equal "Going to". "Could" is a rhetorical question. "You are going to" means it's going to happen. I felt him stiffen, his aggravation and uncertainty rising.

"I don't feel like I should be going home" he said. "And I don't have all the right stuff". The nurse, who in reality was very sweet and caring, looked a little blank. She offered to go check out everything. I had to page her in order to find out about how long it would be before the discharge papers were ready. "About a half hour" she said.

I asked her (because the Professor told me) about the prescription he was supposed to get to help his sore foot... one of the doctors had said it was circulatory. There was none in his folder. There was a prescription for antibiotics. There was one for a sitz bath ("a SITZ bath???" I thought to myself). There wasn't one for pain meds. And one of the things he went in complaining about was back pain. It's had him flat for about a month.

The nurse paged the doctor. Eventually she put him on the phone with me. He didn't feel comfortable, he said, prescribing pain meds for a urology complaint. In theory, I understand. In theory, I realize percoset and vicoden are highly potent, highly addictive substances. Vicoden has pretty much put crack dealers out of work. But we're talking about a seventy-one year old man who had pain when he walk in here... and is having pain as you push him out.

Doc wouldn't budge. Nurse couldn't because she's not a Nurse Practitioner. Doc said "go to his primary care doctor". The problem is... he doesn't have one. He's been in and out of the hospital several times, usually related to kidneys or staph infections... he's in the dialysis center three times a week. Technically, he doesn't really need one if doctors are seeing him all the time.

But only a PCP or a pain doctor would be comfortable giving pain meds. I get it. I start to cry. I dread going back into the room to tell him he's going to have to make it until we can get him in to see yet another doctor. Nurse helpfully offers that if he REALLY doesn't feel better, he can come back to the ER.

You've got to be fucking kidding me, I think to myself.

The other nurse/something sitting in the chair next to her has a little sympathy for me, and encourages the nurse to look up "Pain Management" doctors in the computer. Who the fuck knew there was such a thing? In desperation I call my former Hospital client. The one I'd done the monster brochure for and fought with. And made sure to make up with cuz she works in geriatrics. She encourages me to ask for a social worker, and if that doesn't work, a patient representative. An oncall social worker is paged. The nurse explains my concerns, and that I'm asking for help. What I wanted to ask for was help navigating the system, to get a name, someone who will follow the process. You know, like they do at the ASPCA. The social worker refuses to talk to me on the phone, and hangs up before the nurse can hand over the handset.

I go cold. Fuck a patient representative. I got some shit for them.

I read the discharge papers. They are in duplicate... written in someones scritch/practically illegible handwriting. They caution that if nausea or diarrhea manifest themselves, come back.

There's also a printed notice that if he really doesn't feel well, he can refuse to leave. I decide it's better that he get the fuck out, so I didn't point that out to him.

We wait 20 minutes for the wheelchair guy to come. Oh, but first I had to go upstairs and look for Poppy's shoes. When they moved him from the room he was in, they hadn't brought his shoes. There had been a fire in that wing the other day, and so all the furniture was in the halls, being wiped down buy gloved and gowned housekeeping folk. Mostly Jamaican. I told them why I was there. "You lucky!" the man said. "Me put dem inna de gyabij!" They were sealed in the "Possessions" bag, in a clear garbage bag, at least with nothing else. I grab them and start back down, thanking the housekeeping staff for their help.
"'Im lucky. You come likkle lata dem not be here" the man said again.
"God looks out for the old man" I said, and they laughed. They understood what I meant.

The wheelchair transport comes down, talking to orderlies about a bangin' party he'd gone to the night before. He takes his time getting Poppy onto the elevator. He starts telling us about a club patron at the club he was bouncing. The patron had on $1,000 alligator sneakers. The Wheelchair guy/club bouncer said he didn't let him in because $1,000 alligator sneakers are GOING to be stepped on, and it WILL cause a fight. We laugh.

We get Poppy in the car and the Professor drives me over to the ASPCA to get Cat. The reception/ER area is busy. An Hispanic-but NY-English speaking drunkie chick is stressing over her dog Nyah who apparently had the runs. Other than that, Nyah looked fine to me, running all over the room, dragging her leash behind her. The Drunkie chick running after her with a large, soiled sheet pleading "Oh, Nyah please. Come shit on the sheet! Are you OK? Look! She's trembling! She's so nervous. She can't eat! She won't sleep! Oh, Nyah baby come here!"

The vet assistants/receptionists are literally biting the insides of their cheek, laughter straining at their mouths. One of them comes and stands patiently next to Nyah's owner and her mortally embarrassed looked-to-be-16-year old son, asking for symptoms. "Look, she's trembling!" Nyah's owner said again. "She might bite! She's so nervous!" The attending took the leash. Nyah led the way into the back.

After I "cashed out" (which thankfully was $100 cheaper than the estimate, including a case of extremely expensive food) another associate called my name bringing with her a computer printed, detailed synopsis of Cat's condition. The report noted how fearful he was and how sorry the vet was about that. There was a detailed section outlining all the meds we were going home with--including pain killers--and specific instructions on how to administer them. The attending highlighted them in yellow as she read them to me. I had to sign an acknowledgement that I understood. There was also another couple of printed pages about how to prevent future blockages, what causes them, and what the likely course will be if they re-occur.

They bring me Cat, who reportedly had given them hell the whole weekend, but was calm the minute he saw me.

We get in the car... me with food and prescriptions. We still had to go by the pharmacy to pick up Poppy's. And I still have to call around, find him either a PCP or a pain meds doctor, which means I also have to figure out what Medicare he has.

2 comments:

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

yes foklks take us old men for granted lol

Nina said...

This is a amazing post. If only we would always remember how important and strong is our connection to other human beings. That he is not "someone else", he is "you".

Well done.