On Friday morning, starting at 10:00 a.m., I left four messages asking the primary doctor to call me. Because it was the start of a long weekend, I was especially anxious to speak with the doctor before 5:00 p.m.
Although I did not receive a message, I was told — the second time I called — that the doctor had tried to reach me when I’d stepped out of the hotel room. Apparently, she only had called the hotel number. My cell phone number was in my mother’s chart, so why didn’t the doctor call it? When I’d left the hotel room, I’d actually thought about calling and leaving that number again, but I specifically didn’t want to deal with feeling like a pain in the ass.
I’m learning, again and again, however, that one does have to be a total fucking pain in the ass in order to get anything done in the medical world. Being a patient or patient advocate is the equivalent of assertiveness boot camp, where the stakes are life-and-death.
Meanwhile, out of nowhere, my mother was completely nuts all the morning and afternoon. I’d been assuming she hadn’t received any narcotics since my conversation with the doctor the night before. The third time I called, however, I asked the nurse if they had put her on narcotics again.
“We gave her Vicodin at 8:30 this morning,” she replied. “The doctor last night specifically said that he was taking her off all the narcotics!” I replied, alarmed. “That was the doctor on-call,” she said. “You need to speak with her primary doctor.”
Put aside for a minute the fact that I was specifically trying to have a conversation with her primary doctor. Isn’t it common sense that the on-call doctor would note in my mother’s chart the discussion we’d had, recommending that my mother be taken off all narcotics?
As I discovered, the morning shift had not even tried first getting my mother Tylenol and ibuprofen, before deciding that she needed a Vicodin. I told the nurse, in no uncertain terms, that I did not want my mother on any more narcotics. She agreed, but as it turned out, there was still a major struggle ahead.