Sometimes you have to be bossy. Take the past two encounters with my dad as an example. Tonight my mom called and said she got an email from my dad. He had called his doctor and reported a symptom that apparently is one of the symptoms of stroke. His doctor had advised that my dad go to the emergency room. My dad had refused, because he didn’t want to deal with an emergency room.
Believe you me, I’ve had enough emergency room drama and trauma to know I’d like to never step foot in one of those again, thank you very much. I get it. But dude: A stroke. I told my mom to call my dad and tell him to call the ambulance. I’m keeping distance from my dad, you see, for my own health and sanity. But my mom called back and said he refused to call the ambulance.
I lost my cell phone a week ago, which among other things included my dad’s address. So I called my dad, said it was me, and without any indication of why I was calling, sweetly asked for his address. He gave it to me. “Great,” I said. “I’m calling the ambulance.” “No!” he protested. “I don’t want them to come. I don’t want to go to the emergency room.”
“You don’t have to go,” I assured him. “If they come and determine you’re not having a stroke, you can stay home. But if you’re having a stroke, you better get on that ambulance and go to the hospital. This isn’t a game. A stroke can kill you.” After a few rounds, my dad agreed to let the nice ambulance men in. Which was convenient, because I was calling them regardless, even if they had to break down the damn door.
I hung up with my dad, called 911, told them the situation, and gave them my dad’s address. Then I called my dad and told him to let me know if they were taking him to the hospital. I promised to meet him there. Thank Gd/dess, it wasn’t a stroke, so my dad is now sleeping at home.
About a month ago, I had a bad feeling and called my mom to see if she had heard from my dad. She informed me that she had seen him and did not like how he was looking, which was very sickly. I asked her to call him and find out what was going on.
Long story short, it turned out that my dad still had fluid in his lungs, from the pneumonia that nearly had killed him a few months back. Why the doctors hadn’t drained the damn fluid yet was beyond me. At any rate, my dad thought he had a fever but was refusing to take his temperature. Despite the fact that my mom called him at my behest about four times over the course of the day, asking him to take it.
So I called in the evening. “I hear you won’t take your temperature,” I playfully scolded him. He promised to take it. “Yes that’s right,” I replied, “you will, because I’m sitting on this here phone right now, while you go and get the thermometer.” “I’ll do it later,” he promised. “Yeah that’s interesting,” I said. “Off you go, get the thermometer. I’m waiting.” Turned out he had a mild temperature but nothing to freak about. But I made him promise to keep my mom and me posted if anything changed and he needed help.
(Fast forward: The next day, my mom called several times while I was asleep, but she could not reach him. When I woke up, I called non-stop several times, then called his ex, then headed out to his house. I accidentally called his ex again on the way out the door, which was convenient, because she remembered he teaches a weekly class at a local synagogue. So I went to the synagogue and found my dad, safe and sound.)
Next, I told my dad that his doctor was a moron and that my dad had to get the fluid drained from his lungs immediately. It turned out that my dad was afraid to get the fluid drained, because of the pain and anxiety he feels with any injections. I advised him that there are all kinds of pretty little pills to take – Percosett, Vicodin, and Neurontin, to name a few. Not to mention morphine.
My dad agreed to get the procedure, but said his doctor had scheduled a check-in visit a month away. A month away? With pneumonia and fluid in the lungs? I told my dad to insist on an immediate appointment and to let me know if it didn’t work – in which case I would get the appointment for him. My dad said he could handle the situation and, in fact, did end up going that week.
I became an expert in patient advocacy after flailing around the medical system, going from bad to worse. At some point, you have to get tough, or you’ll get eaten alive. My skills were further sharpened when my mom was in the hospital fighting for her life, and I needed to micromanage every step of her care; because as I learned, hospitals are dangerous places.
I am now a blazing bitch from hell when I need to be – with loved ones or healthcare practitioners, as the case necessitates. I think we all need to be – overriding protests and resistance (nicely if possible, of course), when someone’s wellbeing hangs in the balance.