Call me a sandwich (I love tuna on rye) as I recently hit the lunch menu with my parents. My dad is still working as a pharmacist at 82. My mom is 78 with issues like diabetes, atrial fib, IBS, and degenerate back disease. They are independent and into their "daily" routine. That was until two Tuesdays ago when my sister calls to tell me that mom's going by ambulance to the hospital due to chest pain. Welcome to the sandwich club indeed. (It was brought to my attention my analogy may be obscure. I am referring to the sandwich generation whom are pressed between taking care of aging parents and their own family. Hope that helps!)
I meet my sister and dad in the hospital after getting a text from my sister as to which hospital and where to meet them. Autocorrect made it the Catholic vs cath lab, which considering it is a Jewish hospital was clearly ironic. The woman at the desk didn't find it amusing when I showed her the text in my anxious state. She asked if I meant the cath lab & pointed the way.
By the time I got there she was already undergoing stent placement in the right coronary artery. We fielded texts from husbands, kids, friends. Met her upstairs in the CICU. Spoke with her doctor that told us the left was totally blocked too, but they were going to wait. That changed in about an hour as she was experiencing severe pressure and cold sweats.
Back down to the cath lab, where three more stents were placed in the left descending coronary artery. Honestly after seeing the before and after film it was amazing she was even walking around. Success in opening up that as well. Back up to CICU. And scene for the day.
Days in CICU are measured in time allotted and number of people allowed. She experienced some ICU psychosis, which was just discussed in a recent article in the Hopkins Medicine Magazine. This dissipated somewhat when she moved to the step down unit. We could visit en mass, she could get real flowers, and start to try and move on her own a little.
Throughout the week I will say that having a great nurse made a huge difference. Weekends are very sad as far as care available goes. Hospitalists seem to hate their jobs. For sure they seem to hate their patients. Thanks to those that clean the room, as they made a huge difference. Ditto to dietary that tried to help her order food that she would at least nibble on.
But the real kudos go to the team of PT, OT, and social work which combined with Medicare took the stress of what to do off my mom's and our shoulders. They worked with her and us, evaluated her, got approval, and moved her to the rehab floor within the hospital. They were all cheerful, respectful of my mom, and even bent down to her level to talk with her eye to eye. They included us in the discussion with her approval and made the transition a smooth one. It is a glimpse of how healthcare should work for all in this country.
Once on rehab they really got her in gear. She had a binder with information. She had a schedule of OT, PT, and cognitive evaluation. She was evaluated by a social worker and psychologist which targeted her depression (again not an uncommon side effect of a massive MI) and treated it. They encouraged her, were even bigger cheerleaders than her family, and kept her building on each step forward (literally). As a pharmacist myself, I have had professional contact with all tentacles of the healthcare system. Based upon my interaction on rehab, the profession of OT and PT must attract optimistic, cheerful, happy people. Each and every person that worked with my mom & everyone else in rehab were amazing. Again and again they worked with people missing limbs, in pain, and really not thrilled to be there expressing only positivity and encouragement. I really feel that these professionals take joy in even the littlest spark of progress shown by their patients. Thanks to all of you that work every day to help people get back to their life "before" they landed in your hands.
She was released Tuesday. Walking with a cane better than before she came in. Again, seamless transition. Nurse, OT, PT, all set up before they left. Walker delivered to her before discharge. Written instructions and contact numbers given as a discharge sheet. No worries on our part, as it is again under Medicare. I sat and thought how glad I was that my mom was over 65. If she was not under Medicare, our family would have had to navigate, fight, and cajole the many arms of the insurance company. We simply had to worry about helping her rehab, not if she was going to even get it.
For those of you already on the lunch menu, you understand. For those not being served on wheat, rye, or white yet, you will soon understand. We should all be able to just focus on getting well, not organizing the system to make that happen. I think that as the boomers face the medicare divide more and more, and their kids see the difference, single payer will happen sooner than later.
Well, I am going to meet my parents for lunch. This time real sandwiches are on the menu, not my sister and I. (A final note to all the women out there. Don't be like my mom. Stabbing back pain, reflux, pain radiating down arm, sweating, feeling bad are all symptoms of heart attacks in women. We differ from the classic symptoms seen in men, and we tend to dismiss them. Don't. My dad didn't listen when my mom said don't call 911. Because of him, she's still with us. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Please take care of yourselves.)