More notes from the Eldercare Underground:
Back in May, my mother got a letter from her primary care physician stating that he was going to be retiring on June 24th and would be closing his practice.
She’d been seeing him every 6 months or so for the twelve years that she’s been living in Texas.
The letter went on to say that no one in his medical group would be taking over his patients (all 2,000 of them! The town has a population of approx. 11,000 people) and that everyone would need to find a new doctor. He included a list of doctors in the area who are currently accepting new patients.
The first office that I called on the list, I got a recording that said the receptionist was unavailable at the moment and to leave a message and she would get back to me. Yuh huh.
After not having heard from them by the next day, I called again—only to find the office was closed because it was a Wednesday.
(She never did return my call—ever.)
Scratch that doctor off my list.
I called another office and got an actual person who told me to leave a voicemail message on another line that was set up for this new influx of desperate patients, but the person in charge of my mother’s fate probably wouldn’t get back to me for a few days since there had been such a demand. She said that if I didn’t hear from them after a week, to try again.
This made me a little nervous. What if, in the meantime, all the other offices on the list had met their quota of refugees and we were out of luck?
When I left my voicemail message, I felt like I was applying for political asylum or something. I tried to sweeten the deal for my mother by pleading that even though she was ninety-one, she didn’t have any major medical issues and really, really wouldn’t be much of a bother, I promise. Then I left it up to God and the woman in charge of deciding who gets in—and I wasn’t sure who had the greater power here.
Sure enough, after a week I hadn’t heard from them so I called again. This time they took pity on me and let me talk directly with the Great and Powerful Decision Maker who agreed that my mother wouldn’t be much of a burden on the system and set us up with an appointment. Whew.
We went today to see the new doctor (a woman–which sometimes is good with my mother and sometimes not, depending on the situation) and I was pleased with the way the appointment went. My mother didn’t complain too much, except after the really nice medical assistant had thoroughly gone over her history and there was a little wait for the doctor to come into the exam room.
My mother let out a dramatic sigh and said,
“Well, where the hell is the doctor?”
But at least nobody heard her except me.
While we were continuing our wait, my mother asked me just what it was when I was about four or five that the nurses at the pediatrician’s office used to prompt me to tell them every time we went in.
It’s funny, because she can’t remember what day it is, but she can remember something that happened about 60 years ago. Maybe that’s the beauty of being one of what they now call the “old-old.” You can live in your memories of the past.
The anecdote she was remembering centered around the time my mother had been seen by her doctor (with me in tow) and then I saw my pediatrician right afterward. The nurses had asked me what my mother had had done at her doctor’s appointment and I’d answered
“She got a shot in she butt.”
Every visit thereafter, until I was practically a teen-ager, the nurses would gather around me and ask me to repeat what I had said, to the hilarity of all.
But for the grace of God and other Decision Makers, that could have been the start of a brilliant stand-up comedy career.