Tag Archives: Hospital

Fun and Games with Lisa………..

What better time to try and laugh than now? I’m trying….really, I am.

My mom provides me with great material, although I don’t think she means to, and I don’t think she’s always happy to be the topic of a humor blog on a regular basis.

My friend, Lisa on the other hand,  LOVES being my topic. I was thinking of her today and all the antics we’ve been through in the last seven years since she fell down a flight of stairs and suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I know, I know, it doesn’t sound funny, but we became the Lucy and Ethel of healthcare.

  1.  There was the time I dropped her off with our best friend, Terri to walk a few blocks to the hospital for a check-up because there was a water main break and traffic was horrendous. I thought it would take me hours to navigate the streets and park. As Lisa and Terri literally waded through the streets of Philly, I found a parking spot in 5 minutes right in front of the hospital.
  2. Then the neurologist wanted to do a stay-at-home brain scan. This is where they  wrap your head like a mummy and put some electrodes in there and record you for three days. After they wrapped her head, we decided to go to Marshall’s to look for a hat to cover her mummy-head. Not one hat would go over the wrappings, no wonder the Mummy was so mad, not a fashion was made for him. From Marshall’s we went to the park to do a photo-shoot. Yeah, I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity.
    Fun with my Mummy!

    Before and After Photo Shoot. Lisa really is quite lovely!
  3. We had to drive an hour into Philadelphia every time she needed to see her eye specialists, which was a lot.  It took us at least 10 trips before we figured out that cheap parking was right in front of the hospital and easier to get to.
  4. Then there was the time they changed the procedure to check-in to the eye clinic. They decided that people could check themselves in, using computers. The computers were tightly packed into an area where you had to stand up to use them. This doesn’t seem weird, but a lot of the people in this eye clinic use walkers and wheelchairs. They can’t fit into the space where the computer is located and if they’re in a wheelchair, they can’t reach the computer. AND remember this is an eye clinic. All of the patients are having trouble seeing. We practically peed ourselves trying to figure out how this is a good idea.
  5. Then I took her for surgery and she had to be back in the hospital at 6:00 AM the next morning. It was a long day and a quick night, so we stayed at a hotel right across the street from the hospital. I forgot we were parked in a parking garage between two big cement barriers and ripped my side-view mirror right out of its socket. It dangled from its electrical cord attached to the car. After having it bang against the door for five blocks, I folded the mirror into the car, had to keep the window open for the 50-mile drive home in February snow, and the hi-tech mirror blinked right into my face every time I needed to change lanes or turn left.
For insurance purposes only, not to remind myself how dumb I am.
Wounded in the line of duty.

 

And you thought dealing with health issues wasn’t any fun!

“You Just have to Laugh……………”

©2017 Cathy Sikorski

 

Sometimes You Just Need a Lion on Your Side…….

I called the hospital today. Well, more accurately, I called the hospital billing department. The billing department is no longer in the hospital. The hospital is in Pennsylvania, where I live, and where my loved ones go to the hospital when they have a problem, medically.

The billing department is in Tennessee, where nobody, who goes to my hospital, lives or goes to if they have a problem medically or otherwise. Okay, maybe that ‘s not true, maybe some people go to Tennessee if they have a problem with say, country music, and want to see if it’s them or the music.

By putting the ‘billing department’ in Tennessee, it prevents all of us in Pennsylvania from actually going to the billing department to talk about a problem. That way no one has to discuss these problems face-to-face. So much easier, said no one, ever.

I called Tennessee today, and although the gentlemen was very nice, the problem was apparently unsolvable.

“I want to know if this bill, which started out at $4500 and is now magically down to $500 has been paid? ” I queried, for the third time in three months.

“Well, ma’am let me see. Now before I answer that question, even though you’ve given me the account number, can you give me the address on the bill, the date of birth of the patient, the date of the bill, the services rendered, the patient’s blood type and the name of their cat?” he asked ever so politely.

Okay, he didn’t ask for the blood type or the cat, but why not? My question is, why in heaven’s name do you put an account number on the bill if it means absolutely nothing in terms of information? Do you make more money by keeping me on the phone? Are you tracing the call just to make sure I’m not in Tennessee, but that I stayed in Pennsylvania where I belong?

We do-si-do all around the information, until we’re both exhausted and wish we had taken more square-dancing lessons, and finally, he says:

“Please ignore that bill ma’am the insurance company has agreed to review it.”

“Okay, but I have an estate to settle, so can I assume that the bill will be no more than the $500 you currently are requesting?”

“No, you cannot.”

Here’s where I want to find a cat, maybe a tiger or a lion, and release it into the wilds of Tennessee with the scent of this insurance company on its nose like a barrel of catnip.

“Um……….why would that be?”

“Well, what if the insurance company decides to take back all the payments they already made? Then the bill would be more.”

“Why would they do that?” I asked, “Medicare paid this over a year ago and this has been your fault for not properly submitting the balance to the other Medigap insurance carrier.”

“Well,” he replied, “we don’t know what they will do.”

‘Cause you don’t know what you’re doing……that’s really what I wanted to say.

But since he told me to ignore the bill, I’m gonna’ do just that. Probably forever.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

 

You might be a Caregiver….Part One

Just as I was sitting down to bring you the next installment of caregiving comedy, my computer decided the last laugh would be on me. Done, died, dead. With no warning, no goodbyes, no fond farewells, just dead.

These two weeks provided lots of time to come up with all the joys that caregivers experience. So in a huge nod to Jeff Foxworthy, I bring you the first installment of:

“You might be a Caregiver……”

  1. If you know Medicare’s phone number and website without Googling….You might be a Caregiver….
  2. If your search for an Assisted Living Community for your Mom starts to look like a nice vacation spot for you and your spouse….You might be a Caregiver
  3. If you cancel your dentist appointment to attend Ice Cream Social Wednesday at your Dad’s nursing home, because you want the ice cream….You might be a Caregiver
  4. If you know your parents’ Medicare number, AARP number, United Healthcare number but not your own cell phone number…You might be a Caregiver
  5. If you feel the need to correct WebMD about all the missed additional symptoms of a urinary tract infection….You might be a Caregiver
  6. If your iPhone calendar has words on it like ‘catheters’, ‘hearing aid’, ‘urologist’, or ‘dentures’…..You might be a Caregiver
  7. If going to the Emergency Room is like Cheers where they know your first name and how you take your coffee…..You might be a Caregiver
  8. If you took the black Sharpie to your husband’s underwear to mark it for the wash instead of your Mom’s for the nursing home…..You might be a Caregiver
  9. If you’ve had more knock-down, drag-out fights with Insurance Companies, Hospitals and Doctor’s office than Muhammad Ali…..You might be a Caregiver
  10. If everyone around you thinks you are speaking in tongues because you are constantly saying, PT, OT, UTI, or DME….You might be a Caregiver

And this is only the beginning, my friends. After all, this is a new computer, so there’s lots of room for humor here now!

“You Just have to Laugh……”

©Cathy Sikorski 2016

Hello? Hello? Anybody there……?

For a few years, I have been telling my girlfriends  (yes we old people still call our friends who are girls, “girlfriends”), that we should consider bank robbery as a new career since no one is every looking at us or paying attention to us. Pretty sure that was Diane Keaton’s idea in the movie, Mad Money…and then realized it was because it was written by Callie Khouri of Thelma and Louise fame.

So yesterday, when I went to the hospital to find out the status of my brother-in-law, I was still taken aback by events clearly attached to my age, and my apparent Invisibility Cloak that  I forgot to remove.

Weirdly, I was very dressed up because I had just been interviewed on a television show

Killer Caregiver on the Loose and On TV!
Killer Caregiver on the Loose and On TV!

about my new book: Showering with Nana: Confessions of a Serial (killer) Caregiver. Sure why shouldn’t I give myself a shameless plug here in case you missed it!

So when I went to the nurse’s station asking for information, I was told he was being discharged in two hours.

Imagine my surprise, as no one had called me to discuss his medical condition, I had no idea why he was in the hospital let alone leaving the hospital. I was informed that his nurse would come to his room to discuss all that with me in a few moments, as she was busy with another patient.

Okay.

A young woman walked into his room in scrubs.

“Are you his nurse?” I asked, hopefully, as time was ticking by and his transport was coming and I still had no idea about his medical status.

“No,” she said a bit bewildered, “I’m a doctor. I’m here to look at his wound.”

“Well, you better hurry because he’s leaving in an hour and you can’t do it yourself as his wound is on his backside and someone would need to help you turn him over.” Translation: I’m not the one who is going to do that.

Never saw her again.

His nurse arrives and I ask, ” I understand he is going back to rehab in an hour, I just want to know what was determined about his medical condition. Are they changing any of his meds and what did they decide as to what happened to him?”

“Well, I don’t know that. You’re going to have to let me go get his discharge papers.”

“Okay?”

When she returned, she started reading his med list to me. And I would ask what is that for? How long will he take it, etc.

“Ugh, you will JUST HAVE TO LET ME READ THIS TO YOU.” It was like she was reading aloud and just discovered that someone was actually in the room with her.

Stopped her right there.

Very quietly and calmly I said to her: “You need to stop talking to me this way. Your attitude is hurting my feelings. I can’t “hear” you if you can’t stop being mean. ”

“I’m sorry if you feel that way, ” she countered.

“I do, and you need to get the attitude out of  your voice.”

AND THEN,  we were able to have a medical discussion about our joint patient.

Regardless of the adorable hot pink dress I was wearing, that clearly does NOT make me look young, hip and in-the-know like I had imagined, I was at least able to demand some respect, if I couldn’t get it by default.

Since when did ‘middle-aged woman (okay  maybe a bit OVER the middle part) equal stupid? Please see this article below, which is a much more erudite, clever and a possible workshop for those of us navigating these waters!

The insults of age

A one-woman assault on condescension

 

https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2015/may/1430402400/helen-garner/insults-age

 

One thing many of us seem to  have in common is that we know:

“You Just have to Laugh……” You can tell by our laugh lines!

© Cathy Sikorski 2015

Send in the Clowns…..Don’t Bother, They’re Here

I’m thinking about asking the wheelchair repair guy if he wants to do a comedy act together.

Before I left the country for 2 weeks, I called the wheelchair repair guy (let’s call him Mike, well, because that’s his name).

“Mike,” I said, “the wheel on my brother-in-law’s chair is torn to shreds. It makes the chair bump around like he’s driving the post-Apocalyptic pothole roads from the Winter of 2015. And he’s inside….on carpet. Please get it fixed ASAP.”

“Okay,” said Mike.

The problem here is, I believed him. I knew it would be fixed, eventually.  I just hoped that with a two week lead and a few well placed reminders by my assistant, it might be close to being done when I returned.

Mike obviously spent the time shopping for a big red nose.

When I noticed my brother-in-law bumping down the hallway on my return. I sighed that exasperated sigh that we all save for just such an occasion. My exasperated assistant let me know that she even contacted Mike with the very complicated schedule of when the chair was in use or my brother-in-law was resting in bed. This was due to the fact that Mike reminded her, no one can be in the wheelchair when it is being repaired. There was even a nice little 4 day period where BIL was in the hospital, so no one was using the chair. My assistant gave that little nugget to Mike as a bonus, if he wanted to send his guy over there at ANY time of the day or night.

I called 15, 16, 18, 19 and 21 days after my first call to find out why oh why, Magic Mike can you not get your sh*&%t together and get this chair repaired? Are you practicing your own comedy routine? Are you shaping up your abs for your next film role? What is so damn important that it takes 21 days to get someone out to fix this one little wheel?

“Hello, Cathy?”

“Hi, MIke, is the chair finally fixed? You said someone would do it on Monday or Tuesday and now it is Wednesday.”

Faster than Mike. Smarter too.
Faster than Mike. Smarter too.

“Oh, no, someone has to look at the chair first, determine what parts are needed, get insurance company approval, and then physician approval.”

We’ve gone from a comedy routine to a cartoon, as steam is now exploding out both my ears.

“So all those times you said you couldn’t come because he couldn’t be in the chair, was so that you could just look at it? Let me ask you something. Couldn’t someone just look at  the chair even if he is in it?”

“Well, I guess so. But you said he was in the hospital.” How this even makes sense, I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure “Who is on first.”

“Mike, we don’t let the chair go to the hospital with my brother-in-law. The chair has proven it doesn’t know how to behave itself in public places, so when he goes to the hospital we make the chair stay home, by itself. That’s why every time he goes to the hospital, we call you to let you know no one will be in the chair for days.”

“Oh. Well, we looked at it so it will get repaired when all the approvals come in.”

Twenty-one days to look at it. I wonder if I can start sexting pictures of the wheelchair in compromising positions when I need it repaired in the future, so that Mike can definitely say they looked at it?

“You Just have to Laugh………..”

© Cathy Sikorski 2015

 

Winner, winner, Jack Daniels for dinner? If only…………..

The beauty of sharing a sense of humor with the one you are caregiving for is beyond measure.

My brother-in-law has been in and out of rehab and the hospital for 8 months now. It has been a rocky road……and not sweet, like the ice cream. But he has turned a miraculous corner and although, still in rehab for a few more weeks, I have confidence that he will finally be returning home and will be relatively healthy for a good long time.

Since he has come so far, he is finally taking an interest in his daily life and activities that eluded him while desperately trying to get healthy. And he’s funny again. He is entertaining his healthcare workers, and any one else who walks in the door, which, of course, I love.

On my trek to see him yesterday, I took my Mom and husband as we were then going to have dinner with a friend who lives close by the rehab center. It takes us an hour to get there, so we decided to take advantage of being in our friend’s neck of the woods.

A half hour before we left, there appeared some calls and one message on my cell phone from the rehab center. The nurse stated that my BIL had a few lab work issues, but if I didn’t get back to her today, we could discuss it tomorrow. As I was on my way down there to see him, I thought: Okay, no big deal. I did return her call, but she was gone for the day.

When we arrived at his room, his bed was stripped and  his wheelchair was empty. That is always a panic button for any caregiver. Where the hell is my brother-in-law????? At the nurses’ station, the nurse tells me that they sent him to the ER because his hemaglobin was so low, he might need a transfusion.

“You couldn’t leave a message that he’s at the hospital, that I just passed on the way here, so I could stop there first?”

No answer.

Off we go to the ER and they usher us into his room. There he is joking with the nurses, and, feeling relieved that he seems okay, I say, “well, yet another hospital we get to check out. Whoopee!”

This is how I know he’s ever so much better overall: “Well at least, it’s  not a Friday night!” he says.

Classically, for the last 8 months, we have gone to the hospital without fail on a Friday night. I told him my husband was getting jealous of our date nights.

jack-daniels-551052_1280Then he turns to the nurse and asks, “can I have a Jack Daniels with that Percoset?”

Then he goes into a litany:

“So now I’m going to miss my dinner. I told them at rehab, “hey, what about dinner?”. Then I come here and I’m asking them, “where’s my dinner?” But no, no dinner. And you know they’re going to screw around, and no food or drink until they decide what to do with me. And then they are going to  tell me I’m fine, because I feel fine, but then what about my dinner?”

onion-rings-274123_1280See, all of this is a sure sign that all is well in brother-in-law land. If his focus is dinner, dinner, dinner…………….he’s in great shape. You caregivers know what i mean.

In the spirit of kind caregiving and true sympathy to his plight, I say:

“Well, okay, now that we see you’re okay, we’re going to take our friend out to dinner! See you  later!”

He bursts out laughing. Yay…………

“You Just have to Laugh………..”

© Cathy Sikorski

Good Luck with that Appeal…….

This  is a Medicare Card. Everyone’s Medicare Number is their Social Security Number.

Conversation with Medicare Appeal Board:

“Do you have the Social Security Number of the person who is appealing?”

“Sorry, I don’t.”

“That’s okay. Do you have their Medicare Number instead?”

I rest my case.

“You Just have to Laugh…..”

©2015 Cathy Sikorski

Techno and Testing………..

As I sit in the waiting room for my husband to have his colonoscopy, I am reminded of all the times I’ve been to various hospitals and doctors’ offices for tests of one kind or another as a caregiver.  Sometimes, I think we test like our patients are the next subjects in a high school science experiment.

When my mother-in-law was 86 years old, I took her to her cardiologist for a semi-annual check-up. By that time, she had a pacemaker and was required to have it tested in the office to make sure it was working properly. In the interim, they had sent her home with a machine that she was to use monthly to check the battery and operation of the pacemaker over the telephone. This was hilarious.

Marie had to take out this little box, put two wrist bands on herself, call a phone number, place the phone in an electronic phone cradle at just the right moment,  while holding some gizmo over the pacemaker on her chest, and wait for the buzz to tell her all was well. It sounds simple. But the set-up, the conversation with the technician and the ultimate getting the phone in the cradle at just the right time was a comedy of errors. Phone check-ups had to be by appointment only. I tried to get there on the exact date every month to help her, but some dates were just not possible for me. So after training my mother-in-law, this darling 86 year-old woman who lived alone and had not the slightest relationship with technology, did the best she could. I prayed she could do it, or in the alternative prayed that the pacemaker just worked until the next month.

At this bi-annual visit with her cardiologist, the good news was, her pacemaker was working just fine. Dr. Smarty Pants, however, had no trouble telling us that every month they weren’t getting the best reading, and we would need to do better. You know what I wanted to retort. But instead, I  said, “Okay.”

Marie took it personally and tried to explain how hard she worked to get it right, but by that time we were dismissed on that topic to discuss further things.

Dr. Smarty Pants was concerned that Marie’s chest X-ray showed a slight spot on her lungs. The X-ray had been taken as a standard procedure due to her heart condition and pacemaker. This spot, however seemed new and the doctor was concerned.

“It could be nothing, or it could be a sign of further pathology,” he said to us.

“Well,” I said, “exactly what would you like to do?”

“I think we should do some more tests,” he declared. “I would like to do a CAT scan, or perhaps even an MRI, and then based on those results, we may have to do a biopsy of the lung area to see what we are dealing with. And then, based on that information, well, actually, as soon as we have the results of the CAT Scan or MRI, I would probably send you to a lung specialist as this is not a cardiology issue in any event.”

“So let me get this straight. As her cardiologist, you want to send this 86 year-old woman for a CAT Scan, and MRI, a possible lung biopsy and then off to another specialist, as this isn’t really your bailiwick anyway? Do I understand that correctly?”

“Yes.”

Now my mother-in-law is just sitting there in her paper gown, probably freezing, as it is cold in there and I haven’t even taken my coat off, watching this banter .

“Let me ask you this doctor,” I said pretending I was just seeking information, but wanting to put my hands around his throat while he strangled out an answer if he were lucky enough to survive.

“Tell me a bit more about this spot on the X-ray. Is it big, is it new, what do you suspect it could be?”

“Well, it’s tiny, and we haven’t seen it before. Honestly. Sometimes it could just be a spot or speck of dust on the machine and not pathological at all. But we don’t know that for sure.”

“Okay,” I say incredulous but still pretending to be seeking only information and not the death penalty….for him…..”Let’s just say you find the worst case scenario after all those tests, the biopsies and whatever else you do….then what? My mother-in-law is 86 years old. She has a really nice quality of life. She has heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure. What exactly would you do or suggest under those circumstances?”

“Well, truthfully, I probably would just make her comfortable, she’s not really a candidate for surgery or even intensive therapies.”

“Um…hmm.. that’s what I was thinking, Doctor.” Of course, what I was really thinking was: “You’re an idiot.”

“Based on that, Doctor, I think she’s already pretty comfortable so we will pass on further testing and let nature take its course.”

My mother-in-law lived 11 more years, with nary a cough.

“You just have to Laugh…….”

©Cathy Sikorski 2015

“You really don’t have to be young to find a friend in a teddy bear.” -Rachel Newman

I have become sort of immune to authority figures in the world of medicine and insurance. My friends would tell you my immunity started long before caregiving. My older brother, Chip would say I made my self the authority figure right around 5th grade when I would tell my Mom what Chip wanted for lunch. My baby brother Bill would say, “Cathy doesn’t have any problems with authority, as long as she is the authority.”

Okay, fine.

I’m bossy and pushy when I need to be.

But sometimes I am surprised by the far-reaching influence of my bossiness.

I was grilling the nurse in the hospital about the details of my brother-in-law’s discharge. What day were they thinking? What kind of meds would he need when they sent him home? Did they know I had a 24 hour notice rule, so that I could set up his at-home caregivers? Would they call the insurance company to confirm the need for ambulance transport since my brother-in-law was non-ambulatory?  Would the case manager call me so that I could give her the time of day that transport would work best for the caregivers as well as his meal time at his facility?

My brother-in-law was so used to this diatribe, that every once in a while he would chime in with a: “Yeah, when can I get out of here!” emphatic remark. He liked looking bossy, too.

His hospital roommate, a kind and gentle Teddy Bear of man, whose family had quietly visited with him just a few hours earlier and had now left, was patiently listening to all of this. We had exchanged greetings earlier. He was very soft spoken. Even his young grandchildren were very quiet and respectful. He didn’t have his television blaring, like my brother-in-law usually does.  He didn’t pull his curtain shut or ask for privacy. He didn’t call his own nurse for any assistance during this time. But he was clearly awake, aware and watching all this broo-ha-ha.  He seemed to be taking it in with great interest, but just stayed calm and quiet.

After I had hashed out all the details that I needed to make the exit from the hospital as smooth as possible for my brother-in-law, I noticed that his roommate called the nurse over to the side of his bed. She very graciously went over and asked if she could help. Before he could say another word, she cautioned him that she was not his nurse, but if she could help she would.

He looked at us, and then looked up at her with pleading eyes and said ever so softly: “I, too, was wondering when I could get out of here and go home.” Then he looked at me, and I swear there was a twinkle in his eye  that was a dash of courage, but still a Teddy Bear, asking for his own reprieve. I’m pretty sure he winked back when I gave him the thumbs up!

“You just have to Laugh…………”

©2015 Cathy Sikorski

 

What makes the Hottentot so hot? Courage….the Cowardly Lion.

So I have to prepare a story about courage for a story slam. This may or may not be it.

I think my Mom is one of the most courageous people I know.  She had 5 kids all under the age of 10, and was pregnant with her 6th when my Army helicopter Dad died in a crash. Along with my Nana, she raised six pretty terrific kids (I can say that, I’m the middle child).The problem arises when she mixes her courage with a bit of the crazy.

As you may know, she is a big help to me in my caregiving duties. She is a nurse and was

This pic never gets old!
This pic never gets old!

often  called upon to help me with nonagenarians. She is in charge of all the meds for my brother-in-law. So this lady has got it together.

She gives great advice, except to herself. A few years ago, my mom and my brother Chip, decided to take a trip to Canada. My Mom has had a cabin there since 1972. It’s very rustic. The cabin is nestled next to a little lake. Years ago, my Mom and stepfather, and any other rustic thinking person, would go there all summer long for fishing, wildlife, nature, no electricity, no running water.  The kind of place I would not set foot in.

For the past 5 years or so, my Mom goes only occasionally. She still manages to find people who actually want to go there, but the boat dock is rotted, the trail to the lake is overgrown with weeds, she no longer has a garden the size of the Louvre, and so it’s just a short trip for a few days with those escaping technology or their spouses.

This time Mom and Chip went to check out the new floor that my brothers and brother-in-law had installed. They drove 8 hours from home. They were there approximately 45 minutes, when my Mom tripped on the lip created by the new floor and promptly broke her arm. See, she knew she broke it because she’s a nurse. That and the crack that sounded the minute she hit the floor.

My mother insisted that my brother get back in the car and drive her home 8 hours with that throbbing arm and nasty seat belt, so that she could go to a hospital near home. Now as the one who was probably going to be her temporary caregiver, that was great for me. As someone who tests the limits of courage and common sense. this 83 year old grandmother should have had some sense knocked into her before she hit the floor.

Courage or Crazy…………you be the judge. In any case………..

By the way…that picture IS  the  actual cabin. I made my Mom email it to me….THAT is the next story!

“You just have to Laugh………..”

Cathy Sikorski ©2014