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?”
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