Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving

Thanks to everyone who left comments on my post yesterday about my father, or who sent e-mail. Your prayers and good wishes helped me through a tough day.

I never did get back to sleep yesterday. I swam for half an hour, had two meetings at school, dashed back home to find a phone message from my sister that Dad had been admitted to the MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit), called and spoke to her very briefly, and then dashed back out again to meet a friend for the new James Bond movie. (We didn't like it; too many senseless, physically impossible action sequences that added nothing to the story.)

When we got home from the movie, I finally had time to call the hospital to get more information. I called the MICU, where a nice nurse told me that Dad's vital signs were stable and that he was cracking jokes. (That's my Dad!) But no, he didn't have access to a phone, so she was going to transfer me to his doctor.

I spoke to the doctor, who told me that Dad was "doing fine" but that no, he couldn't be more specific about the admission diagnosis, because of patient privacy rules. I'm entirely too familiar with HIPAA, but I was really tired at that point, and I'm afraid I fell entirely into daughter-brain and lost it for a minute. "I'm his daughter! What do I have to do, send you a blood sample?"

"Your father can give you information, if he wants to, when you talk to him," the doctor said patiently.

"But I can't talk to him. He doesn't have a phone!"

"Call the nursing station again."

"I just talked to them!" But of course, HIPAA isn't the doctor's fault. I apologized for snapping at him, and he said it wasn't a problem and that he understood, and I wished him Happy Thanksgiving, and he returned the sentiment.

And then I called the nursing station again. "No, I'm sorry, your father doesn't have a phone. You have to talk to his doctor."

"I just spoke to the doctor! He can't tell me anything because of HIPAA! This is so frustrating!" I'm sure my voice was a jet-engine whine.

"Okay, okay," the nurse said. "Okay, honey. Let me put you on hold. I'll see what I can do."

Well, they pushed Dad's bed closer to the door of his room so that a hall phone would stretch to reach him, which meant that -- mirabile dictu -- the next voice I heard was his.

And he sounded good, or at least better than he had that morning. He was glad to be in the hospital. He was in MICU for physical problems, but he's also been very lonely, so he was thrilled that the nurses were laughing at all his jokes. He told me proudly how every time he told a new joke, the nurse who'd heard it would pull all the others into the room so they could hear it, too.

"Trust me," I said, "they don't get many patients cracking jokes in MICU."

My father's also made a major decision about his own care; I can't talk specifically about that here (HIPAA, HIPAA!), but it's a big deal in terms of his personal history and our family history. It's something he's probably needed for a long time, but hasn't done before. He's skeptical about whether it will work, but at least he's trying it. I was really proud of him, and I told him that.

Over dinner, Gary and I talked about how in an odd way, it was actually comforting that he was in MICU: it meant that I hadn't been over-reacting in making all those phone calls to get him to the hospital, and that my sister and I wouldn't have to worry about his condition, because highly trained professionals were worrying about it for us.

Later in the evening, I got e-mail from my sister, who's also very relieved that he's in the hospital, and who specifically thanked me for making all the phone calls. That meant a lot to me.

So when I woke up today -- after much better sleep than I'd had the previous night! -- the main thing I was thankful for was that my father's in the intensive care unit. Pretty bizarre, right? Context is everything.

I'm grateful to my brother-in-law for driving him to the hospital. I'm grateful to the ER staff; Dad said he hardly had to wait at all, and I'd like to think that my conversation with the triage nurse had something to do with that, although I'll never know. I'm grateful to whomever decided to admit him. I'm grateful to the MICU nurses who've been laughing at his jokes and moving his bed so he can talk to me on the phone. I'm grateful to the other medical professionals who've been spending time with him. I'm grateful that at the age of 84, my father's willing to try something new. I'm grateful to Gary, and to friends at work, and to friends on the blog, who've listened to me venting about all this.

(And on the HIPAA front, I e-mailed my sister a letter for Dad to sign, giving the hospital staff permission to discuss his medical condition with us. When my mother was being treated for lung cancer, her doctor was willing to talk to me without written permission, but I can understand why doctors are more cautious these days.)

Thank you, everyone. May you have a blessed, joyous, and healthy Thanksgiving.

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful, Susan! I'm so glad your dad is safe.

    You have talked a lot in earlier posts about good people in the medical services. Those nurses were great finding a way for you two to talk on the phone! What a nice Thanksgiving gift!

    Peace!

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  2. Prooferdeacon5:51 PM

    Susan, I'm so glad your Dad is getting good care and you were able to talk to him directly. I'm also glad he's made the decision in favor of whatever that is he needs. I'll keep him and you all in my prayers.
    Peace and Happy Thanksgiving.

    And BTW, I'm reading The Necessary Beggar and really enjoying it. Maybe in your time of stress someone will bring you Rocky Road ice cream.

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  3. Thanks, Lee and Katherine!

    Katherine, I'm so glad you're enjoying TNB! Unfortunately, though, dairy products give me instant colds/sinus infections, so Rocky Road ice cream is right out. SOY ice cream, on the other hand, works fine!

    So does chocolate.

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  4. Susan, I'm very happy for you and your family. This will definitely be a Thanksgiving to remember, and I'm so glad it's turned out to be a good one. It's clear to me that your efforts made a huge difference. Be proud of yourself.

    Of course I am praying for a good outcome. Please let me know how it goes.

    Love,

    Claire

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  5. Anonymous8:08 AM

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for your message the other day and also for your Thanksgiving update. I thought of you and your father several times yesterday, wondering each time how you were doing, and I'm glad to hear you're both in good hands and also both in good spirits.

    The weather here in Rochester is stunningly beautiful, and the sun is shining full force. I hope real sunlight comes through for you as well.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

    Jean

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  6. It sounds like your father is getting the best care possible. I'm praying for all of you during this whole thing!

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  7. Claire and Jean and Nickie: Thank you!

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  8. I'm very glad to hear the good news about your Dad. (Missed the original post in the holiday gadding about). You and he will be in my prayers.

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  9. Thanks, John! Always good to hear from you!

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