Stress Test


If you have been reading any of my blog posts recently, you'll know that my family has been under a LOT of stress.  As I write this my father SHOULD have been undergoing a procedure that would have helped relieve some of his pain.  He is not  because the cardiologist denied it.  SUPPOSEDLY it was because he said he would not take a stress test.  This isn't necessarily true.  My parents said they were never told/asked this, but I wasn't there so I can't definitively say.  Did the doctor NOT say this?  Did they mishear something?  We will never know.  What I DO know is that I can make sure that this never happens again.

To that end, today my father is having a nuclear stress test to show that his heart IS strong enough to take the moderate risk procedure.  After all that my parents have been through, I was NOT going to let them go through this alone again.  I had planned to take the day off anyway to assist them before, during and after the procedure. So instead of sitting in the waiting area of the spine doctor's office I am sitting in the waiting room of the cardiologist’s office (one of their 4 different locations).

My day started off typically…  I dropped my son off at school around but instead of heading home to work, I headed south to my parents.  I stopped 30 minutes away from their house to do their weekly grocery shopping.  They have a helper that usually does this for them, but since he was supposed to be having surgery today, they cancelled it.  However,  they still need supplies, so I hit the ShopRite in Wall at 9 this morning and 20 or so minutes and over $100 later, I was back on my way to their house.

I got to their house, unloaded the groceries, brought in their newspaper, did some errands (like getting stamps at the post office for them...a nice walk in the morning which might be the highlight of my day).  Then around 10:30 I finally got my daily dose of caffeine courtesy of Wawa (free coffee of any size on Tuesday; you've got to love it...thank you Wawa!) and some breakfast.  Then before I knew it, it was time to load dad into the car and head over to the far end of Brick township to get him to the stress test.

Getting my father out of the house and into the car is quite a production.  He is in a tremendous amount of pain whenever he moves (he is good when he is sitting) and has neuropathy in his feet.  He slowly walks with a walker; every step forward is difficult.  Getting him out of the house, down the two steps and over to the car is a timely  (and for him painful) process.  Then he must position himself just so that, with help, he can lower himself into the passenger seat.  I can then pick up his legs and put them in the car.  I take the walker, fold it and put it in the back of his SUV before starting the drive.

The drive is easy enough,  but getting him into the office is a challenge.  The office has a wheelchair which I went in and requested.   A nurse went to find the chair (which it turns out has no footrest as it should, which is another problem) and had another nurse/assistant come out and help me.  (There was no way I could have done this on my own...and I can't imagine my mother trying to do this!)  The two nurses managed to get him out of the car and into the chair, but his feet were not elevated as they should have been on a rest.  As a result, one of the nurses held his feet up as they brought him in.

Somehow as they were doing this my dad scraped his arm.  Like many seniors,  he is on blood thinners and bruises/bleeds easily.  The nurse only noticed this because she ended up with blood on her sweatshirt.  So they have to get a band aid for him; which they don't.  They put gauze and tape on it which of course does not stick, but...

Once inside, we were given paperwork to fill out.  Actually, my dad signed and I filled out.  While you are in a stressful situation (and a stress test IS stressful), it is no time to ask someone to fill out mounds of  paperwork.  I'm wondering why they were asking all these questions because my father has been a patient for quite some time.  Shouldn't they already have this information?  To be honest I didn't fill everything out...they have his records, they SHOULD know.  Am I crazy or should they make this process easier?

While all this was  going on, the technician who is doing the test, David came out.  I step up my advocate mode and ask him what kind of results we want (negative) and how soon the results will be ready (tomorrow).  I also asked how long it would be before the results can be gotten over to his spine doctor, pointing out the whole point of this test is so that he can get a procedure which will make him more mobile and in less pain.  David did not have an answer for me.

However, the administrator behind the counter (Pam) came out and said she had heard what we had been saying.  She took a note (I saw the sticky) and will fax the results to the appropriate doctor.  She said to give it three days to get to the doctor.  (Why does it take three days?  You get the results; you fax, shouldn't that be it?)  So now I have a timeline and a name.  If the results are read tomorrow (Wednesday), then the results (which should be negative) should get to the spine doctor by Friday.  I've already got this slotted in my calendar. 

Here’s my takeaway as I sit here and wait , I need to be my parents' advocate.  With all of the crazy medical issues and procedures, there is too much for them to handle. (It’s too much for ANYONE to handle)  They need someone who can listen, take notes and be there for them.  Someone who can ask questions, someone who can be polite but firm.  Someone who can make sure that they are getting the care they need; because you HAVE to WORK for that care, it just doesn't happen.  (Sad, but true.)  I don't say this because they are older adults;  I say this because they are too emotionally invested in all this.  (As anyone would/should be.)  While I am too, I am a bit more removed from everything.  I can take a step back and ask the questions that they might not think of asking.  I can be polite but demanding.   My mantra for today comes (supposedly) from the late, great Joan Crawford:  "Don't F*** with ME fellas!"  I am polite, but don't push me the wrong way because I will go into full  Joan mode...and you don't want that.

My overall take away from this you cannot do this alone.  If you are undergoing a medical procedure, have someone be your advocate.  A spouse or partner might be ok, but it also might be better to find someone who is a little more removed from the situation who can step back and be more objective.  Someone who can take notes.  Someone who can ask questions.  Someone who can be kind, but forceful when necessary.

It has become clear to me today that I MUST be my parent's advocate.  When it comes to routine care, they are fine on their own.  But when it comes to bigger procedures; they need help.  There will probably be a time when I will need help.  If I needed it now; my husband would be my advocate.  He's good in stressful situations.  When we are older; well, I'll be warning my son of what he has to look forward to.

Be an advocate for those you care for/about.  And know that someday you WILL need your own advocate.  Don't fight it; don't ignore it.  Accept it.  Embrace it if you can.  Because until our healthcare system is fixed (in that organizations give complete care to their patients), we need to be advocates and we need to accept them as well. 


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