Ins and Outs, Part 1
Posted on April 26, 2012
I have two mental lists of “Things that indicate that I’m old”—even though I’m not. Old.
List #1-Visible Signs:
- Chin hairs. Need I say more?
- Wrinkles. I don’t have many, though—because I am plump.
- The way I get up out of a chair after sitting for a while. I tend to walk like Fred Sanford for the first few steps.
I’m sure there are more items that might be added to that list, but I don’t pay much attention to those external things. Oh, wait… I have to admit I’m death on chin hairs. Chin hairs are out with just about everybody I know.
It’s this item on List #2-The Way People Treat Me that widens my path to so much indignation:
Now, all us good Southern girls call each other—and people we don’t know—Honey. Honey is a versatile salutation. Rarely do I hear the word used in any offensively condescending way, but when I do, I can usually overlook the idiocy of the sexist sales clerk or forgive the sweet Yankee girl who just wants to fit in.
But, now, there’s that “Sweetie” thing. I just never hear that word used in a nice way—ever. It makes my eyes squint and my short neckline itch. It’s, at the least, patronizing, and, at the worst, condescending.
So, everybody listen up: “Honey” is in, “Sweetie” is out.
Mom and I got a few lessons on Ins and Outs in the last couple of days.
Several weeks ago, after a routine ultra-sound, Mom’s cardiologist, Dr. Scoville, ordered an angiogram on her carotid arteries. An angiogram is an X-ray of dye injected into the blood vessels. We presented for this outpatient test twice and, each time, Mom was sent home because her creatinine levels were high, an indication of poor kidney function.
Upon each rejection, we received apologies and the explanation that “we have to make sure her kidneys can get rid of the dye”. We understood, after that second rejection, when Dr. Scoville said she needed to see a nephrologist. Scoville has been in for a long time; in fact, he’s the most in of any of Mom and Dad’s doctors. Scoville is the reason they choose St. Thomas Hospital over several others in Nashville.
One day, we traipsed into Nephrology Associates to see what Dr. Vito Rocco might suggest. Dr. Rocco never once called Mom “Sweetie”. I think the phlebotomist might have, but whatever she said was overpowered by Dr. Rocco. He talked to Mom as if he were talking to a non-physician peer. It doesn’t hurt that he sat down and crossed his legs as if he had all the time in the world, and that, according to my 81-year-old mother, “man-oh-man, is he ever easy to look at”.
After careful investigation and deliberation, Dr. Rocco’s recommendation was to admit her to the hospital one day about 10 o’clock, hydrate her intravenously for the rest of the day and night, and do the angiogram the next morning. Dr. Scoville’s office ordered the admission and his nurse gave us instructions. “All you have to do is walk in on Monday and get admitted. They’ll start a drip, they’ll do the test Tuesday morning, and then you can go home.”
We left for the hospital at 9:15. Mom was waiting in the driveway, dressed in a navy blue pants suit with pink embroidery trim, her hair arranged and her makeup applied well. Her jewelry was subdued–for Mom. She wore pink rhinestone earrings and a silver-tone watch. She carried a few items in a zippered tan nylon tote.
Getting in was not quite as simple as Dr. Scoville’s nurse had projected. Mom got a number immediately, and she was called to speak with the admissions clerk right away, but then we waited for someone to come with a wheelchair to take her to her room. And we waited…
I went to the desk once to ask if things were progressing and a second time to ask if there was a chance of falling through cracks.
“No,” the handsome guy at the desk said (both times), “They’re cleaning a room for her.”
Mom went to see the handsome guy, too, and he told her of this intensive cleaning project.
“That room must be some kind of mess,” she told him and sat back down.
We were getting tired—and hungry, and somebody (we didn’t know who) was on their way to being out with my mother. After she sat down that time, she joked, “Go up there and tell him we’ll go up there and clean that room for them if they’ll buy us some lunch.”
“You know, I do think I’ll ask him if we can go downstairs to lunch,” I said. “It would at least pass some time. This is ridiculous.”
“No,” he said, “I’m just afraid they might come to get her and you wouldn’t be here. But you could get lunch right around the corner at one of the sandwich bars and bring it back here to eat.”
“I don’t want Subway,” Mom said.
“I don’t, either, but let me go over there and see if I can find a little snack to tide us over.”
I brought her Captains’ Wafers with Honey-Peanut Butter and a bottle of apple juice.
“Oh, this is good,” she said. “I think these are the best crackers I’ve ever had. I’ll have to remember this. The honey is just the right touch on that peanut butter.”
More talking and snack finished, Mom raised up from Dolly the Rollator’s seat and just as the handsome guy hurried around us, back to his desk. Now he was wearing the jacket to his suit-pants.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Going to talk to him,” she said, nodding toward desk. I knew better than to try to stop her.
“Hello,” she said just as he approached his chair. She was not too quiet but she had such sweetness in her voice. “I’m not going to wait any longer. It’s time…”
He never really got sat down. He jumped up from his almost-made-it position.
“Oh, no,” he said. “They haven’t come after you yet…Oh no. I am so sorry. I thought you were gone. Okay, I’m going to take you myself, that’s what I’m going to do. Wait right here. I’ll get a wheelchair.”
Mom turned her head and smiled at me, triumph in her eyes. I grabbed our bags.
“Here, you’ll have to take Dolly,” she said, assuming her queenly reign in the throne of a wheel chair.
“I’m just so sorry,” he said as he opened the footrests. “We went to lunch, and we’ve got contract people doing this job now and …”
“You mean the transporting?” I asked.
“Yes. We just never know.” He paused. “Y’all, wait right here. I have to get you a gift.”
He trotted in and out of his office and handed me four little cards. “These are meal tickets for the food court,” he said. “They pay for everything. Y’all please enjoy.”
He wheeled Mom through the large room of benches, chairs, and short couches. The name on the sign now says Reception Area. The old name seems more appropriate—Waiting Area.
“We did you wrong, Sweet Pea,” he said to Mom.
“Sweet Pea,” she said. “I know you didn’t know that my nickname when I was a kid was Sweet Pea.”
“Really? Like a sweet-smelling flower,” he said with a big grin.
“Well, actually, I wasn’t named after the flower. This little neighbor boy said I frowned just like Sweet Pea in the comics.”
“Nooooooo,” he answered. “I can’t believe that. You’ve been pretty patient with us.”
The handsome guy handed us off to an arriving transport person at the elevator. She needed him to help solve a problem back at the admissions desk.
“Bless you, Sweet Pea,” he said just before he hurried back across the Reception Area.
We both called after him, “Thank you so much”—and we meant it.
We were IN. Mom sat on the side of the bed. “Well, I would change my clothes,” she said, “but I don’t see a gown. I’m ready to eat.”
“Okay. Maybe I’ll just go on down to the food court and get us some lunch with our freebie tickets. I’m not sure what it’s going to be. That hot lunch line is different every day.”
“I don’t care what it is. I’m hungry,” she said. “And I need to take that Flagyl. I brought it with me.” She had about four days left of two antibiotics for last week’s case of diverticulitis.
“I wondered what they would do about that,” I said. “I know they’ll give you all your regular meds, but it seems silly for Medicare to pay for more Flagyl and Cipro here when you have just enough. We need to ask them about that.”
“There’s a wet spot on this bed,” she said.
“Now where did that come from?” I asked.
Two nurses appeared with a gown; the first introduced herself and her shadow. Number 1 was the nurse and Number 2 was in training. We got acquainted. They were both the same age, 25. Nurse graduated from Tennessee Tech in Cookeville; Trainee got her nursing degree from Belmont and a Master’s in Public Health Administration from Vanderbilt. We liked both of them.
“We’re glad to see you,” Mom said. “It took us two-and-a-half hours to get in.”
“What in the world?” Nurse said. “Were they just backed up? This room has been ready since 11:30.”
“There’s a wet spot on the bed,” I said.
“Now, where did that come from? Would you get a change?” Nurse asked Trainee.
“We’re going to start your IV, Sweetie,” she said, “and then Somebody will be in to do your admissions paperwork.”
The two changed the draw sheet and pad on the bed and then discussed veins. Mom told them they usually had to do the left arm. She has bad veins. They considered the hand but decided that Trainee would work the IV into a tiny little vein in the crook of Mom’s left arm. Nurse told her she did not need to squat on the floor, and that she needed a better angle. Trainee said she could do it better in the lower position, but she rose a bit and corrected her angle. Mom winced and I worried while she wiggled the needle. After a few minutes, and several unsuccessful tries at re-positioning the needle so that it moved blood into the line, Nurse took over. I held Mom’s hand and tried to distract her.
“Oh, Sweetie, I am so sorry,” she told Mom as she probed. “Did you bring your medication list?”
I answered. “No, I didn’t realize you’d need it. I was thinking that this was just an observation admission. Dr. Scoville’s nurse sort of said just walk in.”
“Well, actually, it’s an admission to hydrate her so that she can have the dye tomorrow. We want to make sure her kidneys can handle it. That’s why they have her here. The dye is hard on the kidneys.”
“Yes, we know why she’s here,” I said.
Mom added, “I’ve had this test done several times. I know all about it.”
“I can do a medication list for you,” I said.
“Yeah, we need that,” Nurse answered.
She stood up and claimed a victory. “It’s in,” she said, and then added, “But it’s not in the way we’d like to see it. I’m not sure it’s going to stay in. I think you’re going to have to hold this arm pretty still, Sweetie.”
“I can do that,” Mom said.
“Can you eat with one hand?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah. Just watch me. I need some water,” she said to Nurse. It was the second time she asked for water.
“Can I also beg you out of something to drink?” I asked. “Anything diet would be fine.”
“Okay,” I said to Mom as they left the room vowing to bring water and two Sprite Zeroes, “I’ll go get lunch.”
“Oh, boy,” she answered.
Just as I returned with baked chicken, sweet potatoes, squash with broccoli and peppers, and apricot cake with citrus glaze, the admissions nurse arrived, pushing her laptop on a rolling stand that also afforded a seat. We liked her. Somehow, we all got started on her show dog, a Rhodesian Ridge-back. I wrote the name in my notebook. She showed us a picture on her phone. We re-constructed the medication list from what was in Mom’s record. I asked if she should take the Flagyl and Cipro she brought in.
“I can’t answer that,” she said. “That’s their job. I don’t step on their job. They’ll let you know.”
“I didn’t get you anything to drink,” I said, and as I was opening and arranging the food boxes, Nurse and Trainee arrived with the drinks. They breezed right out.
“Here, Mom. Take this Flagyl. I forgot to talk to them about it.”
We loved our lunch. Mom ate the whole thing with her one free hand (fortunately, the right); she didn’t spill a morsel.
“Let’s take a nap,” she said after I cleaned up. “I think I could nap.”
“So could I,” I said. “And I put your Flagyl and Cipro in the pocket of your bag.”
I packed my bag to leave for home around 4:00. I promised her I’d stop by Ross to see if they still had a pair of sandals she tried on but didn’t buy on Saturday. I called Dave just before I pulled out of the parking lot to tell him I was on my way with one stop.
Mom called about 7:00. “Bring my medicine tomorrow. They told me I need to take my own or they’ll have to order it and I’ll have to pay for it myself and you know how outlandish that would be.”
“Really. That’s interesting. Then this really must be what they call an ‘observation’ admission.”
“Who knows,” she said. “And they also told me it’s not a sure thing I’ll even have the test. They said they’ll do blood work first to see if the IV’s work.”
“So you don’t know when they’ll do the angiogram.”
“Nope. I guess I’ll know tomorrow. If they do it. Did you see your father tonight?”
“Yep. He’s fine. Tired. He was down in the ravine today, clearing vines and chopping brush. He got my chair.”
“The one the wind blew down in the ravine?”
“Yeah. I don’t know how he got it but he brought it up and tied it down.”
She laughed. I told her I hoped she could sleep okay. She said she’d call as soon as she knew something about the test.
“Goodnight, Sweetie,” she said.
I didn’t mind. She’s still in with me.
Tune in for Part 2.