Thursday, April 5, 2012
THE SHOE SWITCH AKA CAREGIVING
Today's Wego Health Writer's Challenge post is making is in just under the wire. With good cause. Since Monday evening, the shoe has been on the other foot. Some of you already know my son had surgery on Tuesday.
In a complete violation of HIPAA rules and regulations, I am choosing to share. Exactly eighteen months ago, almost to the day, the shoe was on my foot. I had surgery scheduled on October 1. He came here to spend the night before. He was in charge. He was the driver, mom was shotgun. Technically, in the car, I was shotgun but I think you know what I mean. He would provide all necessary of updates to concerned family members. Mass email notifications all pre-set. He stepped up and stepped in as my caregiver for the hospital portion of the program. Mom took over when I was discharged. He was awesome. I stayed drugged. I had the easy role. Despite the pain. Definitely, the easy role.
Monday evening, my son was here again. The night before surgery. Clear liquid day as instructed for many laproscopic operations. On Monday night, his shoe was on my foot. I was in unchartered waters. For the past six years, it's been all about me. I was the one who was checking in at the surgical reception area. I was the one whose name was called to change out of my street clothes. I was the one who emerged, in surgical scrubs, wristband securely fastened.
On Tuesday, I was waiting for the hand off. The plastic bag containing his belongings that I would hold until he was assigned to a room. I'm sure this process was no more than ten minutes. It felt like three hours. I don't like the shoe on the other foot. I was a nervous wreck despite the fact that the surgery was a "no big deal" thing. It was still anesthesia and his body would be invaded by surgical instruments. The hospital was very busy. The surgeon was delayed. We arrived at 11AM for a 12:30 date in the OR. At 5PM, they wheeled him out of the "holding area" to The Doors. I stood on one side after kissing him one last time.... at the suggestion of the anesthesiologist.... "Mom, one quick hug til you see him in PACU?" The anesthesiologist definitely has kids.
I listened to him spell his name a dozen times. "Date of birth, please?" and then, "What are you having done today?" I listened to no less than five nurses describe what was going to happen once he was brought into the operating room. While his surgery was not at the same hospital where I've been a frequent flier, coincidentally, I DID have surgery at "my son's hospital" to have a neuroma removed from my foot. My surgery was scheduled well in advance of my annual mammography and the shit hit the fan the day before my surgery. Literally. My girlfriend took me from my foot surgery, to the radiologist to pick up the images and then, to Sloan Kettering to have the films reviewed by their radiologist. The point? I was familiar with the procedures in this hospital. Their protocol is a bit different and I'm glad I REMEMBERED. I'm sure I would have been questioning EVERY single thing with a critical eye.
I headed straight to the office to arrange for a night aide. His surgery was too late and I didn't want him to wait if he needed help getting up or if he was in pain, I didn't want him to wait (duh, morphine pump). The night shift nurses are almost always working short staffed. The woman in the office looked at his records and gave me his room number. Told me it was not necessary to get an aide. His private room was right outside an auxiliary nursing station that was staffed with two RN's. He lucked out with the room assignment. I jumped on the invitation to go see for myself. She was right. He would be fine.
Ultimately, I hit the lobby to wait.... for an eternity..... for the surgeon to call me and give me the all clear. I don't like the shoe on the other foot. Even though an eternity was actually about an hour because of the time I killed moving my car from the lot where we checked in to the lot where I would be exiting later that night. I killed time chatting with the pleasant woman who insisted I didn't need an aide. I went up to his room. I contacted his dad. (Aside from a couple of people in his office, he didn't want to tell anyone about this "no big deal" surgery) I meandered the unfamiliar halls. THEN, I settled myself in and staked out my very own lot of lobby real estate.
Thankfully, a patient from the psych ward was trying to make a quick get away. His appearance (think Doc in Back to the Future) and his wristband were a bit of a give away. He was waiting for the security guard at the desk to call him a cab. Then, he remembered! "My car is here. It's parked in that lot over there." Ultimately, the security guard and Doc walked past me to return to the fourth floor. Doc knew they would be calling a cab from the desk on the fourth floor after he showed them..."I'm not crazy. I know they think I am.... ahhh. Who am I kidding, I have mental problems." It was surreal. The lobby is small and given the fact it was almost 6PM, is was quiet. This episode was at least half an hour. Finally, the phone. "He's great, went off without a hitch, they are waking him up now, you can see him in recovery in an hour."
I hit the PACU almost 90 minutes later. Immediately, I turned into empowered patient advocate. They were dragging their feet about releasing him from PACU. "We have to wait for a room assignment." I informed them, his room was assigned. This is the kind of shit that pisses me off. But, I was pleasant. Then, there was some discussion about the length of time he had to remain in their care before being brought up. I glanced at my watch and announced that he was already out of surgery for well over two hours. Within moments, we were on our way to his room. He was in PACU during the shift change and these delays were more about everyone being brought up to speed than what was in the best interest of the patient. Who happened to be MY son. And did I mention I don't like that shoe on the other foot?
The night nurses stationed right outside his door were young, warm and caring. And not overwhelmed. I left him knowing he was in good hands. When I arrived the following morning to bring him home, there was a bit of a medical snafu and they were hesitant about discharging him. And again, three different people dispensing all sorts of information. And again, I stepped in. Ultimately, he did have to stay another night and the shoe is getting terribly uncomfortable.
What began Monday evening as the pre-surgical phase of the caregiving has now turned into post hospitalization care. Organizing all of his stuff once we got home. Getting him situated. Filling scripts. Dispensing meds. Making sure all of the dietary restrictions due to the "snafu" are covered...... I was prepared. But that's the thing. I just saw, first hand, up close and personal, what happens to the caregiver when a curve is thrown. I got it done. Left him for less then ONE HOUR to fill in the essentials and was an absolute wreck the entire time I was out. And he is totally mobile. And his pain is totally managed. He is fine.
And me? The shoe on the other foot??? I'm reaching for the anxiety meds and my foot is a blistered and bloody mess.
I always held The Caregivers in the highest regard. They are at the top of the pyramid. Today, I learned that pyramid nearly scrapes the sky. Caregivers reside closer to angels than anyone else on the planet. ANYONE. Bar None..... I owe lots of thanks to lots of people. Obviously, mom but tomorrow morning, I'll start by thanking my son.