Thursday, February 26, 2004

We now know what we don't know

When I got to my dad's house on Friday, one of the first things I found out was that he had a follow-up visit scheduled with his doctor on Monday morning.

"Would you like me to stay and go with you?" I asked. Which my father and sisters (who were there until Sunday morning) all thought was a bang-up idea. They had even prepared a list of questions/topics to discuss with the doctor. I called work and home and had everything arranged in short order.

My dad doesn't like doctors much.

Part of this is due to his age/upbringing. If you cut yourself while working, you didn't stop and go have stitches put in, you wrapped it up or put a band aid on it and kept going. You might soak it in Epsom salts before you went to bed at night, but you never gave in to the pain. Growing up on the farm, you had to pull your weight every day. If you could move, you were still expected to complete your chores. As an adult, he had the end of his little finger pinched off in a machine one morning and the plant manager made him go to the doctor. My dad convinced the doctor to put a butterfly bandage on it and release him to go back to work that same day. Burns, cuts, broken ribs...pshaw. Up to this point, my dad's idea of a "pain pill" is taking ONE Advil. And he'd take that only if the pain kept him from sleeping at night.

Another part of his dislike of doctors is related to the death of his father and the death of my mother. He watched as the doctors tried to save their lives to no avail, coming away with a strong belief that medicine, at best, was mostly a matter of trial and error and at worst, was human experimentation gone awry. He carries some bitterness over the lack of dignity involved in the hospitalization of a loved one. No matter how good the hospital, doctors or nurses, they can only provide care, not Care.

And lastly, he has had some bad experiences when he has actually seen a doctor. One doctor actually performed a procedure that my father had specifically instructed was NOT to be done (and was smart enough afterwards not to bill for). In relation to his current health problems, he has been complaining for YEARS that there was something wrong with him. One doctor told him he was just angling for surgery when none was needed (hello? my dad? not likely). Another suggested it was all in his head. One surgeon refused to investigate when my dad was already scheduled for an operation in the same area, saying "I don't do exploratory surgery (it keeps the malpractice insurance costs down). So, I think it's fair to say he has trust issues.

But the good news is he likes THIS doctor. She listens, she cares, and the fact that she's an attractive 30 something doesn't hurt either.

On Monday morning we made a trip to the pharmacy to drop off prescriptions. My dad stopped driving in December and so the ladies at the pharmacy had been missing him. They even had a get well card already signed and ready for him when he walked through the door. One of the benefits of living in a small town. Even though we were at least twenty-five minutes early at the doctor's office, we only waited about ten minutes before she saw us. Another benefit of living in a small town, I suppose. It was an interesting visit, since this is only about the third or fourth time she's seen my dad. He's not much of a complainer, and that, coupled with a memory that's not as sharp as it once was, has led to his medical history/condition coming out in dribbles and drabs. The doctor learned five or six new things that she didn't know before. Shoot, I learned a couple of things I didn't know before. Like him having swollen lymph nodes under both arms. The doctor had him un-tuck his shirt so she could see 'em and feel 'em. I accused him on the spot of going to ANY length to get a woman to feel him up. The doc's response to that was to comment that she could see the two of us were definitely related.

In the end, it was determined that a bone scan would be the next logical step. What my dad told me a few weeks back is not necessarily the case, although it is still a LIKELY scenario. Right now, the doctor only has enough information to know what she doesn't know. Kind of like a jigsaw puzzle, where the edge pieces are done but the inside is still uncertain. There is definitely a problem, but it's not clear exactly what we're dealing with yet.

We filled out the HIPPA release forms so my RN, PNP sister-in-law could call and talk medicine with the doctor. We also picked up the power of attorney and DNR (do not necessitate resuscitate) forms and filled them out, at least to the point where all he needs to do is sign them and get them notarized.

Made another trip to the pharmacy to pick up the prescriptions (with a small delay to buy my step-mom a box of 1/2-off Valentine's day candy) and then it was back home. I left late Monday afternoon and drove as far as Oklahoma City before stopping for the night. It wasn't nearly as difficult for me to leave as it was when my sisters said goodbye, mostly because I'm planning on going back in three weeks and bringing the rest of the family with me, but it wasn't easy either. My dad asked me to write letters to the two missionaries he sends monthly support to in order to let them know they might need to start looking for other funding. I told him I'd be glad to do it, which is the truth and a lie both, if you know what I mean.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers and well wishes. I'll keep you informed as things develop.

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