Thursday, October 24, 2013

When Parents Become Children

Ring ring ring, ring ring call,  phone call....ring ring ring...

     Now, it is fairly early in the morning for me. My daughter and I are both proverbial "vampires", and the morning sun doesn't usually agree with us. I groggily answer the phone. It's my dad.
     "Hi! Hope I didn't wake you, morning glory," my dad says with feigned concern.
     "Mer...rahhawwwwn. No. It's fine, dad. What's up?"
     "Well, I broke my ankle."
     "You did WHAT?!?!" Now, I am sitting up at full attention. I am picturing him lying in a crumpled-up contortion, bleeding out somewhere. (Hey. I just woke up.)
      "Yep. Did it about a week ago."
      "Okayyyy. How'd you do that?" I relaxed back down a bit into the warm embrace of my pillows. My dad is an old salesman from way back in the day. He knows how to get your attention.
      "Was pushing a box into the screen porch and twisted my foot sideways out the door." An outside ankle injury is much more heartening news than an inside ankle injury, especially for the elders. I breathe my silent relief.
      "Alrighty. So, did you see a doctor? How do you know it's broken?"
       "Yep. Went to a podiatrist."
        "A podiatrist? Why?"
       "That's a foot doctor, isn't it? I twisted my foot." Not prepared to dissect the folly of this statement before coffee, I let him continue. "My ankle swelled up for a few days. Thought I just strained it, and it would get better, but I kept avoiding stepping on it because it hurt so bad. Finally decided to go see the podiatrist. He took X-rays. Who was I supposed to go see?"
      "Um, how about your orthopede? ...Anyway, did the doctor show you the X-rays?"
      "No. He just sat in a chair and held them up to the light. You know, I thought that was kind of funny. Seemed pretty old-fashioned, if you ask me. He said I had an in-place break and gave me a plastic thing with velcro straps to put on it."
     This seemed pretty archaic to me, as well. Modern technology has come a very long way in allowing patients to be able to see what "the doctor" is talking about. "How old was this guy?"
     "Maybe about 45, or so." Now, I started a silent burn. Young doctors taking advantage of the elderly are becoming more and more common than I care to say. Another topic for another time.
     "Okay, dad. Your insurance is probably shelling out a cool $1800 for that brace, for an injury you didn't really, even see."
     "Yeah, I don't doubt it. (sigh.) Anyway, what I'm worried about is the swelling is going above the ankle, right now. Not bad. But I just want to know if I should be worried. I don't want to have my leg amputated, or something."
     "How far above the ankle/"
     "An inch, or so."
     "Well, first off, you really should go see your orthopede. Inflammation and swelling is the way the body tries to immobilize a joint that has been damaged to keep it from moving until it's healed. Too much swelling can hinder this function, though. Especially if it's in the lower leg area that already fights gravity in lymph and blood flow, to begin with. Did he give you any anti-inflammatories?"
     "No. Should he have?"
     "In an injury like yours, normally, yes. Have you been icing the area?"
     "Have you been elevating your foot? Old rule is it should be above your heart when lying down."
      "How come he didn't tell me any of this?"
      "No clue. He SHOULD have. Maybe he didn't think he had to because it's probably covered in the 20 page tome he gave you to 'read' when you got home about your own care." It has become VERY disturbing that many a doctor can now come in, after the nurse-practitioner has done all the intake and symptomology, glance at the notes, and then decree a diagnosis in about 3.5 minutes flat, then leave. A trail of pre-written, generic care-packages are then collated and handed to the patient without any real specific guidelines for the case.
       "Yeah, I did get a bunch of stuff to read when I left the office." My blood was reaching a fever-pitch boil, by now." "I'm getting some ice." Pause. Pause. Pause..."Ok. Now, what else am I supposed to do?"
      "Elevate your foot."
      "It is."
      "Above your heart?"
      "Well, it's on a little stool in front of me, and I can just barely see my toes." ...
      "No, dad. Lie down on the couch and put your foot up on the arm of the couch." Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
       "Ok. Now it's above my eyeballs! Is that better? And what am I supposed to take, Motrin or something?"
       "Yes, dad. Motrin will be fine."
       "But now, how am I supposed to watch TV?"...
       "Dad... turn your head."

      With the aging of America, this is becoming a common type of conversation heard everywhere. When the roles get reversed between parent and child, it can be funny, aggravating and sad, all at once. My dad used to tell me when I'd do something outrageously stupid in my teen years, "With every good man or woman, there comes a brain. FREE! AT NO EXTRA CHARGE! Use it!" This was a poignant day, today. I was going to pull out his salesmen-tinged logic on him. I refrained.
      It is important that we look after the well-being of our loved ones, even as they go through a curtain of clarity many of us will find ourselves at one day. I have some very, well-pointed (daggered) questions for the "podiatrist" that saw my father this day. I will let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, Bright Blessings. Happy Healing to all.

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