Chat@Caregiving: A Medical Miracle

I love Dr. Alan Kaye.  He’s my mom’s doctor.  I could rave for days about the outstanding care he’s provided her over the years, but I also appreciate how good he’s been to me.  I’ll never forget when he told her, “Mrs. Cave there’s a time when your children should obey everything you say, but later there’s a time when you need to pay attention to your children.  For you, that time has come.”

Not that his admonition did much good.  Sure Mom listened to me, but she only did what I suggested if it suited her.  She ignored other things Dr. Kaye said, too.  It took him several years to convince her to use a cane and two more to get her using a walker.  See canes made people think you were old and walkers were beyond the pale.  Still Dr. Kaye and I kept herding her towards what was best for her. Moving her out of her home and into an independent living facility nearly got both Dr. Kaye and me fired from her life.

So, on this latest trip to the hospital, when everyone who treated Mom insisted she needed to be in assisted living, I called Dr. Kaye.  The only response Mom would offer to the suggestion of assisted living was white noise, but I knew the cardiologist and hospitalist were right. I’d been suggesting the same thing to Mom for several weeks, but she was more vocal with me.  She had no problem saying, “NO!”

Dr. Kaye agreed with me and I had the support of family members, so when I sat down next to her bed and said, “Mother, I know you don’t want to discuss this, but it’s my responsibility to do what’s right for you,” she actually listened.  I spent the next two days shopping assisted living facilities and was narrowing down the list when she coded.  I’m not sure what color the code was, but there were forty people in her room and we were discussing resuscitation.  After they pulled her through, assisted living was off the table.  The new recommendation was hospice in a nursing facility.

I spent Sunday mourning Mother’s condition.  Her mind and her spirit had so much living left to do. How could I put her in a nursing home?  That was the one thing she never wanted to have happen.  Monday, I visited a nursing facility, but it felt all wrong.

I freaked out.  My husband tried to reel me in on the phone.  I called some of Mom’s friend to get their input.  I was literally driving around Dallas aimlessly.  Thank goodness my car had Blue Tooth.  I was on Greenville Avenue, headed south, but I had no idea where I was going.  I thought, “God please help me.  I don’t know what to do.”

That’s when the phone rang.  It was Dr. Kaye, but it was also a miracle.  I’d been so distraught I hadn’t even thought of calling him. However, he’d been watching Mom’s progress via the hospital’s computer system (he doesn’t make hospital visits).  He talked me through the choices and we came up with a plan.  Not one that either of us wanted, but one that offered the most hope.

He also told me he was medical director for a hospice group.  “I’ve enjoyed being your mom’s doctor over the years and I’d be honored if you’d allow me to continue taking care of her…and of you.”  This had been a serious concern for both Mom and me.  Just a few hours before she’d said, “If I go on hospice, I’ll lose Dr. Kaye.”  Now I could at least relieve one of her concerns.

Tuesday I moved forward with the plan Dr. Kaye devised.  We’d put her in some rehab, to see if we could improve her situation at all and with any luck, she could spend her last days in assisted living with the help of hospice.  I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t feel so desperate.  Then the hospitalist walked into the room with the oddest expression on her face.  She’d had a call from Dr. Kaye and he’d asked if Mom was a candidate for a new medical procedure. The hospitalist and the cardiologist agreed that Mom was not a good candidate, but I could tell the hospitalist had been shaken by Dr. Kaye’s involvement.  I explained that Dr. Kaye was very fond of my mom.  “In fact, I have to remind him sometimes that I’m the daughter and he’s the doctor.”  I’d been joking, but the hospitalist said, “I got that vibe,” and her face still reflected a sort of wonder and awe.

After another long day at the hospital, I vegged out in front of the TV with Chipotle.  Hubby was at a meeting and I was trying to wrap my mind around everything that had happened in the last week.  The phone rang and it was Dr. Kaye.  I remember trying to figure out if I’d called him or not.  I hadn’t, but there he was on the phone – again.

This time he explained why he’d inquired about the new procedure and why he agreed Mom shouldn’t have it.  Then we discussed, in more detail, what we were going to do with Mom.  This time he was insistent that I call hospice.   That was the part of the plan I hadn’t gotten Mother to buy into.  I tried to explain her position to him and he said, “I’ll come by to see her tomorrow after 1:15.”

“But Dr. Kaye,” I stammered, “you don’t make hospital visits.”

He didn’t argue with me.  He just said, “I’ll see you tomorrow after 1:15.”  OK, Dr. Kaye.

He had a wonderful visit with my mom.  There were tears and hand holding.  They confessed their love for one another.  Mom was so grateful he had come.  He said, “I have been your doctor for a long time and I will always be your doctor.  When you need me, you call me and if I need to come see you, wherever you are, I’ll come see you.”  He also explained why being a part of a hospice group had become as important to him as the rest of his medical practice.  They don’t make ’em like that anymore.  I call Dr. Kaye my medical miracle.

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