Monday, August 17, 2009

First impression left me squirrelly

My mom recently had neck and back surgery. She survived the nine-hour long surgery, despite her best efforts to conjure up every negative scenario.

Her first comments following the removal of the ventilator:  "I made it didn't I." Mom really isn't a "glass half full" kind of gal. She was before the surgery — even if it was just for show. 

She didn't appear too brave when on day five post-surgery she was readying for an ambulance transport about 100 miles away from the Atlanta-based hospital to a swing bed in her hometown of Ellijay. The move offered rehabilitation before she returned home. It was something discussed prior to the surgery. 

While some other family members grimaced when we mentioned the need for rehab before going home, our family was pleased with the situation. Mom's ability to move had deteriorated seriously over the last year. After the surgery, she wasn't trying to reach her pre-surgery self. She was trying to regain her movement from more than six months ago.

Mom moved beautifully following her surgery. While she suffered from tremendous pain, it amazed us to see how she could picked up her knees as she walked slowly with a walker. Prior to the surgery, she had to drag her numb legs.

With some movement under her physical therapy belt, the hospital was ready for Mom to move. An ambulance from the Atlanta area arrived to transport her. The young woman, who was driving my mom, really laughed and joked a lot. It did not make my mother at ease. Instead, her nervous nature kicked into overdrive. 

As my mom asked the young woman, if she knew how to get to Ellijay. The EMT (or paramedic— not certain of her classification) recalled how she was able to navigate the windy mountain roads. Mom's eyes appeared to get as large as saucers. When I alerted the driver that Mom was anxious and didn't like jokes, the driver seemed to get it. "I'll check with the nurse about getting you something for that."

Mom took her Valium and quizzed the young woman about her experience. "I've been doing this for a long time — three years." Her declaration of expertise didn't appease Mom. 

"Oh, don't worry, we have nanny cams. We won't be stopping at the McDonald's drive thru window," the one driving continued to joke. 

As Dad and I entered the elevator with Mom, I talked to the woman who would be riding with Mom. "Mom doesn't handle jokes so well," I told her. "She's anxious about the drive."

The female driver said, "Don't worry. That will kick in." She was referring to the Valium. Then, she proceeded to tell us about how she was on Zoloft to knock off the edge. "It makes me less squirrelly." Mentally, my mouth dropped to the first floor before the elevator doors opened. It didn't seem like an inappropriate thing to tell your patient. It was inappropriate.

If I had serious doubts about the abilities of the two young women, I wouldn't have allowed my mother to travel with them to Ellijay. I asked Dad to pass the ambulance, because it made me nervous to travel that close to the ambulance. I prayed Mom would be OK. 

Mom made it fine to Ellijay. She reported a good ride and said the woman riding in the back of the ambulance with her stayed with her until she moved to another spot to complete paperwork. The only oversight was the attempt to drop Mom off at the nursing home and not the hospital. The nursing home (without any empty beds) quickly directed the ladies to the correct place — the hospital. 

The two women didn't leave an overall good impression. As a family member, I was concerned about their professionalism. It wasn't their age. It was their attitude. Despite being warned they were transporting an anxious patient, they didn't stop their joking behavior. With age, they will hopefully learn how to deal with this better.

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