Issue 2.46 – Changeover

“Hello, I’m Dr. Sheppard. Let’s see here…Hazel Robertson.” The grey-haired man took a file out from under his arms and began rhyming off the list of medications Hazel was currently on, checking with the nurse who had been administering them.

“Um, I mean no disrespect, but where is Dr. Sharma? She’s been looking after mom for the past two weeks,” Catherine asked with some exhaustion. She had been spending nearly every day at the hospital, making sure that her dad had the support he needed, and slowly watching her mom get weaker and weaker as time went on.

“Dr. Sharma has moved the file over to me,” the doctor said, taking out a pen and making some notes. “Dr. Sheppard is one of our best cardiologists,” the nurse added. Catherine was confused. “But mom’s issue is not with her heart. She had a stroke…and has been barely responsive since. If anything, she needs a neurologist.” Dr. Sheppard continued to speak about medications with the nurse until she was dismissed.

“So, you are Hazel’s daughter?” The doctor smiled down at Catherine. “Yes.” Catherine responded with some frustration. “Ok, that’s great. So can you tell me a bit about what has been going on? When was your mother admitted?” Catherine rolled her eyes. “To be honest, I can’t remember off hand. It’s been over a month…maybe close to two. Her date of admission should be in her file, correct?” The doctor looked through the notes without directly answering Catherine. “So, we are going to start your mom on Amlodipine, as the last calcium channel blocker she was on was causing some renal issues. How has her eating been?”

Catherine let out a sigh. “Dr. Sharma pulled her off Amlodipine when the swelling in her legs started again. Leg swelling is what brought her in here in the first place.” The doctor checked his notes again. “Hmmm,” he said, making some notes. “So she was initially admitted with leg swelling?”

Catherine shook her head. “No, about a month and a half ago, we came in here because mom’s leg was swollen. As they were wheeling her down for imaging, she had a stroke in the chair.”

“Oh, I see. When did her pain start?” The doctor asked, making more notes in the file.

“What pain? In her leg? Generally? The kidney infection pain? Her bed sores?” Catherine was tired. All she had done for the past month was answer the same questions over and over again as her mother’s doctors changed every two weeks or so. Dr. Sheppard looked at his file again. “I see they administered Lamotrigine. Was that preventative?”

Catherine stared at him in disbelief. “I have no idea. Honestly, you’ve all been asking me questions that should have been answered already by those working with her. Aren’t you folks charting this? I see the nurses making tons of notes. Does anyone read them? Why would you be asking me what mom’s on? I honestly couldn’t tell you at this point. I have given you all the same information over and over again. Next you’ll be asking me my mom’s age, height and weight.”

“I do need to know if she’s been eating,” the doctor asked, again avoiding Catherine’s frustrations.

Catherine just glared at him. “Again. I don’t write her notes. And if you’d actually look over at her, you’ll see she’s on IV. So no…she has not been eating. It’s been my biggest concern for the past three days. She is existing on those little bags you’ve got her hooked up to.”

The doctor swallowed the large lump in his throat. “We are concerned about that. If she doesn’t start eating, drinking and voiding on her own, her system will eventually shut down.”

Catherine gave him a worried look. “What are you saying then?” Dr. Sheppard put the folder on his lap and very gently worded his reply. “I’m saying your mom might not have much time left. “

Catherine was furious. She clenched her jaw. Dr. Sheppard had not even spent five minutes in the room…had not even touched her mother. He was the wrong doctor, with incomplete information and yet felt he had the right to give her mother a death sentence. Catherine felt she couldn’t take much more of this.

*************************************************************************The frequent changing over of physicians in hospital can create a lot of frustration for patients and their families. Often, family members must provide the same information again and again and be care advocates for their loved ones.

Have you ever dealt with this? What was your experience?

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