Saving a Life: losing a friend

jim and IMon Frère et moi en Bruxelle

I feel like Dante after his epic journey through hell, purgatory and paradise. True I got to see the face of Grace and then to return home. But I’ve been spoiled. The paradise bit was full of light and love and joy. Once I got there, I was able to lift my eyes and love the pine-clad mountains and the pure light and air again. Home in TO sees a couple of hours daylight under gloomy skies. Something is always falling from the sky and the streets are slick with decaying leaves.

That’s not the worst of it. Two of the people I had counted on to welcome me home, to rejoice in our triumph and to console me for our ordeal are no-shows.

One is my son, whose sister’s life was just saved and who is on her way to being able to live a reasonably good life, if not to being cured. What we accomplished, in spite of MediCal and general incompetence, was a miracle, something to be celebrated. But this half of the family in Toronto is hived off into individual units. It begrudgingly pulls itself together for a funeral, if the relative is close enough, not apparently, for a good, boozy party of celebration.

The other is my friend, Sophie. Sophie is given to observing that she is glad she had cats instead of children, particularly since mine are so troublesome. What can anyone say to that? A cat can’t be Shakespeare. No, but listen, those children are unique and beautiful creations. They have made themselves who they are over decades. They have made many people’s lives better for knowing them. I don’t say any of that to her. I sympathize when an elderly cat has to be put down, as if it were an actual person. I inquire about the surviving feline, which drags its hind quarters.

In the midst of the worst or hellish part, Sophie suggested on the phone that it would be better for our patient if we let her go. A slip of the tongue I thought. But then she discovered that I had taken psychotropic drugs to survive the ordeal. “I wouldn’t speak to you, if I’d known,” she said. I’m still taking them of course. She has read a stupid book that maintains they don’t actually work and, despite her education, she believes it.

So she hasn’t called me back and that makes me sad.

Tomorrow, my brother, Rob, arrives from Brussels. “I thought I needed to come and cheer  you up and help you get back to your life,” he told me on the phone. I will pick him up at terminal 3 and take him to Georgia’s, where we will all have a sleep-over, along with two of my nieces. He will call me his little sister, even though I am older and make me laugh. The two of us have a reputation in Brussels for our comic routine. All we have to do is be in the same room and we’re off.

On Thursday, back on the mountain in Kern County, California, my son-in-law will turn chef again and make Thanksgiving dinner. Besides his recovering wife, my erstwhile house-mate Clara, my grandson Leo, his father -that would be an ex- and a friend will be there to raise a glass in glad thanksgiving that she lived, that she is thriving, that some doctors really are brilliant, that faith and dogged persistence and the odd temper tantrum can save a life.

PMC

 

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Evidence of Things Unseen

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen,
Hebrews 11.1

Here in the mountains of Kern County, California, we have been struggling with serious illness since the first of June. Finally, we have found the right doctors, got the right diagnosis and medication that works. What still doesn’t work is the bureaucracy that is paying for the treatment.

To skip even one dose of the several medications is to court disaster and yet again and again we turn up at the small pharmacy -the only one less than an hour away- to discover that we are over the monthly limit of 5 prescriptions, that we have used too many pills of that kind this month (doctor had changed dosage), that we can’t get one or another for five days, until we get a TAR, until we get a PA, unless we phone in the day before, never mind that we have been calling for 4 days prior. On the latest occasion it was the last reason.

Okay, confession time, I lost it. I leaned over the counter and explained as quietly as I was able, the possible dire consequences, the least of these was hospitalization. I was assured that the pharmacy had our best interests at heart, blah, blah,blah. That they just didn’t carry that medication and it would be ordered in only if we phoned the day before. Too much smiling from the other side of the counter. Too much eye shadow come to that.

“Consider it ordered,” I said.

The patient had fled to the car. I was so upset, I couldn’t actually see.

“Here are the other prescriptions,” said the Cheryl the clerk. “That will be $137.”

Whaaaa?

Blindly, I undid the bag and began to read the labels. The whole point was that the patient couldn’t pay for meds. As one of the meds’ monitors, I know every med name and dosage. None of these were familiar.

“These are not ours,” I said, pointing to the patient’s name. In fact they were for the patient’s mother-in-law, but I was too annoyed to bother saying that.

Cheryl’s eyes bugged out. As I left, I could hear her saying, “I can’t believe I….”

Next day, after 4 p.m., I drove back down the winding mountain road, to pick up the prescriptions. Yes, one was made up, although the other less urgent one wasn’t. As I waited for it to be done, I stood at the check-out counter.

Cheryl leaned over and said,” I just want to say…. I couldn’t sleep last night. I didn’t know what to do. I felt so bad. Finally, I decided to pray..”

She went on almost in a whisper, quoting a Bible verse with apologies because she really didn’t have it quite right, but it had to do with God’s help when you hit the bottom.

I touched her hand to reassure her. “Of all the problems we have had here, that was the least,” I said. “But thank you for praying. I’m not much good at it, but others are also praying.”

“God hears all prayers,” she replied.

Cheryl is one of those fervent Christians that scare us a little with their right wing views. Our idea of God is much more indwelling, not an all-powerful father or a son that will save you if only you surrender and believe. Perhaps, all things are possible, but they start within our hearts, we think and when you are grappling with life and death, God’s idea of an ideal outcome may not coincide with yours.

That night as I began to fall asleep, I felt the earnest love Cheryl radiated comfort me and  smooth a path for loving support from beyond.

The nature of God and our different interpretations of it seemed irrelevant then. Trying to have faith in God, too daunting. Faith in love that is another matter, our family’s loving and unconditional support of the patient, my own 5 month sojourn far from home, our 24/7 commitment, the wonderful doctors we have finally found, even those drugs with their unpleasant side effects. These are born of love.

And the best prayers may be tears.

https://115journals.com/The Crying Cure

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been dealing with a serious family illness, that has left me “stranded” in an exquisitely beautiful mountain village, which I sometimes have called Shangri-la. (see 115Journals.com and enter Shangri-la in the search bar.)

Recently, we have made progress. The illness itself is difficult to diagnose and treat. Factoring in medicare didn’t just double the difficulty. Quite possibly, it quadrupled it. Every time we turned around we had been dropped from MediCal, once because we were signed up on July 30, with an end date of July 31. Yes, both were in 2014. Or MediCal was refusing to fill a prescription because there was no TAR -whatever that is – or the doctor had upped the dosage but MediCal disagreed. Even Kern County Health which we transferred to has a limit of 5 prescriptions a month, so we had to choose the cheapest one and pay cash. At least one life-threatening situation and hospitalization ensued. And let’s be frank, some of our medical practitioners seemed to know less than we did.

After a particularly rocky interview with a “specialist” on Skype, we discovered she was actually a nurse practitioner. Time to call in Blake, the patient’s father who has equity in his home. Time to call on connections. And so we found Dr. B and ponied up the cash.

Let’s be clear, my people have earned over $300,000 a year and paid taxes accordingly – prior to 2008. Thanks to banks that were too big to fail, my people failed, lost two homes, their savings and their retirement investment. Obama bailed out the big banks. The little guy not so much.

Dr.B.came up with a diagnosis in an hour and a half and the chief drug necessary to control it. “Bread and butter”, he said. Then he refused to let Blake spend the patrimony and referred us instead to a resident he supervised who would accept the medicare plan. After a month’s wait, during which time Dr B insisted we call as necessary; otherwise he would be annoyed, we met Dr. P and Dr. Y who listened intelligently and knew how to carry treatment forward. Today, we ran up against a problem and Dr. P. answered our query immediately.

So I fired off upbeat email reports to 5 family members, all of whom are far away and to 4 friends. Then I got really sick.

Has this happened to you? You hold things together at work or at home for a long time, go on vacation and spend two weeks in bed?

Sure I had a good excuse, the temperature dropped suddenly up here at 5,500 feet and the furnace pilot light was out. I don’t actually get a cold at change of season, I get a headache and then a very bad muscle spasm in my lower back. No appointment was available for treatment until Saturday. That’s tomorrow, friends. Exercise quells it briefly, then it comes raging back. Ditto hot Epsom salt baths, heat, positive thinking and long walks. Pain killers don’t seem to touch it. The one thing that works longest is a good hard cry. First I have to find privacy, not so easy when you’re living in other people’s houses. Then just let go.

Just now having cleared the air with copious tears, I went to the general store, ostensibly looking for a mallet and unconsciousness. I found extra strength Tylenol and Newcastle Brown Ale.