Last Thursday, I woke up at 6 am to a text…
“Mel. I have chest pains, and I am headed to the ER.”
She wrote to me at 4:45 am
I jumped out of bed and text her back:
“Mom, what’s going on? Where are you? What is your diagnosis?”
I woke up my husband and said, “I think I need to fly to my mom’s. Can you get the kids ready for school?”
Of course, he said yes, and I immediately went packing and looking for the next flight to make it to the airport on time.
I booked a 10 am flight and raced to the airport.
As I was going through security, my phone rang. I could see it was my Mothers phone number. I quickly made my way through the line and answered the phone.
“Mom – how are you? What’s going on?”
She sweetly said, “Well, I thought I was having a heart attack, but I am not.” I said, “OK, I am at the airport, and I will be home by 3 pm,” She said. “Oh, Melanie – Don’t come; you have so much going on, plus today was the day that my five college roommates were coming to your house for our 70th birthday party celebration.”
This is true! Her five roommates from college get together every year and have a girls’ week.
In 2020 they were supposed to celebrate their 70th birthday by going to New Orleans and visiting me, but COVID stopped that. So they rescheduled it starting last Thursday. (see the picture – my Mom is in the blue dress)
I told my Mom – I was at the airport, and I was coming home. My husband Chris and my boys were going to have to be in charge of the 70-year-old birthday party for the ladies.
I flew home and drove to the hospital. They said she presented clinically like she had sepsis. Then she had an extremely high heart rate of 160 while lying in bed.
She went into a fib at least twice and had some irregular rhythms. But, the most concerning part? Her palette count was through the roof. The normal count was about 400k. Moms’ count was 1.3 and on the move. She would hit a high of 2.3 during her stay.
In all, she spent ten days at the hospital. Finally, on the 9th day, she was “stable.” My brother came in to switch out with me and get ready to “take mom home.”
Before I left the University Hospital – where she received excellent care – I told my Mom, “please make sure you request Home Health before you leave.”
Mom is a traditional Medicare patient with VA secondary. She had a new cardiac diagnosis, new medications, she could only walk 25 ft, and it would wipe her out. She was weak and debilitated. She was unsteady in her gait, and even her bed mobility was a challenge.
As I boarded a plane to go home, Mom texted me, “The nurse says I can’t have Home Health because I didn’t come in here with it.”
So as I sit in 19 A headed to ATL – I am thinking, “WTH? This makes zero sense!”
So after a few deep breathing exercises, I called the nurses station when I landed in ATL. I asked the nurse if I could please request Home Health for my Mom, and she said, well, you need to speak with the social worker.
So I asked if I could be transferred. The social worker was kind and said she would ask for an order. And then I got to say the words that are always told to us – “and our patient choice is Interim out of Meadville. We have used them in the past, and I request we are referred to them again.”
She said she would pass the information along to the case manager, and I hung up the phone. I texted my brother and mother that we are in business! She would get Home Health!
I felt good about having a 2nd pair of eyes on my Mom as I sat down on my 2nd flight.
When I landed and turned on my phone, I saw a text from my Mom.
“The doctor came in and said that I am functional and there is no need for Home Health, so he will not write the order. Because I will not qualify.”
As my blood pressure began to rise – I asked my Mom:
“Did he ask you how many stairs to the entry of the house?”
“Did he ask you if you had a bathroom on the 1st floor?”
“Does he know your bedroom is upstairs?”
“Why, if you de sat into the 80s at nighttime, is that is not a concern?”
Of course, the answer is no to all of my questions.
Mom has always been the glass-is-half-full type of lady. So consistently, when the staff asked, “How are you feeling” she said, “Great! I feel great!” However, the OT in me (who sat at the bedside for eight days) watched her struggle with bed mobility, ambulation, SOB with activity, and knew better. I assumed that home health would be a given.
Seriously, why would a doctor not order Home Health when a family requested it?
How does he know my mother would not qualify?
I am still super mad I was not there. It makes me crazy when a physician who has spent no more than 8 mins a day with a patient believes they know what would qualify for Home Health. I asked my Mom which doctor it was so I could discuss it with him, and she said, “Melanie, just let it go.”
My Mom is not safe at home alone.
She is weak.
She is a fall risk.
She already has needed to be prompted to take her medication by my brother and she doesn’t understand her new beta-blocker or blood thinner.
Why does she need to take them?
*She thinks they are blood pressure medication, and she “doesn’t have blood pressure issues.”
She cannot independently get out of a car.
This personal story is once again a reminder we as marketers MUST ADVOCATE for the patient.
The doctors and nurses, while well-meaning, are making some terrible assumptions! I am afraid I made similar assumptions before I became a home health clinician. Functional at the hospital doesn’t mean functional at home.
We MUST continue to educate.
And ADVOCATE for patients just like my Mom who, without my brother, would be back in the hospital today.
This is our MISSION – to get care for everyone who deserves it!
Together We Grow
P.S. – Don’t worry, a call to her PCP is next!