January 25 is Bell Let’s Talk Day.
One day a year the world comes together to help end the stigma of mental illness.
One day a year, a large corporation donates $0.05 for every tweet and hashtag that says “#BellLetsTalk” towards funding mental illness.
Meanwhile the province I live in is underfunding mental health across the board. I can’t get a delusional/psychotic patient timely access to a psychiatrist without sending him to the ER or placing him on a Form 1 (ie involuntary 3 day hold). I can’t get the chronically depressed and suicidal middle-aged woman a psychiatrist to follow her and manage her 3 psychotropic medications.
So yeah, let’s talk about mental illness.
Why don’t psychiatrists actually do what they are trained to do? Why don’t they follow patients and see those that need weekly psychotherapy? Why doesn’t the Government adequately fund mental health?
How about we talk about mental illness every day of the year and not just one day?
2017 came in with a vengeance, for me at least. New Years Eve day started out with my three-year-old up chucking his applesauce then spiking a fever for most of the afternoon. While the older two kids were on their way to my in-laws, it was touch and go whether the baby would be staying home and changing our NYE plans or going to my mom’s for the night. Thankfully with some Advil and Gravol, he perked up enough to be sent there for the night.
As my husband and I prepared to go to our friend’s place for the evening, I had a fleeting thought of “What if I’m the next one to get hit with the stomach flu?” I forgot to mention that my eldest got hit with the stomach bug two days before.
The evening started out great. We brought all the fixings for a cheese fondue and it turned out great but shortly after starting to eat I felt the distinct uncomfortable rumblings in my lower stomach that signaled something wasn’t right. Sure enough, an hour before midnight I was hugging the porcelain god and wishing I were dead. The stomach virus that gently hit my children assaulted me with a vengeance. Minutes after midnight I was lying in an upstairs spare bedroom shivering with chills. So much for my new year’s eve plans.
Why is it that the holidays bring on such horrible illnesses? This is the second year in a row that my family has been plagued with a stomach virus over the holidays. I myself have had more of these bouts of illness in the last 5 years than I can remember for most of my life. Is it the kids? Are they the germ factories?
It’s downright awful.
Even after spending almost the entire day in bed yesterday and sleeping close to 14 hours I am still not 100% today and feel like I could be on the verge of intimacy with the porcelain gods again. As I write this I’m lying in bed with three children arguing for my attention.
Time to sign off …
It’s been a while!
Hard to believe it’s almost the end of June. There’s been a lot going on in my world, most of it pretty good.
My dad is on the mend from his kidney stone issues and has remained pretty stable with respect to his memory and the Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Two rounds of infection, two general anesthetics, mild delerium and his memory testing was the same! Unbelievable really. The thing with AD is that the patient kind of remains oblivious to the reality around him. He recognizes that his memory has declined but he doesn’t understand anymore the impact it has on everyone else, his wife especially. If there is any blessing with AD it is that the patient loses their higher executive, frontal lobe functioning early. It is quite the opposite for the family. My mom is a strong woman though and she is managing pretty well; she goes to her weekly support group, my brother works from their place once a week and she visits the kids when it gets too much. I wish there was more I could do for her and for my dad.
As for me, I’ve done two races this month with decent results, given how awful the winter was with my running. I have another 10K race this weekend and I am not expecting to do any better than 1:15 but that’s okay. It’s an opportunity to have some fun, run on the highway and get a cool T-shirt and medal!
I’m starting a new part-time job next month in addition to my family practice. It is an opportunity I sought out and I am excited about. It is an opportunity to grow as a physician, learn about a different model of care and will be a great change of scenery for me. I’ll be a lot busier, working 5 days a week (instead of 4) but I think I’m up for the challenge. The future of primary care in my province is looking hazy right now and I am a little worried. We have been without a contract with our Government for over two years and they are planning on implementing change to how primary care is delivered without consulting the front line workers, ie me! I felt it was time to start looking at other opportunities where my work is actually appreciated.
I’ve missed the blog. I hope you missed me too.
It’s Saturday night, I think. Honestly this week has been a blur. I feel terrible complaining because I know for a fact there are others struggling with a lot more this time of year (a few of them are my own patients), but I have to say this has been one of the crappiest weeks I can remember.
It started off with me getting some kid of flu/GI virus that decimated me for close to 36 hours, then I get the phone call that my dad is going to the ER and after spending 15 hours at the hospital he gets admitted. I missed seeing a theater performance of Cinderella with my daughter and my aunt that day. (I’m still really bummed about that). When I got home that night, around 1am I found my husband in bed with shaking chills. He spent the vast majority of Wednesday in bed. Despite exhaustion, I took my older kids to an indoor play center to blow off some steam. Later that night my brother, wife, stepdaughter, and my best friend came over for an already-planned Christmas Eve-eve dinner. Husband and I were exhausted but it was wonderful to have family over and they helped out by wrapping all of our kids’ Christmas presents.
Christmas eve saw husband going out for last minute gifts, still unwell. I took one of the kids to see Pappou in the hospital. The kids watched Santa on Norad as he made his way from Morocco to Ireland, we set out milk and cookies for him and the kids went to bed with zero fuss. Husband and I settled in to watch our annual holiday classic, “Die Hard”, and promptly went to bed around 10pm.
Christmas morning the kids were up early, as expected. Christmas gifts were opened in a frenzy. I had planned on taking all the kids to see Pappou in hospital, so after breakfast everyone got ready, except husband who was still not feeling great. Over the course of the morning, my older son, the 4.5-year-old, started complaining of a tummy ache. He barely touched the apple juice he got from my mom, nor the donut. He looked pale and complained even more about his tummy so we left the hospital after a short visit. The entire car ride home the little guy was moaning. As soon as we arrived home, he was curled up on the couch with his new Star Wars blanket. Ten minutes later, he’s running to the bathroom calling for me and threw up.
Merry f*&king Christmas.
We were expected at my brother-in-laws house for Christmas dinner later that evening. I called my mother-in-law and told her everything. I wasn’t sure we should bring my son so I warned her that he and my husband may be staying home.
As it usually is with stomach flu, once you throw up you start feeling better. My son seemed to make a pretty fast recovery and I spent the afternoon watching him build Star Wars Lego. The 7-year-0ld was happily entertained with her new Nintendo 2DS from Santa.
Later that afternoon, with the two boys (husband and son) feeling better we piled into the car and headed west to my brother-in-law’s house. We were going to arrive about 2 hours late, but I had called my mother-in-law to explain. When we were about 10 minutes away I suddenly remembered that we, well I, had forgotten the dessert. Among the chaos of the week, I had gone out to buy two pies and ice cream as we were expected to bring dessert. We found an open Shoppers Drug Mart and were saved. Cheesecakes and eclairs to the rescue. (Seriously though, could this week end already?)
Christmas dinner was lovely. Husband and I ate but neither of us were particularly hungry. For me it was likely due to the stress of the week, my appetite has been shot. For husband, well, he was still recovering from the illness. An hour after dinner, my older son started turning pale again and complained of his tummy hurting. With profound apologies, we piled back into the car and drove home. Thankfully he wasn’t sick in the car but he did fall asleep and didn’t wake until almost 9am the following morning.
Boxing Day. Another trip to the hospital to see my dad. A relatively uneventful day and I was beginning to think the worst was over when the 2-year-old started screaming. Husband went to see him and called out – “He threw up.”
That poor little boy emptied his stomach over the course of the next 5 hours. I slept on a cushion on the floor of his room and he finally stopped dry heaving at 2am. He was awake at 6:30am as if nothing happened. Meanwhile husband is curled up in bed, moaning.
What the actual f&#K?
I’m ready for this week, hell, this year, to be over.
Only one person has been spared so far … my daughter.
Pray for me.
December is not a good month to be a family doctor, or any doctor for that matter. I have lost count the number of bad diagnoses I have had to give before Christmas. What an incredibly shitty way to end a year.
“I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but that lump in your groin is lymphoma.”
“The biopsy has confirmed it’s malignant melanoma.
“Unfortunately, your baby stopped growing around 9 weeks of pregnancy.”
“The lump in your breast is suspicious for cancer.”
January is sometimes even worse. Who wants to start a new year with bad news?
Every year I feel like I’m back here lamenting the fact that it’s supposed to be a magical time of year, these “holidays”, and I’m forced to give more people more bad news. Can’t I just have one year where everyone is healthy? Is that really too much to ask for?
I’m really trying very hard not to feel like a complete idiot right now.
I attended another appointment with my parents today. It was a follow up with the physician that made a diagnosis last year of minimal cognitive impairment (MCI). Since we were seen there last year there’s been some worsening of his memory and behavior and we were assessed by a different neurologist to rule out a structural brain disease called Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. It was at that appointment a few weeks ago that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia was made.
At today’s appointment I sensed a bit of push back from the geriatrician as to why we were seen at a different clinic. After explaining, I then asked her a few questions about disease progression and whether starting medication last year might have helped. I didn’t think I was being critical but when the physician turned to me and asked, “Well, you’ve read the literature, right?” I felt like she went on the defensive. I said I had, (and I had read about minimal cognitive impairment last year!) she asked me what I remembered.
Um, excuse me? This wasn’t a teaching moment. I’m not her resident. I’m asking as a daughter, not a physician. I couldn’t believe she was treating me that way, and in front of my parents. I don’t care if she was pissed off that we went to another hospital and got a diagnosis, she had no right to treat me like that.
I was honest and said I couldn’t recall. She then answered my question. 10-15% of patients with MCI progress. Sadly my father is one of them. And starting medication earlier would not have been indicated. In fact it could have made things worse. As she related the information to me it started to come back. Still, I felt stupid for not remembering it and even more stupid for asking the questions. All I can see is my dad and his diagnosis. I should have the intellectual capacity to look clinically at the literature and apply it to my dad but you know, I can’t.
I’m just his daughter today.
I debriefed with my colleagues today and they agreed that it really wasn’t appropriate the way the specialist treated me. I have to get over my anger because this is the person who will be caring for my dad. I have to find a way to put it behind me. But right now, I can’t.
Day 30 – National Blog Posting Month.
My heart and mind are heavy. It’s been a busy weekend and an emotionally exhausting one as well. I’m finding it really hard to focus and am constantly thinking about my parents. I know that my worry will not go away and that I have to find a way to manage it. The doctor in me tells me to research and learn all I can but the daughter in me can’t bear to carry that knowledge. Now there’s a double-edged sword if I ever saw one.
I was up at the crack of dawn this morning (what else is new?) but this time to take my dad to a specialist appointment. We are the first ones here, even before the receptionist!
Since I have taken over this role of being present at most of my parents’ various specialist appointments, I have come to enjoy watching another physician do a physical examination. It’s a great refresher for me, especially the neurological exam. This was my nemesis in medical school. It is probably the most complex sequence of tests and observations I have ever had to learn and I still feel like I never mastered it.
Today I witnessed a skilled clinical fellow perform a thorough neurological examination on my dad.
I knew everything she was doing and why. There were tests I had forgotten about, ones that are very specific and others more general. At the end of the 3 hour appointment, we had some answers and now a few hours later, I have nothing but questions.
I need time to process. I know the road ahead of us. I’ve seen patients and their families go through it. It’s not what I wanted for my parents, least of all my father.
But this is life. It is hard. It is ugly. It is rewarding. It is love.