Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I know, I haven’t blogged much again. Mostly because if I write about what’s been going on lately, it would probably get even less than a handful of comments like my last post, and this one isn’t even TV-tastic.

But who cares? Here we go with…

More Mom Medical Mischigoss

In a nutshell: my mother had gone into the hospital a couple of months ago when she had trouble breathing. After two weeks of tubes into her cardiovascular system, they released her. But they never provided the rehabilitation she needed, just sent her home. So she’s been physically and mentally weakened from being bedridden for so long. Her assisted living facility has been complaining to me and my sister about her condition, that they can’t handle her at her level of care. So we’ve been arguing and fighting with the doctor and insurance company and hospitals and medical providers to get Mom the treatment she needs. We may be finally making progress as she’s been admitted to a skilled nursing/rehab place, but we have to stay on everyone or they’ll pass her off like she’s a phony five dollar bill.

Obviously, this saga is filled with irony, hypocrisy and stupidity. What would healthcare be without it? Here’s a few highlights:

My mom likes her primary care doctor -- he did help years ago with her pain meds, but I’m beginning to think that now the only reason she clicks with him is because he’s Jewish. These days, that’s proven to be a strike against him. It took a couple of days and several calls to get Dr. Schmendrick to agree that my mother needed to be admitted to a hospital to be treated for rehab.

I asked him what I needed to do and he said just bring her into Providence St. Joseph’s in Burbank, not the crappy Valley Presbyterian that she went to last time.

“That’s it? Just bring her in?”


“There’s no paper work or authority we need to get first?”

“Nope. St. Joe’s will admit her right away.”

“Are you sure? ‘Cause tomorrow’s Rosh Hoshanah and I assume your office will be closed and it’ll be hard to get ahold of you.”

“There’ll be someone on call, but you shouldn’t have any problems.”

Well, you can guess what happened. The insurance company said they never got any authorization from Schmucko, MD, so they wouldn’t admit Mom for testing. I could bring her in to the ER, they said. Oh, so the ol’ lady could sit there in her wheelchair and be ignored for 12 hours? No, I wanted the doctors there to treat her promptly. After another dozen calls to Mom’s doctor over two days, when I insisted, yes, it’s an emergency, he finally got back to me saying the pager in his battery died. Yeah, right. And then he did absolutely nothing, complaining the HMO had his hands tied, and advised me to bring Mom to the ER at St. Joe’s. Wow, I coulda done that three days ago. Happy fuckin’ New Year, Putz.

Then there’s what I call the Clipboard Annies. They call themselves case managers or hospital liaisons or assessment representatives, only because they’re a few IQ points up from being labeled mentally challenged. These bureaucrats have half a brain, but a full-sized clipboard that does all the thinking for them. So who needs medical training to make decisions about patients’ treatment? They’ve got a clipboard!

Which gave them the authority to make definitive (and incorrect) statements about my mom’s condition and when we questioned them on this -- had they even gone in to see her? No, they were out hovering in the halls of the hospital, or who knows where, holding her hallowed charts… which they can’t even read.

No, that’s not my number. I’m Michael, the son. See on your paper there -- you dialed the hospital’s phone number. See the number next to the name Michael, with the word “son” by it? That’s me. Michael, the son. No, no, not the number next to “daughter Julie”. That’s Julie, the daughter. My sister. You're still confused? Okay, see, Julie’s not me. Julie’s a girl’s name. Do I look like a girl? I know you haven’t had any medical training, so this could be tricky…

Yeah, I’m being harsh and impatient, but it seems like every conversation with Clipboard Annie is like bad vaudeville routine. And that was when we managed to meet in person. When I called on the phone, trying to set up an appointment, it went something like this:

Me: I could meet either early in the morning, or later in the afternoon. I’m free all day except between 11:30 and 2.

Annie: Oh, okay, I’ll put you down for 11:30. Bye.

Meanwhile, I contacted a few other places to move my mom, if necessary. Places that supposedly will provide more care, but I'm skeptical.

Thanks to a referral agency specializing in these senior centers, I'm now getting bombarded with calls, e-mails and brochures of old folks' homes. Geriatrics is a big industry. I find it ironic, but not surprising. It's like buying a car: When they want your money, they're your best friend, insisting they can provide everything you need. Once your drive off the lot, or move Grandpa in, they couldn't be bothered anymore.

Sigh. I gotta be patient, ‘cause I want my mom to get better. But before this is over I may end up putting a few other assholes in the hospital…

Monday, September 10, 2007

Did you catch the long-awaited moment in television last night? No, I don’t mean Britney’s zaftig belly slogging across the stage of the VMAs. I mean the season premiere of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. Not the best episode ever, but you gotta love Larry David devouring a delicious but scandalous erotic cake, and summing it up with “I was just eating some penis.”

And who hasn’t considered justifying missing a party by “accidentally” mixing up the date and showing up on the wrong night? It’s been done to me, and I could hardly be annoyed at my absent-minded guest, but applaud their anti-social ingenuity. That’s what makes that show great -- we can all connect with the curmudgeonness of “Curb”. Nobody can identify with the Video Music Awards. Well, unless they're like Britney Spears and their once hot dance moves are now more reminiscent of that Chris Farley Chippendales routine.

But we have Larry David moments all the time. Months ago, when I was looking for a new apartment to rent, my girlfriend wanted me to check out an open house in the neighborhood. I didn’t really want to check out condos -- but Adelphia said it’d be fun. I pointed out that we weren’t planning on buying -- she said the owners didn’t know that. Most importantly, I had to go to the bathroom -- she somehow convinced me to go see before I could go pee.

The condo was awesome -- high ceilings, huge living room, a sunny garden… and hey, what a nice big bathroom. “Excuse me,” I told Adelphia, trying to shut the door on her.

“Michael, don’t,” she said, hoping the realtor rep couldn’t hear from the other side of the apartment.

“Why not?” I wasn’t gonna make a mess or stink up the joint. I’d be quick and neat and flush afterwards.

“You can’t use the bathroom in an open house.”

“What if I'm just testing the equipment?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Wouldn’t you want to know that the toilet and the plumbing work properly in this condo?”

“But we’re not planning on buying!”

“They don’t know that!”

She gave me a look, so I gave in and held it. But dammit, I really had to go.

Of course, if this were a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode, Larry David would’ve argued his point a lot longer, or gone and destroyed the fixtures somehow. Or someone else would’ve and blamed him for it. See, the whole thing practically writes itself.

And if it were Britney, she woulda done like she did at the OK! Magazine shoot, where she openly relieved herself in the bathroom and let her dog do the same on some expensive clothes and then just stormed out of the joint to later flash her own erotic cake all over town.

Man, how does she come up with this shit?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Our flight is booked. In a couple of months, I’ll finally meet my girlfriend’s mom.

It wasn’t me who avoided this for the past year. I’ve met Adelphia’s sister and her friends, and I think we all hit it off. So I wasn’t worried about her mother. Moms love me. They just don’t always get along with their daughters.

Trust me, I know. While my mother and sister usually have a good relationship, all it takes is Mom to suggest that Julie wear her hair differently, or a snippet of sis's sarcasm... and it's World War III. And all I can do is duck for cover.

Today, the battle still wages on. Last weekend, when my mom babbled some non-sequitur story, my sister got frustrated trying to decipher all the contradictions, which only got my mom angry for having to justify herself. In the middle of the room, I found my sister’s old Talking Heads CD and held it up, as a message to her that Mom couldn’t see: Stop Making Sense.

So when Adelphia explained her hesitation at this visitation, saying her mom needs medication, I assured her that mine is crazy, too. "Yeah, but your mother had a stroke," she said. "Mine has no excuse."

Maybe, but it's always been this way between the women in my family. Years ago, long before Mom suffered dain bramage and we had moved her to LA, she came out from NY for a visit. My father was busy working, so it was just Mom… checking out my sister’s place... admiring the furniture, the decorations, the greeting cards sitting on the desk – remnants of Julie’s recent birthday, opening the card to read the inside and smile…

“Mom!” My sister burst into the room. “Don’t read those!”

“Why not? I can if I want. You have them out here!”

“Not for you to read the inside!”

“I was just reading the caption. What, you think your mother isn’t clever enough to get the joke of the card?”

“You were reading the handwritten notes from my friends.”

“So what if I was?”

“That’s private. That’s damn rude of you, Mom!”

“Don’t talk to me that way! I’m your mother! You’re the one who’s rude!”

They immediately launched into a heated debate about proper etiquette regarding reading greeting cards, and they both turned to me for an opinion. I tried to stay out of it, but as the argument continued, I thought perhaps a third party could solve this.

“Okay… Julie, if you leave the cards out on your desk, standing up, partially open, especially when you know you have company, you can’t expect people not to want to see the caption on the inside, which will only let them see what else is written there. Mom, just because Julie’s cards are out, you should respect her privacy and not peek inside, especially if there are personal notes in there. I think you’re both making too big deal about this, so… who’s up for a drive through Beverly Hills?”

No good. They overruled my judgment and continued with the trial. As the emotions escalated, my mom grabbed the phone and called my father. Ranting and cursing, she said she wanted to change the flight, she wanted to come home early. Right now, in fact, because her daughter is a—

Then Mom stopped and handed the phone to me. “Your father wants to talk to you.”

Me? What did I do? I took the phone into the other room, away from everyone.

“Mikey, Mikey…” Dad said. “Is there any way we can get these two nutjobs to get along?”

“I dunno, Dad.” I shook my head. “Can the Hatfields and the McCoys get along? Can the Jews and the Arabs get along?”

And in a couple of months… can Adelphia and her mom get along?

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