Moving Forward With(out)

So, it’s been an eventful week-and-change. I’m grateful for your patience as we work to transition to a new physician and other changes taking place here.  I’d also like to thank all of you who have contributed and/or shared our fundraiser.  I can’t do this without all of you, and we’re both so incredibly grateful.  If you missed it, hit the link and if you’re able to help, know that we thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.

Last Monday, February 19th, was our first appointment with the new physician.   While the hour-long drive was certainly no friend to Jacquelynn (she gets really restless and stressed at about the 30-minute mark), it clearly beats hell out of the previous 600+ mile drive.

This doctor’s office is in her house, which is fine, but it presented a couple of definite issues.   First, we showed up about 30 minutes early, which in our experience is pretty standard practice, what with getting first-time patient paperwork filled out and such (especially as we hadn’t received any preliminary papers prior to our visit). But, the front door was locked. Ringing the bell and knocking elicited a rousing response from the dogs in the house, but no other response at all. Moments after we arrived, another vehicle pulled into the drive.   We thought maybe that’s the doctor and she had just run out for her morning coffee, but no. It was another patient who also had an appointment at the same time as ours. And they had driven two-plus hours from Louisville, Kentucky.

It was a nice, sunny day, but a bit breezy on the front porch waiting for someone to open the door, but wait we did as Jacquelynn had a great difficulty with the steps (two very steep steps; one advantage to having a home office outside of the city’s influence is not being required to have handicap access, though that seems extra-odd for a doctor’s office) up to the porch, and was unwilling to go back to the car only to have to repeat the process. The other folks (Mom was the patient, and her daughter brought both her and Dad up) returned to their car to wait in the warmth.

It was precisely 10:00 a.m. when the doctor opened the door, and to say that our first impression of her personally was a tad lacking would be an understatement. She looked as if she had climbed out of bed mere moments earlier, and when we expressed a slight chagrin at having been made to wait outside for the last half-hour, an entirely unsympathetic “your appointment was for ten” was the response.

Then, when the other family knocked on the door and I told her “that’s your other ten o’clock appointment”, she muttered, “I hope not” and brushed past us to open the door. She didn’t let them in, though. Instead, she stepped out onto the porch for a moment, came back in (again brushing past us as we removed our shoes at her insistence), and then went back out onto the porch with her laptop in hand, returning alone a few moments later.

She would explain to us that this family had asked for a Monday appointment but had never confirmed, which I had, earning us the spot. I couldn’t shake the feeling, however, that we had both been scheduled and left to a “first-come-first-served” status.   Rather than make them drive all the way back to Louisville, she explained, she offered them a 1 p.m. slot, which they would return for. Would we have been chased away if Jacquelynn had agreed to return to the car to get warm?   Who knows?

Yes, the remainder of our experience was colored by this first few minutes, but it really did just get worse.

When asked for our new-patient papers, I remarked that I hadn’t received any, which elicited another surprising response; she all but insisted she had emailed them.   Honestly, I was expecting her to go and check her sent items in an attempt to prove it.

But, after wasting twenty minutes trying to fill out the forms while she began questioning us, Jacquelynn’s anxiety levels jumped further as one declaration followed another, insisting that all fillings, in addition to her root canal/post must be removed ASAP, in spite of the fact that earlier heavy metal toxicity tests were all negative.  Order followed order followed proclamation followed declaration, one atop the other, each accompanied by a blanket statement that each was a problem “100% of the time, although I’m not allowed to say ‘100%’, but I still do.”  She spoke quickly and without offering the slightest opportunity for us to interject.

This went on for a while when finally, it became clear to me that Jacquelynn was near her breaking point.   This is when I stopped the doctor in her tracks. I told her that both of us were very uncomfortable with her and with the conversations thus far. She immediately leapt to explain how she always runs through first appointments like this so as to provide patients with maximum value for the time. This seems counterintuitive to me, given the higher anxiety levels of most patients with Alzheimer’s, and I expressed that thought.   “I don’t get many complaints”, was her (paraphrased) response.

It went on like this, back-and-forth, for a few minutes, when Jacquelynn finally put her hand on my arm. I looked back at her to see near-fury on her lovely face as she said in a tightly controlled, clipped tone “I’M RIGHT HERE!” She unloaded on the doctor (and me, a little) for speaking around her the whole time.

This little exchange altered the tone of the rest of the two-hour-long appointment. It continued at Jacquelynn’s pace and tolerance until business was completed and we left.  I, of course, felt pretty guilty for participating in the “talking around” Jacquelynn bit, which I had promised not to do, and she let me have it a bit on the way home. Honestly, I was just trying to get everything done and get her out of there as quickly as I may. It was pretty clear from very early on that this wasn’t going to be a doctor-patient relationship to pursue. But, I had already paid my $475 fee and was going to get as much as I could to help my wife from our time as possible, and I did get some info we will use going forward.

But we will not be going forward with this doctor, which is why I’ve refrained from using her name at all.  She may be absolutely the best possible physician for someone else, and I’ve no wish to color anyone else’s opinion unduly.

I felt SO excited and positive about this new doctor, a close, experienced physician familiar and schooled in the Protocol, to shepherd us through the next phase of Jacquelynn’s treatment. By the time we returned home, I was quietly furious with myself for misreading what I felt was true guidance toward this particular doctor. Eventually, though, I realized that it wasn’t the doctor I was guided to, it was the experience. I, we, needed this day to show us that it isn’t a particular doctor which is going to get Jacquelynn and me through this. This is her, our journey. Right now, using what we’ve accomplished thus far and following Dr. Bredesen’s guidelines and Jacquelynn’s own indomitable determination, we will stay on course and continue to improve. Of course, we will eventually seek another physician who participates in the Protocol to advise and guide us, but for right now, we’re simply going to sail the course already charted and tack into the headwind of faith and momentum.

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