Ralph and Alice Move Just In Time to Stay In Place–Comic Relief in the Time of Corona

IMG_0553.jpg

Moving to a new city in the middle of a pandemic with a physically frail, cognitively impaired husband may not have been the wisest decision I ever made, but it was the only one available.

We’ve been here almost a week and every day has been crammed with incidents that make for fear, anxiety, but also a surprising amount of laughter. Problems that would be minor in normal times loom larger when they can’t be fixed in the foreseeable future; problems that would freak me out in normal times seem humorously trivial now. What follows are just a few of the highs and lows of Alice and Ralph’s misadventures because I’ve already forgotten the rest; there have been so many.

THURSDAY  We arrived much later in the afternoon than I’d hoped but with Ralph and the dogs in better spirits than I’d expected. Workmen were still here finishing the dog’s fence and putting locks on doors before heading into c-virus hibernation. The bedroom, bath and kitchen were ready though, and Ralph lay down oblivious while I met for two hours with our contractor. He wore what looked like a futuristic gas mask as he led me through the rest of the house pointing out all the work that would have to wait until who knows when. Around 8pm I woke Ralph to share a microwaved frozen pizza –fortunately my daughter had stocked our kitchen with food to make sure I was not tempted to shop.

Close to the front lines herself as a nurse practitioner, she’s very protective of her father and me. Ahead of the government, she has mandated absolute isolation: o grocery shopping or even taking the dogs on walks. And because she works at a health clinic, she and everyone in her family, including babyRalph, are off limits. I go to bed wondering if coming to New Orleans was a huge mistake.

FRIDAY   I’m up with sun telling myself optimistically that it’s a new day. I can’t wait to try out our new white and shiny shower (with a doorway big enough for a wheelchair if that time comes). I turn on the spigot. It falls into my hand. I call my contractor who forgot to tell me he’d ordered a new spigot that would be put on later today. No shower obviously so I get dressed.  Oops, I seem to have left the bag with my underwear and socks in Georgia. I am laughing as I text about my “crises” to friends.

Ralph doesn’t mind skipping a shower; he is remarkably happy lying in bed with the dogs nearby.  But to avoid contact with the plumber in the afternoon, I drag Ralph to sit in the kitchen where he watches through his window as two guys finish a few exterior tasks before leaving for the duration.

Why are they wearing masks?”

The virus.”

Right, The SARS thing?” SARS it will remain in this house.

My daughter checks in from work at the clinic where her boss has just described their work as ‘staring at a freight train heading full speed straight at you.’

A bit rattled, I put a pot on the stove to start dinner listening to a news report that mentions the governor’s new regulations about social contact. Click click but no gas. I light matches. No gas and no gas smell. I take a breath and text our contractor although I know he’s had nothing to do with the stove, which came with the house. I quickly teach myself my first lesson in how to use the intimidating microwave that also came with the house.

SATURDAY   We’re schedule to get WIFI/TV this morning but given the governor’s order limiting work to essential services, I am not sure the installer will show, or if I want him to. He shows. I follow him around at a distance with a bottle of disinfectant. It’s exciting to have TV and WIFI. I fire up my Mac no problem, but when I try to turn on my business computer, it doesn’t recognize my password.  I start to panic. All our finances are locked in the computer. I take a breath; the tech guys who helped me set the password days before we moved (who needed a password on a farm?) aren’t available until Monday. I face the reality that there’s nothing I can do and that if necessaary I’ll bookkeep by hand the way I used to as long as necessary. The good new remains Ralph.  He’s forgotten all about his back pain, also that he was sick last week. He willingly sits outside with me to drink our morning coffee. He doesn’t miss the farm one iota.

The washing machine is the next thing I can’t get to work. I text the contractor, thinking to myself I can hand wash from now on if I have to.  The contractor face times with me. First he figures out why the stove is not coming on and that there no way for me to get it fixed for now. Oh well, I have an oven, a microwave, and a George Forman grill, plus an electric teakettle; I’ll get by. As for the washing machine, once we check the breakers, my contractor has me snake my arm with the phone around the machine so he can see behind. It’s unplugged! Twenty minutes later I find my bag of underwear. I am ECSTATIC.

SUNDAY (or maybe it was still Saturday, my days are beginning to run together) My daughter calls. Her boss at the clinic has tested positive. Telemedicine is going into place. Did I mention my daughter is pregnant?  I am sick with ANXIETY.

I do not tell Ralph.

He is oblivious. Physically he’s back to what he was before his hospitalization, but mentally he’s made a shift. It’s subtle, a matter of passivity more than memory. If I don’t give him a plate or a cup he doesn’t eat or drink. If I don’t order him into the shower (now working and lovely), he stays unwashed.

MONDAY  I am about to call the tech guys about my computer but give it one last shot punching in every combination I can come up with. It turns on. Maybe anxiety had me typing in wrong letters the other or maybe I have a sticky key. I don’t know but I’m not turning that machine off any time soon. I have a relatively pleasant day avoiding the world outside. I do editing, I work on a writing assignment. I unpack more boxes. I’m more relaxed than I have been in a month, but being in this new environment and out of our old routine forces me to see more clearly how much my relationship with Ralph has deteriorated as a partnership. The silence.

TUESDAY  After looking out my window and realizing that I am looking into my neighbor’s bathroom at an inopportune moment, I figure out how to hang some impromptu curtains. I am proud of myself, becoming someone who solves physical problems. I also solve a problem concerning Ralph’s prescription drug insurance. All before 10 am. But I’ve been so busy I haven’t checked on Ralph, assuming he’d call me on his cell if he needed me. I go to the bedroom where he is fine, but his phone is dead. No charge even plugged into a working outlet. I call Verizon, am put on hold, then on call back status during which time I take a quick shower. Finally a technician comes on. It takes us five minutes to fix the problem. I think to myself that I’m glad I’ve sent up a landline for Ralph to use in an emergency. Of course now I need to order an actual landline phone.

WEDNESDAY Here we are. Ralph in his realm downstairs, me up here doing work and texting friends. I’ve been entertaining my friends with daily blow-by-blow accounts of our foibles. The humor may be only skin deep—it feels flimsy in retelling here—but it is what works to pull us through.  And oddly, Ralph is almost an inspiration. He’s so damn relaxed!  I am trying to stay relaxed too, by worrying about only those issues I can actually problem solve, like cooking rice in the microwave. Or the fact that Ralph’s phone just died again.

NO MORE NORMAL

cloud.jpg

Since Ralph was released from the hospital for a bacterial infection, Ralph and I have been living a miniature version of the chaos the larger world is experiencing.  Without going into details, he has been more or less bedridden, getting up for the bathroom, occasional meals (though mostly eating in bed), follow up doctor visits and his daily infusions.

Meanwhile we sold our farm and I turned 70. Both events should have been moments to stop and reflect, but reflection will have to come later. I was too busy packing, working, and caring for Ralph. As for Ralph, he witnessed the sale without emotion—he had to be at the closing to sign off—and didn’t really notice my birthday at all.

So for two and half weeks we’ve muddled along living in a bare house we no longer own—a friend stayed with Rick and got him to his infusion while I did a fast drive down and back for the scheduled furniture move. The plan was that Ralph would finish his antibiotics and get his final doctor check out Monday and we would drive to Nola on Thursday (Tomorrow as I write this).

Meanwhile the corona virus began to spread. But we have been more or less isolated anyway so not paying a lot of attention. There was talk among my friends whether to go to lunch for my birthday/farewell gathering on Saturday. Four of us went for dumplings and fist bumped goodbye. We all were still joking then.

But by Monday no one I the country was joking. But while most people were concentrating on the virus, Ralph and I were focused more narrowly on his back. Saturday, the morning of my birthday Ralph had begun complaining of a backache He doesn’t remember doing anything to himself and I witnessed nothing unusual. But by Sunday morning he was in serious pain that only got worse.

On Monday at our appointment with Dr. P. we learned the blood work from Sunday showed a small rise in his white blood count we hoped had to do with Ralph back pain. Dr. P suspected an injury rib and sent us for an x-ray. He also sent us for more blood work this morning so he’d know the results before we leave tomorrow.  But he wasn’t worried.

So when everyone was hunkering down to self-isolate we were zipping very slowly from one medical office to another. At home Ralph slept, of course, as I packed up the leftovers that couldn’t be moved until the last minute.

Well there is no broken rib, but the x-ray showed inflammation in Ralph lung. (And yet, the nodules in his lungs three weeks ago are still present.) Not a lot of inflamaton and only in a small corner but too much to discount completely. The blood works shows his white blood count is back to normal but some other measure, I didn’t understand what, is higher than it should be. Although he has no symptoms, Dr. P. mentioned the possibility that Ralph might have pneumonia. His voice was almost too calm. I responded with equal, fake calm. Pneumonia is not a good thing to have ever, but right now if you’re a 73-year-old man with early onset Alzheimer’s, it is a particularly not good thing to have.

We are still leaving in the morning. After talking not only to Dr. P. but also to our doctor/friend Andy and our nurse practitioner daughter in Nola, the consensus is to go. Ralph has medical appointments scheduled there. We can self-quarantine one place as easily as another. And we can’t keep camping out in someone else’s house.

I am by turns crazed and sanguine. Since no one is seeing anyone, leaving friends feels almost anti-climatic. As if I am not leaving the world I’ve inhabited since I was 21 years old. Ralph, on the other hand, is blasé. When his back hurts it hurts, when it doesn’t he can’t remember it ever did. His cognitive impairment, has not bounced back to its old plateau. His life list is out the window. He can’t remember if he’s eaten, if it’s morning or afternoon.  If I say something about a virus, he looks at me struggling, and then his face lights up. “Oh, you mean about “Sars. Is that a problem again.”

Our little personal drama feels very important and scary to me of course, but we are really quite lucky. Actually all of us are. We are in our own homes (or will be) with decent food (and toilet paper) available. We have a supply of water, working utilities. We have means to communicate and be entertained.

Ok, I am not this cheerful, but it’s worth a shot.

OUT OF THE HOSPITAL AND BACK INTO ALZHEIMER’S QUESTIONS

 

doors.jpg

The good news:

Ralph got out of the hospital on Friday afternoon seven days after he was admitted, once the infectious disease lab was able to pinpoint the bacteria and determine which antibiotic he needed. By the time he left his white blood count was back to normal and he had a sense of humor back. The nurses loved him.

 

The bad news:

The bacterium was rare and hard to pinpoint because it came from the mouth of dogs. Since the onset of his MCI, Ralph has had an obsessive need to scratch at the dry skin on his hands, to the point of breaking the skin, so it is likely the infection came from a lick for one of his two best friends.

 

Other bad news:

Ralph has to receive intravenous antibiotics daily until March 16 and because I know my limitations as a nurse, I am not attempting to give them at home. Instead, I will be driving him to get them at the infusion center at the hospital every morning. Our plans to move to Nola on March 5 are obviously delayed.

 

Other good news:

  1. 1. We get to wake up to this view again; since Ralph can’t climb upstairs at this point, I moved the guestroom bed down.
  2. 2. I have learned to ask for help and have received it from so many people. Friends will come stay with Ralph for two nights so I can go to Nola just long enough to meet the movers and set up furniture as originally scheduled. An other friend will bring the dogs down in his truck—actually what was until today Rick’s truck because I have arranged to sell it to him, one large chore off my list!

 

Both good and bad news:

  1. 1. Ralph is happy about the sale and shows no happiness about no longer driving; I am torn between being glad Ralph is not putting up an unpleasant fight and sad that one more part of his identity has been chipped away.
  2. 2. Ralph has stopped smoking cold turkey because a cat scan showed tiny nodules on his lungs that could either be a result of the infection or pre-cancerous. He will have a follow up CAT scan around the 16th to see if the nodules have shrunk. Meanwhile the doctors told Ralph no smoking and he agreed. Of course he doesn’t exactly remember but he continues to agree every time I remind him. And he is not showing any major symptoms of withdrawal.
  3. He also has not asked for a beer, which is good, but then again he has very little appetite in general, which is not so good.

 

Beyond Good or Bad

Ralph’s bout with physical infection has given me a lot to think about as I try to evaluate how much being on the Alzheimer’s spectrum might have affected his physical health and how this physical crisis might affect the progression of his Alzheimer’s.

According to medical people, being on the Alzheimer’s spectrum probably did make him more vulnerable to illness and/or caused his reaction to be more extreme. It certainly made it harder for me to detect something was seriously wrong with Ralph. I am pretty sure the signs of the infection would have been obvious sooner in someone without Alzheimer’s; after all what might seem abnormal in others—sleeping too much, inattentiveness to one’s physical state, lack of appetite, mental withdrawal—seemed almost normal if exaggerated behavior in Ralph. And he never articulated that he was feeling sick.  I don’t feel guilty that I didn’t catch on sooner; if anything I feel lucky I caught on when I did.

What concerns me more now is the ambiguity of his condition now. I have talked about adjusting to “the new normal” as Ralph and our relationship change. Now Ralph is very changed. The no smoking, no beer, no driving are in their way shocking changes. I have professed to wish for them, yet now I see them as scary sign posts if permanent. IF–I suspect Ralph’s taste for beer will return and a fight over smoking may loom in the future.

What I don’t know is whether this physical crisis will have a permanent effect on Ralph physically and mentally. That he is incredibly weak at the moment is to be expected while recovering from a major bacterial infection and while taking strong antibiotics. But I don’t trust he will bounce back. He cannot hold onto the memory of having been sick, has already forgotten the hospital, cannot remember he has an IV portal in his arm.

(In fact as I was writing this he got out of bed and wandered in to where I am typing.

What are you doing I asked.

I need to go to the store for cigarettes.

Remember, you’ve stopped.

Why?

Because of the CAT scan. They found nodules and said you can’t smoke any more.

Oh, I forgot.

And with that he wandered back to bed).

I don’t know if being weakened physically will cause him to lose ground cognitively.

I do know that our relationship has changed, at least for now. I cannot make even the small demands I did ten days ago. I bring him his pills. I feed the dogs and care for them. I tempt him with snacks every few house because he will skip eating unless I remind him. I stand at the shower to make sure he keeps his arm dry. He has no interest in the world or the people in his life. He wants me nearby as his guide—each time the nurse asked him what year it was, he looked at me to give him the answer—but we have almost no conversation. And while I might leave him to go to the store or run a few errands, I cannot imagine leaving him overnight with a life list to follow. The life list is on hiatus.

I assume some of his strength will return. But this episode has exposed his fragility and vulnerability. Also how far he has drifted from the Ralph he used to be. Whether the decline is in the last week, whether it’s permanent, or whether I just didn’t notice before remains to be seen…

RALPH UPDATE—When Having Something Physically Wrong is Good News

 

rollercoaster.jpg

First, I want to thank everyone for your concern.

Ralph is still in the hospital, but the buzzer issue is fixed so we both got some sleep last night (although the fact that I lost both my phone and then my cup of coffee in the course of ten minutes in Ralph’s room this morning tells me I may need more rest.)

More important, new test results came in overnight showing Ralph does indeed have a bacterial infection. I am terrible with medical stuff so can’t articulate the details, but Ralph is now on intravenous antibiotics. More testing is needed to pinpoint the infection so he has to stay in the hospital at least one more night. But he is clearly doing better—still without an appetite and sleeping most of the time but his voice is stronger when he speaks and he seems to be paying some attention, answering questions, even occasionally smiling at a joke. His skin has normal color and his eyes are clearer.

I am obviously relieved. Actually I have come home to do his laundry and to hide all evidence of cigarettes because for now he shows no interest in smoking. Once he’s better, the smoking desire may return but I can hope….

This type of crisis was going to happen soon or later and I’m just glad we survived it. I am now facing a reality I’m not sure I realized, that people with Alzheimer’s are going to react to infections and other physical and also emotional problems more intensely while being less able to articulate what they are experiencing. And while being in a hospital is not easy for any patient, for a patient with Alzheimer’s the stakes and danger are much higher. The hospital medical staff has been diligent and caring, but if I had not been around, his medical caregivers would have been unable to interpret what was normal for Ralph and what was off-kilter.

The hospital doctor says he thinks Ralph will be able to go to his annual mental check up scheduled for later this week. I was hoping to have a cognitive baseline for Ralph before moving, but will tests be accurate right now? Of course I will ask Emory if taking the tests is a good idea and if he’s well enough will probably take him to see his neurologist one last time whether he’s tested or not.

I was going to write that I’m not sure if the hospital stay has had any long-term meaning. But the truth is I know there has been at least one important long-term change. I will no longer leave Rick alone. Maybe it’s been true all along and I have travelling in a fool’s paradise believing Ralph could still function for a few days on his own, but now I have to acknowledge Ralph cannot gauge if he is experiencing a mental crisis and perhaps lacks judgment in general. If I had been gone, I might not have picked up signals that he was falling apart—phone calls can be misleading—and then what would have been the outcome? Whether the slide is steep or still slow and steady, there is a slide and we have crossed a new care-giving line.

 

One Very Bad Day In Memoryland– A Blip or Ralph’s Future?

 

IMG_0470This is the view I went to sleep and woke up to this morning and will again tomorrow, a far different view that I posted, was it only yesterday morning? And was it only yesterday that I mentioned a niggling suspicion that something was more “off” than usual with Ralph? It seems like ages ago.

After I posted those concerns yesterday, I went to wake Ralph up for the second or third time in the morning and this time I made him get out of bed. He’d slept for about sixteen hours and although he was not as spacey as the night before (including symptoms I realize now that I downplayed in my post) he still didn’t seem quite right to me.  I couldn’t exactly say why, but intuition kicked in and I called the Brain Center at Emory. They took my symptom description extremely seriously and told me to head to an urgent care. Urgent Care listened to the symptoms and immediately sent me to my local hospital emergency room. It freaked me out a little that Emory was so concerned.

Even as we drove and I repeatedly retold Ralph where we were going and the reason, I wasn’t sure if I was over-reacting. Was there something actually wrong or was Ralph just exhibiting his new level of cognitive impairment (that scary word dementia swirling in my head)? And which would be worse—that he’d had a small stroke (or that a large one was about to come) or that his Alzheimer’s had progressed?

Actually, at this point in real time (real time interrupted every two minutes as I jump up to turn off his malfunctioning hydration buzzer) I don’t know which is true. The hospital admitted him because the tests run yesterday showed his white blood cell count seriously elevated, but the doctors are puzzled because the tests so far show no sign of the infections that usually accompany this kind of count. The count itself  has come down somewhat today, perhaps because Ralph has been getting intravenous hydration, but the numbers are  nowhere near normal and the hospital is keeping him at least another night while waiting for some more testing results.

Meanwhile, again perhaps thanks to hydration, he seems lucid when he is awake. But, except when a couple of close friends visited, he has mostly been asleep. I’m not sure if he is exhausted by this experience, if he is ill, or if this is about how much he’d like to sleep most of the time at home if I let him. Similarly, is illness or being in the hospital or some combination of both the reason he has no appetite and is generally shaky weak and without a modicum of energy? More worrisome because so out of character, Ralph has not asked about his dogs; nor, amazingly, has he voiced any interest in smoking.

The doctors have said that cognitively compromised individuals are more prone to becoming disoriented as a result of what would seem minor illnesses or health issues, including anxiety, for others. Given that we are moving in three weeks, (and don’t let me get started on the practicalities that threaten to go awry now) Ralph is certainly under stress. But has the stress caused him a temporary physical and mental set back or has his new normal dropped a notch or more. The doctors tell me I did the right thing in bringing him in, and given his blood count I guess they are right, but I wonder if he is now on a slope that is only slippery but also more steeply downhill than I am ready to handle.

And there goes that damn buzzer again!

 

 

Missing the View Ralph Has Forgotten

IMG_0221.jpg 

This is the view Ralph and I have woken up to for over 25 years but no more. Although we don’t move for another two weeks, I took the mattress and box springs to Nola last week (so Rick will have a bed waiting for him when we arrive). For the last days here we are sleeping in our guest room in the antique double bed we slept in when we first married. A kind of poetic justice.

Waking to that view, though, was always my favorite thing about living on this farm I came to against my wishes; at times it was the only thing I liked about living here. Since there are no neighbors except a horse or two, we never bothered with curtains, and whatever the weather, sunny or cloudy or stormy, it was wonderful to sit in bed with a cup of coffee looking out.

Our bedroom always had a good view, but about 12 years ago, around the time we became empty nesters, we did some renovating and enlarged our span of windows. Afterwards Ralph and I went through a period of intense bird watching. We set up feeders outside the windows and armed our selves with bird-watching guides. Ralph made sure the feeders stayed filled. We had struggled in our marriage, particularly because we seemed to have few interests in common except our work and kids, but with the kids gone, we had more time before heading to work and the bird watching became a shared focus.

By the time Ralph was first diagnosed with MCI, evenings were when he functioned least well. We stopped hanging out together much once the dinner dishes were cleared. But mornings, he was sharper. I made a point always to be available from eight, when he woke up, til about nine. We’d bring each other coffee in bed—sometimes I made it but just as often he would—and spend an hour listening to NPR and talking about the view out the window. During that relaxed hour I would bring up subjects that might be harder to discuss other times of day. Ralph’s memory seemed better in the morning and he would converse with surprising clarity and even humor. Then around nine, he’d want his first cigarette and I’d start my day.

I’ve been telling myself we still have that schedule, but we don’t. I still wake up at sixish and read or do work. But now I have to force him to wake up, and although he goes to bed earlier and earlier, it’s getting harder and harder to get him going by eight. And even if I do, I end up drinking coffee alone because he goes to the porch to smoke as soon as he’s up. More than once lately, I’ve come home from a morning errand to find him still in his bathrobe on the porch as noon approaches.

This is a change that has crept up on us, but as I prepare us to move, I’m suddenly aware and worried that there are more changes I’ve been ignoring. A decrease in conversation, less care in how he’s dressed,  a vacancy around his eyes. Tonight he seemed particularly out of it—even momentarily confused where to find the milk he always pours himself for dinner.    I asked if something was wrong. He said he felt unwell, but when I pressed him, he said he didn’t ache or hurt,  just felt “spacey.”

I want to think he was just having a moment due to the strain of the move. The truth I am afraid to face is that Ralph is accepting the move because he has withdrawn so deeply into himself. He gets tested next week so I guess I’ll find out then.

Meanwhile, what I already know is that Ralph has forgotten the birds and the view. Funny to think I’m the one who will miss them.

Moving “With” Ralph

 

moving.jpg

I meant to write about our last Christmas on the farm, about Ralph and his oldest son taking out guitars and playing together as everyone sang along on Christmas eve, Ralph thoroughly engaged for those few hours, how family and friends who’ve celebrated with us every year for decades and decades gave speeches at dinner that moved others to tears, how difficult I found it (still find it) to grasp the import because my bittersweet emotions were tinged with relief.

I meant to write but really once the 26th came, I was too embroiled in the present and future to worry about the past, event the immediate past.

It is the second of February and our movers are coming on the fifth of March. All my books are packed (minus the hundreds I donated to the library). So are most of my pictures, handmade glass and most of my kitchen. Next weekend I am driving to Nola with our bed and however much I can squeeze in a u-haul. I want the bed ready for Ralph when we arrive on the fifth to beat the movers who will show up the next morning.

The fact is that the practical issues are all falling into place.  There are no serious glitches. The farm is under contract to my next-door neighbor who plans to put it into the rural preservation program. The movers are hired. The renovation is only a few weeks behind schedule and not too over budget so far. I have been able to get things done and keep up with my other work and with my social life. My days are full, but not overwhelming. In fact last weekend a friend and I organized our mutual birthday trip that will take place in May (with my son coming to stay with Ralph while I’m gone—a lot easier asking him to come to Nola than to the isolated farm).

I meant to write an update on all this because part of me is frankly proud of myself for pulling things off so well, but I haven’t until now. And lack of time has not been the real problem.

The real problem has been that since Christmas, I have been avoiding facing my feelings toward Ralph too closely.  I do his life list, I make sure he takes his pills, takes his shower, eats his meals. But I have filled my days with chores and conversations and decision making that I deal with on my own. And while I dutifully, even obsessively worry about how I can make Ralph’s adjustment as easy as possible—from walking to the corner store instead of driving, to dog walking and poopscooping, to learning his way around a new house—I have felt basically numb where Ralph is concerned. Numb has seemed better than admitting the mix of resentment at having to do everything myself and exhilaration at doing everything the way I want without kowtowing to him as I did through most of marriage.

Or that’s what I have assumed. But then this week I was jolted out of my stupor. Early in January I contacted the neurologist who’d been recommended by multiple sources as the best in Nola for Alzheimer’s. I was told to have Ralph’s current provider, Emory, send a referral. So I called the social worker at Emory who told me to contact my medical provider for the referral. I used the portal that everyone must use these days to send a message asking for the referral. I didn’t hear anything back for over a week so sent a new message, this time to more than one of my providers asking what was up. Someone called me back the same day and said the referral had in fact been sent, I just hadn’t been told. I immediately called the Nola doctor’s office and was informed by the scheduling secretary that less than ten minutes before my call she had received a memo from the doctor’s nurse saying he was not taking new patients. I explained that I had just learned that Ralph’s referral had been sent in a week ago. She was extremely sympathetic and immediately messaged the doctor’s nurse who responded that she knew about us and would call me back“ shortly.”

I heard nothing that day. I called the next day. A different scheduling receptionist found Ralph in the computer as having had contact with the nurse. Again I was told she’d get back to me “shortly.” Again I didn’t hear anything.  For three days I kept my phone at my side wherever I went, kicking myself for not checking with Emory earlier, for not starting the whole process last year in fact, for really screwing up. And just when I had given up and stopped expecting the call, there was the nurse on the phone as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Ralph’s first appointment with his new doctor will be in May.

Suddenly my stupor lifted. Having a doctor in place has shifted my whole orientation. I am still resentful and exhilarated, but more exhilarated than resentful. Now that I’ve found Ralph the doctor he needs, I know everything else will fall into place

 

PS  I should have gotten the ball rolling sooner. If anyone reading this is contemplating a move, start your doctor search as early as possible. Alzheimer’s specialists are at a premium. I feel a new empathy for expectant parents who put their unborn babies on waitlists for daycare and preschool.