Once Mother settled in to her new home in Iowa, she had a myriad of appointments. Her former doctor in Indiana had sent a ton of medical records with us. When my sister Abby and I read through them, we were amazed that the doctor had the audacity to put “S.O.B” repeatedly throughout the forms!
Neither of us could blame the poor doctor for notating what we assumed stood for “Son of a Bitch” but we did find it a bit unprofessional (between our bouts of laughing hysterically about it). We later learned that, in this case, it was medical shorthand for “Short of Breath”.
I had located a new doctor for Mother near her new residence, and so our first medical visit was to a geriatric specialist. Naturally, as she did with most authority figures, Mother hated him. She thought he was “on drugs or something” and felt that he acted silly, when in truth he was a pleasant man who wanted to make her feel welcome.
The only reason I could think of that Mother believed the doctor was “on drugs” was his nervous tic of laughing softly every time she said one of her colorful and bizarre statements. Overall, and especially considering the attitude of his patient, he was quite professional.
He discussed her COPD, and of course she refused to admit she needed oxygen. He mentioned her lymphedema (which is a very severe swelling in the leg) and she announced that she might take up Tai Chi to help with that if, as she put it, “That’s really something I have”; as she so often did, Mother’s approach to longevity consisted of denying any diagnosis a medical professional dared to suggest.
The visit was not productive, unless you think frustration and denial are productive.
Next we were off to the Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist where she was fitted with hearing aids. Even with Mother’s medical coverage, the out of pocket cost for these was over two thousand dollars. Two thousand dollars that my sister and I paid. They should have been gold-plated for that price, and they shortly became another piece of the clutter laying around her home.
She said that she never “adapted” to them. She loved having them laying around her apartment, she just did not love using them. Her hearing was extremely poor without them, but as she would say
I just never have cottoned to those things.
Months after buying these, I was straightening up her apartment for her and found a pair of “Magic Ears”, the kind of alleged hearing booster that is “As Seen on TV”. Mother had apparently ordered them at some point. Like the $2000 professional hearing aids, they also sat unused in a box amongst the clutter she surrounded herself with in her apartment.
After one of her hospitalizations, we were off to outpatient therapy and the clinic for treatment of the horrible swelling in her leg. This involved massage, wrapping, unwrapping and gentle pressure put by hand all over her leg. I did not care for these medical procedures and especially did not enjoy being the person who had to massage and apply gentle pressure all over her leg.
I thought that eventually the appointments would come to an end but they seemed to multiply and I became the nurse, medical driver and massage therapist. Many times while en route to one of her appointments, Mother would say
After I ran the wheels off my car for you all those years when you were growing up, now it’s your turn to do that for me.
Of course, in reality, Mother had done little if any driving for me when I was a child. But I didn’t see much point in debating the facts with her by this time. And while I am not a medical professional, I developed a diagnosis of her based on years of observation and interaction: impaired perceptions, inflated ego, rewritten memories and narcissistic tendencies. In other words – Far From Normal.