Sunday, December 30, 2007

Maxine Lives!

You know Maxine; the cartoon character that graces numerous emails (especially from my mother- she just LOVES Maxine). She is that crazy old bat with the bunny slippers who dispenses knowledge from the bottom of a wine glass. One of my patients turned out to be a seeming prototype for Maxine, minus the bunny slippers. I happened to pick up the phone for a patient advice call. We get dozens of these every day, and since the bottom line is come to the ER because we aren't allowed to give any actual common sense information, we tend to take turns. The caller said that she had experienced bilteral wavy lines in her vision which lasted about 30 seconds, and she had a mild headache. She said that she called her opthamologist who told her she should get right to the ER because she could be having a stroke. Sound advice. She was looking for confirmation, I guess, and also wanted to know if she would "be sitting in the waiting room for hours and hours". After informing her that the visit would take as long as was necessary, she agreed to think about it.

About 2 hours later she lands in my room. Longish gray hair, hiking boots instead of bunny slippers, but I'd know that sneer anywhere: yup, it's Maxine in the flesh. And cantakerous as hell. Won't get undressed. Won't let me draw blood. Won't let me start an IV. Won't let me do an EKG. Won't even sit on the bed. Stands in the doorway with arms folded across her chest. She is ANGRY. Dr. Dewshe Bagghe takes this one (oh, joy), talks with her for a bit and gets her to agree to 1) an EKG, 2) Labs, and 3) a head CT.

The tech accomplishes the bloods and EKG, but Dr. Dewshe, master of communication that he is, conveniently forgets to tell me the CT is with IV contrast, so in I go to start a good-sized line. That done, it is time for her CT. I tell her she needs to take off her hair appliances, earrings, necklaces, etc. She asks if the CT is "the one that's a tube". I explained the CT, and she seems a bit more relaxed. I told her I needed to take her to CT in a wheelchair, expecting a huge fight, but she relented. I notice a book she has in her lap, and ask her how she is liking it as it is something I have read (some off-beat fantasy about dragons, I have eclectic tastes in lit.). We chat about books on the way to her test, and I tell her I will see her in about 10 minutes.

Upon her return, I check her vitals which are all normal, and comment that at 74, she appears many years younger than that. This prompted a really great conversation about life and living it, how she walks the woods with her 3 dogs daily, is an avid reader, and manages to learn something new everyday. She was afraid she WAS having a stroke, and nothing made her more afraid than the prospect of losing her intellect, mobility or especially her independence. I thought she and my mom would get along great. Now, my mom is 75 and another go-getter who will sneak a flask onto the senior citizen bus trips; they tend not to serve ETOH. God forbid mum and her cronies don't have a little wine with lunch. Actually, I want to be just like her and raise as much hell as she does when I am her age. Her Christmas card was her on the back of a motorcycle on her 75th b'day, an event at which she and 6 of her friends drank the rest of us under the table. And remained pretty sober at that; maybe they were just pickled.
Anyway, Miss Maxine was given the good news that her CT was fine. Naturally she was opposed to hospitalization and signed out AMA. But before she left, she kissed me on the cheek (2nd time in 32 years I've allowed that), thanked me profusely for being so kind, and went on her merry way.

I hope she is out there raising hell.