Posts Tagged homeless

Makes Me Wonder

Sometimes I have a hard time trying to separate fact from fiction; especially when patients start giving me a back story to explain why they haven’t had follow up for a medical problem, or how their narcotics got stolen/lost/misplaced, etc. I sometimes think, seriously? Is that really how bad your life is? Come on…

I know times are hard for a lot of people, but when you’re a 30-something, insulin-dependent, right AKA with non-healing wounds who social work bent over backward following your last admission to get you a clean place to live, home health care visits and arranged for a primary care physician so that you could regularly get medical care and, more importantly, your prescriptions, it’s poor form to miss appointments and get dropped from the practice.

Yes, I know it’s easy to get kicked out of your place within a month for having a dog which wasn’t allowed in the first place and which you acquired AFTER you moved in. What home isn’t complete without a loving pet? And, since you couldn’t afford a place before because of your limited SSI, I am sure adding vet bills, dog feed, and vaccinations to your budget will be no problem at all. And, sure, having a significant other who doesn’t work and who smokes despite the no-smoking policy of the building management is a problem especially when they’re not supposed to be on the property either. Yes, darn those apartment landlords and their stupid rules.

Now, I understand that you had previously been living in your car and had been lucky to have a nice place to live, but why couldn’t you drive that car to the appointment again? I’m sorry, you’re now having to live in it again… is it in working order? How did you get here again? What? It’s a legitimate question since you came 20 miles out of your way from your hometown to our E.D. Sure, yes, well, you’re in luck, we have no beds and are having to send all of our admissions north to our sister hospital. So, you’ll be closer to, um, home… and, besides, those social workers already know you and have done all of the leg work already, so there’s that too.

Then there’s the “I need a drug refill because my meds were stolen after I moved out from the last place I was in.” My answer is simply “drugs and scripts are like money, if you lose it, it’s gone and there’s no replacing it.” Besides, we have pain contracts with the local primary care M.D.’s, and they say, “No.” I still get some interesting stories, though, of backpacks being left “for just a second,” or of drugs disappearing “while I was taking a nap” or of pills in a lockbox in someone else’s house that mysteriously disappear when the person with the key leaves the house to go out to get some smokes. My favorite is the “I left them at my ex’s house, and now I can’t get them back.” “Did you file a police report?” “Well, um, yeah.” “Ok, let me talk to the police department and confirm the report number.” “Yeah, well, um.” “So, which police officer was it again..?” “Um, well, yeah it’s kinda like this…”

Mark Twain once said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Twain must have worked in an E.D.

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All the Lonely People

I know that the holidays can get really depressing for a lot of people, but I had three patients over the weekend that really got me depressed because of their situations. I always said that I would never make a good psychiatrist because I would tend to internalize and identify with my patients, and so that’s why I enjoyed surgery so much. There’s quite a bit of distancing that happens when you’re behind a mask looking at a square of skin.

As an E.D. doc, though, we’re up close and personal with a lot of our patients, so it’s back to internalizing and not having the luxury of a sterile sheet between you and your patient.

Patient One crashed their car. They are homeless, so their car is like their home. Everything they own is in there. They had just gotten kicked out of one “fleabag” motel and were on their way to find something better along the coast when they lost control on a curve. Now, all they have is the clothes on their backs. Well, actually in a hospital bag because they were stripped down to a hospital gown when they arrived. They’re bruised and battered and slightly torn. And, they have no one and no where to go. I can discharge them because, luckily, they didn’t suffer any major injuries. But, they have nothing. So they get admitted. Social Work and Discharge Planning can figure out what to do with them in the morning.

They used to have a life, and friends, and a home. But then they were forced to take early retirement from their work. They lost their home and their social network. They can’t afford housing on a fixed income. So they roam… in their car… from place to place.

Patient Two had a nice home, and a wife. Then their wife died and a part of them died too. So they turned to alcohol to help deal with the pain. Soon their nice home deteriorated as did their health. They have a neighbor who checks on them from time to time. Their neighbor brings them in whenever things get too bad. Patient Two can’t see their PCP because they have an outstanding bill, so the E.D. becomes their PCP. Diabetes out of control again? Yep. Bad cellulitis on your legs again? Yep. Anything new? Yep, pressure ulcers on my bottom from not getting up out of my chair for the last three days because my legs felt too bad. Am I going to be admitted? Yep.

Patient Three has a psych history. They’ve been in and out of the system their entire life which is only 50+ years long so far. They have the look of a 90 year old man. A neighbor stopped by because they hadn’t seen them for a few days and found them looking slightly worse than usual. Not eating or drinking. Somehow, though, they continue to smoke despite the rattling cough in their lungs. How the cigarette paper doesn’t just rip their Sahara Desert dry and cracked lips to shreds is beyond me. Must be the warm stale beer that somehow is within reach. Another admission for “Failure to Thrive.” It’s the least I can do.

Three hots and cot… at least for tonight… at least for today…

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