Nothing can prepare you for a phone call from the Emergency Room.
I’d had a lovely morning making cookies and decorating Valentines with my grandson, completely oblivious to the trauma that was going on in my husband’s life. We were just finishing up our lunch when I got the call. Rich was in the Emergency Room at the hospital, and managed to relay that he’d been sent there by ambulance from Now Care – but he was “okay.” Really, okay? He’d been pumped full of morphine and other drugs, so the conversation wasn’t 100% lucid, but he had a burning question for me – what was the name of his primary doctor? The hospital wanted to access his health history, but he just couldn’t recall the doctor’s name. Not surprising under the circumstances.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t a clue. I did recall the general location of the clinic where I’d taken him for his colonoscopy, and Rich managed to put a name to it. Contacting them, I was able to find out he’d been a patient there, but his doctor had retired. All other information was locked behind the health information access laws. But at least I had a number that Rich could call to request the information himself. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start.
That was a wake-up call. What if Rich had been unconscious, and unable to speak for himself? What other information would I need, that is locked in his head, his phone contacts or his computer? We’ve done pretty well at sharing financial data and logins with each other, but we never gave health information a thought. It’s clearly time to get our information sharing in order.
For now, I’ll start with the names and phone numbers of our doctors and attorney. Then we need to move on to any health information access forms we can sign to authorize each other to manage that data. We recently learned that should something happen to our 20-something, unattached sons, we would have no say in their treatment unless they had a Health Care Directive giving us those rights. Who would have thought about that for young people? That just moved up our To-Do list.
From there, we need to move on to other information. In this age of digital data, that takes on a whole new meaning, especially as Rich and I are very technology-centric. I used to work with a trust and estate attorney who specializes in managing one’s digital assets. His Digital Passing blog immediately came to mind, and there I found a wealth of information.
By the way, the scare is over, if the health ordeal isn’t. What they originally thought was a kidney stone turned out to be an enlarged prostate. I brought Rich home that afternoon, and he’s in the midst of additional tests to determine his treatment. It doesn’t appear to be cancer at this point, which is a relief. And despite his “extra plumbing” Rich is determined to remain active, which his doctor encouraged. Yesterday he went cross-country skiing, and he hasn’t yet ruled out doing the Birkie! He’s also facing this head-on, blogging about the physical and emotional side of his journey.
Nobody ever wants a call like the one I received this week. But I hope to pass along what I learn about managing our health and personal information for just such an emergency. So others can be prepared.