Monday, August 16, 2010

Home again

Most of the people I know go on vacations, at least once a year.  I, on the other hand, go out of town only for stressful reasons, either job-related or illness-or-death-in-the-family-related.  No wonder I don't like traveling!  If I associated travel with fun and relaxation, things would be different.

I just returned from visiting my sister in Boston.  I was surprised to find her much the same as she was during my visit last March.  Her latest CT scan brought disappointing news of spreading cancer.  But really, I couldn't tell.  She seems to be amazingly accepting of her condition of being unable to speak, eat, drink, swallow or breath except through a tracheotomy. 

My nieces (her daughters) who also live in Boston were on vacation (a real vacation, in Provincetown) so I was there to take care of my sister.  The reason it was stressful is because I was not sure what I'd do in an emergency.  I had no car (and didn't want to drive in a strange city, especially one notorious for its traffic) and knew nobody.  But at first, it seemed like a piece of cake.  Sis was acting fine, albeit sleepy, and I thought I'd have a pleasant visit with her. 

Then she dropped the bomb.  When she was at Dana Farber, the famous cancer hospital in Boston, for her appointment a few days earlier, she was supposed to get some prescriptions filled.  Long story short, her daughter talked her into waiting to get the prescriptions filled some other day, which I can't really explain seeing as how the daughters were preparing to leave town. 

Now, Sis wanted me to fill the prescriptions.  She was unwilling/unable to leave her apartment, so I'd have to try to do it for her.  Having had no experience with this sort of thing, I had no idea what to expect, except for an inexplicable sense of foreboding as I set out on foot for the nearest CVS. 

Because Sis normally fills her prescriptions at Dana Farber, CVS had no history with her.  I handed over all of her IDs, prescriptions, insurance cards, and even her CVS card, hoping they'd be able to sort through it all and produce the desired results. 

And sort they did, for a while, and then 3 of the pharmacy employees huddled, with each in turn shooting a furtive glance my way, as if trying to assess whether I was law-abiding.  Eventually the bravest of the trio, the male, strolled back to the counter where I stood.

"Er....this prescription for Oxicodone is the largest amount we've ever seen.  We would never carry this amount, and no pharmacy in Massachusetts is going to have this amount in stock.  Because it's a narcotic, it's going to be really difficult to obtain this enormous amount."

"Do you have any in stock?"

"We have a small fraction of the amount on the prescription."

I took a break to begin texting my sister to see what she wanted (remember- she can't speak).  Did she want me to fill the prescription here, bringing back just a fraction of the full amount of the prescription, thereby forfeiting the rest of the amount?  Or did she want me to have them order it?  Could she get by until Tuesday?  She was indecisive, so I asked the pharmacists to call other pharmacies to see if any had the amount needed, even though they swore that it was futile.

I understand that Oxicodone is addictive, and that's probably why she seemed quite unwilling to take the tiny amount which CVS had in stock.  I never did get her to admit just exactly how much Oxicodone she had left.

Fast forward to Tuesday.  I called CVS at the agreed upon time to make sure the Oxicodone was in.  It wasn't.  This was very bad news, since Sis had stretched out her stash to get by until the Tuesday shipment arrived.  But CVS assured me that it would be in on Wednesday.

It wasn't!  They had no idea when it would be in, since it was "back ordered by the manufacturer, and we did warn you that narcotics are very difficult to obtain...."

By this time my brother had arrived  from San Francisco where he lives, and he had a car to use in Boston.  We had no choice but to try to drive to Dana Farber to fill the prescription. 

I navigated using the GPS on my phone.  We made it to the vicinity of Dana Farber without too much trouble, although the traffic was indeed daunting.  It was not an easy, direct route, and it was a considerable distance from Sis's apartment.  Although we found the vicinity, the hospital itself eluded us and we had to ask for directions several times. 

When we finally made it to the main entrance, I convinced the valet attendant that we were in the midst of an emergency,.and that I had to run into the hospital on a critical errand while my brother sat in the car out front.  Fortunately, he decided not to argue with me and I ran inside where the information lady directed me to the pharmacy. 

The ordeal was far from over.  Once I made it to the pharmacy, I waited in the "pick-up" line.  When I finally made my way to the window after waiting in line 20 minutes I was told that I should have been in the "drop-off" line.  (My frazzled brain had told me that I had already dropped off the *&?^% prescription several days earlier!  And in my defense, CVS had called Dana Farber to set this up, so it really was logical for me to be in the "pick-up" line.)

When it was finally my turn at the "drop-off" window, I was told that this prescription would be filled in an hour.  AN HOUR???!!  I nearly burst into tears as I explained that this was a dire emergency which I had been dealing with during my entire time in Boston, and my sister couldn't wait any longer for her medicine, and my brother from San Francisco was parked illegally waiting for this drug so desperately needed. 

The pharmacist said it would be 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, I had begun receiving angry texts from Sis.  She wanted to know why I flew halfway across the country to see her and then spent all my time away.  She texted, "I don't understand.  I thought you were going to Dana Farber.  What on earth is taking you so long???!!!"

My phone was overheated from being used as a GPS.  It was so hot I could hardly hold it- I half expected to see smoke rising from it.  And now I know that using the GPS function uses up a cell phone battery really quickly.  By the time I finally exited Dana Farber with the huge bottles of Oxicodone, my battery was so low that my GPS was only partially functional.  It took us a really long time to get back to my sister.  We nearly ended up in the state of Vermont, which is nowhere near where she lives.

When we finally delivered the goods, Sis disclosed that she had a new problem.  While we were gone, she had managed to totally screw up her PC.  (She wrote that she was dusting the keyboard when it happened.)  Her monitor was completely disabled.  Sis presented this information to me because I had spent every waking moment during my visit (when I wasn't dealing with her prescriptions) dealing with her computer.  Her daughter (who is close to my age) had set up her computer for her, but had trouble installing Adobe.  So I installed Adobe, after lots and lots of fussing and fiddling.  Then she had software she wanted installed for scanning.  It also proved to be troublesome, but I kept after it until it was installed.  Then she wanted me to scan her entire collection of photographs, beginning with unknown ancestors and ending with now.  So now Sis wanted me to fix her broken monitor, after the harrowing day in the maze which is Boston. 

Had she not been sick, I would have used a few choice words at that point, but under the circumstances, I thought it best to spend my last few moments of my time in Boston fixing her monitor.  Those of you who have had the experience know how frustrating it is to try to figure out what to do with a black screen.  The owner's manual was no help.  I did everything I could think of, including unplugging the entire system a few times, and eventually the monitor came back to life.

I was glad to be able to leave her with a fully functional PC with files backed up and a boatload of Oxicodone.  I hope she can get by without me for a while.



Lynilu said...

Oh, lawdy, what an ordeal! It can be so frustrating to deal with huge entities like that, especially when you're feeling pressure. All I can say is you're an angel to do what you could for her while you were there. I'm a bit stunned at the daughter/niece's casual attitude about getting the oxy. At this stage, I'm more than certain she needs it. Oh well. Ya dun gut, Betty. Thank goodness she had you for those days. :)

And welcome back. :)

Aurora said...

Om my, Betty! Lynilu said it all, prefectly!

How frustrating to have the pharmacy so incompetent ! And then the computer issues, grrr!

You are darling to have done all that you did. You just earned some major good karma with your givingness.

Between that and the cleaning up of your house and garden, I feel sure the next 6-12 months will hold some really exciting positive changes for you.
Keep up the good work and the willingness to be loving of your self and others.
You are moving forward powerfully, and the Universe is paying attention:)

Big Dave T said...

Another time the subject heading "Home Again" threw me here. I was expecting a pleasant recollection of quality time spent with sibling and family. And, vivid wordsmith that you are, you had me on edge the whole post.

I'm so glad that you were able to help out the way you did though. No good deed goes unrewarded in my mind, even if the reward comes within your own heart.