Sunday, September 23, 2012

Smoothing Crooked Paths

I’m often amazed how the things we fear and dread often turn out so much better than we think they will. Last Wednesday, we had a busy morning scheduled for Alex. After searching on the Internet and making several phone calls, I was finally able to find a group of family doctors who would accept Alex as a new patient. As I described in a previous blog entry “Is There a Doctor in the House?“ our current family doctor could no longer see Alex after he qualified for Medicaid this summer based on his disability. This led me to Internet searches for a new doctor, starting with a list of doctors who supposedly took Medicaid patients and then looking for those who were taking new patients. However, I discovered when I called their offices, they were not taking new patients with Medicaid, which was frustrating. Fortunately, when I called a local group of three family physicians who operate a clinic known as HealthLinc, I found their office to be welcoming and helpful, setting up an appointment for Alex and apologizing that they couldn’t see him sooner. I was just delighted that we had found a new family doctor for Alex.

In addition to establishing Alex as a new patient, I wanted to have his mouth checked because we have been fighting a yeast infection of the mouth, thrush, all summer with antifungals. In June, we took him to the Saint Anthony ER in Chesterton (as I described in the blog entry “An ‘Aha!’ Moment“) on a Saturday morning with blood in his mouth and dark urine. Fortunately, our experience there was excellent, as the kind and efficient staff quickly diagnosed his issue as yeast-related and gave us a prescription for the antifungal pill Diflucan. A few weeks later, he continued to show signs of yeast overgrowth, so I made an appointment with our family doctor, but when his receptionist discovered Alex had qualified for Medicaid, she bluntly told us we would have to find another doctor. This led us to Saint Anthony Express Care in town, where a sympathetic doctor concurred that Alex had thrush, and she gave us another prescription for Diflucan. In between these visits, Alex’s nurse practitioner who oversees his psychiatric medications called in Diflucan refills, knowing that Alex becomes agitated when the yeast flares. One of my concerns was that Alex was only receiving weekly doses of the antifungal, and I thought he might need daily doses instead. When he was younger and had dealt with a similar yeast overgrowth, his doctor had treated him with daily doses of medication for a month, which successfully cured the problem.

Since I was taking the morning off from work for Alex’s doctor’s appointment, I decided that we would also take him for blood tests that his psychiatric nurse practitioner had ordered. She wants to monitor his drug levels, as well as check his general wellness while he is on the various medications, every few months, and he was due for this lab testing ahead of his appointment with her this coming Thursday. While she had told me he would need to fast ahead of the tests, I wasn’t sure if he could take his medications beforehand, so I called her nurse, who told me he would have to be off his medications for at least ten hours before the tests.  Although Alex is usually excellent about having blood draws, we were uncertain how he would be without his anti-anxiety medication. Therefore, we made the decision to take him to the lab as soon as he rolled out of bed that morning so that he wouldn’t have much time to think about being hungry or nervous before the test. I took a juice box and his pills with us so that he could take them immediately after the tests and prayed that we wouldn’t have to wait long and that he would remain calm, even without his medications.

After having such a good experience with St. Anthony ER in Chesterton, we opted to take him there for his blood tests, as they do outpatient tests, as well. Once again, we were impressed with how pleasant every staff member there treated us and how quickly and efficiently they moved. As soon as we walked in the door, the registration clerk took our information right away, and we didn’t wait but a few minutes when the lab technician came to get Alex for the tests. She was very gentle with him, and he didn’t even flinch when the needle went in his arm. Even though he needed to have five vials taken for the various tests, this procedure took only a few minutes, and we were done. We took him back to the waiting area to give him some juice and his medications, and we were on our way home, thankful that he had done so well for the testing and that everything had gone smoothly, thanks to their excellent staff.

Next we went home for about an hour before leaving for his doctor’s appointment. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, the friendly receptionist had me fill out several forms for Alex, and after I was done with that, a nurse came to take us back so that she could take Alex’s vitals. Once again, he was cooperative and seemed to enjoy having his pulse, blood pressure, temperature, height, and weight measured. Then she led us back to an examining room to wait for the nurse practitioner who would see him. After having been calm all morning, Alex suddenly became agitated about having to wait, even though it was a brief time, and decided he wanted to leave.  As we tried to reassure him that we wouldn’t have to wait much longer, he started ranting about high gas prices and video games that take too long to play, a behavior he resorts to when he is stressed. Thankfully, we were able to calm him down just before the nurse practitioner came to see him. We were impressed with her warm personality and how well she interacted with Alex. As she examined him thoroughly, she would tell him beforehand what she was going to do so that he was prepared. Also, she asked Ed and I many questions and listened to us with a genuinely caring manner.

After she had carefully examined Alex, she agreed that he needed daily doses of Diflucan to address the thrush, and she increased the dosage he’d been receiving from 150 mg. to 200 mg. She prescribed two weeks of the antifungal and indicated that he may need to do another two weeks of medication. Also, she suggested that we replace his toothbrush after a few days on the medication in case he was re-infecting himself, which seemed like a very good idea. If he continued to show signs of yeast overgrowth, she thought he may need to see an ear-nose-throat specialist to determine what was causing the yeast infection, and she told us that their office could provide us with a referral. Walking into this new situation, we were uncertain as to how things would go, but we were very pleased with our experience because we felt the nurse practitioner was not only quite competent but also very compassionate. At the end of the appointment, she complimented Ed and me, telling us that we were doing a good job as Alex’s parents of keeping him healthy, which made us feel good.

Even though we had faced the busy Wednesday morning with some trepidation, not knowing quite what to expect with Alex’s blood tests and doctor’s appointment, we were pleasantly surprised how well everything went. Not only did Alex handle the new situations relatively well, but we were also pleased by how kindly everyone treated us. In times like that, I see the hand of God, placing people in our lives who can help us and making the crooked paths straight. Now we pray that God will heal Alex’s infection and restore his health so that he can be the best he can be.

“I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them” Isaiah 42:16

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