Anger Management

8:57pm. I have checked the time on my phone for what seems like the thousandth time today. I heave a sigh, and realize it is time to give up expecting that phone call. In reality, I should have given up hours ago, but sometimes I just can’t let go of that hope. The anger and disappointment is bubbling up, and, as usual, I try to swallow it.

I am waiting for a phone call from our pediatrician. We were supposed to see him this week, but as luck would have, he has some kind of scheduling conflict and needed to cancel. He actually called me, personally, to tell me, on Thursday, which I greatly appreciated. I informed him we were heading to our appointment with the developmental specialist at Bloorview, and he promised to call me the next day, so we could review what was said at the appointment, reassess her feeding plan, and address any concerns we had with him. I hung up the phone feeling hopeful and pleased that he understood our needs.

And now it is four days later, and I am filled with disappointment and resentment. I am still appreciative of everything he has done for us- he has made a lot of arrangements for Penelope and has been kind and empathetic, in ways that other doctors were not. And believe me, as a nurse, I understand how you can get caught up with sick patients and their families, and the day gets away from you. This is why my golden rule is to never promise something I may not be able to deliver. If there was even a chance that he was not going to be able to call, he should have been clear about that. Penelope is pretty stable and there is no emergency that needs to be dealt with, but there are issues that need to be addressed- that’s why we had the appointment scheduled. He offered to call, I did not ask him to. I mean, who is he, Chandler Bing- can’t end a conversation without saying, “I’ll call you!”?

When you are the parent of a child with health problems, appointments with a health care provider who is competent, caring, and trustworthy are like a beacon of hope. I am able to look forward to talking to someone who listens, who understands what our problems are, and who works with us to fix things. Being let down yet again by someone who is supposed to be helping us is completely crushing. And though this is by no means the first time I have been disappointed in our health care system, I am still unprepared. I think that part of the reason I am so upset about this is that it reminds me of the disappointment I faced on a daily basis while waiting for Penelope’s MRI to be scheduled.

Penelope was referred to Sick Kids to have an MRI done on her brain back in October, when all these problems were first coming to light. I was told to expect to hear from the hospital within a week, and hopefully to have the MRI done within a few weeks. Two weeks went by, and I heard nothing. I left messages with the MRI department, inquiring as to the status of the referral. No one returned my call. Finally, almost three weeks after the initial referral, someone answered the phone when I called. I was told, unapologetically, that Penelope’s requisition was considered elective, and would therefore not be scheduled until likely January or February. I broke down, sobbing. How was I supposed to wait MONTHS to find out if there was a problem with my baby’s brain? The clerk was immune to my distress. A few days later, I received a phone call from the nurse at the clinic there, and she was able to put us on the cancellation list. This meant that if an opening came up, we would receive a call and would probably have about 24-48 hours notice as to the appointment date. And so the tortuous waiting began. For about six weeks, I walked around with my phone virtually glued to my hand. I dropped everything to answer calls. And every day that passed where I didn’t hear from them, my hope dimmed and my anger grew. At the end of November, I finally got the call that there was a spot for her, and I was filled with relief. And of course, that relief was short-lived when we found out that the MRI did show some abnormalities. The relief was replaced with anger- why did we have to wait so long to find this out?

So here I am again- days passing, waiting for a phone call that isn’t coming. Anger and resentment building inside me, making it hard to find happiness in every day events- a coping mechanism I rely on to keep from falling apart.

Being at the mercy of the health care system is incredibly difficult. I understand that Penelope is not acutely ill at the moment, and that our doctor likely has much sicker patients that he is responsible for, and so he may not consider it a priority to call me. But to me, there is nothing more important than her care. And there is little that is more frustrating and more disappointing, than an unkept promise to be in touch.

So what do I do now? How do I prevent this anger from taking over my life? I suppose I will keep trying to contact him through the staff at his office, though I have not had success with that so far. At least calling his office gives me the illusion that I am doing something to remedy the situation. The reality is that I am completely powerless here- I have zero control over when I will hear from him. And in the meantime, I will keep writing- this is helping to reduce that ball of resentment in my chest- and I will look at Penelope’s sweet, happy face, and let the love I have for her wash away the anger- even temporarily.

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12 thoughts on “Anger Management

  1. Julie, you fight because you have to. She can’t fight this battle alone and depends on you. You fight because of the profound love you have for her. You fight because in this crazy busy world the ” squeaky wheel gets the oil”. After fighting, find a quiet place for just 2 minutes a day and take 10 deep breathes so you will be able to keep fighting. You are in so many peoples’ thoughts each day….stay strong.

  2. Very frustrating:( I hope he calls today and that in the meantime you can feel some peace. I think it’s very easy in health care, and life for that matter, to make “small” (not small to the patient though) promises without thinking them through. The Chandler reference made me smile:) I am enjoying your writing!

    • You are right- a promise like that is likely small to him but it’s anything but to me. Thank you for always letting me vent about things to you! I’m glad you are enjoying my writing.

  3. Oh Julie
    We are so hoping your phone call has come by now. We think of you so often.Your little ones are so lucky to have you and Mark. Lots of love and good wishes. Colleen and Danny

  4. Feeling powerless is anxiety inciting and crazy making. I can only repeat an old and much used prayer/mantra that has helped me over the years-God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I was awestruck watching you interact with the developmental paediatrician. Your knowledge and attention to every little detail of Penelope’s needs and care surely earns you the title Mom of Steel-and makes Penelope and Charlotte very fortunate to have you as their mom. You may not have much power in this current situation with the doctor and system, but rest assured you have Strength-and as women we know which is really the most important.

  5. Sometimes when I need an answer that can’t wait for a promised phone call, I just make another appointment. I know you said that he cancelled yours, maybe you can call In the morning to see if he has any openings and then you have his undivided attention. My pediatricians office has walk in hours in the morning. I might not see my PCP but they all have access to my children’s charts. Good luck and hugs to Penelope!!

    • I am going to call the office to reschedule tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’ve seen another physician in the same office, and it was a terrible experience that I do not care to repeat. Our pediatrician is an excellent doctor, and we were lucky to get in with him, so I’m trying not to let this get me down too much, but it is pretty frustrating. Thank you for the suggestion, I really appreciate hearing from people!

  6. Hi Julie : You’re dealing with a large Health Care system bureaucracy, like the Educational and Immigration systems. I just can’t believe the generation of lack of empathy and humanity in these systems. That MRI clerk might not have been able to make an appointment, but could have been empathetic about your situation. A few words of understanding go a long way.

  7. Pingback: The Waiting Game | A Mom of Steel

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