There's a lot of flu going around my city right now. A good friend of mine has been sick for over a week; my co-Hepatology fellow who never takes time off has missed four days of work; and my Mom has been bedridden for almost two weeks. It's a nasty bug (H1N1), and it makes me deeply regret missing the flu shot clinic in the fall.
Over the Christmas/New Year's holiday, I did a pretty good job of regularly checking in on my sick Mom, who lives on her own. I called her at least daily to make sure she was doing okay, and on one occasion I drove across the city to bring her bags of groceries so that she wouldn't starve. But then work started up again, and I got caught up in the insane busyness of trying to study for my licensing exam while being a functional hepatology fellow. And I stopped calling my Mom. I assumed that she would let me know if things were getting worse.
I assumed wrong.
On Thursday night, while stopping momentarily at my apartment on my way to study group, my aunt phoned me. "Hi Solitary. Ummm...I just got off the phone with your Mom, and she doesn't sound good. She seems really confused, and she's been falling."
My first thought? I can't do anything. I have study group.
Thankfully, my brother is less insane than I am, and he convinced me that we needed to go check on Mom. When we arrived at her place, we found her looking very sick and somewhat delirious. It took us about half a second to decide that she needed to go to the hospital. Once there, the triage nurse quickly assessed her to be tachycardic, hypotensive, and hypoxemic* and transferred her to the resuscitation room for iv fluids and antibiotics.
Thankfully, with a little bit of TLC and a whole lot of modern medicine, she's now doing dramatically better. Her blood pressure is high enough that she can get out of bed without falling over; she no longer needs oxygen; and she can carry out a conversation without stopping to comment on the pretty colours swirling around on the walls. She's being well cared for by some of my fellow internal medicine residents and one of my all-time-favourite attendings, and she'll hopefully be home in the next day or two.
But the take home lesson? Call your mother. Because as disruptive as a night in the emergency room may be to one's study schedule, the alternative is a hell of a lot worse.
*For people who aren't in medicine, this translates to rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, and low oxygen. Also known as all-round badness.