Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | January 20, 2011

Requiem for a Crazy Lady

She’d been kicked out of every other primary care office in town, because she drove everyone crazy. She had coronary disease, end-stage COPD, a history of bleeding ulcers, chronic back and leg pain; she was also a breast cancer survivor with terribly botched reconstructions, and she carried a diagnosis of paranoid personality disorder. She saw a cardiologist, a pulmonologist, a psychiatrist, an orthopedist, a gastroenterologist, and a pain doctor. She drove them all crazy.

She called the ambulance to take her to the emergency department at least three times a week. Once a month or so she’d wind up admitted, usually to leave within 24 hours against medical advice, generally to go smoke a cigarette.

The visiting nurses once called to tell me she had dozens of pill bottles all over her house. She took whatever medicines she felt she needed at any given time. She’d call me up at all hours of the day and night demanding prescriptions: pain pills, sleeping pills, psych meds she thought would help her sleep. She usually told me that someone had stolen the pills I had just prescribed. The wonderful neighbor lady who drove her to her appointments was alternately an angel from heaven, and a bitch who stole pills from her all the time.

I’m not sure how, but we hit it off.

She’s demand Vicodin, Percocet, Ambien, Seroquel; whatever. I’d say, “No.” She’d wail and shout for awhile; then she’d ask me what size sweaters I wore, and insist I come over to her house, because she had all these brand new sweaters she’d never worn — they still had the labels attached! — that she swore would look wonderful on me. (I would never have taken her up on it. She was truly paranoid enough that I’d be seriously concerned she would later accuse me of stealing them.) We’d chit-chat about this and that. Actually, I usually worked on finishing up my work for the day while she yammered on and on, encouraged by just an occasional, “Really?” or, “How about that.” Eventually, she’d have talked herself out and would say, “Well, I’ll let you go now.”

“Okay,” I’d answer. “You take care of yourself.”

“Oh, I’m going to die soon.”

“Not yet,” I’d answer. “I’d miss you.”

“Oh no, I’m going to die.”

“Well not just yet. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Recently she was hospitalized for real: GI bleeding for which she’d needed transfusions, complicated by arrhythmias that required new meds. She’d gone to a rehab around the corner from my house for a few days, and I’d stopped by after work to say hello. We had a lovely visit, sitting together in the Physical Therapy department, chatting with the therapist and each other. She again insisted I come over to her house and go through her closets.

She told me, gravely, that her heart had stopped while she was in the hospital. Two whole seconds at a time, while she was sleeping. I pointed out to her that it always started up again.

“But what if it doesn’t?” she asked.

I’d just shrugged.

“I don’t care,” she’d answered. “I’m ready to die.”

“Not yet,” I’d protest. “I’d miss you.”

“I mean it. I’m going to die soon.”

Actually, I’d never seen her look better.

I got a call from the coroner today. She’d been found dead in her home, lying on her couch. The neighbor thought she was sleeping, but she never changed position for 12 hours.

I’ll miss her. I may be the only one, but I’ll miss her.

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Responses

  1. “I’m not sure how, but we hit it off.”

    I suspect it was because you treated her with honesty but gave her the attention she needed.

    Characters – we all have ’em in our practice – without them, what would we talk about?

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bora Zivkovic, rlbates. rlbates said: From DinoDoc: Requiem for a Crazy Lady http://bit.ly/he4Clo […]

  3. I’m going to miss her and I only knew her thru your blog.We should all matter and be missed by someone on this earth.Interesting how powerful the spirit is.My good friend Joyce has 5 horses-all she adopted at various stages of her life and theirs.Several had either been abused or neglected,only 1 came without that history.She works 2 jobs to pay for board/food/IZ/teeth and feet.I have never met her horses in person only thru her do I know their personalities.Her Tommy died recently, he had cushings disease.She loved him so much and obviously his life touched me because of her.We are all connected for better or worse.

  4. She sounds like a trooper. And you were wonderful for giving her that rarest of treasures in our world now – attention.
    I pray she’s in some happy, sick-free ever after.

  5. Thank you for being such a good witness. Sometimes all you can do for a person is really see them, and you saw her.

  6. Truly, you are one of the special docs. Visiting her was the kindest thing that probably happened to her. Good show, Dino.

  7. What a wonderful post. She was lucky to have you. All God’s children just need to be listened to, and I’m sure you are one of a very few who made time.

    I just now found you through Dr. V’s Grand Rounds and I’m so glad I did.

  8. Feels like I know her just by reading this post. Every patient deserves patience and respect, and you seem to have given her that. I have a very close relative who is clinical schizophrenic and it is very difficult to communicate and deal with her at times, but still… R.I.P Miss C Lady

  9. you are such a wonderful human being. There are so many such people out there who’re so lost that disease and illness and hospitals become their only refuge. To be able to love a person despite the crusty exteriors such people surround themselves with, shows how much humaneness you have. I live in India but truly today I wished I lived close to your practice and could have you for my doctor. i’m truly humbled by this piece.

  10. A tribute to you that you saw a person in the midst of all her crazy.

  11. Great Post. You’ll be rewarded in Family Doctor Heaven. Peace.

  12. Do you think she would have wanted her story told on the Internet, or did you disguise it? Or is it fiction?


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