Home visits are hard, there is no doubt about it.
I felt like I had been driving for hours. The thirty minute travel time showing on my GPS was woefully understated due to the arctic temperatures and colossal snowfall. My jacket and clothes felt caked with dried salt rubbed off from the car or somehow accumulated from the ether. I pulled the key out of the ignition and braced for the subzero temperatures. My bag, recovering on the passenger seat, was bulging with equipment: stethoscope, blood pressure cough, prescription pad. The edges of the satchel were frayed from being inebriated with excess. My first month into the new practice, I was unsure what I really needed to bring. Should I take the EKG machine every time? What about the printer?
I was lucky to have found the house in the first place. Tucked between a driveway and a bunching of overgrown trees, my GPS had to rejigger three times to deliver me to the wrong side of the cul-de-sac. The glorious daydreams preceding the start of this practice receding, I hunkered down to the business of building a business.
Thankfully, the kind face that opened the front door was a familiar one. I had come to the right place. I knocked the snow off my boots on the cement ledge before walking into the warm confines of the house. After a few pleasantries, I opened my bag of wonders, took out the computer, turned on the wifi hotspot on my phone, and produced a pile of documents that needed to be signed before any clinical visit could begin.
I was thwarted.
My hotspot was malfunctioning. My MacBook couldn’t pick up the network. Anxious to maintain composure to the innocent patient who had graciously signed on to continue under my care, I made small talk as I nervously refreshed the network button. Two, three, four times … no luck! I was going to have to do this one blind.
I stared blankly at the computer screen, and than turned my attention to the patient sitting in front of me. The encounter was more stressful than I had planned. Without access to my medical record, I had to piece together a medication list and clinical information. Upon finishing my exam and doling out a few prescriptions, I apologized for my technical difficulties.
He assured me that it was no problem. Everyone had mobile issues in his area. It seemed that the thick air smothered the hubris of technology. My head hung low as I gathered my things to face the cold air and blowing snow. I felt the wind had been stolen from my sails.
As I reached out for my coat and shoes, my patient pulled me aside.
Here, come to the basement, I want you to see this.
He raced down the stairs forgetting that he had the knees of an octogenarian. I followed in slow motion trying to keep up with this suddenly invigorated senior. When I got to the bottom, it took a moment to adjust to the brightly lit studio. The basement was filled with beautiful landscapes, oil on canvas, water color, mixed media.
All the sudden, looking a few decades younger, the old man stared at me. His eyes were laughing, speaking without words.
I did all of this!
And indeed, I thought to myself silently, so had I.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician and founder, CrisisMD. He blogs at In My Humble Opinion.