Scene: Mommy is at her desk, piled high with paperwork, stickers, felt pens, a headlamp and empty tea cups – the usual detritus. She confidently sits down to track down a referral to the orthopaedic clinic for her daughter. The clinic called that morning with a cancellation appointment for the following week – mommy was delighted to get in after only 2 months and snagged that appointment with gusto. First phone call – to the paediatrician’s office.
Part One – Paediatrician
Phone dials. Paediatrician’s office assistant (POA) picks up: Hello, this is Dr. K’s office.
Mommy (confident): Good morning! This is Megan Chrostowski calling. I’m calling about a referral to the Orthopaedics clinic for my daughter, Mia. Yes, it’s C-H-R-O-S-T-O-W-S-K-I. Yes, M-I-A. Ha, ha, yes, it’s good we gave her a short first name. It was faxed to you a couple of weeks ago by our Physiotherapist…
POA: I’m sorry but your referral to Dr. K has expired and we need a new referral from your family doctor before we can see Mia.
Mommy: I see. We don’t have a family doctor – we are still on a waiting list to get one. We go to the walk in clinic. But, in this case, we need to just get a referral to orthopaedics before Tuesday, because we got a cancellation appointment which we’d really like to take. Our Physio suggested that we just fax it to Dr. K because she knows us and has seen her before.
POA: We have an in-town day a month from now, would you like to book a time then? We have 11:45, 12:30…
Mommy (starting to get just a smidge irritated): Actually, we need to do this paperwork for the ortho clinic before Tuesday. Ok, I understand that you need another referral to see Mia but I don’t know if a walk-in doctor, who’s never met her, would be open to writing her a referral when they don’t even know her. Do you see what I mean?
POA: Well, unfortunately, we need a referral in order to see her. A walk-in clinic would be able to refer her to us. We have an in-town day on December 20th but it will book up quickly…
Mommy: I understand, I just need to get this referral before Tuesday. Don’t worry, I’ll figure something else out.
Mommy hangs up, grinding her teeth. Frustrated, she calls the Family Walk In Clinic.
Part Two – Walk In Clinic
Phone rings. Click. The Professional Voice of the answering machine lady picks up: Thank you for calling the Family Walk In Clinic. For hours of operation press 1. For all other inquiries, including making an appointment to see a doctor, press 2.
Mommy presses 2, trying to think of the name of the doctor they saw last time … Little? Longbottom?
Clinic receptionist (CR): Thank you for calling Family Walk In Clinic, how can I help you?
Mommy, using her cheerful, knowledgeable, in charge voice: Hi, I’m calling regarding my daughter, Mia. She was seen by Dr. Longbottom in the past and I’m wondering if it’s possible to book directly with her again?
CR: I’m sorry, at our clinic we usually have student resident doctors who initially see…
Mommy jumps in: Yes, I realize that. But in our case, we just need a referral to the Orthopaedics Clinic because we’ve just been called for a cancellation appointment for Tuesday and our pediatrician said that they need a referral to see Mia before they can do a referral to Orthopaedics. (Confident voice slightly trails into “I’m sorry this is so confusing” voice)…
CR: Ok, let’s see. Dr. Longbottom runs her clinic here on Wednesdays. What’s your daughter’s name again?
Mommy: Mia Chrostowski – C-H-R-O-S-T-O-W-S-K-I, Mia, M-I-A. Yes, I know – good to have a short first name. Look, since we do need to see someone before Tuesday, do you think that one of the walk in doctors would be able to write her referral to orthopaedics? She has cerebral palsy and it’s pretty obvious – she has leg braces and a mobility walker…
Meanwhile, the phone call-waiting keeps beeping and beeping. It’s either one of the hospital numbers (mommy has that memorized), or the paediatrician again.
CR: Ok, why don’t you leave a message with our referrals clerk and she’ll get back to you.
Mommy, wearily: Ok, sure.
Mommy repeats all of the above, again, in as clear a message as possible, spelling everyone’s names twice and making the short first name joke herself – to save the clerk the trouble. Just as she hangs up, the phone rings again immediately. She ignores it and lets it go to voicemail while she scans her memory rolodex for all the medical and para-medical professionals that work with her daughter. Surely in this team of 10+ people, there has to be a medical doctor that can write a friggin referral without a referral of their own, 2 hour long appointment and month long wait. Eureka! Mommy remembers the lovely geneticist saying she’d be happy to write a note at any time. Mommy dials her number and hopes that the geneticist is in before Tuesday. Fingers crossed. Legs crossed. Heck, now it’s almost a yoga twist and gee, that feels pretty goo… – phone picks up…
Part Three – Genetics
Genetics Department Receptionist (GDR) Answering Machine: beeeeep! Good morning, thank you for calling the department of medical genetics. If this is an emergency, call 9-1-1. Otherwise, please leave a message… BEEEP!
Mommy, struggling to find confident voice over confused voice because, damn, this is just really confusing!: Hello! This is Megan Chrostowski calling. My daughter Mia Chrostowski is seen by Dr. L. At our last appointment, which was last week, Dr. L said that she’d be happy to write referrals or letters for us as needed. We need a referral to the Orthopaedics Clinic because we’ve been given a cancellation appointment for Tuesday morning and I just found out this morning that our paediatrician can’t do it because she needs a new referral herself before she can see us. So, .. um.. (mommy starting to lose the plot a bit), I’m sorry if that sounds confusing, but I’m happy to chat with Dr. L if needed, or email the details. So, again, that’s for my daughter Mia, M-I-A, Chrostowski, C-H-R-O-S-T-O-W-S-K-I and my name is Megan. My number is 555-555-5555. Thank you so much!
Mommy hangs up the phone and slumps into her chair. Takes a swig of tea. Notices that she’s been tracking down this referral for over 45 minutes already. The tea is cold. She figures she better check the voicemail messages as now there are 3 of them. The first is from the paediatrician’s office saying that actually, they did fax the referral to orthopaedics last week but that we still need to get a referral to come in and actually see Dr. K since it’s been a year and a half. There will be an in-town clinic day… blah… blah.. blah. Ok! Hurrah! The referral is in! The phone rings again…
CR: Hi, is this Megan? Hi, this is the Family Walk in Clinic. Can you bring Mia in at 4:20 today?
Mommy, thinking of what she’d probably rather be doing at 4:20 given the frustration of the morning: Oh, actually, I just found out that the paediatrician’s office did do the referral to orthopaedics, but we do still need a referral to the paediatrician, so should we do that today? Or, it could be next week if that’s easier for you guys…
CR, sounding confused: Ok, … sure. That’s fine. So we’ll see you at 4:20 then?
Mommy, realizing that she’ll need to call her mother in law to change her plans as it’s her afternoon with Mia and then that she won’t be able to pick up daughter #2, Zoe, at daycare at 5:00 because the walk in clinic takes forever – so someone will have to pick her up…, in an overly cheerful and falsely confident voice: Ok, sure. Sounds good! Thank you so much!
Mommy hangs up. Groans. Holds head in hands. Wishes tea were hot and were actually a margarita… on the beach… in Mexico. She shakes it off and calls Medical Genetics back to awkwardly, yet professionally and confidently as possible, scratch the request for a referral to orthopaedics because actually the pediaetrician did do it last week. So sorry to bother you.
Then, she goes to call her mother in law. We won’t bore you here with the continued details of Mommy trying to recap the confusing story for MIL and arranging to have MIL pick up Mia at preschool as previously planned, bring her walker home to drop off (because in the midst of the Ortho-Referral-Fiasco, Mia is also finally getting her new walker delivered today and Mommy has to have the old one ready for pick up), then take Mia to play, then bring her home so Mommy can walk her to the clinic for the pediatrician’s referral, while MIL goes to pick up Zoe at daycare. Hallelujiah for MIL, who remains calm and says, “Don’t worry” in soothing tones.
The phone rings. Mommy sees that it’s a hospital number and goes into auto-answer-the-phone mode.
GDR: Hi! This is reception at the department of Medical Genetics! We got your voicemail. Dr. L is happy to do the referral to Orthopaedics and she’s just faxed that off.
Mommy, realizing that two or three referrals are probably now on the orthopaedics clinic desk and decides it’s too complicated to go through the whole thing again explaining that it’s been done, says, in the falsely cheerful voice: Oh, great! Thank you. Thank you so much!
Mommy hangs up the phone. Flops on her desk. It’s been over an hour and a half of phone calls, messages, and voicemail. Breathe in…whooooshhhhhh…. breathe out…….fooooooooooshhhh….. That’s what they say at yoga. It’s gotta be good. Look how chill all those yoga pretzel teachers are. Mommy scrapes herself off her desk and wanders blearily into the kitchen to find hot, strong tea in a *very* large mug and probably a cookie or four to go with. So much for finding all of the Christmas ornaments and lights this morning – the kids are asking to decorate the tree every five minutes and Mommy has a haunting feeling that she may have chucked out at least the lights in a fit of “whatever!” during the last of the packing for the move…
So, there you have it folks. A very typical day in the life of Mommy with child with disability / special needs / whatever you want to call it. If you liked this conversation debacle, just wait for the next instalment: Mommy calls the Insurance Company!