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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Doctor... doctor...

2004-2009
Dr. A – This doctor understood the need for the family to determine the status of the alcoholic’s physical health. He was patient and informative, providing support in every way possible. Dr. A had stated that Riley would not live more than 6 months if he didn’t stop drinking. This doctor had been our family doctor for many years. He treated me, my mother, brother and daughter’s family as well as Riley. 
JUNE 2009
Dr. H – After moving Riley back into my home, 800 miles away from Dr. A, we found Dr. H who was an addictionologist.  Dr. H was more interested in what he could gain in the form of professional accomplishment of “curing” an alcoholic who had been drinking for 40 years rather than monitoring his health. In fairness to Dr. H, his goal was to get people into rehab and to save the alcoholic’s life, not watching them deteriorate. He was gentle and understanding to the family, but was unable to be brave enough to present the facts as they truly were. I sometimes thought he was just as much in denial as Riley. Dr. H told Riley he was greatly shortening his life expectancy by continuing to be a practicing alcoholic.
Dr. G – An internal medicine doctor, Dr. G was an associate of Dr. H.  Dr. G was helpful in monitoring and providing insight into Riley’s physical state of health. I found him to be an excellent doctor who was as open as he could be without making predictions. I felt that he was so afraid I might bring a law suit against him that he was guarded in his wording. Instead of stating the Riley was dying – he referred me to grief support groups and setting me up with hospice care. Dr. G told Riley that a person’s body cannot withstand or survive the effects of alcohol in large quantities for a very long period of time.
JULY 2009
Dr. X – Was the attending doctor in the ICU at one of the hospitals where Riley was a patient. Dr. X preformed emergency surgery to repair the bleeding in Riley’s intestines. He told Riley the repair would only be effective if he avoided alcohol. Dr. X told Riley he would not live more than 6 months if he went back to drinking.
JANUARY 2010
Dr. R – Feeling that both Riley and I were in need of more family support, we moved to the east coast to be close to our daughter and her family. Shortly after moving, Riley was taken to the emergency room for vomiting. Dr. R, the emergency room doctor, told Riley that because he was adamant about not wanting to detox, there was not much they could do for him. They kept him in the emergency room and pushed fluids to resolve the dehydration. Once he was out of danger from the dehydration he was released. Dr. R told Riley if he had not been brought in when he was – he would not have lived through the week.
FEBRUARY 2010
Dr. M – Dr. M was a very disappointing doctor who clearly did not have a grasp on the disease of alcoholism. Riley saw this doctor after his emergency room visit for vomiting. Riley wanted to live on the west coast in an apartment without any family or support. Essentially he wanted to live alone. Without looking at lab results (provided by the hospital), he told us that Riley was an adult and could answer the three questions correctly that determined his state of mind. Therefore, he told Riley there was no physical or mental reason why Riley could not live alone. Dr. M turned his focus on me and told me that we did not need a medical doctor – instead he insisted that we see a “marriage” counselor. I had seen Dr. M for an issue of my own health and had revealed confidential information to him, which he proceeded to discuss at the visit with Riley. We left his office and no longer considered him our Primary Care Doctor.
SEPTEMBER 2010
Dr. P – My daughter and I took Riley to a large hospital emergency room when we suspected he may have suffered a stroke. He was seen by the head of the emergency – Dr. P. This hospital did not want to admit Riley because they were not staffed to handle the detox process. They called around to several other area hospitals and no one wanted to take responsibility for a man who was so close to life’s end. At that point, death was considered to be imminent. Because Riley would not survive if he were sent home and his brain ammonia level was so high, the hospital had no choice but to admit him to ICU. Dr. P did not believe he would make it through the night and especially not the detox process.
Dr. V – Was the hospital attending physician after Riley had the stroke. This doctor did not think it was in Riley’s best interest to have him return home after discharge. Riley was told he had a stroke and because of the brain damage it was highly inadvisable for him to be without supervision or support on a daily basis. However, the discharge counselor could not find a nursing home or physical rehab center who would accept him. There was too much risk of him falling and would require too much supervision. Riley was released and I brought him home.
An interesting fact about Dr. V was that he asked Riley the same three questions that Dr. M had asked him. Dr. V, the same as Dr. M, stated that Riley was capable of making his own decisions because he was alert and knew the correct answers to the questions.
CURRENTLY, this is where we stand:
Riley has brain damage that affects his ability to remember things from day to day. What he remembers varies – something he remembered today is not necessarily what he will remember tomorrow. The logical common sense of his brain is contradictory. He is obsessive about the cleanliness of the kitchen counters but refuses to rinse the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. He does his laundry every other day, but refuses to shower. He confuses dish detergent with dishwasher soap.
The good news is – he is NOT DRINKING. We have moved to the country where the nearest liquor store is 20 minutes away. I will not buy alcohol for him and – at the moment – he is unable to drive. I will maintain this status for as long as I possibly can – because a brain damaged Riley is better than a drunken Riley. I’m not sure if I will be able to cope with a brain damaged drunken Riley.  I know it’s just a matter of time before he crawls back into a bottle and the dilemma of my own morality will return.
But for now – I’m enjoying every sunrise.

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