I got a new patient, let’s call her Dolly Napoliano, and either she’s going to be the death of me or I’m going to have to kill her. Just not sure which one is going to happen first. Either way, I figure what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

They assigned her to me late last week so I called her to make an appointment for early this week. I explained who I was, what I did and why I wanted to visit and she said that “the real therapist” (read: the physical therapist) had already been there and she didn’t want to give him up. The “real” therapist – I’ve heard that a bezillion times and understand why people say that, but it still irks me. So I take a deep breath, don’t take it personally and explained the difference between OT and PT and that her doctors had written orders for both so he could still visit as planned but would it be OK for me to come at 10am on Monday? She hemmed and hawed…she’s not a well woman, you know. All of this is very overwhelming. And she can’t do all these things for herself. So I explained that we’ll figure out a schedule so she’s not overwhelmed and my job is to figure out ways so that she can do things for herself as safely as possible and would Monday at 10am be an OK time to visit? Finally she said yes. Good! Oh, and since I know her complex is a gated community, how do I get in? (meaning do I call her at the gate or sometimes the patient will give me the code so I can open the gate myself) Of course, she took that as, “How do I get to your house?” and she told me to call the nurse.

Well, Dolly is already batting a thousand in my book. We haven’t even met yet and so far she’s proven herself to be needy, a martyr, anxious and a little depressed. She’s very self-focused too but she’s sick so I’ll ‘give’ her that one. But she tries to lay guilt trips. Plus she’s got this thick NY accent AND she has the same first name as my mother (for those of you who are unaware, my mother and I are not on speaking terms). Some negative transference on my part? Could very well be. But I’m aware of it so it’s easier to keep it in check.

Fast forward to Monday. I call Dolly at 9:40am to let her know I’ll be there in about 20 minutes. No answer on the phone. Of course not. So I leave a message, reminding her that we have an appointment at 10am and since I know it’s a gated community where she has to let me in, I need to make sure she’s home before I’ll come over so please call me back or I’ll try again in a few minutes. Of course, she didn’t call me back so I try again at 9:50am. This time she answers the phone. I’m not sure if she remembers our conversation from Friday or not but she says that 10am is not a good time to be there because she has some people coming over and it would be very overwhelming to have me there, too. Of course it would. So we agree I can visit on Tuesday at 11am.

I call on Tuesday at 10:45am to let her know I’m on my way and the first thing she says is, “YOU’RE the one who called me at 7:30 this morning!” This was totally out of left field as far as I was concerned, so the best response I could give was, “Ummm, no I’m not.” “Yes you are!,” she accused. “No ma’am, it wasn’t me. I don’t even wake up until 8am.” “Well, then who was it?,” she demanded to know. “I don’t know, ma’am,” I replied. She still didn’t sound convinced that it wasn’t me who called her 30 minutes before I was awake for the day.

Good lord, this woman is crazy.

Miracle of miracles, she says I can come, so I tell her I’ll be there in 5 or 10 minutes and will call when I arrive, so she can open the gate. OK, no problem. So I get there, find her on the ID roster and call. She finally picks up…”Hello? Hello?” “Hello Mrs. Napoliano, this is Sharon the OT. Can you please…” “Hello? I can’t hear you.” (I’m yelling now) “Can you open the gate, please? “Hello? Hello?” she replied. CLICK.

She hung up on me.

Sigh. I take a deep breath, count to 10 and call again. “Hello?” “Hi Mrs. Napoliano, this is…” “Hello? I can’t hear you.” “Can you please open the gate?” “What? I can’t hear you.” (Yelling into the speaker now) “This is Sharon, can you please open the gate?” “Go ask the office and ask them to let you in.”

I’m starting to hate this woman.

So I turn around, drive back to the office of the apartment complex, park, go inside and look for somebody to help me Finally I find a well-dressed girl in the furthest-back office of the building. Because of privacy laws, I can’t say who I’m going to visit but was able to say, “Hi, one of my patients lives in your apartment complex and she seems to be having a problem getting the gate open. First she said she can’t hear me then she told me to ask you to open the gate for me.” And this sweet girl said, “It was Dolly Napoliano, wasn’t it? We keep telling her to press the 9 when someone comes to see her and needs her to open the gate but she just doesn’t.” Needless to say, by this point I was not surprised at this. The girl then proceeded to tell me the code so I can get in by myself. Oh, and she wished me luck with Mrs. Napoliano because she herself has had to deal with her quite a bit so she knows how she can be.

It just gets better and better, doesn’t it?

So I get to Dolly’s apartment and when I ring the doorbell, this girl in her 20’s answers. Apparently she’s private pay help – although even now I still don’t know what sort of help she’s supposed to give. She brings me upstairs and I meet my patient in person. Dolly says hello and once again starts insisting that I called her at 7:30 this morning and I keep explaining that it wasn’t me. I’m not awake that early, plus I knew that I wasn’t seeing her until 11am so I would have no need to call her at 7:30. And I wish I could help but no, I have no idea of who it was that called at that hour. Sigh.

The Inital Evaluation was actually pretty painless, although Dolly did keep telling me about how her blood pressure was 130/80 this morning and how someone used their own machine and it wasn’t her machine and should she hear any noises on her machine? Now, I’m not very well-versed on blood pressure machines. I have a manual cuff that I use on patients and I have my own electronic blood pressure machine at home for Joe and my own use but I would think that every blood pressure machine works differently. Plus that’s a “nursing” sort of thing to do. Needless to say, Dolly doesn’t seem to be very happy with my, “I’m not sure if the machine should make noise or what kind it should make. It’d probably be better to ask your nurse” response.

So anyway, despite herself, Dolly is doing pretty well with her self-care but she does need me a bit. We discussed my plan for her – get her a potty seat to put over the toilet so she can get up and down from the pot without holding on to the towel rack (“Will the toilet seat be sturdy and safe to use?” “It will be if you use it the way I’ll teach you.”), as well as the possibility of her son buying her a bench to make it safer to get in and out of the tub (“And will that be a safe and sturdy thing for me to use?” “Again, if you use it the way it’s meant to  be used, you should be fine.”). Her parting words to me were that she was, “happy with the idea of getting the seat over the toilet and the bench for the tub. But I want you to know that I’m dissatisfied with the other things you mentioned.” By this time I was getting a little more used to her rhythm, so I felt no qualms about honestly replying, “Well, since the only things we discussed in any sort of depth were the seat for the toilet and for the tub, then we must be doing OK.” She seemed OK with that answer.

I’ll see Dolly again later this week. I can hardly wait.