Friday, July 31, 2009

Reading my dad's medical chart

Last weekend, I was talking with my aunt Deverle (my dad's older sister) and ended up on the subject of my dad's medical records, which were filed at the University of Minnesota hospital and recently changed to Fairview Medical, where Dee used to work as a dietitian. Dee sent an email to someone at Fairview on Sunday evening. Early Monday morning we had an email back with contact names and numbers. So I rang and spoke with an exceptionally kind and helpful woman named Anne, who had his chart on her desk the following morning with an email-scanned signature release from my mom. Anne set up an appointment with us so she could explain the chart and answer questions. About nine years ago (when I was living here last), I'd contacted the University of Minnesota, but they were so unhelpful and put out that I'd sort of given up the idea of looking at them.

So Thursday morning we made our way through road and building construction to the Release of Information office where we met Anne. She set us at a little table and brought my dad's chart. It was small. Only a little over an inch thick. I expected more. But then he was only there for two weeks.

The first page was his admission sheet. Three blue ball point signatures of Keith L. Schultz, all carefully written. He'd forgotten the L. on one of them, and added it afterward. I felt the signatures. Weird that my dad actually wrote them.

The only time I cried was when I saw the next page:
Admission: 10-20-83
Discharge: 11-2-83 expired (handwritten)
I can't imagine he would've thought he'd never be going home when he checked into the hospital.

The autopsy report was next. I felt strange reading his autopsy report, like I was sneaking in his underwear drawer. It basically said the leukemia had infiltrated much of organs. It was hopeless.

It was like I'd read the ending of the book first because next were the doctors' and nurses' notes starting from the beginning. The doctors' notes were detached. The nurses' real. They were concerned that he was numb to his situation at first (who wouldn't be) but after a few days started to talk more about what was happening. What do you say? "This was a crappy deal."

What he did say was:
"I'm doing 100% better." (After he was in the hospital a few days.)
"I didn't know I'd get so sick. It was like a torpedo." (He threw up from the drugs.)
"The doctors told me to eat like a pig, so I'm doing the best I can."
"I wish I hadn't lived so much for the future." (When things got worse a few days later)

On November 2nd at 4:30AM, he'd called the nurses in and had lost all vision in his left eye but was initially completely coherent. The nurse told my mom he asked, "Where are my girls?" The nurse asked him, "Keith, where are your girls?" He said, "They're at my sister's house." Then he went into a coma- he'd had brain hemorrhages. When I was reading it, I felt so bad for him- he must have been so scared. Later that day he was taken off life support and died. Age 34. Wife of ten years. Three girls: ages 7, 4, 7 months.

My aunt Dee told me, "I used to go to third floor (where he died) and just stand there and think 'I can't believe that happened'." She was working on her master's at the time. She also said, "Your mom had called me whispering, (before he was diagnosed) 'He has 64 bruises on his legs. That's just what I can see'" My dad was sleeping. What they all went through, I can't imagine.


Dawn said...

Very poignant entry, Sara. Thanks so much for sharing. Love you lots (and miss you!).

Anonymous said...

It still takes my breath away to read the chart - even the third time. As I sat beside Sara I could barely imagine what would go through the mind of a 7 year old.
We are fortunate to have the family we have and the love was apparent at our family reunion this past weekend.
love, auntie dj