WHEN I was responsible for taking my son and my late parents to the hospital for their regular check-ups, I used to be able to rattle off their medical histories and the medications they were on without a problem.
I felt I was always on the ball and knew the game plan. I also used to take notes of whatever the doctor said about the situation, especially what we had to do as the next step. But that was the journalist in me — taking notes was second nature. However, as the years progressed, there were many more things to remember and I found that I could not remember every detail anymore. Thank goodness for the notes I had kept. I could always go back to them.
I’m always so grateful that I kept notes and filed medical details. My experience in the United States when my son went for surgery taught me that. The medical team there emphasised that parents should keep a file as well. So whatever went into their hospital file went into my personal file too, including surgical notes so detailed that they even signed off documents on how many items were used during the procedure.
When we left, the doctors and hospital staff told us to keep the file safely and update it. It would come in handy when I met the next set of doctors on my son’s case. They also mentioned that the file would be important to the next team because there were medical details there that could make a world of difference.
They also told me never to part with my copy. If anyone ever wanted the notes, to just make photocopies for them. My file was mine and instrumental in my son’s follow-up plans.
I never realised the importance of the file until the hospital here lost my son’s files and all its records on him. The doctors remembered my son well as his case was rather unusual, but they just could not find his file. So they created a new one based on the file I had compiled all through the years.
When my son was transferred from paediatric care to the adult clinic, the hospital lost the file again, and we had to build another one. Again, it was done from what I had in my file, which I duly duplicated for the hospital.
A few things I learnt from being a caregiver includes the fact that you have to answer the same questions posed by every new doctor who reviews your loved one’s case. You find yourself repeating the detailed history yet again. You should understand your loved one’s health and medical conditions, particularly if he is allergic to something.
While not all doctors ask for a detailed history, it is good for the caregiver to know it. But what is more important is the latest essential information such as the most recent tests and lab results, medicines prescribed, supplements, and the last trip to the emergency unit.
If your loved one was recently hospitalised, bring along the hospital discharge summaries and clinical notes.
If you’re seeing a new doctor, it’s always a good idea to also bring along the latest and complete lab results.
A full lab result usually includes blood tests that comprise all the organ functions, blood electrolytes, lipid profile and urine test. Bring along the latest X-rays and scans (CAT, MRI, ultrasound or heart scan).
This may sound like a lot and it is. But you don’t need to cart along the years of records.
The latest set is usually the results of the last six months to a year.
In truth, there is really a lot of stuff to be lugging around with you. Add a wheelchair to the equation and you have your hands full.
Sometimes I enlisted someone to help me. But there were days when I struggled alone — loading and unloading my son from car to wheelchair and back, making our way from the carpark to the clinics, and flitting from one department to another. It would be a full day of long walks and longer hours of waiting.
In those days, there was no Uber or GrabCar for door-to-door convenience. There were taxis but not many were keen to deal with people in wheelchairs. A number of times we had to hail several taxis because the earlier few just waved us off at the sight of a wheelchair! Thank goodness things are different now.
I look forward to even better days when digital copies can be readily shared. We’re almost there.
Note: The content of this column is provided for general information only, and not to be substituted for proper medical advice and diagnosis. Always consult your doctor if you’re in any way concerned about your health.
**The article above was brought to you by AmMetLife Insurance Bhd