FPs Answer Call in Times of Need -- No Matter Where
When the AAFP's constituent chapters have annual meetings, the Academy's Board of Directors typically sends a representative. Our roles at such meetings include installing chapter officers and providing an update on the Academy's advocacy efforts and other issues. It is an opportunity to meet members and hear your concerns. There also might be time to earn some CME.
My recent trip to the South Dakota AFP meeting, however, did not go as planned, but I got to spend a lot of time with one particular family physician who taught me an important lesson that had nothing to do with CME.
I arrived on a Thursday and participated in meetings throughout the day. I had attended after-work activities on three of the four nights before leaving home, and I had been working a lot of hours in clinic. So when I woke at 2 a.m. Friday feeling fatigued, weak and nauseous, I hoped that perhaps I was just overly tired. I rested but could not go back to sleep.
In the morning, I texted chapter executive Carletta Hauck to let her know I wasn't feeling well and would have to skip the morning meetings. By lunch time, I felt chilled and thought of the old adage that a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient. Ten hours had passed and I wasn't getting better. In fact, I felt worse.
Eight hundred miles from home, I pondered my limited options. Should I go to urgent care? I didn't have a rental car, so that was an obstacle. I called Carletta and asked if there might be a family physician attending the meeting who had an office nearby and would be willing to see me.
Five minutes later, she called back to say an FP was coming to my hotel room. I was still in my pajamas -- looking and feeling lousy -- when I met Jason Knudson, M.D. He asked me some questions and acknowledged that my symptoms could be related to fatigue, but he suggested we go to his office for a more thorough evaluation.
I got dressed and grabbed my coat. I felt incredibly weak, so I sat in the lobby while Jason pulled his car around. He had come to the meeting for CME, but off we went to Jason's practice in Spearfish, which was 15 minutes away.
He brought me in to the clinic in a wheelchair, and he and his nurses provided the type of care I would have expected from my family physician's practice back home. They ran tests, provided IV fluids and gave me medication for nausea.
My oxygen was low, so Jason said he would arrange for me to have a portable tank. In my experience, arranging any type of durable medical equipment can take hours (or days) but the tank arrived within 20 minutes. When I told the company's representative I planned to fly home the next day, she said, "No problem. Leave it at the hotel, and we'll pick it up."
I was at Jason's clinic for perhaps 90 minutes, but by the time we left I was already starting to feel better.
My good fortune continued when Jason stopped, unprompted, at his local grocery store and bought me chicken soup and ginger ale, my provisions for the night.
The next day I felt well enough to attend a few meetings before flying home, thanks to Jason and the sacrifice he made for a fellow family physician he didn't know. On his scheduled day off from work, he ended up in his clinic, running tests and ordering equipment for a patient who would not be returning to his practice. He had paid for CME, but he did not get it.
The lesson is that family physicians are an extended family, and I'm grateful to Jason and his staff for extending themselves when I was badly in need of help.
I would like to think that if Jason had been ill at a meeting in my home state, I would have done the same for him. I think most family physicians would. That's what is extraordinary about family medicine physicians.
Alan Schwartzstein, M.D., is vice speaker of the AAFP Congress of Delegates.
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