After passing through the Black Squirrel Capital of the World (Norwalk, WI) and the city where they make square pies (Gina's Pies R Square Restaurant, Wilton, WI) along the Elroy-Sparta bike trail, the call came.
"Hi, Mom. What's up?"
"It's not good. Dad saw the podiatrist yesterday and he said that he should see his 'vascular guy.'"
"What's going on?"
"Well he said there's something... I don't know! Can I read you the diagnosis he wrote down for me?"
"Area of blackened necrosis distal aspect of third toe left foot with mottling of other toes and with bilateral dependent rubor. He said we should see a vascular guy, but I told him our vascular guy is in Rochester, Minnesota!"
"What did he say then?"
"He just gave me this paper and told be he'd better get seen soon. What should we do?"
So much for the bike trail. So much for the weekend off. I should have made him see an internist near us! Why now?
We headed home. A call was made to the Emergency Room. I suggested my parents head over to the ER immediately. Six hours later, they arrived ("Had to get the dog a sitter and pick up your father's meds," I was told).
Well, 4 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon is NOT the ideal to hit ANY Emergency Room - it looked like a war-zone after a day of back-to-back patient evaluations - but my colleagues were great, got him seen, normal-sized aorta, found miserable renal function, and he was admitted. The toe, it seems, is the least of his troubles. Frustrated, tired, depressed, resigned to the fact that he knew we'd get him here, somehow, some way, my father seceded to our persuasive onslaught.
But now I must transform from an internist, cardiologist, and doctor, to a son. How does one do this? How to demonstrate empathy while not being too nosey. Should I sit in the room with him? Or will I be too intimidating to the consultants, nurses, and residents who busily do their assigned tasks? Should I review his labs? But this is my father! What do I say? What do I reveal?
"I rode the Elroy-Sparta trail once. Beautiful! Those tunnels are amazing!" he said. "Sorry you guys had to come back."
And suddenly he made it very easy to transition from a doctor to a son. His son.