"The heart, mediastinum, pulmonary vascularity, pleural spaces, and bones appear normal."
[Telephone receiver is picked up.]
“Is this Dr. Lori Barr?”
“This is the nurse practitioner in the Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. Your parents have been in a motor vehicle accident. I have your mother here and she is experiencing amnesia but she knew enough to tell me to call you and had your phone number in her purse. I don’t know about your father’s condition. He was life-flighted to Huntsville from the accident scene.”
"There is only one other time in my life that I felt like I dropped into a Twilight Zone episode. That was the time I woke up alone in the dark in the middle of the night in a big house to something calling my name from the foot of my bed. That’s a story for another episode, or perhaps another podcast. It is good to be back, offering you as my protege tips to maximize your practice satisfaction and your opportunity for a rich full life with those you love. This episode is designed to leave you with five vital steps to help you prepare for the unthinkable. Preparation allows you to gain the most from this kind of growth opportunity rather than just by being devastated by overwelm.
You see the morning I received that call it was New Year’s Eve and I was sitting at Dell Childrens Medical Center in Austin, Texas, in my office reading X-rays because I was on call. And that call wasn’t the first on-call call I was expecting that morning. Usually, it would be one of our assistants letting me know that there was a stat read on a neonatal study from a hospital other than the one I was sitting at or perhaps one of the pediatric hospitalists or ER docs needing an emergency upper GI to evaluate a patient for malrotation and midgut volvulus. That call from the Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital nurse practitioner changed our lives forever.
Thank goodness I’d had a number of mentors over the years who assisted me in being prepared for my family’s moment of crisis. Here is what I learned from them: 5 VITAL steps for being prepared for the unthinkable.
The “V” in vital is for Verify: Verify that your family members are totally prepared for a brush with or actual death. This means actually investing in a meeting with an estate planner and making sure that you have a will at a minimum and a full-blown estate plan if you or your family’s holdings are sufficient to justify the cost. This also means thinking about what you want to happen if you or a loved one is at a crossroads where there is a question about continuing life support or not. It is one thing to start thinking about this and another thing to put it in writing. Follow through so your family doesn’t feel like you left them with no guidance. Cremation or burial. Viewing or not. Is there a burial or cremation policy? Has a resting place been purchased? How do you access these things? In my case, I am an only child raised by a United States Coast Guard Officer, Sonny Barr, and his wife, Lee Barr, a world-renowned speech pathologist and audiologist. My father had planned for disaster since he first enlisted in the Coast Guard. My mother learned the drill as soon as they wed. Both were happy as independent successful humans who enjoyed times they shared and times of solitude. They thought of almost everything when it came to a brush with death, except a scenario that compromised them both at the exact same time. They were great mentors to me in this and so many other aspects of my life.
The “I” in Vital is for Identify. Identify any weaknesses in your emergency scaffolding. By this I mean take a look at the people around you, your workplace environment, and your pooled resources. Are you on sure footing in your practice or workplace where you know for certain you could provide a family member with the same level of love an