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  • Doctor in the Family or Family Doctor?
  • Julia Bisschops

On a cold, snowy winter day in the northern part of Germany, my father 69 years old at the time, was walking our German Shepherd Jamu. The next day when talking to him [End Page E7] on the phone, he mentioned that he fell onto the back of his head the night before during the walk (ice below the snow that lead to a "slip and fall").

Upon further questioning, he sounded like his usual self, he did state he had a little bit of a headache, he denied any other symptoms, and he seemed not very concerned, but rather quite content that he did not have any obvious fractures. About three weeks passed without any new events and no complaints. Jamu and he shortly thereafter few to the US to where he had recently moved.

One late afternoon about a week after the journey, I called my parents' house while driving home from the hospital. At the time I was a Family Medicine Intern in the Midwest and called just to say hallo. During the phone conversation my mother told me about their trip to the grocery store earlier that day and that she felt like "Dad is walking kind of funny."

I questioned her a little more by asking, "What do you mean exactly?"

"Well it almost seems like his feet are not moving like usual and he is dropping them a little," she responded.

I then asked her to let me talk to dad.

"Dad, what is going on?" I asked quite stern and concerned. "Do you have a headache? Are you in pain? Do you have any numbness in your legs? Have you noticed any changes when walking?" I asked.

He answered by saying "Not really, but mom told me that I should stop walking funny!"

I took a deep breath and then replied, "Dad, I'm very worried about you! You fell onto your head just a few weeks ago and now you are not walking right, we need to make sure you are ok, that your head is ok and that you do not have any bleeding in your head. This can potentially be very serious, please go to the nearest hospital!"

"What do you mean?" he said. "How do I get to the hospital? Where is the hospital?" he then asked.

"Dad," I replied, "Remember when we go downtown to go shopping or have dinner?"

"Yes," he said.

"During those drives we pass a hospital that is on your left–hand side," I stated. "However, since this can be very serious I do not want you to drive yourself under any circumstances," I said.

"Well" he replied, "Mom cannot drive me because it is almost dark and she does not see well when driving in the dark."

"Call an ambulance then please dad, at least take a cab, but do not drive yourself. Please call me when you are in the hospital," I begged him.

I shortly thereafter arrived at my apartment. It did not take me a very long time to realize that my parents needed me. My father could potentially have a serious injury, since he seemed to be having neurological deficits. In addition, he did not know where to go, he did not speak the language properly and my mom was of little help because she did not feel comfortable driving him in the dark, also she did not know where to go; while she speaks the language a little better, I still did not feel quite comfortable being far away from them.

I called my chief resident, who without any hesitation stated, "do not worry about it, we will find someone to cover for you, please take care of your family." To this day I'm thankful for his words and help.

I quickly booked a plane ticket on my phone and made my way to the airport, where miraculously my connecting flight was on time. For anyone who has spent some time in the Midwest in the winter, heavy snowfall can easily disrupt the flight schedule of the smaller airports. However, that day, it was not the case!



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