No Rest on My Day off, more Drama and Other Emergencies

Well, I was looking forward to two solid days of staying inside my home in the nice air conditioning, relaxing, catching up on sleep. Nope, not to be…

I’ve been trying to get my brother’s air conditioning fixed since Saturday. I thought it was all done, they have been out but there three times, but apparently they couldn’t get it up to specs and his home has still been very hot and he was too embarrassed to tell me and was just going to try and tough it out. (I will never call ARS again, btw, weekend or not)

Which is not good, but what is worse is my brother has a lot of breathing problems (from years of smoking) and has COPD. So after sleeping in all last evening, he calls me, in obvious distress and gasping for air saying he couldn’t take it anymore and had literally collapsed on the ground. He said his AC had not gotten below 80 degrees for almost a week now and he with all the different meds he is on he couldn’t take it any more. He lives about 10 miles away from me out in West Houston, I live near downtown.

So, since this is my job 40 hours a week, I keep him on the phone and call Houston 9-1-1 with my cell phone and give them all his info. (Spelled the street, had to google the cross street because my brother could barely talk by this point). Strangely enough I don’t believe they ever asked if he actually was awake and breathing. At least know I know why we get so many third party calls for EMS and police at work, everyone calls their friends and relatives instead of calling 9-1-1 themselves.

They dispatch an ambulance and hang up, and I keep talking to him, got him to unlock his front door, get his ID and keys, and then there is an uncomfortable silence when he wasn’t saying anything for about three minutes and, being a good calltaker, I kept talking, not knowing he had dropped the phone to go get some clothes on.

Then he picks up again and I ask him if he has my phone number memorized or in his wallet in case they transport him somewhere other than SW Memorial, because I know from experience that EMS will not tell people over the phone where they have taken their relatives, and there are a lot of hospitals in Houston. He tells me no, he’s got no pen, no paper (of course). Then I hear EMS coming into his home, and he hands the phone to them and I tell them I’m with HCSO and to please write my number down and put it in his wallet, and to please take him to SW Memorial (not the nightmare known as the medical center). They say sure, they will and hang up.

I’m in my nightgown, so I get up, put my contacts in, brush my teeth, get dressed, get my purse and some water and snacks (because I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals lately). I haven’t eaten yet, so I even went through the Starbucks drive thru on the way because Cafe Vanilla frappuccino will keep me going for about 6 hours all by itself. I make it to the hospital and sitting up, they’re taking blood and getting an albuterol treatment. They ship us out to the waiting room, and we speak to someone about payment, I inform them he has no insurance and no money, and she says “No money at all, not even $20?”, so I hand her a $20 in hopes it will keep him out of collections.

And we wait. And wait… And my brother is getting more and more irritable and keeps trying to get up and leave. He has a good reason to hate hospitals, especially this hospital (nice as it is), because he spent almost four weeks in ICU years ago with such a bad case of pneumonia they eventually had to scrape his lungs. After awhile he goes off to use the bathroom and comes back without his IV and bag of saline, so I try and hurry up the poor nurses because my brother is a little emotionally unstable and I didn’t want there to be a scene and I didn’t want him to get so upset it affected his health. He doesn’t have any albuterol at home, so I’m trying to get him to wait for that, and he tells the nurse he’s leaving and she informs him he can’t get his prescription if he leaves without seeing the doctor again, which is fine with him, but not with me. So they get into gear and a doctor comes rushing out and hand him his prescription, and then they send us off to another room with two clerks and printer where no one even seems to notice we’re there.

After about 5 minutes of the ladies strolling back and forth getting things off the printer, getting up and down to throw away their styrofoam food containers, my brother finally can’t stand it anymore and gets up to leave again. We ask them ‘what are we waiting for?’ and the woman finally looks up and acknowledges us and says ‘don’t you want to know it you’re eligible for Medicaid?’. Of course I do, but he doesn’t, so they say they can call him and we’re finally out of there.

So I drive him home, and the plan is for him to stay at my mother’s house for a few days until his AC can be fixed. My mother is in a nursing home, so this is our only solution. He’s well enough to drive their, so we get some clothes and toiletries from his very hot home, and start off. We stopped to get him gas and then head to the 24 hour Walmart to get some food because there is nothing in the house. We pull up to the Walmart and several employees are coming out, pushing the automatic doors open, and it turns out they are not 24 hours any more. My brother wants to blow it off and just go home and sleep, but he hasn’t eaten all day and I don’t want to come back today so off we go to the Kroger, which luckily is still a 24 hour store.

He doesn’t look good when we get there, I offer to let him just stay out in the car, but he comes in with me and perks up some with the air conditioning and the prospect of getting to choose whatever he wants to eat. We stock up on everything, and I check us out (through the maddening self check out, which dings at us about every other item), and press $40 cash back so he’ll have a few bucks, but then forget to pick it up because I rarely push ‘cash back’ and thought the clerk would hand it to me and we walk off without it.

We drive the few miles to my mother’s home, and when I’m pulling in the driveway, I see something yellow flapping in the wind, attached to the burglar bars on the front door. We unload all the groceries, the house is nice and cool, I open the door to check the mail and the yellow notice informs me that Centerpoint came by today and shut the gas off to the home for non-payment. Well, crap. All of the utility bills are supposed to go to my mom’s estate people, they’ve been paying them for over a year. I had gotten a recorded message phone call a few days ago from Centerpoint, but when I picked it up it cut off so I had no idea what it was about. I asked the estate people and they checked and said everything was current. Guess not.

We walk over to the (all gas) stove, and yep, no gas. And we now have a refrigerator full of real food (my brother used to be a cook and is actually good at it, unlike his sister who only needs a microwave) and a gas stove, oven, water heater and washing machine. My brother doesn’t care, he’s just tired and wants to lay down, but I know this will be a fresh hell for me to deal with. I call the number on the slip, but their billing offices don’t open till 7 am.

So I get him settled, beg him to please not smoke inside the home (we’re getting it ready to sell), and leave him to sleep. I stop by the grocery store on the way home and the security officer had seen what happened and put it aside for me, well yay! I drop his prescription off at the 24 hour Walgreen’s near my house and I’m back home again.

At 7 am I call Centerpoint. I have to pretend I’m my mother because I know they won’t deal with me if my name is not on the account. We’re not Jewish, but do have an unusual last name, so I’ve found that sounding slightly annoyed, pronouncing everything correctly (no yeah’s and OK’s), and speaking with a bit of a Jewish accent does convince most phone operator that I am 80 years old. I punch in about ten different series of numbers, finally get a live person and they don’t have either of my parents social security numbers on file, can’t look it up by address, name or phone number (even though the other operator magically could), so I dig through a bunch of old paper and find a bill, give her the account number and yes, there is an overdue amount of $38.67. Oh yeah, plus reconnection and service charges for another $193.15. The operator informs me that there is no existing deposit on the account (since it was opened in 1966), so we have to pay the additional fee. OK, fine, I’ll put it on my mother’s credit card, which we use for household expenses. But I can’t pay the operator, I have to call another number. I go through another series of punching in about another 100 numbers and then they inform me the charge is – declined? Why? I don’t think I’m even close to the limit. But then I check my email and they have put a hold on the card due to all the activity.

So now I get to call the credit card company and pretend to be my mother (even though I have a card with my name on it also). I verify all the charges with them and they remove the hold. I call back the Centerpoint payment number go through all the numbers again, push one wrong button and have to hang up and start over twice. Finally get the full payment through, get my confirmation number, and call back the customer service number. The recording tells me ‘thanks for your payment, but we’re really busy and will be out sometime tomorrow, OK?’. Not OK… pushing zero until finally a human being picks up. And I again inform her that I’m 80 years old and can’t stay in the home without gas and can they please come today instead? Well sure they can, for another $49 fee. Whatever, I agree, just come today. (Tomorrow is Friday, never a good day to expect service people to show up). But I have to call the other number and make the payment there, they don’t accept payments at this number (sighs).

Call back the other number, only screw it up once this time, make the payment. Call back customer service, wait through more recordings, punch zero again (even though they don’t give me that option this time, they just cheerily inform me that ‘someone will be out tomorrow’). I get a nicer operator this time, who is having computer problems (which I do understand), but eventually gets us on the schedule for today. Now I just have to hope my exhausted brother will answer the door when they come. They managed to shut the gas off without anyone being home, but for some reason they can’t turn it back on unless someone over 18 ‘with proper ID’ is present at the home.

I sent a long email off to the estate people asking them to please arrange for someone to go out and fix my brother’s AC so we can get him back out of my mother’s house before he burns it down accidentally with a cigarette. But that’s another problem to deal with for now. I’m debating whether I have the patience to call Comcast to see if they can turn the cable back on to the house so there will be something for him to do other than stare at the walls until he goes home again. I’m hoping he will go home again and that’s not another drama. It’s a much more comfortable home than his is, much cleaner and the AC works beautifully. I wouldn’t want to leave either to go back to the small, stuffy townhome.

The end (hopefully) for today. I’m hungry, still wired from the coffee and need to go back to sleep. And I need to wash clothes and start packing for my (hopefully, again) trip to New Orleans next week. I was supposed to do that last night while I was at home, relaxing, and enjoying my weekend off.

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