On The Shoulders of The Sandwich Generations…
So a little background…I come from a tight-knit Mexican family. I have three younger sisters. As the oldest, I am the lone Gen X’er, though I refer to myself as an X-lenial because I am fairly social media savvy, a vegan, and I LOVE avocado toast. My sisters are “old” Millenials. I live in Indiana, another sister is in Kentucky, another in San Antonio, and just one of my sisters lives in my mother’s hometown.
My mother is a widow. My father died from lung cancer in 2018. She lives in Texas in the same house we had since 1993 and has a robust support network among her church, friends, family (mainly my father’s sisters and sisters in law), and neighbors. My sisters all have at least a master’s degree. One of them is a dentist (doesn’t currently practice) and is married to an orthopedic surgeon.
My mother can use the internet fairly well for a 77 year-old lady, she can email clumsily, and just started texting proficiently in the last couple of years. She speaks Spanish primarily, and her command of the English language, which she learned in her 40’s, has deteriorated in the last few years as she no longer in the workforce. She is fiercely independent and a super smart lady. My sisters and I call her “chiflada”, which is Spanish for “spoiled”, but as a term of endearment. We love that she stands up for herself and is set in her ways. My mother has earned the right to be chilflada after everything she has been through in her life.
When Texas announced that it had opened up vaccination to people 65 years and older, I told my mom to call her doctor (at a Medicare run clinic in her hometown) and her pharmacy (located at her neighborhood HEB, the grocery store giant in south Texas). HEB, I knew from the Texas Department of Health website, was listed as a vaccine hub. I was naïve enough to think that registering for her first dose would be as simple as making a phone call. I was so wrong.
After a couple of weeks of calling and hearing “We do not have the vaccine” from her doctor’s office and pharmacy, my sisters and I began to panic.
My sister Sally (the non-practicing dentist) posted a plea for help on Facebook. We all divided and conquered the different leads we learned from that post.
I reached out to old friends from high school and college who are now physicians or were close friends with physicians in my mom’s hometown to shamelessly use our connections to get her a dose.
We learned about several places that would take drive up registrations, and my mom, remember she is chiflada, said she would not be subjected to the indignity of waiting in line for hours to then be told they did not have doses for her. My family has had traumatic, humiliating experiences with the health care system, and she rightfully was not going to go down that path again.
We found out about some drive up clinics, but these slots went fast and the wait time to get the shots, we later heard, were anywhere from 5 to 8 hours! It ended up being a wash anyway, because once again, my mother was not going to wait for hours and hours in the car for the vaccine. Some of these clinics were a few towns away, and she no longer drives outside of her hometown. She also made it clear she would not wait more than one hour, and she would only wait in a clean, comfortable waiting room with an accessible bathroom. She refused to be subjected to the indignities that the health care system expects Americans (particularly marginalized groups) to tolerate just because that’s the way it is.
I made a list of the smaller practices who were listed as vaccine hubs and called them about vaccine availability. Several stated in their voice mails that they did not have doses and to please hang up if the phone call was about inquiring about the COVID vaccine. They did not have the staff to handle the call volume. I got her on one waiting list on one of those clinics.
Another one of my sisters, Norma who lives in south Texas, focused on the larger centers and from Twitter learned that one of them (DHR) would start online registration “that day”. Between the four Adame sisters, we all checked their website multiple times. I seriously felt I was trying to get VIP tickets to a New Kids on the Block concert during an exclusive pre-sale!
At this point, I was thinking the best way to get her the vaccine was to fly her to Indiana, wait until I got approved as a vaccine site (I am still waiting to hear from the Indiana State Department of Health……) and administer her doses myself.
Finally, late in the afternoon, Abi, my sister in San Antonio, was able to secure a registration for her on the DHR website! What’s absolutely bonkers, is that I had checked the site just minutes before she did, and it was not active for registrations. I checked it a few minutes after she secured my mom’s appointment, and the website crashed. We later heard the appointments went in minutes after registration went live.
My mom received her first dose of COVID19 vaccine last Sunday. We were so happy and relieved. She has her second dose scheduled in February. My sister Norma drove her to the site. They were in and out quickly, and the facility met my chiflada mother’s standards.
The process to get my mom a vaccine was long, frustrating, and resource-intensive for three educated, tech savvy, somewhat well connected adult women with above average medical literacy.
The part that terrifies me is this:
What about the elderly that don’t have family members with the tech savvy, medical knowledge, and most importantly, TIME, to spend hours attempting to secure a vaccine for them?
What about high-risk people with no networking capabilities in the medical field?
What about the elderly that don’t have reliable transportation?
What about the people under 65 years with chronic medical conditions that have not been able to find a site that will vaccinate them?
Clearly the vaccine roll out has problems. Culver Peds is a tiny practice in rural Indiana. We have a vaccine vendor that will help us manage inventory and billing, and we have yet to hear from the ISDH if I am approved for the 400 doses of the vaccine I requested. I field phone calls about community members asking and my answer, which breaks my heart to have to say, is “I don’t have any doses yet and I have not heard if or when I will receive any.”
While I certainly have little experience in how to manage the most extensive mass vaccination effort in half a century, I can say this: Independent doctors want to help. Independent doctors have the expertise and workflows to get doses into the community’s arms. Please, Indiana State Department of Health, assign doses to independent physician’s practices and you will see vaccine rates go UP!
The moral of this rant: If you are a Gen-X’r or Millenial, you are likely in that sandwich generation where you are responsible for children as well as your elderly parents.
Keep trying and don’t give up.
Follow the Indiana State Department of Health and Marshall County Department of Health socials for the latest information on how to get your loved ones registered for the vaccines.
And I don’t really think my mother is chiflada. She is justifiably tired of a broken corporate-run health care system that abuses patients….and physicians. I am my mother’s daughter, which is precisely why I left corporate medicine to start my own tiny, independent, family-run clinic. I NEVER want my patients to go through the traumatic health care experiences that my family (and my patients in the corporate medicine world) sustained.
Our goal is to become the best pediatric practice in the state of Indiana. If your child is not yet part of the Culver Pediatrics family, sign up in the email opt-in below to learn more about our boutique pediatric services.
Indiana State Department of Health Coronavirus Vaccine Info:
Marshall County Health Department:
We aim to be the best pediatric practice in the state of Indiana. If your child is not yet part of the Culver Pediatrics family, sign up in the email opt-in below to learn more about our boutique pediatric services.
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