This past week has to go down as one of (I’m not going to tempt fate by saying the worst) the worst weeks in my professional career.
I started the week with a concussion that I got feeding the kittens on Sunday. Please don’t ask how I got a concussion feeding kittens. Just take it for granted that Andrew is extremely grateful that I seem to be able to save all my maladroit tendencies for home.
So Monday morning I walked into work still rather lightheaded and ditzy. Head still sotto voce throbbing, but tolerable.
The network server crouched in the office was making a weird humming “I’ve got a drive running” sort of noise. However I’ve learned to stay the hell away from computers except to type on them, and since everything seemed to be running normally the morning receptionist and I just looked at each other, shrugged, and went about our day. When the boss lady showed up later that morning she called the IT guy who started running diagnostics and, as the computers were still running normally, we left Piet to do his thing with the server.
Tuesday would have shaped up into a pretty decent day for me. I was booked for surgery all day, didn’t have a single appointment scheduled so I would only have to interact with clients via telephone. This is a GOOD day for Margaret.
Breezed through five procedures (two neuters, two spays, and a bladder stone-ectomy) and was actually done in time that I could eat lunch and see a work in appointment. And (this is very important) I had all of my charts and all of my surgical reports written. I’d even managed to get all of the invoices done BEFORE anyone showed up to pick up their pet.
Now granted, I did have to delay the second spay because, since I have a tendency to throw away the disposable surgical gowns that we use (and re-use after sterilization) when they start to get a little funky, there was only one surgical gown in the building and it had to be re-sterilized before I could use it. I’d started the day with three, usually enough to get through five procedures, but since one was throw out-able, and the second TORE when I was changing gloves to close up the abdomen of the dog in whose bladder I’d been mucking about…. Well, that left just one and the autoclave takes about 90 minutes for a full cycle.
Oh well, I can adapt to that! We just jiggle the day’s schedule about a little bit, everyone got lunch and, as I said, I had time to see an appointment that needed to be seen that day (I only wish I remembered what the pet’s name was and what I saw her for).
Finished with my fifth surgery, getting things wrapped up for the day. One surgical report and one appointment chart to write up. A few phone calls to make, and then I can go home.
Then the server barfed.
And I do mean barfed. Piet The IT Guy had never seen anything like it. Three drives all committed suicide at the same time. It wasn’t a virus, it wasn’t malware, it wasn’t any sort of outside attack. I’m not sure what, exactly, was wrong with the cursed thing, but it barfed. Ghosts, pixies, Nunnahee, Menehune, whatever. SOMEthing got into our network server and it was dead. RIP.
We’re a paperless practice. That means all our medical records are -yup- stored in the computer. All the patient information? Computer. Client information? Computer. Prices? Prescription labels? APPOINTMENT BOOK? Computer, computer, computer.
Without the server the network doesn’t work. Without the network the practice management software doesn’t work. Without the practice management software we are DEAD IN THE WATER.
Since there wasn’t anything else I could do (can’t write charts, can’t make phone calls) at that point I was done with my day so I left, offering drinks at my place for whatever survivors there might be at the end of the day. We all figured that Piet would have the server back up the next morning.
We were WRONG!
Wednesday morning I walked in, there were sticky notes all over my desk detailing things that had happened the day before. Piet couldn’t do anything remotely so he was going to be coming down to see if he could resurrect the bloody server in person.
One of the first things I do when I get to work in the morning is to wander into radiology and turn on the computer that runs the digital capture station. I noticed that the computer that runs the diagnostic workstation, a bit of electronic wizardry that makes it possible for us to send the digital radiographs we take to the storage servers and, more importantly, to the radiologists, was making a funny noise. Not anything like the whirring, running drive sort of noise that the network server had been making, but a whiny sort of click.
One of the notes that was on my desk Wednesday morning was about some radiographs that had been taken on one of my patients the day before. Since I couldn’t do anything useful like writing charts or making phone calls I figured that reviewing those images would be a good use of my time while I was waiting for my first appointment to show up.
Except the images that had been sucked into the digital capture station the night before hadn’t made it the two feet to the diagnostic station. The diagnostic station, in fact, wouldn’t even bring up the bit of software that we use to view any of the films. It just sat there blinking at me. Desktop was normal. Shortcut to the viewing software was there, I could even click on the shortcut and get the “please enter password” window. I just couldn’t get past the password (and yes, I was using the correct one).
Piet The IT Guy doesn’t mess with the computers that are used to run our digital radiology system. Piet, in fact, is not qualified to mess with the radiology computers.
So we have to call the radiology computer people to come out and exorcise the diagnostic workstation.
In the mean time it’s time for appointments to start. Oh right! Appointments!
Mysterious people walking through the door with mysterious pets to see mysterious doctors for mysterious medical complaints. Without our appointment book we have no idea of who to expect when, with which pets. And unless the person walking through the door is familiar to us or happens to know which doctor their appointment was scheduled with……
Without medical records we have no idea of a patient’s previous history (What medications were given? For how long? What was the response?), and even the healthy ones coming in for vaccines were mysterious. What vaccines are you due for? Basically unless the critter had a rabies tag with a year on it, we couldn’t vaccinate anything. And if we could give a rabies vaccine we couldn’t issue a new tag or a certificate because, yup! No computer!
One of my favorite clients, G, showed up with her dog for a recheck Wednesday morning. At least I was familiar enough with G and her dog that I had some sort of idea what we were rechecking and what the dog’s medical condition had been at the previous exam three weeks ago. I’ve known G for heck, ten years? Twelve? I thought she’d be a nice, calm break in a day that was rapidly looking like it was going straight to hell.
G is in her mid-60s and I’ve known that she’s been dealing with colon cancer for at least the last few years. Last I knew though, she was stable. Still some evidence of metastasis, but radiation therapy was working and the outlook was optimistic.
Except Wednesday morning G told me that the radiation had failed and that she had three new metastases. Inoperable, nonresponsive to chemotherapy and, obviously, unfazed by radiation. She’s terminal. We had a discussion about what I can do to help her aging and somewhat forgetful husband keep their stable of aging and crotchety little dogs going for as long as is humane once she’s gone. I just hugged her, finished up with the patient in question then went back to my desk and cried. I’ve lost clients and been happy (for my own sake) about it, I’ve lost clients and been relieved (for their sake) about it, but never one who had managed to breach the divide between client and friend. I try to keep my professional and personal lives very separate, but G has managed to work her way into both of them. I will miss her a lot.
By Wednesday evening Piet managed to get our computers linked to HIS server and the last computer backup we had made (Monday night) shoved into his server so we at least had a few computer stations that would work. The stations were slow and we still couldn’t print prescription labels, but we could at least get charts written up and invoices charged out. We still had major chaos with the appointment book because appointments that had been made, moved, or changed between Monday evening and Wednesday afternoon were mysterious. We had double booked appointments, we had new clients coming in for no known reason, but we were making SOME progress. I got my Wednesday afternoon charts written, realized that I had to re-create all of Tuesday’s charts, write up all of Wednesday morning’s charts as well as deal with all of the lab call backs and phone messages that had been piling up since Tuesday afternoon and just gave up and went home.
Thursday morning I got to work and put my stuff down so I could sign on to my computer. I woke up the monitor and realized that Wednesday night had been one of the nights where the computers shut themselves down automatically to install updates. I restarted the computer like normal.
The remote connection to our practice management software on Piet’s server was gone.
I couldn’t do anything about it and it was way too early to call Piet, so I went into radiology to wake up the digital and, hopefully, finally have a look at those radiographs that had been taken on my patient on Tuesday. Except the diagnostic station was still barfed, and there was a note for the service rep who was supposed to show up later that morning.
I began to have fantasies about hitting myself in the face with an axe.
Our more tech savvy tech showed up and was actually able to re-establish my computer’s link with Piet’s server. So at least I had a (retarded, slow, and forgetful) computer to work on. The day is looking up.
The day definitely started to improve when the Piet and the tech managed to jury rig something so that we could actually print prescription labels. Could only print from one computer station, but this is progress no? Radiology is still down, but I don’t have to hand write prescription labels and we don’t have to guess at prices when we’re writing invoices. Heck, that’s almost luxurious.
I got ALL of my Thursday charts written. I got the rest of my Wednesday charts written, and I managed to re-create all of the surgical reports and records from Tuesday. By Thursday afternoon I still had an unholy pile of lab call backs and phone messages, including two from a deaf woman who wanted me to call her TTY connection to discuss why the cat that I’d only seen once had died abruptly just before his second appointment with me on Monday. Phone calls, schmone calls! I’m going HOME!
I went on a coffee and cookie run so the rest of the crew wouldn’t fade out while they were trying to get caught up and finish the rest of Thursday then turned towards home.
Except just as I got to the turn that I take in front of the airport…..
My car started to lose power.
It was only one little cough and when I downshifted and stomped on the gas it went away so, maybe it was nothing.
Except you all know that it wasn’t.
Lost power again at the next turn I had to make about a mile from home. Downshifted and stomped on the gas, got her going again. Straightaway for the next 3/4 mile through the tunnel under the south runway for Sea Tac.
Cough, gag! (stomp, downshift, curse, pray, sweat! A tunnel under a runway would be an extremely sucky place for the car to die!)
I managed to sweet talk my car into continuing to run until the intersection of Normandy Road and Des Moines Memorial Drive. Where, for the record, the stoplight wasn’t working so it was flashing red in all four directions.
A quick left turn, a cough, a gag, a downshift and a stomp and….. PUTT.
Halfway through a turn in the middle of the westbound lane, traffic trying to get past on either side and I could frickin’ WALK to the service station two blocks away, but I can’t get out of the car because it’s in the middle of the road. I could push the car to the service station, but the damn thing is headed UP HILL.
I called the state patrol. I called the AAA. I called my husband.
State patrol said they’d send someone out to manage the traffic around me, AAA said they’d send a tow, but it might be as much as an hour (although since I was blocking traffic they’d try to get out there faster). Andrew arranged to meet me at the service station two blocks away, but since I couldn’t leave the car, there wasn’t any point in him coming out.
A very nice off duty officer from Tenino (shout out to the Tenino police department, this dude did go above and beyond) parked his cruiser behind me with his lights on. I rolled down the window to let him know what was going on and we both agreed that he’d stay there until the state patrol showed up. The headlights went off, the console went dead, and the window wouldn’t roll up.
Did I mention that it was raining?
So I sat there getting soggy waiting for the AAA and the state patrol to show up.
Everyone eventually showed up and my car was decanted off at the service station. Finally at home and in my jammies I sat and stared for a LONG time.
I woke up this morning rather shell shocked.
Went to work.
The computer worked. It was still slow and retarded, but it worked. The gnomes that are certified to work on the radiology computers waved their magic wands and I could see the radiographs that I’d been waiting for for three days.
We still had a few mystery appointments, but they were managed in a (somewhat) timely fashion.
By 1 p.m. Piet had reappeared from Lynnwood with our resurrected server. All the computer stations worked, and ran at a decent speed. I could print prescription labels from whatever damn work station I pleased.
I could connect to our common documents file, I could print estimates, I had internet access and I could even connect to the printer to print client information pamphlets.
The service station called.
The good news is that the fix on my car was cheap.
The bad news is that they couldn’t find anything wrong with the electrical system.
With the way the rest of this week has gone, I’m not sure that I won’t die by lightning strike in the next few hours.
I’m wearing shoes with rubber soles and staying away from water.