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Brain Injuries

Appointment problems when you have a brain injury

Most patients with a chronic illness or disability have to fit in numerous medical appointments (although right now, it’s super hard to book one in the first place!). You have to consider not only the time that they have allotted you but travel time, how to get there, whether there is parking nearby or where the nearest bus stop is, etc. My point being that you need to plan ahead. Often, for those with a brain injury, it can be an extra challenge to remember when the appointment is, so using a calendar becomes essential.

I hate being late for anything to the point where I often struggle to sleep the night before I have something I need to do because I’m worried about showing up on time. That often means I end up being absurdly early instead, but at least I’m there, ready and waiting. As I’m now 8 years into my recovery from my severe brain injury, I’m better at remembering that I have appointments coming up. However, I still put them into the calendar on my phone the moment they are booked so I can keep checking what I have coming up. Sensible, right?

Here’s a recent example of how that still doesn’t stop me from messing it up:

Having decided to pay for the winter flu jab just to give myself some extra protection, I booked myself in with a pharmacy in December via their website. But before my jab was due, I got Covid-19 and had to delay it until early January. Thankfully, I think I must have had a mild version of Covid and have made a full recovery. Helpfully, the pharmacy emailed me the confirmation of my rescheduled flu vaccination, so I was able to ensure I entered the correct details into my phone’s calendar.

As we entered the New Year, I kept thinking about how my jab was due in just a few days’ time. Again, I checked my calendar to ensure I knew when to be there. I even looked back at the pharmacy’s email, just in case I had made a typo when entering the details. Confident that I had the right date and time, I planned my journey. There was a click-and-collect item that I needed to pick up from a store on the other side of town, so I planned to go there first before parking in town to visit the pharmacy.

As per usual, I left in good time on the day. I arrived at my first stop to collect the item from the store and was asked for ID because it was spray paint which is an age-restricted item. That’s when I realised my driver’s license wasn’t in my purse, where it always is. The man who was serving me politely explained that they couldn’t let me take it without the appropriate photo ID and that they would hold on to it until I could return with my license. I understood he was following policy but was still frustrated as I had not only made a fruitless journey, but I was also now worried about what I had done with my driver’s license. Nevertheless, I left as there was nothing I could do about it, and I needed to get to the pharmacy.

Having parked and paid for the minimum time, I walked into the pharmacy. Immediately, I could see they were having problems. Whilst they were still trying to help customers, they had pulled down roller blinds over the healthcare displays behind the counter. These had a sign on them directing people to queue at the pharmacy desk for assistance. I guessed this was some kind of staffing issue as there were only two members of staff at the pharmacy desk who already looked pretty harassed.

Still feeling a little stressed from my disappointment at the previous store, I waited to speak to someone. Already I had guessed that they weren’t going to be able to do any jabs today as I had concluded they were struggling. When it was my turn, I spoke to a man and told him I was there for my flu jab. “I’m sorry, but we are unable to do any today. We called everyone who was booked in today earlier,” he replied. This frustrated me as I knew I hadn’t missed any calls, so no one had even attempted to call me. If they had, I would have rescheduled and also not gone to the previous store, thus avoiding that irritation for another day too. When I told him they had not called me, he said he would pencil me in for two days’ time instead. I understood it wasn’t his fault, and that was the best he could do in the circumstances. Still. I went home feeling pretty deflated with my day in general.

Finally, it dawned on me….

I had just finished explaining my disastrous afternoon to my partner, James, when I got a reminder of my appointment text to me from the pharmacy. This wasn’t the one that the man in the store said he’d pencilled me in for, but the one I had just been turned away from! For a moment, I was ticked off by this. How dare they! But I told myself to let it go as it would have been sent automatically by a system that didn’t know I’d been moved. However, even that didn’t make sense because I received the reminder 15 minutes after the time that my flu jab had meant to be. Why would their computer system send a reminder out after the time that is booked..? It wouldn’t. Oh no, surely I hadn’t turned up on the wrong day….

Yes, the thing I’d failed to do was check what TODAY’S date was! Sure, I’d entered the booking correctly into my calendar, but I’d never checked if today was the day my brain had decided it was! And the worst bit is, I know I do this and shouldn’t assume I know what today is. I even wrote about an occasion it happened years before on my own blog, “How keeping appointments can be hard with a brain injury”. My brain injury makes it hard for me to recognise that I have missed a step and question what I might have done wrong. Thus, I keep turning up for appointments on the wrong day.

The cost of my error:

I did eventually find my driver’s license and collected the spray paint without incident. Then I returned to the pharmacy for the time that I had been pencilled in for. This was a day later than the appointment I had scheduled online. This time I was served by a woman who told me they had run out of the vaccine and were unlikely to get anymore, but they had attempted to call everyone who was due that day. When I said no one had contacted me, she checked on the system to check they had the correct mobile number for me. They did, and I was there on the right day, so I wasn’t guilty this time. She gave me a refund as it was the only option. Therefore, by changing my slot that final time I might have sealed my own fate and missed the chance to have my flu vaccine. Thanks, brain injury, you win again.

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