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The Gail Sheehy Interview  (Page 1 of 5)

An Interview with Gail Sheehy

Gary Barg: So often, we find that it is a phone call in the middle of the night that marks the beginning of becoming a family caregiver. I was taken by the fact that your caregiving actually did start with a phone call.

Gail Sheehy:  Yes. I think it usually does start with a call. Even with a creeping crisis, where nobody really wants to acknowledge that mom is forgetting more than usual and sometimes cannot find her way home. It may go on for a year or two before there finally will be a crisis and mom will be lost; or you will get a call because dad has run a red light and he does not remember how he got into that accident.

My call was from my husband’s surgeon, who two years before, had removed a cyst on Clay’s neck, had it surveyed and it came back that it was benign. Then, these years later, I get a call saying, “You know the cyst on your husband’s neck? We had the slides re-cut and it is actually cancer.”

Suddenly, your world turns upside down. You are not just going to a concert that night; instead, you are thinking about how to save your husband’s life. And he, like many men, approached it as just another job. So, we set out that way. How do we find the doctors? How do we evaluate one doctor from another?

GB: You mentioned in the book that we need to find a medical quarterback and I thought that is great. Could you go into that a little bit?

GS: Yes. We have so many specialists today, and they can be quite wonderful. But when you are dealing with a sudden, life threatening diagnosis, and you seek a second or even a third opinion, you have no idea how to compare all of these different perspectives. We do not know the lingo; we do not know what to do first. What I learned was that the most important thing is to find a doctor you trust who seems to have the largest perspective. Then ask that doctor if he or she will be your medical quarterback; take in the recommendations from everybody else and present you with a checklist of what you need to do.


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