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Physician Trainee Spends 10 Days in Veterans Home - Part 1
07/16/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight
Anthony Pastore and Bob Harris

Anthony Pastore voluntarily admitted himself into the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough today. Pastore is not a veteran. He's in good health. And he's only 25. Pastore has checked into the home as part of his medical training at the University of New England's "Learning by Living" program. For ten days, he will live as an elder resident to gain a different perspective on patient care as he pursues a career as a physician. Patty Wight will follow Pastore throughout his experience. This is part one, his first day.

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Med Student Anthony Pastore and nurse Lisa Roop Anthony Pastore is an athletic man who plans to be a primary care doctor. But standing outside the doors of the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough, he's about to take on a different persona.

"I've uh, loosely based my character off of my grandfather, who recently had a rehab stint," Pastore said.

When Pastore walks through the doors of the Vets home, he'll be an 85-year old man with weakness on his dominant left side from a stroke. He'll also have pneumonia from inhaling food, which means he'll be on a pureed diet for at least three meals. And Pastore will also be in a wheelchair. So, how's he feeling about his impending stay? Nervous.

"I really enjoy an active lifestyle, and the fact that I won't be able to go for a run or go to the gym for ten days is a little nerve-wracking," he said.

But this just scratches the surface of how different life will be for Pastore over the next ten days, said Marilyn Gugliucci. She's Director of Geriatrics Education and Research at UNE and the founder of the Learning by Living program.

"They are usually toileted and bathed," Gugliucci said. "And they have to be transferred. A certified nursing assistant, what they call a CNA, has to help the student out of the wheelchair into the bed, or out of the wheelchair into the toilet."

Ready or not, it's time for Pastore's stay to begin, so he musters his courage and passes through the doors of the Veterans Home to be admitted.

Nurse Lisa Roop helps Pastore get settled. She wheels him to his room, asks about his condition, then holds his hands to painstakingly guide him out of his wheelchair onto his bed.

"Right foot back, left foot back. Right foot back. Good. Left foot back. And now you feel the bed behind you?" asked Roop.

"Mmm hmm," replied Pastore.

"Okay, you can sit," Roop said.

Roop checks Pastore's vitals, then leaves to get him something to drink. Twenty minutes in to his experience, Pastore said he feels overwhelmed.

"I sat down and there was a thermometer in my mouth, and my O2 levels were being read, and just, not very much control either," said Pastore. "Like when you're in a wheelchair being pushed around. You're not used to having your views dictated by someone else."

There's a lot to get used to. When Roop returns with water, she explains she needs to thicken it so he can swallow it slowly and avoid inhaling food again, which caused his pneumonia. She pours a packet of thickener into a cup and stirs until the water is a consistency similar to hair gel.

Next Pastore needs a nasal cannula, clear plastic tubing that's inserted into the nostrils to deliver extra oxygen, though Pastore's will serve just as a prop. While he waits, Pastore wheels out of his room using his right leg and hand, that's the side not affected by the stroke, to meet some of the residents. The awkward feeling of befriending a complete stranger is palpable as Pastore approaches a common area, but he gets encouragement from Marilyn Gugliucci.

Marilyn Gugliucci: "Do you want to say hello?"
Anthony Pastore: "Do I just wheel right in?"
MG: "Just wheel right in."
AP: "Hello."

Anthony's message to Bob The man has lost his hearing and doesn't understand, but a staffer brings Pastore a pen and paper to communicate. He writes, and the man, Bob, or "Doc" Harris, responds verbally. He's delighted to learn Pastore is a medical student.

"Really? Wow! Congratulations!" said Harris.

After spending just a few minutes getting to know Harris, Pastore said he feels much more comfortable.

"Oh, it's much better than probably a half hour ago," Pastore said. "Getting to talk to somebody, or write to somebody, was huge."> But this is only the beginning. Marilyn Gugliucci said Pastore will likely pass through different stages during his stay. He'll settle in over the next few days, then probably feel depressed. But by the end, Gugliucci said, he may not want to leave.

"Anthony will be different at the end of this experience," Gugliucci said. "There's no question about that. Every student that has done this, and there have been over 30 students and one architect, they've all stated they have changed."

Changed, said Gugliucci, in how they view the world, older adults...and the kind of care they'll give as doctors.

NOTE: MPBN News will check in on Anthony Pastore throughout his ten day experience at the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough.

Photos by Patty Wight.

Related Stories
Physician Trainee Spends 10 Days in Veterans Home, Part 2 - Depression Sets In
Nursing Home 'Patient' Checks Out, Part 3

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