Sunday, March 18, 2018

Nine Hundred Dollar Headache...

Sometime earlier this year I had a week of migraines.  Not as bad as a few years ago, but a definite escalation of symptoms over normal.  I did my best to get them knocked down, but when I developed an aura within an hour of taking a migraine rescue medication, I tossed in the towel and went to the ED. Endless Artificial Energy....

The final bills are all in.

The total cost for a roughly 5 hour stay (2 of which I passed in the waiting area) with no lab work or x-rays of any kind was just under $2000.  My portion?  Just under $900. 

If I had known that the day I had the headache would I have made a different choice about where I got my care?  Likely not.  I couldn't keep fluids down very well, couldn't keep my eyes open if the lights were on, and I needed to get it under control before it did brain damage.  Yeah, I needed to be there.  And the bottom line for us is that if I don't make the deductible, someone else will, like Babygirl, yesterday. 

But if I didn't have a bank account with a cushion set aside to meet that deductible?  If I knew that I'd have to choose between needed monthly medications, or groceries, and that ED bill?  I'd likely have tried to tough it out somehow. 

We are blessed enough to know that we will be okay.  We've been through some miserable times and learned that you can't plan ahead for everything, but we DO plan ahead, and the reall blessing is that we CAN. 

I see people every single day who can't - who make such low wages that the idea of having $100 socked away for an emergency is beyond imagination, let alone $1000 or more.  I just wrote checks for that emergeny bill, for about $400 for Babygirl's last visit to Philly, and another $900 for dental bills.  Generally speaking, I don't think healthcare should be a luxury.


St. Pat's in the ER......

Since my mom died a little over 2 years ago I haven't  had to hang out with anybody in the ER (except me:  The last THREE ER visits for the family have been me.  No - wait - I think Curlygirl had one... it's all a blur LOL).  Generally speaking, though, I haven't been in an emergency room wondering if I'm going to need to run home and pack a suitcase in preparation for a 4 -hour ambulance ride.

But last week Squeaker turned 6, and invited a dozen of his closest little germ-vector cousins to come over and tear his house apart to celebrate.  It was a 3-hour madhouse of screaming kids, jabbering moms and dads, and cake.  Since then, everyone in the house has come down with something:  Squeaks had a high fever and a bellyache for a few days, I've had a cold, Curlygirl is achy and incredibly weak.

Yesterday Babygirl spiked a fever of 103, took some aspirin and it went away.  She told me about it this morning.  I reminded her that fevers are important, and she needs to tell me, but she looked quite well, so we worked the concession stand for the basketball games at church, did grocery shopping and ran errands, and she was fine. 

At 8:30 she sent me at text (it's our version of an intercom - her bedroom is on the third floor - don't judge me!) letting me know that she had a temp of 101.2 and she needed some medicine.  She had taken some aspirin about an hour earlier when she had some bad chills but wasn't really feeling better.  I preregistered for the ER with In Quicker ("fever/kidney transplant/safer to wait at home) and got a call back from a nurse within 5 minutes:  Don't wait. Come in now.  On the way in she started coughing hard enough to gag. Her temp was 103.3 by the time we arrived, and her heart was racing.

By 9:30 she was roomed and tests were in progress, and by midnight we were given a diagnosis of presumed influenza.  We're waiting for the second liter of fluid to finish running in, and then we're out.  The doctor was kind enough to push some meds to help with the migtraine du jour as well. 

It's good to know that we don't need to leave town. It's good to know that she can safely be considered to have a viral illness and sent home.  It's wonderful to know she has enough white blood cells to fight this off.

But.  Squeaker had fevers this high for three or four days, and I told Curlygirl to keep him home because it was so clearly viral.  We still can't take that chance with Babygirl. And we never will be able to.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

What Would It Be Like.....

When Babygirl turned 18 in September, I put in an application for her for Social Security Income.  She qualified at age 11, when she was first diagnosed with kidney failure, but did NOT get it because of my income:  It's 'needs based.'  But at this point she is still struggling to finish high school, has headaches at least four days a week, has an immune system too weak for her to work with the public and handle money, and she can't see well enough to get a driver's lisence, so....what kind of work can she do?

The majority of people under the age of 50 who apply for Social Security are denied, at least initially.  Babygirl qualified on the first try. 

So this morning we went to the credit union to set up an account for her so Social Security can direct deposit her checks.  During the process we decided she needs a checking account so she can take over paying her own medical bills, and added my name to her accounts in case she gets too sick to manage her money at some point.

On the way out of the bank, she asked, "I wonder what it would be like to be healthy?  I mean, it probably would be less expensive...."

Oh. My. Freaking. God.

Yeah, it would be different.  We'd be setting up an account so you could deposit money from your first job. I'd never even consider putting my name on it.  We'd be going out for breakfast instead of trying to figure out why the local Social Security office doesn't have ANY parking within a quarter mile of the place and, good God Almighty, child! "Less expensive"????

College would be expensive.  A new CAR would be expensive. An apartment of your very own would be expensive.  I'd happily bankrupt myself to pay for ALL of it if it meant you never, EVER had to wonder what good health felt like.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

It Was An Accident, Honest.....

My insurance company sent me a form to fill out the other day.  Clearly getting an MRI of one's shoulder followed by a series of physical therapy makes them wonder...

"Recent claims indicate that you may have suffered an injury.  Was this due to an accident?"

In other words, should I be billing my auto, homeowners or workman's compensation insurance instead of them? 

"If so, are you planning on suing anyone?"

It's tempting to fill out the form with the entire story, just so they can have something to put on the Insurance Adjuster's Wall of Fame, or to giggle over at the office Christmas party.....


"Now that you mention it, it WAS due to an accident.  You see, I was making a snowman with the church youth group, and my drill bit snapped in half!  That made the drill jump, and the broken drill bit drilled right through my thumb joint.  Lucky the bit was broken or it would have drilled me to the table!

"I had a couple of rounds if IV antibiotics and a tetanus shot, but when your wrist is immobilized and you have only your fingertips to work with, you can really jack up your shoulder trying to pull your pants up!"

Yeah.  I don't think I'll be suing anybody over that. 

Besides, our insurance agent assures us that we made the Wall of Fame when our pool caught fire.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

So They Kinda Had to Fire Me....

The reason I was so in need of Retail Therapy last week was because our computer software at work was, well, doing what it was apparently designed to do.  That is, if you believe (as I have strongly come to suspect) that it was designed by the minions of Hell Itself.

About two weeks ago I noticed that when I was clicking on the last of the 5,856 buttons needed to turn this incredibly awkward program into a patient note, the computer was inserting the wrong addresses for the patients' follow up instructions.  Since the Headache Hell of 2010 I've only worked in one location, so telling people to see me in 2 weeks in a location 20 miles down the road was nonsensical at best.  I assumed that this had been happening since they installed the new program last October, and that I had only just noticed this particular glitch (since there appears to be at least one glitch per day to trip over). 

Tech support happened to be on their biweekly visit to our building, so I pointed it out.  They looked into it and discovered that I had no less than EIGHT erroneous addresses and phone numbers listed in the system.  No problem, they said. We can just take them out, they said.

The next day I started to get messages from pharmacies that my prescriptions couldn't be filled because they didn't have a phone number attached.  That seemed so far-fetched that I initially just re-sent a couple dozen scripts, continuing to send new ones as well.  Since I send in about 100/day, this began to pile up in a MOST significant way by the second day. 

I called tech support.  Interestingly enough, the response was along the lines of, "What addresses and phone numbers? We never took anything out?" And as Satan's little helpers continued to work on the problem, patients began calling to complain: "Where's my prescription???"

So by this point, for every prescription I've sent for nearly three days, there are at least three messages:  The original request, the bounce-back, and the patient re-call. We have no way of knowing for sure what is missing and what's gone through.  They are now shipping all of my refills to the residents and my nurse practioner, effectively doubling their workloads, and the front desk and the nurses are getting KILLED with phone calls and irate patients.   I can feel my artieries hardening, because as I am seeing patients I have to remember that I CAN'T SEND ANYTHING TO A PHARMACY.  I have to add what I want to their medical history, and then ask someone ELSE to send it. I forgot that detail more than a few times.

This drama went on for a FULL WEEK.  Ultimately they had to install some massive new program, field test it, and then let us run it.  It worked for everything except controlled medications:  No pain medications, no ADHD medications, no anxiety medications, and in some cases, no seizure medications. 

The final fix as I understand it involved suspending all my priveledges and then reinstating them. 

A thought hit me as I arrived home on Friday evening, and I sent this text to my office manager:  "Would you call human resources on Monday and just make sure I'm still on the payroll?"

One full week after everything was working again, we are still having patients call in or show up to see what the heck had happened to medications that they thought had gone to pharmacies, some insisting that they wouldn't leave the building until they knew for sure that the prescription was actually sent in.

Holy Lord.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Retail Therapy.....

I walked the dogs at 8 this morning, luxuriously late, after sleeping until almost 7.  This is so far past my usual wake up time that I missed my first two hours of 250 steps on my FitBit. 

I was at Aldi by 9, Walmart by 9:35, and my hairdresser by 10 on the dot, which is when my day sort of organically devolved into a me-fest. 

I went from there to the Farmer's Market, oddly unaccompanied, and bought the only thing I'd really specifically come for:  The amazing coffee.  Oh, I got some carrots and stuff to justify my time there, and enjoyed the walk, and....

OhMyGoodness.  Is that a MASSAGE chair??  A dollar a minute?? Let me see how much I have with me LOL.  I limited myself to 10 minutes but it was time well spent to unkink the back of my neck after my ice fall(s) the other day (did I not mention that?  I think I won't if I didn't.)  Then I got to thinking.  If I just got my hair done, it's probably been a while since my last pedi....

Off to the mall I go.  My pedicurist is busy, and asks if I can come back in half an hour. Well, sure, why not, I haven't walked much today.  I head off with the mall-walkers until I stumble over a sale at one of the few stores I really love but usually don't indulge in.  I find work pants that fit beautifully, and some shirts, and...HolyCOW a half hour goes fast.  I book it back to the pedi place and get to soak my toes while sitting in a massage chair for a delightful extra 20 minutes while my lady finishes up her previous customer. 

All in all it was a lovely morning.  Now I have finished  sledding and building snowmen with the grandkids while their mom gets the laundry done, and then, personal homemade pizzas.

Considering how work has been for the past two weeks, it's been a very restorative day.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

On Eagles and Wings....

Super Bowl Sunday.  AND the anniversary of the transplant.  Six years.

I watched Babygirl fill her pill sorters last night, just part of our weekly routine now.  "Is iron once or twice a day?"  Geeze, girl!  get it straight! Twice, and multivitamins, once.

It IS confusing.  The true majority of her medications at this point are "nutraceuticals."  Supplements to help support her kidney function, fill in nutritional gaps, and decrease (theoretically) headache frequency.  And since these aren't prescriptions, they aren't labeled as to daily dose.  They're expensive, too, but I've discovered I can get about a years' worth on Amazon Prime for the same as it would cost at Walmart for about 4 months, so...

It's routine.  Normal.  Keeping an eye out for food recalls that could be dangerous to her.  Being vigilant about preparing food at home, and kitchen cleanliness.  Expecting to spend $200 or more every time we walk into the pharmacy.  It is what it is.  And it is, overall, good.

Her last kidney studies were excellent, her anemia is minimal, but there is one nagging little study that indicates that something in the background isn't working quite as it should be. They're trying to mend it with Vitamin D (yes, really. It does matter - keep your levels UP.).

But today will be for relaxing.  We will watch the game, rooting for the Eagles (hey! We spend a LOT of time in Philly! If my home-town Bills don't get there, it's next-best, okay?), and eating chicken wings (no Blue Cheese for Babygirl - there's mold on that cheese so she can NEVER have it) and other unhealthy treats and playing out new family game:  "Donner Dinner Party."

It's as good as it gets.  I'm intensely grateful.