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Archive for the ‘healthcare’ Category

I went for my first allergy shot on Monday. Wasn’t sure what to expect. The nurse gave me three small injections, each one containing a low dose of something I’m allergic to, in this case trees, mold, and shrubs. Once the injections were done, she asked me to sit in the reception area for thirty minutes while my body looked at what they’d put inside it and decided whether or not to react to it. Goody. I sat there playing Mahjong on my IPhone feeling like a hostage with a bomb strapped to her chest waiting to see whether or not it would ignite. I am happy to report, it did not.

People in my immediate circle always have something to contribute when I tell them I’m going through some sort of medical procedure. Often these contributions are based on the worst possible, most horrific, outcome one might expect to occur. One friend told me her neck swelled up alarmingly after an allergy shot and they had to stab her leg with an Epi-pen in order to keep her from suffocating to death. Hmmmm. When I asked the nurse about this possible side effect, she shook her head saying, “very rare”. Oh God. I was hoping more for, “never happens”. I have habit of over achieving with this sort of thing so the nurse’s answer didn’t leave me completely comforted.

Another reason I wish people would keep their horror stories to themselves, is I am the most visual of people. When I was pregnant with my first child a woman, also pregnant, shared a story about a lady in England who carried around a giant growth with hair on it inside her for nine months thinking it was a baby. For the next four months until my daughter was born, I kept imagining what that scenario would look like.

I have a habit of over achieving when it comes to bodily reactions, so as I said, the nurse’s answer didn’t leave me feeling completely comforted. Thankfully, other than being a bit tired for a day or two, I survived. However, I did call in as instructed if any symptoms showed up to advise the nurse I felt wheezy and tired. She asked if I’d been gardening, to which I answered no. Then she asked if I’d taken a walk. I had asked before leaving their office if this was okay, and was told yes as long as not two hours before or two hours after the treatment. When I responded, “Yes, I did go for a walk, but three hours after the shots” she said, “you know, you could have gone into anaphylaxis”. “What”? Perhaps that should be noted in big, bold letters on the instruction sheet before submitting to the procedure? Good Lord. Sometimes the cure really can be worse than the disease.

Thankfully, aside from the horror stories from my less optimistic friends, I balanced things out with friends who are oozing positivity. One friend in particular, encourages me to always look for MBO’s, as she refers to them, an acronym for Most Benevolent Outcomes. She chooses to believe life will produce the most delicious experiences if you believe this to be so, rather than assuming the worst and battening down every day waiting for the next storm to arrive. I like that. I like it a lot. There will always be a storm, because without the dark unsettled clouds how could we appreciate the beauty of a glorious sunrise if there was nothing to compare it with? However, we needn’t always be looking for a storm on the horizon, especially if there isn’t a cloud in the sky.

Last weekend my upbeat friend and I went to Lake Tahoe for lunch. What a beautiful location Lake Tahoe is to find yourself. No matter the season, the lake always seem to say (as my mother might) “I’ve put my face on and I’m ready to receive company”. We ate at a lovely spot overlooking the beach. The company was delightful, the weather nearly perfect, and the view spectacular. Feeling the need for good old red meat, something I haven’t indulged myself in often of late, I ordered a prime rib dip which was seriously out of this world. As I’ve said before many times in my blog, the universe occasionally comes together to create near perfect moments for us to enjoy. This experience was one of them. I came home to find a beautiful Valentine’s bouquet waiting for me on my front step from my son and his family, which was to be the icing on the cake of my day.

This afternoon I am going to a gym I’m interested in joining to speak to a personal trainer. I do not want a repeat of previous gym experiences where I go in, a gym employee looking like a relative of Arnold Schwarzeneggerr instructs me for five minutes on how to use their equipment, and two weeks later I’m back in physical therapy getting rebuilt. Watching my own behavior (I hate working out), I came up with at least twenty reasons early this morning why I needed to cancel this appointment. Even though I know it will be of great benefit to me physically and emotionally, a part of me resists this mightily. There is a little voice in my brain who’s job it is to talk me out of things I don’t want to do, and today he was certainly earning his paycheck. This gym is one of those large gyms, broken up into multiple rooms each set up for various forms of human torture. What interests me in particular, are the three pools located the rear of the building. This is where the water aerobics classes take place. If I must exercise, it makes it bearable if there is water involved. On my first visit last year (notice I still haven’t done one exercise), I noticed everyone was ready for business in their work out gear. All the members were dressed in layered pieces of spandex, matching of course, with coordinated socks and work out shoes with plenty of support. I don’t suppose my leggings will the baby sloths on them and my flip flops would be well received in a high scale gym such as this. I guess a trip to the store will be in the offing if I actually sign the contract.

I’m in such an unsettled phase of my life at the moment, that all the things I normally do to keep me grounded seem to be hovering slightly beyond the tips of my fingers. Writing, drawing, cooking all seem to be just out of reach. One thing I know for certain, this is simply how I am feeling now. As with all things in this life of ours, this will shift and change for the better. As the days unfold, the unsettled will become settled, the choppy seas will give way to calm waters, and winter will relinquish the stage to the players of spring. That is the way of things. So I will settle into my unsettlement (my word not Webster’s) and allow myself to feel whatever this is I am feeling for the time being until it passes. Grief is such an individual and unpredictable phase to push through, often described by those deep in it as a roller coaster. You go up, up, up and then sometimes down, down, down. In the end, you must go through it in order to reach the other side.

I hope this finds you well and happy. I have said aloud the five things I am grateful for today so I began my day on the bright side of things. Happy Thursday!!

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There are lessons, as I’ve often said, to be learned from all experiences we encounter in our lives. For me, going through my second caregiver experience in four years, I am learning many lessons along the way. One becoming particularly clear to me, is learning not only to give help, but to receive help in return. I have never been very good in that department. I’m the one in the kitchen after a large dinner party standing next to a massive pile of dishes saying “no, I’ve got it, thanks” when a guest pops in their head to offer some assistance. Just what I’ve always done. These days, on a bit of an overload, I find when a hand reaches out I am more likely to accept it.

I have always been independent as a being. One thing I have learned while running the rapids in my life is the one person who always had my back should I fall overboard (which I often did), was me. Now, this is not to discount in any way all the wonderful friends I have had and do have, or my family. It is simply I knew when things got rough I could, in most instances, take care of myself. Truth is, I am finding, we all need other people to lend a hand at one time or another.

Being a scorpio by birth, I tend to follow some of the traits commonly mentioned when discussing my sun sign. Secretive, comes to mind, for example. For the most part I am a private being. Aside from being a November baby, this could also have something to do with being an only child, particularly one brought up in a cold climate. Winters in Nova Scotia could pack a substantial punch. Often as a youngster I was stuck inside with a storm raging beyond the windows leaving me to provide my own entertainment when not doing something with my mother or my grandparents. Unlike the little house I live in now, the house I grew up in was large, including two floors of generous living space, a basement and an attic. I wonder at times was I to visit there now would I find it as majestic as my child’s mind envisions, but to me when I was little it was a palace and I the resident princess. The door to the attic was, as to be expected, on the second floor just outside of the spare bedroom. A chrome key dangled from an hourglass shaped hole in the lock. I had been told never to unlock it without permission from a grownup, but as my grandmother would be happy to attest to was she here, I did not always listen to what I was told to do. There were three bedrooms in total on the second floor, plus a bathroom, and a large sitting room where the only TV in the house made it’s home. Sundays, if my grandfather was home from rounds at the hospital (he was urologist), we ate our main meal at noontime after church in the dining room. Later in the day, a light supper was served in the sitting room on TV trays. My grandfather would seat himself in front of the small black and white TV set and his chest would rise up and down and he watched Lucy and Ethyl get up to what Lucy and Ethyl got up to best, trouble. After that Ed Sullivan would show up for an hour of variety and then it was off to bed, for me at least. I was thinking while writing this, Elvis Presley had to filmed from the waist up back in those day when on the Sullivan show because he undulated his hips suggestively while singing. Those censors would be really surprised at what shows up for them to monitor on the TV these days. I saw a show advertised the other day called “Naked and Afraid”. At first I thought it was show about the agonies of bathing suit shopping in the spring, but then looking into it further, not too much further, I discovered the plot line revolved around two strangers asked to survive together naked on an island for 21 days. Really? The worst part…..wait for it, they had no phones. I KNOW. Good lord. Seriously, if I don’t have better things to do with my time I need to do a total reexamination of my life path.

When I get to feeling shaky under my feet I sometimes think of that lovely house I grew up in and the people inhabiting it. That solid foundation I was given in the first nine years of my life, most likely provided me with the balance and strength to deal with my crazy life that came after it. Having healthy and nurturing relationships in those formative years, or so I’ve heard, has a great deal to do with shaping who you are as a person as you mature. Certainly I have done many things over the years since leaving my grandparents home that most likely would make them raise an eyebrow or two, but thanks to their guidance and love I have always righted my ship again and gotten it back on the right course.

I am asked regularly of late how I am doing. With Dale in a cancer battle, the obvious answer would be not great. However, actually we are maintaining quite well considering the circumstances. I believe when people ask that question, they really don’t want me to answer in detail. A simple, “fine”, or “so-so” will suffice and let’s move on. That works for me. I have a therapist who gets paid to listen to my woeful stories, so I try not to go on and on about things that might be depressing or sad when a friend is kind enough to inquire, but rather stick to the Readers Digest version and just provide the bulleted items.

This has been a week where I have really had to test my leaning on others capabilities as I have been fighting a miserable little bug that has taken up with my lung cavities and seems reluctant to leave. It sent me to bed for five days and even though I’m up and moving around again it lingers on causing me to go into coughing fits that with COVID running around has people giving me a wide berth. It is not COVID, as that was the first test they gave me when I showed up presenting symptoms at the doctor’s office. It is bronchitis, however, but I was told after a week I shouldn’t be contagious. I am the world’s worst patient. Staying in bed is like a prison for me, when forced to do it on a long term basis. So, today I finally gave in and began the prescription of antibiotics I was given in the event the germ didn’t vacate the premises on it’s own by this weekend. Sigh. I’m not complaining. Well, maybe I am just a little. Thank God we have these drugs to avail ourselves of. Imagine what people did back in the day when there weren’t any cures in a bottle for what ailed you. They died, is what they did. I’m not a fan of medication if you can avoid it, but certainly understand the value these miracle medicines have brought to our world. Measles, although on the rise again, would still be plaguing our population or polio, or smallpox, and so many other nasty little germ populations bent on attacking our immune systems and culling the herd.

On my bookshelf, I keep a small reminder of how medicine was practiced when my great-grandfather, Joshua, was plying his craft. It is a diminutive brass mortar and pestle which he used to prepare his medicines for his patients. Medical school, when Joshua attended, would most probably have included three years of study, a thesis and oral exams because that is the amount of information they had to pass on to doctors in training. I’m sure they didn’t spend the next twenty years paying of their college loans back then either. So many things we take for granted now simply hadn’t been heard of or explored at the time my great grandfather was running about Nova Scotia in his horse and buggy delivering babies and an occasional calf or two. My great grandmother, Susan (who I was named after) was twenty years Joshua’s junior. Susan, from all accounts, was quite a lively girl who gave Joshua a run for his money. I remember my grandmother telling me Susan (or Susie as she was called) often complained that she never had linens in the house because Joshua would strip the clean bedding off and pile it in his rig in case he needed it when visiting a patient.

I jump back and forth across the fence when contemplating if life was simpler then, or more difficult. I think medically it was far more taxing. I can’t imagine, as I said a few blogs ago, having to deliver a baby back in pioneer days. These women regularly died in childbirth or didn’t live to be a very ripe old age. So, today I am celebrating having a small pill to go in and fight my battles for me. I’m also giving a nod to my great grandfather, who I’m sure was an excellent physician, and all the physicians out there fighting COVID on the front lines.

How I got on this subject from needing a helping hand I have no explanation. Ah well, thank you for stopping by. Have a great day. Go 49er’s!!!

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This is such an odd time for me. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate in the little things because of the heavier issues dominating my life at the moment. This morning I put a spoonful of coconut sugar in the bottom of my coffee mug as I always do, then reached in the refrigerator for the creamer and filled my cup to the brim. Taking that first sip of the day, my tastebuds quickly sent out an alert “911 no caffeine detected”. Duh.

Had to make a Costco run early on. I try to get there before the rest of the crush of humanity with the same idea in mind shows up. I believe one would have to arrive when the store is closed in order to find the parking lot uncrowded. People were already waiting outside at ten minutes before the store was due to open. I found myself squeezed in the middle of a small crowd, poised expectantly, with my hands curled over the bar of my shopping cart. I resisted the urge to shuffle my feet and whinny. When they opened the doors everyone surged forward. Suddenly, it felt like I was running with the bulls at Pamplona. I flashed my membership card as I was propelled by the employee checking them at the door. What a zoo. It’s usually bad, but usually not that bad. I assume it was because this weekend is a holiday. I love shopping at Costco. It’s sort of like a massive toy store for adults. They don’t really have toy stores anymore, or I haven’t seen one since Toys R Us bit the dust. As a kid, toy stores were a big deal for me. Rows of dolls, skates, bikes, and games. Loved it. My mom would give me my allowance every week. What I didn’t spend on candy and junk, went into my piggy bank. When I’d amassed enough cold hard cash to put toward something I coveted, my mom would pitch in the rest and we would head to the toy store to pick out a treat. For me, it was dolls all the way. I played with dolls until the summer between seventh and eighth grade. I probably would have continued to this day, except my best friend and I were playing with Barbies on the back porch when two neighbor boys heard us interacting and called us babies in front of a group of kids. Secretly, I still took the old girl out of her case from time to time until I got into high school when Ken was replaced by an actual live replica.

Today wasn’t a big shopping day. I don’t buy a lot at Costco anymore, because you have to buy in such huge amounts. With just two of us eating here on a normal day, twelve pounds of cheddar cheese really isn’t a practical purchase. I’ve been using the same olive oil I bought at Costco since 2001, and I’m finally down to the last bottle. I was delighted to find the familiar free food stands were back in business inside. I used to make lunch out of it while cruising up and down the aisles. Food has really gone up since the pandemic. There was a package of short ribs I picked up that had a label reading $47.52. Wow. Maybe beef will end up being a true luxury down the road. Cows seem to be trouble in a lot of venues lately. I understand their burping and manure are largely contributing to the global warming situation by creating an over abundance of methane gas. Hard to believe our planet could be poised in a downhill spiral due to cattle flatulence. I didn’t see that one coming, and don’t remember finding any reference to it in Revelations.

Surveying the rest of the meat counter, hamburger prices looked more like roast prices used to. I came across a package of impossible burgers. Reminded me of my oldest granddaughter, a fervent vegan. Nothing that has a parent crosses her lips. She has been trying to get me to embrace these impossible burgers . The few times I’ve tried these burger wantabes, I can’t say they’ve satisfied my need for beef. However, over the weekend Dale and I and several friends drove up to Truckee for lunch. Truckee is a touristy town outside of Lake Tahoe. While there, we had lunch at an old restaurant up on the hill offering up a gorgeous view of the town and the valley below from their deck. Their menu, though including meat items, really leans toward vegetarian. I had eggs Benedict, for instance, and the Hollandaise was made with truffles and served over arugula on an English muffin. It was delicious, but not the standard presentation for that menu item in my experience. Dale ordered the impossible burger. When it arrived, it looked a bit like it had been baked in a crematorium. Totally charred on the outside, we all kind of watched as he took his first bite, assuming it would send it back. Surprise, surprise he loved it. Apparently, they had added black beans and garlic to amp up the taste. Before long only a few ashy remains were left on his plate.

Already I do a lot of meatless meals, such as pasta, salads, and eggs. Eggs are another red flag for me when it comes to a vegan lifestyle, eggs are not included. Can’t do it. I have yet to meet an egg I didn’t like. Again, I don’t buy my eggs at Costco because a) you have to chance hypothermia in the refrigeration room to get eggs, and b) you have to buy a flat. If I brought all those eggs home, they would be the only thing other than the condiments in the door that would fit in there.

By the time I got back to the car and opened my trunk there were five cars lined up waiting to grab my spot. I got Dale situated, then began to load the groceries. One lady kept putting her hands up in the air. What? They didn’t put things in bags and they were out of boxes, so I had to load them in groups of as many as I could carry. I wanted to say, “Lady, If you want to use those hands in a more constructive way, step out of your vehicle and help me”. I’m just sayin. Dale isn’t able to do as much these days, so a lot of the loading/unloading falls to me. I’m not complaining at all, it’s certainly not his fault. I’m just stating a fact.

Dale is on oxygen 24/7. This is not a new experience for me, Rick was also on oxygen, but it is for him. He doesn’t like it. I don’t like it either. Didn’t like it back then, and it hasn’t grown on me any more since that time. They brought the tanks in after our ER visit on Memorial Day. The tech showed up with all this equipment after we arrived home. It was after seven in the evening, we hadn’t eaten, and were both brain dead. Dale, because he’s been prodded and probed, all day, and me because I just spent nine hours trying to find a comfortable spot in the chairs they provide for visitors in hospitals. The tech, who completely understands the workings of the tanks and compressor, gave us a quick run through on how we’re going to operate all this intricate equipment after he leaves. Hello? The following morning, of course, neither of could remember one word he said. Dumb and Dumber, the Sequel. Soooooo, I had to call them and have them resend a tech to give us a refresher course. They said this is totally common, particularly if their clients have just left a hospital environment. K. Even after a month we still screw up. Yesterday, we took two tanks with us as backups only to find out neither were filled. Sigh. You’d think I’d remember all this from before, but I think I’d effectively erased that part of my memory bank.

Huh?

At any rate, we returned home unbeaten and unscathed. Yay. Each day is a gift. You have to find joy where you can and refer to happy times often to refill your tanks.

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Have to say I am totally spent. In a long week, Monday was by far the longest day. For nine hours I sat in one hard chair or another in the ER with my dear friend who they suspect has cancer. With COVID filling in all the cracks for the last year and a half, everything is moving forward in slow motion, so what normally takes an hour in that section of the hospital might take two if you factor in the COVID restrictions. What a miserable disease cancer is. I watched Rick valiantly battle it and now here it is knocking on my front door again. Seems I know a lot of people dealing with this diagnosis or someone in their family having cancer of one type or another at the moment. Someone told me the other day this is the universe or our higher power, or whatever you believe, culling the herd. When we get too large in number we must be thinned out for others to survive. Couldn’t this be done by just putting us to sleep? Never can understand why we have to suffer. Guess in the scheme of things we’re not supposed to know, since no one has come back to fill us in on the secrets of the afterlife up to this juncture.

Anyhow, that subject is a deep well I don’t want to drop my bucket in at the moment. I hold close to my heart a statement made to me by a grief counselor right after Rick passed away. She said simply, “It doesn’t seem like it now, but a year from today life will be much different.” When you’re in pain it doesn’t seem as if it will ever ease up, but life has a way of moving forward and whisking you up in it’s wake whether you feel like going or not.

With nine hours spent in it’s bowels, I found the ER an interesting place to be. Aside from the obvious gravity of the visit hanging over us, there were times when I found it fascinating to watch what was going on around me. They allow one visitor in, now that our county has opened up, and I was the one plus one. At first we sat in a room together, which was nice. About five hours into our stay, they were debating whether or not to send Dale home, or to keep him overnight. As it is always preferable to have a patient exist outside of the hospital rather than in, they finally opted to send him home but with oxygen. Ten days in a hospital bed in older people can equal about ten years of muscle loss, not to mention the obvious germ fest going on inside a hospital ward they are susceptible to while lying there.

At one point the EMT’s brought in a highly agitated man. Two police officers accompanied him and if the red stain on the bandage wrapped around his head was any indication, he hadn’t come in willingly. Nurses and hospital staff were trying to calm the screaming man down but finally had to resort to tougher measures to get him under control. Like a drunken sailor he was throwing expletives about like towels in a clothes dryer. Not that I haven’t heard, or even used, the particular crowd favorites he was spewing, but have to say I’ve never heard them used in a hospital setting before and with so many of them strung together. A cloth bag was finally pulled over the man’s head because he had begun to spit at his perceived captors. Another quiet day at the office for the ER staff I’m sure. Seems people are building up excessive heads of steam all over the place. Flight attendants are being attacked, people on the street walking along minding their own business. Odd time in our history.

A nurse came in to tell us she would have to move Dale into the hallway to provide a private area for the inebriated swear monger. We were done with the doctors, and waiting for the oxygen to arrive so didn’t really require an examination room. Because of the COVID restrictions, I couldn’t sit in the hallway. I was told I would have to wait in the lobby. K. Now, this was not my first rodeo. I have spent a good deal of time over the past decade sitting in ER waiting rooms. Before leaving the house, I tucked my phone charger, a book, a bottle of water, and a small snack in my purse. Girl scouts have nothing on me when it comes to being prepared.

It was Memorial Day, so the usual holidays specials moved in and out of the lobby while I sat there. A teen who sprained his wrist while playing baseball, an older man with a bad burn from a barbecue gone bad, etc. I squirmed about in the incredibly uncomfortable chair for a while until a text came in from Dale saying the oxygen rep on his way with the tanks was stuck in traffic for at least another hour and a half. Hearing that, I stood up and my back decided I needed to walk around the hospital a bit before it was willing to stop twitching about. Outside would have been preferable, as I’m not fond of hospitals on the best of days, but it was 100+ plus out there and I knew there was already a full boat of patients inside. Should I face plant in the parking lot, I most probably would lie there until I fuse with the asphalt.

The hospital corridors were all but deserted, not unexpected on a holiday. The cafeteria was closed to the public because of the virus, and there were no vending machines to be found. My stomach was telling me it was time for something more satisfying than Saltines and string cheese. I wandered toward the main entrance and exited into the lobby when lights began to flash and emergency sequences began coming in over the PA system. Oh-oh. For a moment I thought I’d set them off, which wouldn’t be unexpected in my life. The doors shut in front of me and behind me and I was stuck in the corridor, like the cream filling in an Oreo. For an old claustrophobic like me, this triggered an immediate flight or fight response which fortunately I got a hold of prior to resorting to crashing through the windows before they announced it was a drill and the doors reopened. Whew.

The beleaguered oxygen man finally showed up shortly after six. We had checked in at 8:15 in the morning so to say it was a long day would be somewhat of an understatement. By the time we got home and went through the home instructions on the equipment he brought to the house, I could feel the urge to start running and not look back. I held my feet in place and listened to what the man was saying. Truly it was hard to believe I was experiencing this whole scenario again. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was fully in reality. Oxygen is tricky. There is definitely a learning curve involved until you get it running smoothly. Rick had been on it for the last two months of his life.

According to my metaphysical friend we are once again in a mercury retrograde when everything that could go wrong will. Oh joy. On Tuesday following my day in the ER, I had a hair appointment early in the morning. I have gone back to my old hair dresser. It’s a longer drive, forty-five minutes, but she seems to be the only one in the area who understands how to color my hair. If I say I would like my hair blonde with warm undertones that is exactly what I mean. There is no red, merlot, or auburn in that statement anywhere. Thank you, thank you very much. Feeling like I’d been rode hard and put up wet, I dragged myself to the car and drove all the way up the hill to my appointment (ignoring beauty is never an option) only to be told by the receptionist at the salon my appointment was for the following day. Sigh. My first urge was to scale the counter and dust the floor with the little girl seated behind it with the toothy grin, but I controlled my primal urges and just said “Thank you. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Jeez Louise.

I stopped to pick up Dale’s prescriptions on the way home only to be told they had filled them at their store in the town I had just been in for my wrong day hair appointment so they had to be redirected down here. This would not happen until later in the day. Fine. On the way out of the pharmacy I stopped to look at a large display of patio umbrellas. There was one in the middle I specifically wanted to see so I pulled it out to get a better look at it. Removing that one umbrella apparently threw the entire display stand off balance. The whole large unit leaned precariously to one side and then crashed on the tile strewing the umbrellas all over the place like pick up stix. The gentleman standing next to me asked if he could help me pick them up. I told him, “Save yourself. You don’t want to get too close to me you might spontaneously ignite.” Clean up on Aisle 4. Never mind. Never mind it all. I am still smiling. See? I remind myself today I am a warrior and a survivor. I’ve come this far and I will continue along in my journey until I have no further to go.

I came home and decided to ease my pain by doing something cathartic. Sewing always takes my mind off of things. I needed to make a pillow for a new patio chair I’d purchased, so that was the plan. I cut out the fabric, threaded the machine, pushed down and the pedal and bupkis. Really? I tried again and the light went out. Exit stage left.

Sometimes you simply can’t fight the current. Your only option is to point your feet down stream and keep your eyes open for rocks.

Make it a rock free day. Almost Friday.

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Today I spent a good part of my afternoon dealing with insurance companies. It never ceases to amaze me how these huge corporations can charge exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege of insuring you, then when you actually need to use the insurance you have paid for, do everything in their power to make it difficult for you to do so. I was helping someone I care about very much traverse the deep, dark depths of our healthcare system. This person is a complete novice when it comes to being ill, and a very nice and kind human to boot. Allowing him to try to figure this out alone, would be like sending a lamb to the slaughter. The diagnosis is possible lung cancer. I told him, like a roller derby queen with rivals on her heels, you have to elbow and bully your way to the front of the line, because time, particularly with this disease is not your friend. This, I can speak to with experience. Rick also had lung cancer. It was not good to him, as emphasized by the fact he is not here to tell you his story himself.

My friend has an HMO. This supposedly means he can pick and choose from the pool of doctors within his network, rather than be limited to a certain group of physicians. So, we got some recommendations for excellent doctors in this field, and he contacted his primary care physician who in turn sent off a referral to the oncologist we had selected. As luck will have it, his insurance card listed a particular county under the primary physicians name which is the county next to mine. The oncologist he chose is situated in my county. This completely threw a monkey wrench into an already unbelievably red tape bound system, and the wheels of progress came to a loud and grinding halt. I spoke to three different representatives, each one providing us with varying interpretations of his coverage. Now, there is fluid building up on the outside of this man’s lungs while all this is transpiring, a situation destined only to get worse not improve as time marches on. Phone calls are going back and forth and the clock is ticking. Finally, a healthcare representative got on the phone with the oncologist’s insurance person and some sanity returned where lunacy had reigned supreme. Good Lord. Still, we were informed an authorization had to go through the big machine and be approved first prior to seeing the oncologist he had chosen. Okay, let’s do it. This, the rep said, takes 3-4 days. Once that is done, then an assessment is done at the physician level to determine the urgency of the situation. Now, I didn’t go to school for twelve years, I don’t wear a white coat nor do I dangle a stethoscope around my neck, but even I can pretty much predict the outcome to that one. It was urgent two weeks ago. Sigh. A whole other question lingering in the background is how, when under a physician’s care for heart issues the past year, did one of those doctors not hear the sounds in this man’s lungs with an instrument in their ears? Particularly, when I could hear the congestion while standing next to him. Many times as we get older, our complaints are written off as hypochondriacal, or lumped under the “it comes with getting older” umbrella. This too, needs to be looked at under a magnifying glass. For years if I complained about not feeling well it was dismissed as women problems. Right. I am missing two non-essential parts due to doctors waiting too long to diagnose a situation.

No sooner had we put the wheels in motion to get this approval going, another phone call came in telling us it couldn’t be done. It seems in the insurance company the right hand didn’t know what the left was doing and we had been given the wrong information. In the state of California our insurance is divided up into sections. In order to go to a doctor, even under an HMO, the doctor must be located in the section you reside in. We could have used my address but as we’d already explained the situation to several people that train had already left the station. So, back to square one, we began the referral loop for an oncologist in his area. This has been processed, thankfully, and an appointment is on the books for he end of next week. I pushed for sooner, but it seems there are a lot of people dealing with cancer at the moment, so we wait. In the mean time, if his situation goes from tolerable to not, he must go to the ER immediately. I am exhausted, but this is nothing compared to how frightened and unsettled my friend must be feeling as he is the one with the ticking time bomb inside his body.

Hopefully, one of these days we’ll actually get elected officials willing to step up and do something about the exorbitant drug costs as well as the broken insurance situation in this country. It is difficult to get them motivated in the current your side and my side mindset existing in our legislature. To add to that, the people in congress have their healthcare paid for so they aren’t really pushed against the wall on their end to do anything about it. Perhaps that should change?

Anyhow, for this day we have put out the fire. I’m sure many others will pop up along the path but I feel some advancement has been made. Truly you have to be your own advocate if you wish to have the end result you are looking for when dealing with a medical condition. Never be afraid to say you don’t agree or fight for what you know needs to be done and where you need to be seen.

My vent for a Thursday. Have a great day. Stay healthy.

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