Thursday, December 05, 2019

medical emergencies

I had a bit of a medical emergency last month. I was at my studio when I started to get a stomach ache. Over the next 90 minutes my entire stomach area started hurting so badly that I had to sit down. It was all I could do to get in my car and drive home.

I rolled around in pain for the next 18 hours before I decided something must really be wrong with me and went to the doctor, who sent me to the OR for an immediate appendix extraction. My appendix was so infected and swollen that it was already leaking gross stuff into my body, which doctors strafed with so much penicillin over the next 5 days that probably nothing will grow in my body ever again.

I have a very awesome kid in my life who came to visit me in the hospital, and said with all the dryness that comes naturally to a 14-year-old, "If you died, I would have been really mad at you, and I would have told everyone at your funeral that you died of stubbornness."

I laughed, because she is hilarious, but it's not exactly stubbornness that almost killed me. I'm not the only one in America who avoids doctors. Getting caught in the American medical system usually means one thing: you're about to spend more money than you have and bankruptcy may be the end result. And of course your own life is worth any amount of money-- of course-- but also, I do everything I can to just take care of myself.

I didn't have medical insurance my entire adult life until Obama came along, so it's a habit to avoid all doctors except for my gynecologist. When someone opened a door on me when I was riding my bike, they tried to cart me off in an ambulance, and I refused because I know how much that costs. I rode my stupid bike home like an idiot and was unable to walk for 3 days afterward. But hey, I was okay.

Even insurance doesn't keep you from having to spend horrifying amounts of money on your medical care. While I was in my hospital bed a very nice lady came into my room holding a laptop and informed me that my night as an inpatient would be a $2000 co-pay, and would I like to take care of that now? No, I would not. And I did not. Personally, I think it should be against the law to be asked to whip out a card while you are in a hospital gown.

We all know this is inhumane and unsustainable. Every time I hear a fucked-up story about a person's experience in the 9th Circle of Financial Medical Hell I feel a shiver in my soul, because I know there is really nothing that can protect me from that story becoming mine. It's bad enough that one is sick or hurt, worse that you have to hold a fundraiser to help pay your bills. By the way, that's a link to one of my dearest friend's GoFundMe page to help with his hospital bills after an accident. If you have some spare cash, send him some of it. Because this is the world we live in right now.

I also want to say that I feel incredibly fortunate that this appendix mishap is more of a financial inconvenience than a catastrophe. I'm lucky. But I may not always be lucky, and this is something that weighs on me every time I think I should maybe go to the doctor, and then don't.

Please feel free to share your medical hell story in the comments.

9 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear of your emergency appendectomy. I am glad you are recovering. It's sad that even WITH insurance a hospital stay still incurs a big bill. Some years back, when I supposedly had excellent medical insurance, a colonoscopy cost my $1800 out of pocket. Don't even get me started about when my late partner was diagnosed with cancer... it was pre-Obama and he had no insurance due to a pre-existing condition. It became a full time job to figure out how we were going to pay for treatment. When he died I received his final bill for over $100,000. Stories like this shouldn't be happening in the USA.

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    1. I am so sorry to hear this. The pain of losing a partner and then receiving a bill like that. I've often thought that if me or my husband got seriously ill the first the to do would be to get divorced and then make sure the house is in the name of the person who is not sick. It's terrible.

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  2. I hope you are healing up nicely and have no more pain. Glad that you managed to get the care you need, regardless of the stultifying stupidity of the system.

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  3. I am retired and my husband is 18 months away from retiring. Both of us have worked for our entire 36 year marriage and have regularly saved 15-20% of our gross income, making a retirement seem golden...except... As you say, regardless whether one has private insurance or Medicare, there is the justified concern that bankruptcy is one illness or accident away. This is why, four years ago, I started planning to move us to Germany. We are qualified to become temporary residents and buy into their health insurance then, if we are speaking adequate German, permanent residency is possible. Overall it is cheaper to live in Germany than the U.S. A very nice apartment with utilities, except electricity, runs about $1000/mo. Health insurance premiums cost the same as I'm paying for Medicare now. All prescriptions are 5eu! The only real expense is petrol. I feel that moving to a foreign country is a viable option rather than staying in a country that has no heart.

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    1. I have had the thought that my husband and I should divorce and find two nice Dutch citizens who would marry us so we could both move to the Netherlands. It's a very complicated fantasy. Perhaps I should look into what you are doing!

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  4. I feel for you. I have never had to go through this because I live in Canada. I still take very good care of myself. I don't want to abuse the system. I use a naturopath on a regular basis as a preventative measure. When you need a test, there is sometimes a long wait but I know that I will not end up in financial ruin if I become ill.

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  5. Yikes~! So glad that everything worked out alright, except the bills. Anesthesiologists and doctors and hospital all came as separate bills a few years ago when I had pneumonia...and I paid a monthly payment (without interest added at least) which was finally paid off this year. It's often hard to know whether or not to go to the doctor, and I probably go more than necessary...but my co-pay on the medicare plan I have is low enough that I think it' worth it.

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    1. It's insane that it would take a few years to pay off pneumonia. I'm probably going to drag out my payments, my insurance will also let me make whatever payments I want without added interest.

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  6. you were lucky with a leaking appendix; I can't tell you how many times I've had to pay off medical bills even with insurance (high deductibles though), it took me years for this or that each time at $25 a month - I think four times (but no interest, thankfully). Even when I had obama care it covered nothing due to high deductible which was all I could afford. if I hadn't of had it I could have saved that money to help pay for the care but at my age at the time I thought it prudent to have some insurance in case of something catastrophic; now on medicare and a no pay supplement (which doesn't cover much but some). like you, I am reluctant to go to doctor unless I absolutely have to because once you're there they want to run this or that test and each test is a cost and a cost for the radiologist or some other specialist to read the test etc. my sister in law lives in australia and they can afford the payment for a supplement; if not she said they would never be able to get in to to see a doctor because the wait is so long even for emergencies.

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