Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Today, I had a nine -month follow-up with my heart doctor. I can't believe time flew by so fast since my scary episode of hospitalization for atrial fibrillation. Whenever I'm in a stressful situation I always try to find something to laugh about. Unfortunately I was the only person in the exam room when I needed a chuckle. As I sat with that crinkly exam table paper sticking to my behind, waiting for the doctor and trying to come up with a good reason why I hadn't lost any of the weight he told me to, I realized I was freezing. The old saying, "My headlights are on" came to mind, and I peered down at my chest. Sadly, I realized I no longer have headlights...they've shifted to 'fog lights'. I was dying to share that with someone, so there you go. I came up with that all on my own. *lol*

When I got home, I started reading back through my old newsletter file. It's like a diary of sorts where I've captured two or three years of my life. Although this was previously shared and might look some familiar to some of you, I decided to post it again to show my last year's April. Thank God, things are looking least in some aspects. :)

April 2007
Last month I complained about the mundaneness of my life. Trust me, you shall never hear me complain about that again. I woke up one morning last week, gasping for air, with my heart racing like a thundering herd of buffalo. After trying to stay calm, which is a big feat for me, the woman who can turn a headache into an immediate tumor, I decided to call the doctor. Of course, my mother's shrill voice echoed in my head..."don't leave home with dirty underwear on," so I took a quick shower and shaved my legs. That's a female thing. You just can't have anyone touch bristly stubble. Of course, I was in such a hurry, I didn't have time to change blades and I virtually scraped the stubble off while still attached to skin. Geez, I almost forgot about my racing heart when I put lotion on the nicks and cuts. But I digress. Where was I. Okay, I called the doctor, and her nurse told me I should be in the ER. I'm set, I've showered, shaved and changed undies. I calmly told my husband, "I need to go to the Emergency Room."

He had just taken a shower and was putting on his shoes and socks. He looks up at me and says, "Go get in the car, I'll be right there." So, I sit and wait, my heart pumping for all it's worth, and not in any sort of rhythm, and watch him, go from the house to the trailer, come out, go back in the house, re-emerge, but he snapped his fingers, telling me he'd forgotten something, and went back in. I finally honked the horn. God, I could be dying here!

We started off calmly, I wasn't saying much, trying to concentrate on keeping my breathing even. We're on the main road now, and the hospital is maybe 8-10 miles away. We're behind a line of cars that is going slower than the speed limit. My husband joins the pack. I finally look over at him and say, "Could you please hurry?"

I guess the look on my face told him I was distressed, so he punched it (the gas, not my face) and passed all the cars. We got there in record time, and I was immediately taken in and hooked up to monitors. It was evident that my heart was doing strange things.

I was remarkably calm. That in itself was almost scary. They inserted an IV and after the EKG, gave me medicine to stun my heart back into sync. The doctor issued a threat that if it didn't work, I would have to be shocked. I think his threat did the trick, because my heart rate slowed and became normal. Still, they admitted me for tests.

I haven't been in a hospital for a very long time, so it was a strange experience. Of course my insurance would never pay for a private room, so I was placed with an elderly (I say that out of respect because she was older than me) woman who was hoping to go home. Her darling little husband was there right at her bedside holding her hand. He drifted over to my side of the room and gave me her whole prognosis, not just once but at least five times before they finally left. I don't know her name, but I do know her entire health history.

I enjoyed the privacy for at least an hour before they brought in another patient. Needless to say, there was no rest for the remainder of my stay. I'll share part of my blog with you to save on my fingernails:

A quick trip to the ER found me admitted and wired to monitors. While my life passed before my eyes, I realized the greatest fear I had at the moment was what this fiasco would cost me.

I'm used to an HMO and have never had to figure out expenses. Since moving to TN I've been forced to become a Blue Cross/Blue Shield care carrier at 80/20 split. I started calculating things in my mind instead of counting sheep to try to sleep.

A box of Kleenex - probably $5.00

Each vial of blood: $100 each probably to pay the technician who drew it, then $700.00 for the lab to analyze it. They took about 6 vials.

An extra blanket when I got cold - probably $25.00 for the nurse who brought and spread on my bed and another $25.00 for the extra laundry charge.

Six Meals - probably $10.00 per meal but because I was on a no-sodium diet, add another $10 for leaving out the salt. I also had two extra cartons of sherbet--let's see, probably about $2.50 each, plus carrying charges.

Then of course there is the round the clock nursing that allows them to come in and take vitals after you've finally fallen asleep.

Don't forget the tag-team doctors. One half of a cardiology team to consult, my own doctor who came and used her stethoscope twice to listen to my heart, and then of course the second half of the cardiology team so he could get his share of the pie.
That doesn't even include the tests I had, the technicians who gave them, and the people who read the results.

Of course I also have to pay for the plastic dishpan they gave me, the small tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush that wouldn't remove plaque if it was attached to a grinder, and some body shampoo in case the nurse convinced me to let her give me a $500 sponge-bath. I figure that little hospitality package was around $200.

Now bear in mind these are all estimates, but I probably estimated on the low side.

So upon my release the words of wisdom I received were, "don't stress" because it can be the cause of your condition. Sure, why wouldn't I stress? I'm thinking that my 20% wouldn't even be covered by my life-insurance if I died. I already live in a travel-trailer, earn royalties for my writing that wouldn't buy a band-aid, and use my retirement to pay my other bills. I guess I shouldn't stress. They'll either take payments or they won't. You can't get what I don't have.

To bad I can't seek reimbursement for the snocking and snorting room-mate with chronic emphysema and asthma who was dying for a cigarette. She was more worried about here next smoke and upset that the hospital had adopted a no-smoking policy. I've never heard of a hospital where patients smoke, but I'm sure I'll somehow incur some of the expense for her around-the-clock breathing treatments because by her own admission, she had no health insurance.

I don't mean to minimize her suffering, although it was apparently self-induced, nor do I infer that she doesn't deserve care, I just wondered why I roomed with someone who could pay nothing when I have insurance. Something about that didn't seem right. Okay, now that I read that, it sounds downright mean. I didn't mean to infer that they should put her in the basement next to the boiler. I just wanted some sleep.

In TN, very few people have health or dental insurance. I've never seen so many toothless people with hacking coughs in my life. They're usually the ones at the tanning salon, keeping their regular appointments.

Seriously, I'm just happy it was only Atrial Fibrillation and that medicines can control it. I have an appointment with the doctor (yet another charge) and he's going to earn his money for the hundred questions I have for him. I'm just happy to be here plunking out my monthly newsletter for you folks. I am indeed blessed.



Latesha said...

Ginger, I hope that all went well at your dr. appointment today. We are all blessed that you are able to share the good, the bad and the zany details of your life with us.

Martha said...

I hope you got a good report at the dr. I gotta tell you that I almost peed my pants about thetanningsalon!! Here in my neck of the woods, it's cell phones, and having your nails done!! Oh and don't forget all the different places on your body to pierce!! Have a good weekend.

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