Friday, June 23, 2006

my medical week

OK, so Sunday morning we are packing up for Kings Dominion. Prior to this, I had a long-running back/hip/leg/muscle pain, but it had been getting better for the past couple of weeks and I was ready to hobble around with the family.

Then I reached down and opened a drawer, and I was in great pain. I pulled myself into bed, but could not find a comfortable position. Panicking, moaning, and being generally like the weaker sex that man is when it comes to pain, I popped some pills and used a heating pad but soon decided I needed professional help.

We called the squad, and some nice men and women came. They took some information, and tried to get me to sit up so they could get me down the stairs. I swear I tried, but simply could not bring myself to work through the pain, so finally they rolled me up and dragged me down the stairs (they were glad, I am sure, that I weighed 220 pounds rather than my previous 251 -- although they insisted I wasn't nearly the largest person they carried around.

They rolled me into the ambulance for a very uncomfortable ride to the hospital, I talked most of the way because I can never keep my mouth shut.

If you have to go to the Emergency Room, an ambulance is the way to go, because they roll you right into a room, and a nice person comes to you to get your information. I of course had one question, and one question only -- WHEN DO I GET PAIN MEDICATION!!!!. (Oh, I also asked if they had wireless internet, which they don't).

They did several tests, and then put a needle in my arm. "Drugs?" I said hopefully. No, just the tap. They needed to take some blood, and then I lay there moaning for a while with my wife, who drove separately. I told her I could use a pillow, so she found someone to give me one. I was actually somewhat comfortable except when they put me on the table they missed by 6 inches so my feet were hanging off the bottom of the bed.

My wife helpfully covered them up, and I tried to push up in bed but was unsuccessful. However, I found that pushing myself upward in the bed relieved some pain, so I spent the next period of time pushing with all my might.

Eventually a nice man came in with 4 bottles of medication. One was an N-said to block pain receptors. One was a narcotic, one was an anti-nausea drug because the narcotic could make you sick, and one I think was either a muscle relaxor or a sleeping pill to shut me up, because I was still babbling away.

Those intravenous drugs are GREAT. Once I was shot up, they took me to X-ray but I remember very little of that, or after that. I woke up a minute later (or a few hours) and they were getting ready to send me home. After a failed attempt to get into a wheelchair, I talked them into another round of medication, and then I slept some more.

Finally we got me into a wheelchair, and my wife took me to the car and drove me home.

The next day I went to my orthopedic guy, who once again told me there was nothing wrong with me. (I borrowed a wheelchair to get into the room, but somehow that was unconvincing). I have to admit that I was able to get up on his table, and he was able to manipulate my joints with little pain.

Since he could find no reason for the pain, he gave me more painkillers and sent me home with a prescription for an MRI. Getting out was very hard, as it hurt to sit in the wheelchair. I moaned a bit (or a lot), but once in the car settled down.

The next day we expected to book an MRI, but that's when I ran into the bermuda triangle of primary care, specialist care, and medical insurance. Mostly my orthopedic office is in the dark ages, claiming it would take them a week to get my transcripts back to send in an MRI request. That bothered me, so I got my primary care doctor to send one in. TUrns out all my calls pushed some people to action and both requests for an MRI arrived on Wednesday. I called the insurance people on Wednesday, and they said that they had two requests, and that i had to get one cancelled, and meanwhile it would take them two days to get one of them approved.

Meanwhile, I had to apply for intermittent absense with my employer, which meant calling an 800 number and getting a package and trying to get the doctors to send medical information. That's when it occured to me that no doctor had actually said I was disabled, they just kept saying take more pills and you'll feel better.

Friday I called to schedule the MRI because I new it would take a couple of days, but they said I needed approval first. I tried calling my orthopedic office to see if they had aproval, but I couldn't get through.

Finally, I called the medical insurance people, and they told me the MRI had been approved on Wednesday (yes, they same wednesday I talked to them and they said they wouldn't LOOK at them until thursday).

So I called and got an MRI appointment -- for NEXT SATURDAY, JULY 1st. Apparently MRI's are all the rage these days.

So now I have a week to prepare to be stuck in a small enclosed area for 45 minutes with loud noises on my bad back. Did I mention I'm rather claustrophobic? It's all in the mind, I tell myself. It will be a true test of my mental abilities to convince myself I'm OK (knowing that 6-year-olds do this every day with no problem is no comfort to me).

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get an appointment with my primary care physician tomorrow so I can get him to sign the forms that say that my pain is bad enough to keep me from work. My work is great about this, and so far I've had no problems, but unfortunately now I fall under the FMLA law provisions, so there is a LOT of paperwork they have to fill out even though our benefits were always BETTER than the FMLA law.

Anyway, my PCP office is open from 8-noon, but they don't take appointments ahead of time, and you can't go in at 8am to sign up, you have to call, starting at 8am, to make appointments. Which makes me wonder what they do at 8am, since nobody could have an appointment for 8am (my wife suggested people might use their cell phones from the parking lot).

So that's my medical story. Typing made me forget about the pain for a little bit, but not any more. Ouch. But it's not too bad.


Not a Doctor said...

Sorry to hear of your painful adventure into American Health Care. But at least you have medical insurance....imagine you were the working poor and didn't....shouldn't everyone here have access to pain killers and hospitals?? Has this changed your opinion about national healthcare solutions??

Charles said...

No. I don't think we have a health care crisis. What we have is an over-manipulated and politicized medical insurance industry. But our medical treatment is superb, even for those without insurance.

I'll expound on this topic later today I think. For now I'll summarize:

Our medical care is fine, and even people without insurance can get necessary treatment -- but the government-controlled health/insurance market makes it difficult to deliver cheap treatment to those who can't afford it. and delivers that "cheap" treatment in the most costly ways.

The "triangle" of medical insurance (insured/insurer/employer) makes the relationship economically inefficient, ensuring lower quality and higher costs.

The same "employer-centric" bias, along with the backup government-run medicare/medicaid, puts insurance decisions out of the hands of people who USE the insurance, and into the hands of people who are unqualified for the task (businesses and government).

Imagine if you were required by law to "insure" your house against all treatments, and had all work on your house done through insurance payouts (you can actually buy insurance like this from some handy-man businesses). Now imagine that someone else chose that coverage for you. Would you be happier than you are right now, where you pay for normal maintenance, and for repairs, and carry insurance for catastrophic events?

Now, imagine if you could buy medical insurance like you do car insurance.