Friday, October 09, 2009

I Survived!

What a crazy 2 weeks it's been:
  • Monday 9/28 - 8:45am: visit to emergency room for lumbar and leg pain; 3pm exam by osteopath.
  • Tuesday 9/29 - 1:30am: another ER visit; 2:30pm exam by physiatrist & house showing (canceled when we arrived at doctor's office; GRRR); 6pm dinner with AJ Jacobs & posse before his event for THE GUINEA PIG DIARIES at the Tattered Cover (which I was too sore to attend).
  • Thursday 10/1 - 4pm: house showing & neuromuscular massage at*
  • Friday 10/2 - Literary Ladies Luncheon (see 10/9 New West article by Janet Singleton!)
  • Monday 10/5 - 11am: epidural steroid injection by physiatrist.
  • Tuesday 10/6 - 10am: exam by spine surgeon, who set up immediate surgery; 5pm neuromuscular massage; 6:30pm dinner with Agent Kristin.
  • Wednesday 10/7 - 8:30am pre-op physical with GP; 3pm shrink session.
  • Thursday 10/8 - 6am check-in for 7:30am surgery (moved up from 10:30--YAY!).
The surgery went fine. Though my back hurts like hell, my leg's already improving and I feel better than I ever dared dream. Thanks again for all the encouraging comments, especially from Alan Orloff, who gave me hope when I needed it most.

Enough of the sweet stuff. Now for the bitter...

Darling Husband's job--the one that moved us to Denver in Dec 2005--was eliminated in June. So our Blue Cross/Shield plan is now under Cobra. (How fitting that US health coverage is named for a venomous snake.) The surgery had to be pre-approved by Blue Cross, else it wouldn't have been scheduled. The first thing I had to do when hobbling into the hospital's registration office yesterday morning was submit my insurance ID card & driver's license. Then I had to sign & initial a gazillion forms.

After I was lying in a gurney prepped for surgery--with glasses off, so I couldn't read anything--I had to sign and initial even more forms. The kicker came just before I was knocked out, when I was given a form agreeing to pay the surgeon's assistant, who's an independent contractor. The surgery can't be done without her, but Blue Cross doesn't believe it takes 4 hands to:
  • slice into the back with the aid of a microscope;
  • move aside the spinal cord & sciatic nerve;
  • cut the bulge off a lumbar disc;
  • cut off protruding arthritic knobs at the end of 3 vertebrae that have changed 3 discs from elastic white to hard black;
  • staple everything closed.
So the surgeon's office will submit the payment request and Blue Cross will deny it. Then the surgeon will appeal and months later Blue Cross will relent and pay the claim. Maybe. Otherwise we'll have to make a payment plan with the surgeon's assistant. By then DH will have a new job. Maybe.

I got little sleep last night because every time the nurse turned off the lights & left the room, some machine started beeping wildly. First it was the one that inflated cuffs around my calves every few seconds to keep blood clots from forming (and me from relaxing). Then it was the IV machine. Then it was the oxygen pump. Then it was the oxygen pump monitor.

"Look," I said, "give me another Valium so this stupid stuff won't bother me anymore, OK? And give the machines Valium, so they'll calm down too."

I got the Valium. Don't know if the machines did, though they did shut up eventually.

I was back home and in bed by 1:30pm, after having belted down a couple of Valium so I'd be sure to sleep. A nanosecond after DH finished tucking the covers under my chin, Max leaped onto me. Within minutes I was zonked out with a 14-lb purring heating pad draped from crotch to chin.

Not 2 hours later my bliss was shattered by a phone call from a lady at the hospital billing office. What could she possibly want? Well, it seems that Blue Cross, which just this morning had approved the physical therapist's request for a walker, told her that my insurance had expired months ago. Kudos to me for not swearing a blue streak when I told her to call Blue Cross back and inform them how extremely wrong they are.

I'll bet that the people in Congress fighting universal health care--whose generous coverage is funded by our tax dollars--don't go through crap like this.

Is this a great country, or what?

*Note to FTC: I received no goods, payments, services--or even dinner--from any persons or entities mentioned in this blog post. Though considering the cost of health care, I would have gladly accepted medical kickbacks.


DebraLSchubert said...

Glad you survived! I hope to see you on my next trek to Denver. ;-)

Warren Bobrow said...

open a window and let the air rush over you.. if cold, put on a down comforter. fresh air heals all ills... as well as a big shot of Mezcal in a little ceramic pot.

feel betta!

Alan Orloff said...

So so so so glad the surgery went well. Once you recover, don't forget to keep up with your back stretches and exercises!

Bella Stander said...

Thanks, Debbie! Next time...

Warren, it's 19F with 1/2" of snow on the ground (after 70F 3 days ago!), so no fresh air for me. But I am under a comforter and big warm cat.

Alan, I'll DEFINITELY keep up with exercises once I can move again. I'm bruised all over (esp. front ribs under mammaries...WTF?) & incisions hurt like bloody hell. But I'm flexing & circling my feet like a good girl to prevent blood clots.

Obie Joe Media said...

Love hearing about the comfort afforded by your wise cat! Really sorry to hear of this surgery and annoyances, but very glad to hear you will soon be on the mend. I agree with you: let 2010 unveil and fold with not another surgery for you.

Bella Stander said...

Thanks! My cat's wisdom extends to draping himself where it's warm and cuddly. Beyond that, he's so "wise" that if it's raining out the front door, he'll run to the back door to see if the weather's better there. Then he'll return to the front door just in case. Then to the back door. And then to bed.