Archive for August, 2010

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Act 3: She’s so hiiiiiiigh, high above me

August 7, 2010

Skip forward again, to spring of senior year. Charlie has grown, significantly, in fact.  As he grew it was harder to keep him hidden, much like an illegitimate child you keep in the attic.  I realized I probably needed to go to the doctor again, but it was senior year. Time was not something I had in abundance.  I finally stopped back by the health center, and the same doctor examines Charlie again.  “Well, what I would recommend is excising it,” the doctor said.  I’m immediately suspicious. “We would cut it open, remove the entire thing, and then leave some gauze in there for a couple days, then close it back up,” he explained, like it was the most natural thing in the world to walk around with a gaping wound. I was horrified at the prospect. He said I should go to a dermatologist to get it done.  “Yeah, ok,” I said. Fat chance, I thought.

Despite being the daughter of a doctor and a nurse, medical things have always made me fairly squeamish, and the thought of all that slicing and bleeding… I just couldn’t handle it.  I would get it taken care of, just… not right now. Besides, like I said, I was way too busy.  As the year wound up and I secured a temporary job for the summer, I figured out that I wouldn’t get to stay on my parents’ health insurance, and my temp job did not provide any coverage. I realized I did not really think this through. I made it through the summer, with the hopes of getting a full time job in the fall that would provide me with coverage. As you know, that failed, miserably.  I finally realized I had to just suck it up, and go to the doctor. I made an appointment with a dermatologist on my plan, but after examining Charlie and me, she became worried that it could be a hernia or a “soft fatty tumor” (Tumor! I knew it!).  She sent me to a surgeon.

After several frustrating weeks of trying to schedule an appointment, I got in to see the surgeon.  He takes a look, decides that there’s only a 2% chance it’s a hernia (doesn’t even mention tumor). Most likely it’s some sort of cyst. He tells me to schedule an appointment for surgery.  At this point I’m not even worried about surgery anymore, I just want to be rid of Charlie. He’s like a 40-year-old son who still lives in the basement and just won’t leave. Besides, the surgeon assured me it would be so simple. It would only take about half an hour, and the next day I would be able to exercise, swim, lift 500 pounds (despite not being able to lift 500 pounds pre-surgery, not sure how that works).

I scheduled my surgery, and my mom came up to accompany me and take care of me afterward.  They wheeled me into the operating room, and explained that first they would give me a drug to relax me, then a bunch of oxygen, then the anesthesia. As the anesthesiologist added the relaxant to my IV, he explained “This is a relative of valium, so you’ll just start to relax.” Well, it relaxed me so much I don’t even remember the oxygen or anesthesia.  I woke up and felt fine, and wasn’t really even in much pain.  Despite this, the nurse said I should take two vicodin. “Really?” I said.  After I had my wisdom teeth out I took half of a vicodin, and it had made me pretty happy. Even in my groggy state two whole pills seemed excessive. But she insisted, and I was in no state to refuse.

My mom drove me home and got me settled in bed. At this point, I am high. I am not in any pain, in fact, I feel really good. My mom left to pick up some dinner for us, and it is at this point that I decided it was a really good idea to call my old roommate. And my boss. And my pastor. Even better, I got voicemail for all three of them. If you know me at all, you know I can barely leave a coherent voicemail while totally sober and alert, so this resulted in each of them being left with a real gem of a message, in which I described myself as “all high and stuff.” Awesome. The next day at work my boss didn’t say anything, so I hoped the memory of the voicemail was just  hallucinogenic dream.  About ten minutes later my boss poked his head into my office with a huge grin on his face, holding his phone to his ear. “I’m really enjoying this voicemail from you,” he said, full of glee.  I hung my head and sighed. Luckily he has a good sense of humor.

Before the operation, the surgery center called and told me that with my insurance plan, I would have to pay 30% of the cost. “Alright,” I said.  “That will be $719,” the chipper receptionist informed me. My knees buckled and I almost dropped the phone. That’s ok, I thought, I have savings for things like this.  Then my dad told me the surgeon and anesthesiologist would probably also be sending me bills. No problem, I thought, if I don’t buy groceries this month I’ll probably lose some weight.

As I considered how expensive it was to be ill, I started to do a math problem in my head.  The doctor gave me a prescription for 30 vicodin. It cost me about $2. I used four of them.  If I sold the remaining pills to addicts in the park, how close would I get to paying for my surgery?  It was tempting, especially when I saw that I could get a refill of another 30 pills. Ultimately I realized that the ethical issues at work in the situation probably outweighed the benefit of some money, much like selling my eggs, despite all the facebook ads urging me to do so.  So I’ll just be paying for it myself, and saving the vicodin for me next red-eye flight.  The important thing is that, hundreds of dollars, four pills, three embarrassing voicemails and one surgery later, the Bump is finally gone.

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Act 2: Live Like You Are Dying

August 5, 2010

Rewind about 2 years.  Towards the end of sophomore year, I noticed a small bump, under the skin, where my leg met my hip.  “Cancer!” I gasped. I knew it. I knew it was a tumor.  I immediately thought of a host of other symptoms I was experiencing, and now, a bump.  Mystery bumps are never good. Never.  I knew this, thanks to a little website called WebMD.  I definitely frequent this website more than any human should, 99% of the time for a feature called The Symptom Checker.  I love the Symptom Checker, to an unhealthy degree (ha).  It’s a little figure of a person, and you click on the body part that is troubling you, and it asks you questions about the symptoms, what you’ve been doing beforehand, how it acts up, etc. and then gives you a list of potential conditions.  Every time I have used it, I have been able to diagnose myself with a rare, typically fatal, disease.  Really, it’s a miracle I’m still alive.

When I found The Bump, I immediately logged onto the Symptom Checker, and determined that I probably had ovarian cancer.  Well, I should probably go to the doctor, I thought with a heavy heart, give him the news and get whatever treatment can prolong what’s left of my time here on earth.

I went to the campus health center, ready to face my own mortality.  “Well, let’s take a look,” said the jovial doctor. Poor guy, I thought, trying to be cheerful when he knows I’m dying.  “Hmm, it looks like a fluid filled cyst here,” he said, poking and prodding away.  “We’ll do a blood test to make sure there’s no infection. Put a warm compress on it, and if it gets any worse come back.”

“What?” I sat up indignantly. “That’s it?  But, it’s, a Bump!” “Well, we can drain it,” the doctor said, “but they usually just fill back up.”  “Oh,” I said, a little less certain of my self diagnosis.  “But I’m also bloated and having stomach trouble!” I said. “Stop eating so much cheese,” the doctor said.  “I’ve seen you in the cafeteria, no one is able to properly digest that much.” “Oh, right,” I said sheepishly. “Less cheese?” I thought privately. “Please, that’s not even worth getting rid of real cancer, let alone fake.”

So I let The Bump be. We co-existed in a symbiotic relationship, like hippos and those birds that sit on them.  I let him live, and he kept me company.  I named him Charlie, talked to him on long car rides.  It was beautiful.

Then Charlie had to go and ruin everything.

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Act 1: I Dreamed a Dream of Health Insurance

August 4, 2010

(Read intro here: https://lindseychan.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/too-poor-to-die-an-epic-tale-in-three-acts/)

There are many pluses to having a hodge-podged medley of jobs as I do: I’m not sitting at one desk all day, and I get paid to blow bubbles and take naps. However, it’s not all unicorns and roses.  There are some downsides, one of the most irritating being the lack of benefits.  Full-time employees at my office job get great health insurance. It even used to be free, but now they pay a paltry $25 a month.  When my temp contract there last summer was running out, we were waiting on word regarding hiring me for the year.  My boss did get approval to do so, but only at 20 hours a week.  I panicked and began looking for part-time jobs that would also provide health insurance, the best options looking like Starbucks or CostPlus World Market (it really is the greatest store in the world).  However, when I looked at the human resources website for my office, I discovered I actually was eligible for health insurance. I would just have to pay half the premium.  I reasoned that it couldn’t be too much if the others only paid $25.

Ha.

I met with the benefits expert in HR to go over my glorious new life as one of the insured masses.  I had visions of teeth cleaning, mole checks, maybe even new glasses since my current pair had been acquired when I was 16, was no longer the correct prescription, gave me headaches and probably made me a hazard while driving.  I sat down with Kate, and she pulled out the giant benefits book.  I was practically drooling.  She explained that there were two basic plans, an HMO and a PPO. I was rocking in my chair with barely contained glee. Then she pulled out a rate sheet. “So, with either plan you would have to pay half of the premium each month, which is $265 with the HMO, or $432 with the PPO.”

$432. Four hundred and thirty two dollars. And not Canadian dollars, American dollars! That’s more than I paid in rent! I gawked at the sheet. “That’s half?!” I exclaimed in disbelief.  “And that doesn’t even include dental or vision!”  “These are pretty competitive rates,” Kate explained. I felt lightheaded. Kate recommended that since I was young and fairly healthy, I could probably find a plan on my own with lower premiums and a higher deductible. I nodded, left the office, and proceeded to have a panic attack on the stairs.  I couldn’t afford health insurance! How had this happened?! I was a good student! I was on the Dean’s list! Multiple semesters! I was in the Psi Chi Honor Society, dang nabbit!  I was near tears.

I called my parents with the bad news, and they were pretty shocked at the cost as well. And they work in health care!  They helped me search for an individual plan to purchase, and we found a pretty bare bones plan with low premiums.  I would probably pay most of my own health care costs out of pocket, but it would cover generic prescriptions, and would kick in after several thousands of dollars of my own money if I became deathly ill (which was looking like a pretty good option at this point).

Tomorrow, Act 2: Live Like You Are Dying

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Too Poor to Die: An Epic Tale in Three Acts

August 4, 2010

I have a story to tell, a story so grandiose in scope that it is too big for one blog post, nay, even two blog posts! (Mostly because I know most people’s attention doesn’t proceed past the first two paragraphs of anything I write).  No, this tragedy must unfold in three acts, each more dramatic and sorrowful than the last.  Behold: Too Poor to Die.