Hospital Misadventures

Yesterday the pain became too intense and I ended up going to the ER – something I was loathe to do for several reasons… one of course being the cost. Since we’re in between benefits I can’t afford to go for an office or clinic visit because I knew with the cost of pills we’d have nothing left over to pay much needed bills. An ER visit is way more expensive, but can be taken in smaller doses on a payment plan.

It’s been our main way of seeing any kind of medical professional as of late, and of course it seems that’s when I’ve needed to see them. Murphy’s Law I suppose.

Anyway I held off as long as possible before I realized that the pain just wasn’t going to get any better, and I had no other option. I’ve missed a ton of work already (yesterday was day 4), and I could no longer justify delaying it due to the cost if it meant putting my job in jeopardy.

Plus the pain had reached an unbearable level. It was affecting the way I walked, sending pain right down the leg, stiffening up my entire back and hunching me over like Quasimodo.

So we bundled up and we went to Abilene Regional Hospital. Much to our surprise (and delight) the waiting room was completely empty. We got into the triage almost immediately, and went right from there into a room. Keep in mind we’d already told both the triage nurse and the admissions person that we had no insurance.

The doctor comes in, asks me what’s wrong, asks me why I hadn’t been to my regular doctor – and of course we were totally honest. Couldn’t afford to go, waiting on benefits, etc. So he pokes at my back and says, yep… there’s some muscle spasms going on (thank you ever so much, Captain Obvious), and then leaves the room.

The admissions lady comes back in and says, again, where’s your insurance? We say, again, we have none. So she states that they’ll need $250 in order for the doctor to continue treatment. (treatment? really?) We explain, of course, we do not have $250 and she says that the doctor will be unable to provide any treatment, prescriptions etc.

We asked why. We’d been to this hospital before for emergency care (just last month for a sinus infection) and were never asked for this or turned away. She explained that the doctor was contracted with the hospital, not an employee of the hospital itself, and therefore could deny services where the hospital could not.

So we left, with a little bit more understanding of why the waiting room was completely empty. Steven was absolutely livid and swears he’s not going to pay the bill – which the admissions lady assures us we’ll still be charged because we did get triage services.

Something we would NOT have incurred had we been told at the onset about the co-pay. But no, the doc springs that on us after we’ve already been admitted to the ER and now are stuck.

If he still slaps us with a $250 bill for doing nothing other than poking my back for about a minute and a half, you’re going to see me hit the roof.

By this time my pain had increased, probably somewhere about 8 on the pain scale of 1-10. I had to get seen, period. We headed then over to Hendrick Medical Center, which is our county facility and in fact the hospital where I was born. We tell the triage nurse, hey listen.. we were just at Regional… are you going to turn us away too because if you are let us know that NOW before we have to wait for five hours (since Hendrick had a full waiting room – of course). She directed us to the admissions who said that Hendrick was a not for profit hospital and therefore they didn’t turn us away where as Regional, as a profit hospital, could at their discretion.

Which reminded me again how f*cking ridiculous it is to have for profit health care. It’s just your tough luck if you get hurt or sick when you don’t have hundreds of dollars to throw around when these types of things pop up out of the clear blue sky (like they’re generally prone to do).

I lost work LAST month for having a sinus infection for three bloody weeks, I didn’t have exactly the time to save up for my next health disaster.

The ironic part of this is I’d wager to bet that doc was a tea-bagging Republican who votes against the public option… even though WITH the public option he could have gotten paid for poking me on the back, telling me what I already knew and sending me on my way with prescriptions.


ANYWAY… about three hours later I made it back to the exam room at Hendrick, shortly after that I was seen by a nurse practitioner who tells me that with my recurring back problem it doesn’t take much to throw it out and send it into these painful debilitating spasms, and while I was acute the things I had been doing were not going to help me.

He actually kinda scolded me for waiting so long to come in – but not in a mean way. My Twitter friends who had been telling me to go in since Tuesday were, in fact, right to push me in that direction.

So he gave me a Vicodin and a Flexeril before I left, and instructed that I needed to ice down the inflamed muscles in my back rather than use heat like I was doing. Advised me to stretch over the next coming days, and – as soon as possible, once the acute stage had passed – begin a walking regimen to strengthen the muscles in the back.

And of course, lose weight because that would help tremendously… to which I responded, “Working on it.”

He gave me a prescription for more Vicodin, Flexeril and a prescription strength anti-inflammatory, and took me off work through Monday so that I can get over the worst stage of things. He was actually pretty nice and understanding – especially being a big guy himself. Gave me some stretching suggestions, something I can do once we can use heat on my back and get the muscles warm enough to stretch out.

It was nice to be seen in a place that knew what my issue was and could treat it. Well worth the three hour wait and the wild goose chase to get there.

So I’ll be doped up and tentatively getting more active so that I can return to work by Monday. Needless to say yesterday was a leftover day with no real new Vegan adventures. Since I had to pay almost $60 in prescription costs, I doubt I’ll be getting to the store any time too soon to buy any other food, but I think I have enough to get me through AND still be pretty inventive. (Roasted eggplant sandwiches, anyone?)

I just need to feel well enough to do it.

To which I reply – again – “working on it.”

We now return you to your regular programming…


2 thoughts on “Hospital Misadventures

  1. That just grinds my gears and makes me even more supportive of the public option and that’s saying something since I’ve been promoting it from the beginning.

    I’m so glad you got the care you needed from the nurse practitioner. You know, I’ve found that each nurse practitioner I’ve seen has been WAY cooler than doctors. They don’t have a God complex going, and they’re more empathetic and sympathetic. It sounds like the situation with the ER, though very reprehensible and wrong, was a blessing in disguise because you probably got much better care than you would’ve with the doctor.

    Hope you feel much better very soon. {{{Ginger}}}

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