Don’t Fight The Good Fight


Do you remember the old song that had the lyrics: “I fought the law and the law won”….

Well, I sort of feel like this…not exactly that I have been fighting the law, but a similar looming entity in America that, to me at least, now just feels like a gigantic monster that no longer has the capabilities, abilities or desire to do what it originally was set up to do.

Can you guess?? It’s health care. For months now I have been trying to schedule a routine mammogram and have been getting nowhere. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I have been lead down the dark alleyways of jargon, insurance codes, doctor referrals (or refusals to do so), authorization and the inability of one organization to speak to another –therefore leaving me, the patient, in the middle….

….With no idea what anyone is talking about. I’m in the unfortunate situation of being on Obamacare (or not, depending on how you see this), so the waters become very murky;more shady than usual. No doctors take it where I live, so most everywhere I go is an out-of-pocket expense.  I have it mostly for my one medication. But my understanding was that a routine mammo was covered…. So, I was determined to GET it covered!

After fighting with my doctor, and central scheduling, then trying Planned Parenthood, then central scheduling again, then speaking with Blue Cross at least three times and getting three different stories (all of this over and over)…. and this all after having three appointments scheduled and canceled over a period of months—I decided enough.

Healthcare? I was losing my mind. This all was causing me so much stress; I couldn’t sleep. I’ve had a concern too and really needed this mammo yet was getting nowhere! Only two people I spoke to on this entire messed up journey were actually sympathetic. Most either could barely speak English or just read off a script, and contradicted each other. One I actually spoke to her manager to compliment her because I had to talk to her so many times; she at least seemed to care.

So finally, I made a decision because I could see the fight was leading me to a dead-end and draining me of energy. It would be yet another out-of-pocket expense… I would just have to pay for the thing myself. And miraculously I had an appointment the next day!

I guess the moral of the story is that they wear you down until you succumb. Maybe this is part of the plan now. Read the small print…. If they can drive you crazy and stress you out bad enough over enough years, maybe you will die sooner.

So anyway, I fought the healthcare system and I lost bad….

Advertisements

Poem: In Session


Life is in session

she said to me

while her husband is laboring

to breathe

in some ICU

None of get out of this alive

Our neighbor upstairs

sure didn’t

He is gone

missing

just like the person who hit him

when he crossed the street

The movers made more noise

than he did

when they hauled his

stuff away

And blew smoke

in my windows

reminding me

Life is in session

 

Go Easy…


20150119_102458

Sometimes thinking about the past is appropriate, especially when you get news about someone that meant something to you, even if you haven’t spent much time with them in recent years.

Families are such slippery things–they are fragile and sometimes easily shattered. They also are defined by many different things, not just by blood. And often the ones that aren’t put together by blood can mean more. We define them ourselves.

When the some things that created them, like a marriage, dissolve, then they seem to disappear too–at least in the physical sense. But we may realize, especially at critical moments, they still linger within deeper parts of us; that these people who were once family are still dear.

So when I heard my ex-father-in-law is now in hospice, I found myself extremely sad. He was someone who had been very good to me while I was married. It’s been easy to recall so many memories of the kind things about him: his easy acceptance of our decision to adopt a HIV positive child, and his special love for her. And his overly enthusiastic attitude (and long conversations and questions) about my career as an EMT/Paramedic, something I didn’t always feel at home from his son. He loved the stuff!

I picture him as the typical unassuming New England man, quiet but always willing to help; that crooked smile, bald head and slight limp. He was my go to guy, always aware of what was happening with the weather, and loving to talk about it.

Maybe he’s not officially ‘family’ anymore, but in my heart he will always hold a very special place as he made me feel welcome and a part. I felt like family because of him.

Thank you, and may the rest of your days be easy…

wpid-0925130656.jpg

 

 

Hospice


wpid-20141011_162256.jpg

Had my training for becoming a Hospice Volunteer today. It was incredibly organized and informative. They don’t mess around–a bit different from the Soup Kitchen, I must say. Of course, it’s a whole different ball of wax. They depend on Medicare/Medicade  funding, so must tow the line, even when it comes to volunteers. We are dealing with patients, so have to follow the same guidelines that any healthcare providers do.

Luckily, having spent so many years in the business, I’m familiar with most of it–and how to deal with death and dying, and families, but it was great to get a brush up and hear their take on things.

The group was pretty big, with kids from high school right up to senior citizens. There was even another female paramedic! Only two males though, as the group was mostly women. It seemed like a really good bunch of folks willing to do a whole range of jobs. I wish I was more talented, so I could provide special things, like singing or music, but hopefully I will give something in my own way.

Once all my paperwork, tests etc. pass, then I’ll be clear to go around with a mentor and finally begin my own work with the patients. Some have no family of their own, but some just need extra. Many (most they said) have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease so might not recognize us from week to week. But that’s fine. As long as we can provide comfort of some sort.

I have some ideas of what I can do. And I’m honored to share this sacred part of someone’s life. To help give someone a good death is important. That transition can be so difficult, we must try the best we can to make it as easy as possible. For everyone: the patient and the family.

And so I step into this realm once again and take this journey with them, hopefully with something to offer.

img_20151127_201501.jpg

Poem : Unexpected 


Yesterday you were something 

 Strong and juicy 

Walking tall with strutting shoes

And clicking mind

Then life is sliced

Unexpectedly 

The switch is flipped 

And it’s not the same 

You are gone 

Somebody new has come 

Are they visiting 

Or come for good ?

Looking at them 

It seems like you

But new

Different 

And only time 

Will intertwine the two 

Doctor Doctor


With all the medical stuff going on in my life and in my Mom’s, I decided to make a quantum leap and step out of the norm and change Doctors. This is always an interesting decision to make, and sometimes hard, but in this case it was a piece of cake.

Since I have moved to this part of the country I have been even less impressed than usual with the health system. I’ve never been that impressed to begin with, but here and there one can find a decent provider. My doctor from where I moved had a relationship with me for 18 years or so, and while it wasn’t perfect, I did like her. She still was very traditional, but she did seem to care and listened…for the most part. But she had her great limitations based on the Western tradition of medicine.

Leaning toward a different way of life than most, and being an outside the box person, sometimes I test the patience of Doctors (and many people I meet). This is something I am not ashamed of, actually I’m quite proud of it, although I’ve come by this with some tough moments in life.

Being the odd woman out is not always easy and often leaves one feeling alone or odd, but I’ve come to embrace my differences and see them as good. And those that embrace me for them, I consider special and wonderful friends. And those special Doctors who understand that I don’t fit the mold of a ‘normal’ patient (and I don’t mean in this case that I have mental illness–although some may think I do)–I simply mean that I don’t embrace the typical style of medicine we see now…especially these days.

The more I am around Doctors, hospitals, providers and caregivers–the more I see folks that don’t much care about an individual, I see youth and immaturity, often rude and harsh behaviors, cut corners and people without true listening skills or compassion. Not always, but generally. It’s very, very disheartening. And when this happens with patients that can’t advocate for themselves, or don’t really know what to expect–it spells disaster.

Patients forget they are the customer and deserve the attention and care their money is buying. They feel that anything a Doctor says must be true because they went to school for so long and paid so much for their educations. But sadly, this isn’t always the case. We all have the right to question something if we feel, in our guts, that it isn’t right for us–even if a Doctor says it is–or even just to ask a question. It should be team-work, not a dictatorship. And there should always be a sense the Doctor truly cares.

So in this vein, I decided to find a new, more holistic approach to my health care. No more typical Western approach: sterile waiting areas, answering systems where no humans answer the phone, lost faxes and Doctors looking at computers instead of you. I’ve had it with this type of care! I remember the days when a Doc came to my home to see me. This is a far cry from those days…

A quick search found me a holistic Doctor right near my home. I called the office, left an easy message (there were no thousands of mailboxes I had to press 1 or 2). My message was answered the next day promptly, and I had a lovely conversation with the office person Carol the next day–we spoke for maybe 15 or so minutes about our respective lives! It was refreshing. And appointment was made.

When I came for the appointment, the office smelled wonderful: of incense and herbs. The office was lovely with beautiful music (not Muzak). My visit was one hour-long (a couple of times the Doc went out to see others) and we spoke about what the plan was for me and what I hoped to get from our relationship together.

I’m going to do acupuncture, herbal remedies and maybe some other modalities to help fix some chronic issues. Honestly, I’m really very healthy most the time, so I may not even see her that much. She respects that I may need to see some Western Docs for certain things, she’s cool with that for sure. And if I have a bone sticking out of me someday (hopefully not) that I have to go to any emergency room anyway. Of course! But she said she helps her patients getting ready for surgeries with special things so they heal faster and without scars.

I came away feeling very positive. Hey, 1000 years of Chinese medicine can’t be all wrong. And certainly I have not felt right about what’s been going on with my treatment thus far, so why not? Anything is worth a try. She seemed caring and positive and very attentive. I felt comfortable and peaceful.

And best of all: she spoke to me directly and not into a computer!

wpid-0618141447a.jpg

 

 

Who Knows/Who Cares?


Sometimes we know too much, sometimes we feel we know nothing at all. Being empowered with information can be a good thing, or it can make us crazy with frustration when we see things we feel aren’t being done correctly or at least up to the standards we believe to be right.

This is the case with me as an ex-paramedic. I’ve had more than I’d like with the health care system lately and am completely discouraged with it all. There are plenty of things I absolutely do know about, and others that may be out of my scope of practice, but that I surely have enough information to sense when something seems out of whack.

wpid-20141123_075759.jpg

So when my Mom called again today to say she was having left arm weakness and tingling, only three weeks post heart attack/stent, I told her to immediately call the ambulance. She was reluctant given the bad experience we all had, but did what I asked. Thank goodness.

This is where my saga gets frustrating. Why does an ambulance take so long? Why can I take a shower and come from farther away and still beat them to the hospital, driving well within the normal speed limit? Seriously?

I mean I knew, having not even seen her, this could possibly be a stroke/TIA or another heart attack. A little speed on their part might be in order. I don’t get it. And don’t even get me started at the hospital. As soon as I saw her, the first thing I did was look at her face and asked her to smile. I noticed facial droop, but the nurse told me no she didn’t see any.

wpid-0601140926a.jpg

Again I say: seriously? Who would know better? Her or the daughter? It’s nuts. Luckily the Stroke RN and neurologist (when they finally arrived, which wasn’t too fast), agreed with me. Wow, there’s a miracle. So the conclusion was, most likely a TIA (mini-stroke) which had mostly resolved itself by the time she had called me (which wasn’t right away) and they had gotten her to the hospital (they took their time).

Thank goodness it had resolved itself!

So why did it happen? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Most likely due to medication changes from her cardiologist because of the stent. Were these prudent? That I don’t know. This is where knowing too much/too little gets me in trouble. The bigger issue may have been being sent home from the 5 day follow-up visit after the stent because they didn’t think she was booked. They messed up there. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Who knows?

Does anybody know anything these days? Is it all a crap shoot? Does anybody care really when it comes down to it?

I’m really beginning to wonder.

wpid-0404141638a.jpg

Wounds 


The wounds we suffer from an unexpected illness or traumatic accident or incident can go layers deeper beyond our physical being. The bruises, broken bones, scars, lumps or changes going on under our skin may be seen under a microscope or with an X-ray, but no one has a clue what is churning within  our psyche—sometimes not even us.

Certainly if an injury involves the brain at all, then it’s impossible to understand how we feel. Even a concussion can cause memory loss, depression and a host of other feelings the individual may not be aware are related to the injury.

We are such complex machines. We include part computer, pipes, motor, lenses and this crazy soul. If any one of these parts isn’t functioning, the rest limps along poorly. 

The odd part is that we may not even be aware something is wrong or unable to articulate what it is….

So in a system of health care providers that don’t care or are too busy to really pay attention, we are left with lots of people who aren’t being treated properly. If a patient is elderly or simply just too hurt or ill to understand what is going on, they will slip through the cracks and get poor care . 


So what do we do? 

I was one of these people a number of years ago after a horrific car accident. I had no clue just how brain injured I truly was at the time. I was a mess. Yes my physical injuries were bad, but the hidden mental, spiritual and emotional injuries lasted much longer.

Luckily I had friends nearby to help talk me off the ledge. My depression became cavernous. It snuck up on me. My memory was shattered for a while too. And the pain was like a lover that wouldn’t leave my side. It was dark times.


If we are lucky we will have an advocate  or at least someone who cares a lot and who still is in touch with reality when we are not. It’s hard to listen when our lives have been shaken and our bodies rattled. A part of us believes nothing will be right again.

But actually I believe these things actually do change us for the better. It’s like nature’s way of doing a rapid mutation, sometimes only lasting seconds, as in the case of my accident, but with everlasting positive effects.

 

Out The Door!


From a really bad thing came a really good thing. Today my Mom and I decided I should quit my job. As many of my long time followers know, I was really unhappy in that job anyway. From the beginning that position has been hard for me with difficult co-workers, rude doctors, unreasonable managers and unkind people in general. Not what I wanted in a new position.

I felt that when I moved here, that one priority was to be relaxed and enjoy my place of employment. Stress from years of working in the Emergency Medical field had taken its toll and I was ready for a big break. But admittedly I took the wrong position offered to me from a couple of offers. Figuring this was somewhat within my field and giving me the opportunity to meet more people and slightly more money–I jumped at this one.

wpid-20141102_102731.jpg

How wrong I was! Money should never, ever guide us, and I should have known better. And while I did meet some very wonderful friends that I hope to keep, the bulk of the folks there were more of the same uncaring healthcare ‘professionals’ that would sooner spit on you than help you.

So when the opportunity arose to help my Mom get well, you didn’t have to ask me twice to walk out the door. I didn’t even give two weeks, which is not my style at all. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that in my life! But with her health, their attitudes and my degree of frustration, I was out.

To my great surprise and gratitude, my boss was very kind and understanding about it all and even said if there was anything he could do he would. If there were more words like this, maybe there would be more retention there, but sadly he is not the one to talk to most people. It happens I go to him because he’s nicer.

wpid-0805140746.jpg

Sadly it’s the loud mouths that run the place who either pretend to be nice or just plain aren’t nice or have their favorites. Of which I was not one. And I am proud not to be! I’m always glad not to be part of the crowd that played games or is too afraid to say what I feel for fear of pissing them off. Bah!

Because I know in my heart what is really important, and it’s certainly not any of those silly folks who can’t walk their talk. It’s about family, real connections and honesty. And hopefully when Mom gets better, it will be time to find a new career. But this time it will be nothing to do with human healthcare!!

wpid-0607141246a.jpg

Back Of The Queue


Having been in healthcare in the US for 20 years, I know what a poor system it is and how one must really know how to navigate within it or get lost. Plus one must be an advocate for ones-self or have an advocate, or simply get lost.

Luckily my Mom has me! The elderly in this country are forgotten about in more ways than one, and within the healthcare system is one BIG way. As a friend said: they get pushed to the back of the queue. No-one cares…not really. Many can’t speak up for themselves, have poor insurance (and we all know it comes down to money) and don’t really know what’s going on anyway.

But not only am I a healthcare provider, but I have a big mouth. A bad combination if someone isn’t doing their job. Hey, I’m the best patient  or advocate in the world, if the people are treating patients like they are supposed to do. That’s because I know what it’s all about: how hard the patients can be, the thankless hours, the endless paperwork, the nasty co-workers and crappy management/jobs. I get it all. So I tend to be very nice until you cross the line of not caring or not doing what you are trained to do.

wpid-20150211_075408.jpg

So when someone gets sent home and everything is still wrong, the person is still way too sick–we have a problem Houston! When the home-care RN comes and finds actual data to back this up and tries to call the Doctors and no-one returns phone calls…. well, you can darn well believe this ex-healthcare provider AND daughter is going to be making some phone calls herself.

And they ain’t gonna be pretty!

Come on people! Are you serious here? Is it really only about the money or what? Does anyone care anymore??

So after a rather FIRM, shall we say, discussion with the doctor’s secretary…she said in a very meek tone: hold on please. Oh, yes, I’ll hold on alright. And then I was put through…imagine that!

I finally got a PA on the phone. And finally some resolve. No, Mom won’t go back to the hospital…ever again as a matter of fact thank you very much thanks to all you people! No, that wasn’t an option. And I don’t blame her one little bit. But after much convincing, she did agree to go tomorrow (instead of waiting until Tuesday) to see her Doctor that did the procedure. Thank goodness… It took some doing because she’s fed up with everything, but I was firm with her too. There is just too much going on and she deserves more. I won’t let them turn their backs on this patient.

She was the boss for a long time, but I am now.

You can bet I’m going into that room tomorrow too. And this time, I’m calling the shots!

wpid-20141031_141002.jpg