A Box of Soap

As president and only member of my fan club, I am obligated to explain my absence from this space.  Sensing that my last few submissions were poorly focused, possibly even rambling, I wondered if a larger challenge would rekindle the creative fire.  So, I’ve been working undercover on an exposé of the health care industry.

I began by pretending to have a serious lung disease.  Our family practitioner played along by immediately referring me to a pulmonologist.  I blew through a hose into his computer until I was pink in the face.  Then there was a forced march up and down his lobby and hallway to see how that affected my vitals.  A CT scan was recommended, which his office said they would set up.  That was the first sign of trouble.

After hearing nothing about my appointment time, I got impatient and called back to ask how things were progressing.  They weren’t – the appointment had somehow been overlooked.  I can’t remember how my union insurance rep got involved but in order to save some money he made me pledge to have the CT scan done outside the hospital at a stand-alone facility.

Several days later I returned to the pulmonologist to learn the results of the CT scan.  No results.  The attempt to send them via computer had failed so we had to wait for a cd/copy to be delivered.  We eventually learned that the CT scan showed some pretend scarring (fibrosis) of the lung tissue.

After roughly a thousand tests it was determined that I needed a PH/probe to see if acid reflux could be a contributing factor.  My eyes still water a little, remembering how wrong that went.  After a lot of trial probes up my nose with this little plumber’s snake, an x-ray to confirm its placement in my esophagus found it instead down my trachea poinking my lungs.  A survey of our bills reveals no discount for this complete foul-up.

The subsequent referral to a thoracic surgeon for a lung biopsy, which also took several attempts to arrange, resulted in a nice doctor saying, “Nah, let’s wait for the endoscopy results.”

The subsequent endoscopy, which included some truly wonderful drugs, confirmed the acid reflux.  So now, we wait.

The American health care system is a Lexus, but it’s only partially assembled and the instructions for operation are not in English.  We’ve met a lot of likable and competent people in the last five months who have no idea what the likable, competent people two floors up in the same building are doing.  In both those places there will be several full-time employees trying to navigate the unique and impenetrable jungle of forms, requirements and duplication necessary to extract payment (partial) from each different insurance company.   We never went home from any appointment with less than a dozen sheets of paper.

Because red-blooded American patriots don’t want no part of no dang socialism we blaze a proud path of being the only industrialized nation that refuses to provide health care for all.  Hospitals are left to quietly add the cost of emergency care for the indigent and uninsured onto the bills of paying customers.  Even that seems short of explaining the staggering costs of these procedures.

Anyone observing the conduct of my life so far might not have willingly invested so much cash in aid of continuing it.  Even I had to wonder if I was worth using up so much of our disposable income.  Now that I better understand all this I hope I never actually get sick.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.)