Sunday, May 18, 2008

Forced to think about that health care thing

After a slightly worse than minor bike crash on the local wretchedly designed bike trail, my wife has had to go to the hospital twice in two days for chest X-rays. Her doctor advised the first one yesterday, the day after the crash, because of the pain and other symptoms my wife described. On her home monitor, the doctor determined both lungs were properly inflated, but her screen did not have the resolution to show the small pneumothorax in the upper left. The radiologist caught that and actually phoned us at home to advise a follow-up shot to see if it was reducing on its own.

It sobers you up when a doctor calls you at home without being asked, to let you know you could have a life-threatening condition. It wasn't a full-on emergency, but he said we should check it out before she suddenly couldn't draw a full breath. I downed a bunch of coffee, since sobering up to ambulance-driving standards really was on the docket. The radiologist should have called before we enjoyed our relaxing, before-dinner libations.

We drove to the hospital in the rainy darkness. I did not point out the smell of sticking brake caliper that indicates another upcoming drain on the family finances. Goddamn cars cost you money to drive and cost you money not to drive often enough.

At the hospital, we breezed straight into radiology, because we were there on a specific mission, and the paperwork had been taken care of on the first visit. The tech took her right in and shot the new film. Of course they're not films anymore, but anyway...

While we waited, the ER attending came in. He's a cyclist and has patched me up a couple of times over the years. Two of his children are in Laurie's string program. Then the on-call surgeon came along to assess the condition. He said it looked stable and small. It should take care of itself, but she needs to take it easy. That's good, she was doing that anyway.

All this is happening during the couple of days before an appointment I made with my own doctor to have some things checked out on me that could be nothing or the end of everything. You just never know. It seems like the surest sign that you're desperately ill is that you feel fine. That's certainly how it is on TV shows like Death by Emergency Room or Horny Doctors with Messed Up Lives. You go in for a hangnail and go out in a body bag. Hell, they even do it on Scrubs. And what about House? They should run a ticker across the bottom of the screen, showing how his diagnostic process is jacking the patient's bill through the roof.

Y'know, it's not so much the illness as it is the money. You really have to decide whether the bit of life you snatch back from death will be worth living under the burden of crushing, impossible debt. But in some countries, and the entire animal kingdom, you just get sick and die. And life probably sucked pretty good prior to that anyway. So fut the wuck.

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