It always feels a bit weird leading up to a surgery and hospital stay. A healthy mix of fear, anxiety, sadness, love, confidence and HOPE.
Another one is looming in a couple of days. This one is a follow up to the one from December. The two-inch one pound generator with a 10 year battery life they installed in my upper chest to shock me back if my heart freaks out had a pacemaker lead that couldn’t be attached. So, now a thoracic surgeon is going to do it. Visiting with him while he explained the procedure of how he was going to enter in between my ribs “which may crack”, he said and attach the lead to the outside of my heart, then “tunnel it up to my device and attach it”, seemed a bit surreal. I asked “Is it dangerous?” He said “nah. But in your case, it may be. You are not a thoroughbred anymore.” I laughed. In my case it is always dangerous, but what did he mean I wasn’t a thoroughbred anymore???
Somehow I always remain strong and leave my fate in the hands of these incredibly skilled physicians. I do what they say, and so far, I go to sleep on their table and have always woken up. I don’t really fear death. After 20 years of living with this, it is a part of my “normal”. Instead, I worry about all those that worry about me. My mother, sisters, family, friends and my wife…. She is the one that sits in that waiting room. Sometimes for hours. I always ask to see her first, immediately upon waking up. After that greeting, hugs and looking into her blue eyes which seem to acknowledge that I am back. Again. Words aren’t said. The eyes and tears speak enough. Then usually the pain hits and then I drift off to a wonderful hospital stay, with probing and waking up every two hours to check this, and check that, followed by food that tastes like cardboard because “you are on a cardiac diet”. Then a few days later I am back home, followed by weeks of recovery. Jude always does her best to put up with me and all the sponge baths and moaning and groaning that follows. I don’t know what I would do without her. She is my angel.
After this one it seems my quality of life will improve, and hopefully the heart will continue to keep ticking for some time. My cardiologist is a great young guy, and I am blessed to have such good care. He always says that I am one of his most important patients that he wants to pay special attention to. I suspect he says that to all his patients. But I know he means it because I am an anomaly as far as his patients go. When visiting him I am that young, trim, healthy looking guy sitting in a room full of old, obese, oxygen tank sucking patients. I think Sam wants to make sure I don’t turn into one of those people. He says I am a long way from becoming that. I have to believe him in thinking that. For the sake of Judith and my family. Well, okay, for my sake too.
I do have to insert a rant here now. It is about healthcare, and their costs in this country. Before the last surgery we asked our doctor’s office how much this procedure was going to cost? “Oh we have no idea, there will be multiple different people billing so we can’t tell” they said. On the day of surgery when we were checking into the hospital, where they ask for your insurance and credit card, we asked the same questions to the hospital billing/check in person. “Oh we have no idea, there will be multiple different people billing so we can’t tell” she said. So off we went for the surgery. And then weeks later still no word from anyone. Judith researched online and found out that an ICD implant surgery was about $60,000 she said from information she found online. We thought “wow that’s expensive”. Then in mid February we were finally able to go on our insurance companys’ portal to see all the bills. There was one line item which I presume was for the actual device… $99,999.99. Then scrolling down through pages and pages of claims was the total… $265,000 and counting. We were floored. That is a house for most people.
Its kinda like going to buy a car but no one will tell you the price until you receive a bill for some outrageous amount several months down the road. Of course the insurance company does not pay these amounts. The medical establishments seem to bill on a “manufacturers suggested price” model. For example the hospital may submit a bill for $20,000 for something. The insurance company responds by saying they will only pay $12,000 and lo and behold the hospital accepts that amount. So why not just bill the 12 grand? Again like going in to buy a car and haggling over some inflated price. And this happens with every single cost related to healthcare. All the way from routine doctor visits to hospital stays to prescriptions. Makes no sense.
I also take about 15 pills a day split between morning and night, and looking at those claims I found out that my prescriptions cost about $4000 per month. One medication alone was $800 per month. How could a plastic pill container that comes with 30 little white pills cost $800? All this of course would be cash out of pocket if I didn’t have insurance. With insurance it is still ridiculously expensive for us. Our monthly premiums are very high and then we have the annual deductibles to meet. I wonder what happens to people that have no insurance. Are they allowed to just die because they cannot get medication, let alone surgeries?
Judith is Canadian. Canadians have free healthcare as their right to be a Canadian. No one worries about, or goes bankrupt, over hospital bills. What the hell are we doing in this country? We should be living in Canada. It is sad when the healthcare debate comes up in this country how so many people I know get up in arms about how universal healthcare is “socialist” and they will be damned if they “have to pay for it”. Especially for pre-existing conditions. Well, I am one of those people with pre-existing conditions. Like the rest of them I didn’t ask for this. Are they saying they don’t give a shit about me and that I should die? Having access to healthcare and an education should be the right of every human being on this planet. Taxes that pay for ridiculous wars and funding armies could easily cover this. Does this not occur to anyone else? If I make it to 2020 this will be a very good reason to vote for change. Not that we need more reasons for change in 2020. End of rant.
My next blog will be on the hospital stay and especially on the gourmet food. This is a new hospital for me. The pre-op nurse I spoke to yesterday said “they have the best hospital food in Denver”. Ha!
Lastly, on a funny but in a dark way note….I had a very good friend I had not seen in a while visit me the other night for dinner. We sat around and chatted and caught up for over 5 hours. A few of my friends have come to visit me over the past few months, which I have appreciated much. This dinner friend was a treat. I have known him many years, and despite losing touch sometimes, he is always there, and when we start talking it is like picking up where we left off. Anyway, as he was leaving that night, he turned to me and said “So, is everything going to be OK? This is not the last time I am going to see you, is it?” Usually I am always quick with my reply in a positive tone. This time I was completely at a loss for words. My brain was furiously computing a response while pondering… is this the last time I was going to see him? It couldn’t decide. My lovely wife jumped in with an “Of course he is. He always comes through and everything will be fine”. At which point the words finally came out of my mouth….
“ Yeah Caddy, I will be fine.”