Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A $50,000 Surgery…

I am near to finishing a nine-mile run about a month ago when, with about one mile to go, when I slow down considerably for the mandatory cooling off stretch, I realize something is amiss. At about this time in the run, the good feeling hormones in my system get released and I cherish the feel of accomplishment; legs aching comfortably, sweating profusely and looking forward to a well deserved hearty breakfast. Today, however, there is a dull ache in my lower back instead, a pain that accelerates by the time I complete stretching and final cool off. I do have the hearty breakfast, but it is a forced feast, not enjoyed, a feel of nausea dominates.

The pain stays with me, a dull ache, increasing in intensity instantly after meals, with the feeling of wanting to barf every time; very odd, as I am alham’Allah, quiet healthy, careful what I eat and generally conscious about my health. This feeling and uneasiness continues for the next two weeks I run, but these are forced runs, my mind willing but the body stubbornly, strangely reluctant. When I get an acute pain in my back about two weeks later, fearing reoccurrence of kidney stones, I quit running, making my variable temperament more disagreeable; I love running. Now, I know women claim there is no pain greater than childbirth; I digress. Kidney stone pain, I think, comes straight from jahannum as a warning.

When the pain does not abate, I am forced to seek medical help, but there is a problem. I am, you see, one among millions who make up the uninsured statics in this great country we call United States of America. Not that I have not tried to insure my family and me, I have. Since my return to the US from India, I have tried three different sources, two declined saying I have no established history (?) and the one that accepted wanted a huge bite out of my IRA in premiums, enough money for me to pay an average monthly mortgage and lease a nice vehicle. So I suffer in pain (in barf mood) that is dulled only by healthy dosage of OTC medication.

A caring member of HIC community Fatema Manekia tells me about free medical services by Shepherds Hope, a church financed medical care run by volunteers. After a four and half hour wait, I get to see a bored, tired doctor who examines me robotically, says he sees nothing wrong, cites the reason for pain from a bad back perhaps, gives me (strong) pain medication and sends me home. I am relieved by the verdict; begin planning for a run next day. The doctor is awfully wrong, I am convinced next morning however, acute pain persists. So I become a doctor instantly, a degree conferred to me by Google search engine. I spend an entire day researching the symptoms I have and they all point an accusing finger to gall bladder stones. I talk to a couple of people who have been through this; yes, our experiences tally. Hmmm.

I turn to Seminole County medical services and they grudgingly give me an appointment to see a doctor at reduced cost. This service is much better; they give you an appointment and you see a doctor in about thirty minutes. The doctor is a young medical trainee from a medical college. Supervised by a qualified women doctor, who is handicapped, riding on an electric wheel chair, I am examined. Both of them are thorough, professionals and seem to know what they are doing. The verdict comes in minutes – gall bladder stones. Many gall bladder stones. I get slips for blood tests and an appointment to meet with a surgeon.

Now, just because Seminole County let me see a doctor for twenty bucks does not mean they will test blood and remove the gall bladder for free. No-no, this is the great USA; I must pay. How much, I ask? Well, nobody at the clinic will tell me (officially) but a young sympathetic Hispanic nurse confides it may be in the region of fifteen thousand dollars if the County coordinates it for me (it’ll take about two months, I stay on pain killers until then). Else, it’s about fifty thousand, give or take a few thousands. I stare at her, flabbergasted. She stares right back, nodding her pretty head sadly, understandingly; yes Sir, that’s how much it’ll cost. Or, she leans forward and whispers conspiringly, if it gets really bad, you are in bad pain, call 911, then tell the hospital you have no money, they’ll write if off eventually. They wont let you die, hehehehe…’

Huh, that much? I am sure she’s made a mistake. I try to find out. I call the Central Regional Florida Hospital but nobody there understands surgery without insurance. I finally get to talk to a PR guy who says its impossible for any hospital to quote rates for any surgery, depends on many variables but yes, fifty thousand dollars is not a number to be surprised at. Now I know how a person can go bankrupt getting sick in this country. Well, to hell with this nonsense, I cannot stand the pain and feel of wanting to vomit no more. I call my friends at Najfi House in Mumbai, India. An appointment is set at Saifee Hospital for January 25 and probable surgery for January 27. I had a planned visit to India in February anyway, I’ll simply prepone it and have the surgery there for fraction of the cost here.

God bless you, may He bless me and may He bless United States of America, the greatest, most developed, most mighty, most civilized, especially her health care services industry, country in the world.

Amen.

1 comment:

Mohamed said...

Had you been in Canada the surgery would have cost much less; though not free. For Canadians with public health insurance, it would be free - of course (our tax dollars at work). In Canada doctors salaries are generally "capped" however they can still get into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more and with some new commercial health care ventures that are springing up doctors salaries are skyrocketing for the same type of work they would do in a public facility.