Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Exemplary vs Complacent

We all hate dealing with the health care system.  I mean truly HATE...  but its a necessary evil.  We need them.  And sometimes, we need them desperately.   We moan about costs and rules and regulations but when faced with something serious, we certainly change our tune.   

I had an accident in March.  The accident, a fall from a fairly substantial height, could truly have been life threatening, actually it could have been life ending, but I was blessed to walk (sort of) away with ONLY broken ribs, bruises, and minor lacerations.

The myriad of complicated tests completed by the hospital confirmed that internal organs, including circulatory system, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, kidneys, etc, were not ruptured or damaged and that there was no obvious cranial or spine damage.   I am appreciative of the level of care I was given that night.  And because by the time I arrived at the hospital, the pain was so intense that I could not catch my breath, I was extremely grateful for the pain meds that I was given to allow me to rest.  I am thankful for their compassion and concern and patience with my panic.  I really am.

With no reason to hospitalize me and my pain under control, I was sent home and told to rest... no core activity for weeks.   I was told recovery would be gradual, should be complete, and could take 6-8 weeks but because of my existing health issues, they were unsure if that timeline would hold true for me...  maybe a little longer, maybe not.

Fortunately, the bulk of the healing process was slightly shorter than the hospital's billing cycle.  (do you think they do that on purpose?)

The hospital bill totaled almost $25,000.   I was shocked!   SERIOUSLY!!!  For four-ish hours in the emergency room with what turned out to be no serious injuries?  But they could have been.  They could have been serious...  even deadly.

Once I AGAIN reflected on how lucky I was, I admitted my appreciation that the tests could be done and could verify that no serious damage was done...  Again, I was truly thankful for the service and compassion they provided.

I sighed, pored over the billings (there were several), determined the amounts I was responsible to pay after insurance paid their part and the appropriate adjustments were made, and paid my part.

Thankfulness kicked in again.  I considered the total cost of the accident, the portion that my insurance took care of, and the tiny part (comparatively speaking) I had to pay.

I learned three things from this experience...  check the ladder BEFORE using it, quit complaining about insurance rates, and that I actually DO know the difference between broken ribs and pulled ribs (which I experience on a far too frequent basis) without an x-ray.

Fast forward...  I receive a bill from the hospital saying I still owed another $850. 

Puzzled, I called the hospital billing department to inquire about this outstanding amount.   Of course, they pointed the finger at the ins company.   I called the ins company and gave them the reason provided by the hospital.  They were confident, unperturbed, and pointed back at the hospital. 

The ins company's service was exemplary, explaining they would sent a note confirming my co-pay was the ONLY thing I should have to pay.  I responsibly noted names, dates, times, and explanations of both the hospital and the ins company, satisfied that this should be resolved.

Fast forward... I receive a bill from the hospital saying I still owed the outstanding $850 WITH the accompanying threat of collection agency involvement.  Collection agency?

Another call to hospital with same explanation given before.  I explained what the ins company said, reading from my notes.  The hospital's response was No, No, NO.... YOU OWE US.   I asked if they could conference the ins company to discuss.  NO.   I asked for a supervisor.  While I waited, I grabbed hubby's cell phone and got the ins company on his phone....

With a cell phone on each ear, I waited for the supervisor at the hospital and brought the ins company, aka Audry, up to speed.  Ins company Audry was as disheartened as I - we see this all the time, she soothed.  Ok, she said, you are ok.... we will get this figured out, she assured me.   Audry was confident and I could feel her strength through the phone.

Hospital supervisor, aka Heather, came on and said she read the notes and then repeated the explanation I had heard over and over.  Ins company Angel Audry (upgraded title) assured hospital Heather that this was, in fact, not the case and went through a list of mathematical notes on the account  and concluded with the amount the patient should pay...  NOT an additional $850. 

Hospital lackey Heather  (downgraded from just hospital Heather) explained that she would need a "letter" confirming the patient's responsibility.  Angel Audry said one was sent....  Lackey Heather said she would look in records.....   (wait for it, waaaiiiit foooooorrrr ittttt)

I am sitting on my bed with two cell phones, one twisted so that voice of one was near speaker of the other, listening to them discuss.   Lackey Heather would not speak directly to Angel Audry, but kept saying my name in her sentences.  I asked if Heather could hear Audry and she said yes.   A privacy thing?  not sure since I was on the phone too....  maybe Heather didn't want to get her shoes dirty talking to Audry while she was sitting on her high horse. 

Lackey Heather's tone suddenly changed....  In all its glory, the "letter" was apparently there, sitting all lonely and ignored....  not acknowledged, not recognized as important, not considered in my "outstanding balance", and not even attached to my "records".  Hmph.   Come down from your horse, Lackey Heather!

Lackey Heather said, covering her A$$, that she did not process these items and that she wasn't sure what happened...  she did try to clean it up by saying that she would alert the billing processers of the existence of this letter, that she would follow up with me when it was completed, and that she would extend the billing cycle so the balance would not be sent to collections.

Trust me when I say I will follow up with Lackey Heather to make sure the balance is zero and request a letter saying that this situation should NOT be an issue with my credit bureau score.

But still, I am grateful for the hospital staff's care, compassion, and concern during my visit.

HOWEVER, the billing department and support staff could use a bit of training/refining regarding the storage of documents, their application to accounts, staff initiative to complete a bit of research into repeated concerns by patients prior to blowing them off, and their ability to apologize.  As you can tell from my thinly veiled sarcasm in the last half of my story, I am a bit bitter than this situation went as far as it did.  HOWEVER, Heather has a chance to earn an apology from me.

Back in the "day", I could almost predict a customer's level of honesty by the decibel number their voice would reach during their attempt to convince me of their version of a situation...  the louder they yelled, the less I tended to believe them.  In most situations, honest information was presented calmly and persistently and lies were presented in a bullying fashion and in excess - sometimes several times a day.   And just as often, their anger is their undoing...  they end up slipping up and telling you enough of the truth to allow their house of cards to fall because with anger comes a lack of control...  oopsy.   

Another situation I experienced regarding health care was during a recent out-patient surgery for hubby.  I was reading a book, sitting patiently waiting for the pre-op prep to be done, expecting to be called back to see him and the doctor before the surgery.  This is what ALWAYS happens and what I was told I could expect when we arrived.   Suddenly, I notice the time and ask how much longer it will be - was there a problem?   They look at their computer, blink, and say he is already in surgery.  WHAT?  I started crying, probably a result of surprise, shock, and frustration.  No pre-op talk with doctor, no seeing him before he goes in, nothing.  I flash to anger.   But... I needed to ask questions of the doctor, I say.  They ask if I want the surgery stopped so I could talk to the doctor.   SERIOUSLY?  I am overwhelmed with this information.   I wasn't called back and they are gong to stop the surgery that we had waited so long for...  no, no.   I sit down and cry, trying to sort this all out.   A manager type person comes over with hubby's nurse, who is horrified, and apologizes, offers a drink, and they respectfully leave.   About an hour later, manager-type brings me an envelope and says they are really sorry about everything that happened and there is a gift inside that hubby and I can enjoy.   The envelope contains a card signed by the manager expressing her apology, her business card, and a Starbucks gift card for $5.  They couldn't fix what had happened and I know that.  It was an emotional event that needed time to resolve itself.  However, putting the price of $5 on it was almost offensive.   I think I would have felt better about the whole thing if they would have apologized, offered a drink, and checked on me again later to see if I needed anything.  After all was said and done, I think the $5 gift card made the biggest impact on me and not in a good way.  I still snort when I think of the gift card...  Neither of us frequent Starbucks.... Can you even buy something at Starbucks for $5?

Heather, I understand...  stuff happens. We make mistakes, have personal issues, work loads, time constraints, limitations set by management, etc, but trust your gut....  sometimes, the customer/patient IS telling the truth and yes, in fact, the problem COULD be on your end... it happens.  No one, and no system, is perfect and most often, a little bit of digging can clear things up - either the truth will come out or the dishonesty will be confirmed.   Either way, you will have done your job, helped another human, and both are the right thing to do...  and most certainly, Karma will log your efforts.  A patient should not have to "tell mom" and force you to look into a repeat concern.  With only a slight amount of effort on your part, I would be singing your praises instead of offering up my thinly veiled sarcasm/frustration regarding your part in this little drama.

Heather, I will give you a couple weeks to clear this up.
United Health Care, hang on to Audry!!  
Audry, I send you additional good Karma for your strength and support!
oh, and Surgical Center, your reparation was a FAIL even though I know you meant well.

Maybe I need some quilting and quilting juice....  I can see that my tolerance level is slipping...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It's so clear now... the meaning of giving

Note that I am posting this with only minimal proofreading.  I felt it was important to get it posted today.  I will, at some point, make some corrections....  or maybe not.  Maybe it needs to be left as-is... raw with emotion. 

Several months ago, my brother, Jay, passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest and brain death.  Once it was determined that he was no longer really with us, the organ donation process was started, per his wishes.  When all was in place, we would remove him from life support, let him go, and send our prayers with each of his donations, wanting the recipients to lead a full and rewarding life as a result of his gift.   It was an odd feeling...  we were heartbroken to lose our son, brother, father, grandfather, and uncle but satisfied that he could  still bestow these gifts upon those that needed them.

Of course, I understood the organ donation process....  someone donates their stuff and someone else gets the stuff.  Sounds simple, right?   What I didn't understand was what it takes to give gifts of this magnitude....  and what it is to receive them.

I won't lie.  The donation process was long, uncomfortable, and well, awful.   I felt I had ran through every ounce of emotional energy to get to the point of making the decision to let Jay go.  By the end of the donation process, I was not sure I could go through it again...  or if I wanted to donate my organs and put my loved ones through the process even though I was fully conscious of the fact that those that received the benefit of Jay's organs and tissues had been far more uncomfortable for far longer than I.  

The benefits of Jay's donations were realized almost immediately.  We were advised that his kidneys were successfully gifted to two gentlemen the very next day and that they were doing well.  Yes, I felt some gratification.  We were told the remaining tissue would be treated and stored until it was needed and could help many individuals, including burn victims.

But the process still sucked.   It seemed like we had been in limbo forever as we waited to make the decision to let Jay go and for the donation process.   It went through my mind that we could quit...  back out...  I wanted it over...  I knew we wouldn't...  I knew we couldn't... but it didn't stop the desperate thoughts.

It seemed that for months, my thoughts of my last moments with Jay were related to the donation process.  I was a little resentful this uncomfortable process replaced the memories I wanted to hold on to from those last hours with him.   As they say, time heals all and I learned to move those memories around and focus on the ones I wanted to remember.  The sharp edges of the donation process softened and my life moved forward.  I had no idea that this would all come back to me with such a velocity that my world would be forever changed.

My husband, a retired firefighter, has suffered with the traditional problems of long-time firemen:  bad knees, bad back, and bad shoulders.  Each year, his range of motion was decreasing and his pain was increasing. 

His right shoulder was repaired a number of years ago without incident and it was time to repair the left shoulder.  However, complications popped up. 

While three of the ligaments could be repaired, the ligament that runs along the top of the shoulder and is attached to the ball was so damaged, and had been damaged so long, that repair was impossible.  Years ago, the only option for this type of situation would be full shoulder replacement.   Shoulder replacement was complicated, possibly a short term solution, and required a long recovery period.

Fortunately, advancements in modern medicine included development of a consistently successful grafting of a two sections of tendons.  Cool!!!   Let's do it.

This morning, we prepared for surgery, arriving timely at the surgical center and feeling like we knew the routine since we had done this before.

This afternoon, my husband received a section of dermis, specifically a section of tendon, from a donor.  This donor section was grafted to the damaged end of his tendon and the surgeon was able to rebuild the attachment to the ball of the shoulder.

I hadn't even considered how a section of tendon would just magically appear at the end of the surgeon's scalpel to be grafted to my husband's tendon.  I am sure they mentioned it at some point..... didn't they?  Then I considered it.  And that's when it struck me....

An organ donor.

This evening, my husband is home, in his recliner,  looking forward to being able to use his shoulder again.

An organ donor.

Someone passed away and their family waited patiently, and probably uncomfortably, while the process was initiated and completed.... and their efforts helped my husband. 

Did that someone's family also pray that the recipient of the tissue would lead a full and rewarding life with their gift?

While I waited for the surgery to be completed, I further contemplated the lives involved in this exchange.   I could have looked at it as just a surgery.  No, I couldn't.  Perhaps prior to my brother's death I could, but things seemed different to me now.  When had they changed?  Maybe my brother's final gift to me was an awakening... an appreciation of the things I could so easily take for granted...  or not even notice.

Of course, the donor's information is private and protected but I knew they must have wanted to help others by giving what they could no longer use.  They gave to enrich the lives of others...   they gave to people they did not know.  They gave regardless of color, sexual orientation, or religion.   They gave everything they had.   They couldn't give more.    They had to be a good person...  how could they not?

I considered my husband.... a good man....  a fireman.   A man who chose a career that required him to risk himself to help others.   He helped others without knowing their name, their age, or if they likes artichokes.  He let kids wear his helmet, offered help on the side of the highway, and pulled a Great Dane and her puppies from a burning building.  He was a man who was viewed as a hero but wanted nothing more than to never, EVER hear another alarm.  He was a man who continued on, knowing his knees and back and shoulders were being destroyed.

Ok, so we have a tissue donor and a recipient.  But it seems more than that.  There is a circle here somehow...    someone helped someone who helped someone.

Perhaps I am feeling that this particular circle is more personal than it really is.  Perhaps it only matters that I am grateful for the two parts of the circle that is in my line of sight:  the fireman... and for the donor...  two people who gave so much... two people that most likely never met.... but two people who gave as much as they could.

Perhaps I would like to believe that, on some cosmic level, I can see this circle in its entirety.  A fireman helped the donor.  The donor helped a fireman.

It could have so many names:
Paying it forward...

Doesn't really matter, I guess.  The important thing is that I now understand about the giving of what can not be bought... and the receiving of what can not be sold.   I want to be part of this wonderful cycle... No.  I want to be part of many of them....  now and forever.

To the family of the donor...   thank you...  and I understand.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why do I do this to myself?

I just can't leave well enough alone....

Hubby will need to have surgery on his shoulder at some point in the future.  In the meantime, he is to wear a sling to support his arm and, mostly, to remind him to NOT use the arm for most applications.  

These slings are ugly things...  but why not?  They are supposed to be medical appliances, not fashion statements.  Ours, left from a previous should surgery, is washable, making it somewhat acceptable

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Thrilled with the contrtibutions!

I offered some of the faux doggie vests just prior to Easter, offering to mail the vests at my cost with a donation of any amount to the post-secondary education account I set up for my niece and nephews after my brother, their sole provider, passed.

I received three adorable photos of poopies sporting their vests....

How cute are they?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The little dogs will be dressed well too !

....  the saga of the faux vests for the doggies continues.....

I had needed something to do with my hands due to the passing of my brother and the two broken ribs I suffered in a fall.   I do better staying busy but because of the ribs, I was limited in what I could do.

I stumbled upon the idea for neckerchiefs from spending time with a BFF in February.  It was something I could do that didn't take a lot of concentration and I could still be productive.  Fortunately, I had all necessary parts and pieces to make the faux vests.

As a result of my efforts, I was able to donate over 70 faux vests and neckerchiefs to the Rescues for their use at Adoption Events.   A vast majority of those vests fit large and extra large dogs.

And that was wonderful.  I was happy and satisfied....  the dogs would certainly by "stylin'"....

....but what about the little poopies???  tthe smaller dogs would be attending the Events "naked" if I didn't act quickly.... so I grabbed my scissors once again!

As I was cutting, I made a private commitment of donating the smaller sized faux vests in the name of CB and MI, who had also generously contributed to the post-secondary education fund I set up for my niece and nephews.  I felt this important as the kids had lost their sole parent when my brother passed.

I gathered my supplies and spend an afternoon cutting the vests, collars, and bowties from my pre-selected fabrics while binge watching on Netflix.  I just started cutting...  and I kept cutting.

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Years Day Mystery Quilt

Yes, I am extremely tardy in posting this but some things can't wait and some things can. 

I love doing Mystery Quilts, which is when you are give quantities and instructions periodically in steps but you have no idea how the quilt will actually look when its done. Mostly, you just pray for guidance and hope for the best.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you just aren't sure.

When given the quantities for the New Years Day project, which was intended to be finished in one day, I looked through my fabrics and picked a fabric that I really just wanted to use up.  I looked around for bits and pieces that I thought would coordinate well but was well aware that some of the quantities were only marginally enough based on the information provided by the quilt designer.

The main fabric that I wanted to go was a bit of My Little Pony fabric that was leftover from what, I have NO idea...  it had been that long.   I had my pile of fabrics and considered them long and hard before beginning.  I decided that I chose it and I was going to go with my gut.

Near the end of assembling the blocks, I knew I was running dangerously low on some of the fabrics... especially the bold turquoise but I forged forward and made sure I cut carefully and made no mistakes.

Not knowing how a quilt will look in the end really hampers me in trying to predict the final outcome of the fabric choices.  Its all about balance but there is a learning curve in predicting balance.

The blocks were finished and the turquoise was used up and I was pretty happy with the quilt but the size was a bit small.  So I tried to make it larger....

That's where I think I made my mistake:   I added a border of My Little Pony on each end and then threw in a row of flying geese and another row of the Pony fabric. 

I think it really needed a bit of turquoise between the geese and the Pony fabric but there was no more and I really wanted to use up the Pony stuff.

I used the striped fabric for the binding and while its not really ugly, it could be a lot better if I had used some yellow to warm it up and more turquoise because the overall color palette is cool.

It still needs to be quilted and it will get done...  hopefully this summer...  when its hot and I spend all day in the studio (which is no different than any other day I can sneak away for a studio day).

They say there is no ugly quilt so I suppose the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I am sure that someday, I will meet some little girl who will think this is just the cat's meow!!

If you meet this little girl, send her my way !!!

Make someone's day !!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

A somewhat funny (funny only after years have passed) but true story:  

I bought a house from an older lady during the summer and the next spring, I finally got around to cleaning out around the outside of the house.... You know the drill: