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Sunday, June 12, 2011

When it all goes down

I ponder in the dark how fate shapes the fleshy clay of my life.
A blind idiot potter molds me on a spinning wheel with delight.
Mocking logic's symmetry, I always thought the potter was me.

I am Will's Sense of Righteous Indignation

I must confess I had lived many years without any medical care. Being uninsured had me thinking that medicine was something that others had access to. Care and treatment seemed to be a luxury afforded to the rest of humanity but not to me. I lived an unexamined life, whistling past the graveyard, and deep in denial. I was one of those people they call the working uninsured. Living on borrowed time as I danced on the edge of disaster.

Then something happened that was a life changing moment. I was on my day off from work, busy preparing for the beginning of my work week. I had just finished dinner when I discovered that I needed to make a quick run to the convenience store 2 blocks away from my home. It was a cold night at the end of February, The sky was clear but the moon had yet not risen. The day had been warm and sunny, a day filled with the promise of spring. The warmth had melted the ice that covered a parking lot chose to I cut across to save time. I did not see the patch of black ice that waited for me. A silent trap, hidden in the shadows.

In a second I was no longer hurrying to the store. It was like a giant hand had reached out and slammed me like a rag doll on the unyielding ice skinned asphalt. Time slowed as I fell, and I could hear that sharp snap, and feel the pain as my humerus snapped like a dry twig. The nausea and the blurring of the senses from shock rushed up on me like a cold wave. It drove home to me the knowledge that I was in serious trouble. I tried to sit up, I could not move. I was on the ice and could not get enough traction to push myself up. My strength was gone, and my left arm was so much dead meat anchoring me to the spot. I lay on my back and breathed deep. My survival instincts took over. That primal part of me rose up, I wanted to live so yelled out with all my might for help.

I am not sure how long I laid there, it could be mere minutes, it could be longer. What I do remember was seeing a shadow cross me, I looked in that direction and saw a police officer. He asked if I needed help, I almost cried, not tears of pain, but the joyful tears of the rescued. By then I was numb from shock and starting to experience the effects of exposure. My speech was slurred but I made it clear that I was unable to get up and yes, please get me help. He called in for an ambulance and I waited.

As I laid there someone who identified himself as a doctor, but never presented anything to establish his claim walked up and stated that I must be drunk and I merely had a dislocated shoulder. I am not sure who he was, all I know is his diagnosis could have not been more wrong. At the time I did not know how this misdiagnosis would effect my ability to get the treatment I needed when healing.

The ambulance appeared and they lifted me onto the gurney. The pain woke up and it became apparent that I definitely needed to be in the emergency room. The next 6 hours were a blur as I phased in and out of the consciousness. I finally got a call through to family to come help me, and my employer. to call off. I was finally put into the first of several casts and released. The next days I was in the office of an orthopedic specialist, being put through the medical torture chamber.

Fast forward a few weeks. I was still in a temporary cast. They could not locate the clam shell mini cast that would be my exoskeleton for the duration of my treatment until a radiologist found one that would fit me. I was forced to wait for it because they would not order a new one without insurance. I had to forgo surgery that would speed up the healing process, in spite of this I recovered, slowly, and with some loss of mobility, but the bone segments grew and fused. During this time it was my own initiative that meant the most to my recovery.

Due to the length of recovery I lost my job. The doctor would not release me for full duty. Even after the cast came off I was faced with self managed home physical rehabilitation I was in limbo. I could not draw unemployment because of the injury, I could not file a claim on the owner of the parking lot I fell on. My savings were dwindling, and the medical bills kept rolling in. I was forced to seek charity, a bitter pill to swallow. While at the trustee's office I saw a form for the Healthy Indiana Plan. I applied and I was accepted so I now had insurance for the first time in decades.

Once I got insurance I still thought a checkup was not needed. I felt fine, life was good, and I was leading a charmed life. The reason I scheduled a physical was to have my unused benefits added to my policy when it was renewed. I was in for a reality check in more ways than one. Before my diagnosis I had not paid any attention to the issue of medical care, let alone becoming my own advocate when it involved dealing with medical care providers.

I hate to say it but I have found that the only way to get things done about medical issues it to be the squeakiest wheel on the machine. Too many doctors take it for granted that you know as much as they do about esoteric medical matters. Most pharmacies assume you and the doctor know all the answers and will duly dodge any initiative to go the extra mile. Insurance companies try to make you shut up and be a cash cow as cheaply as possible so they can profit from all the confusion and suffering.

It has been quite a journey, I am no longer a naive babe in the woods. I know that If I am going to thrive I have to become my own champion in my battle with my condition. We can ill afford to be a passive recipient of what the system will give us. We must be brave, bold and speak loudly to our needs. There is strength in numbers, and if we all rise up and not surrender to despair and apathy we can improve our lot in life. We can fight the good fight and win or lose we can be make a difference. The world faces an epidemic of diabetes. We need to be active in the quest to heal ourselves and those who come into our world without any idea of what they face. What am I going to do about it? What are you going to do about it? What can we all do together to solve this crisis? Does it make you as angry as it does me? I am listening and have that blind hope that some way, some how we will find the answers.

It is time to step off my soapbox and take a personal few baby steps. I will keep you all in my hopes and dreams. Till we meet again, live your life with passion, live it with joy, and wonder. Be good to yourself, and do something good for others. We are all in this together.