Friday, June 1, 2012
Yet Another Healthcare Rant
As someone who has been without healthcare more than she has had healthcare, I feel strongly about the subject. I took one of my current jobs, even though I knew I wouldn't really enjoy it, JUST to get the healthcare I needed to take care of a cantaloupe sized tumor in my uterus. No, it wasn't malignant, because if it HAD been, I wouldn't be here right now. Because the tumor was growing in a muscle, taking it out wasn't really an option. I could either wait until I went through menopause ( and I didn't know when that would happen) which would cause the tumor to shrink, or I could have a uterine artery embolization (cutting the blood supply off to the tumor, causing it to die) or have a hysterectomy. I took the less intrusive route. It worked, but yet it didn't. I ended up with an infection, causing me to lose 17 pounds in six weeks. I had no appetite, I was in pain, had a period for an entire month, and was throwing up, yet both doctors said, "that's not unusual." I popped Advil and Midol until one day, I was in so much pain I wanted to die. I called up my obgyn and told her, "do something about this pain or kill me." That got their attention (the two phone calls I'd made to them over the course of a few weeks obviously didn't matter to them) so they got me in right away. Prior to that emergency appointment, I'd had a CAT scan at a local hospital, because I was convinced I had cancer. I mean I had some bad things going on: vomiting, loss of appetite, excruciating pain. Obviously SOMETHING was going on, and I was worried. The scan didn't show anything unusual, according to the person I asked. But my obgyn looked at the films, and had the surgeon look at the films, and said, "she's got an infection." So why did the tech or whoever I talked to say nothing was showing up, yet the surgeon said, "she's got an infection"? Bear in mind these are U.S. doctors. I had my surgery in the U.S. covered under my employer's health insurance. Long story short, I had to have an "emergency" hysterectomy. I should have had that done in the first place, but I've always made the wrong choice. Luckily, I was still employed, and still had health care coverage, so I went through a second surgery in four months. I had everything taken out, plunging me into menopause. I didn't want to risk holding on to my one remaining ovary, and worrying about ovarian cancer. Shortly after my hysterectomy, I became achy. What would have happened if I didn't have insurance? Would the tumor have grown so big it would have burst my colon or my bladder? MRI films show the tumor so big, it was actually starting to curl around my spine, like a giant jelly bean. My uterus was the size of a woman who was four months pregnant. I had to pee almost all the time. Before I had my hysterectomy, little chunks of tumor were falling out of my body. I would take pictures of them as they floated in the toilet. However, a couple days after my call to my obgyn begging them to put my out of my misery, I passed the mother of all tumors after a huge shrimp dinner. I was on the toilet, feeling like something was in my vagina. I hadn't used tampons in months, so I knew it couldn't be that. I stood up and wiggled, thinking whatever was in there would fall out. It didn't. I reached between my legs and pulled out a piece of tumor the size of a chicken breast. I wish I had a camera to see the expression on my face. I knew this was a part of the tumor. I took pictures of it, placing it beside a shampoo bottle so you could see how big it was. it was four inches long, six and a half inches around, and about six ounces. I brought it in to my obgyn so she could see it and said it was the biggest tumor she's ever seen self-delivered. The surgery did its job, causing the tumor to die off, but I still had bad, bad pain and a lot of blood loss. So I had the hysterectomy. I don't regret it, but I always think, "what if I hadn't had insurance? What if I'd been fired right after the first surgery?" I think about these things, because I am absolutely disgusted and horrified that I live in a country that is so wealthy, yet if you go to local businesses, you see flyers for hog roast benefits to help pay for someone's medical expenses. Does anyone reading this think this is absolutely disgusting and shameful? Does anyone else think it's pathetic to see cans on counters begging for spare change because someone's child has cancer and they don't have insurance? Or are we so heartless in this country that we adapt the attitude (as one of my co-workers has) that "we all have to die sometime"? People criticize socialized medicine because they think the quality of care will go down. Based on my experience, can it really get much worse? My sister-in-law was misdiagnosed. She was having high fevers, but they kept telling her it was the flu. Drenched in sweat, she crawled to the room my brother was sleeping in (he didn't want to be drenched in sweat) and told him she had to go to the ER, this wasn't the flu. Turned out to be a heart infection. Whoops. So she is taking medicine intraveneously for six weeks. Best health care in the world, my ass! Yet you will find people with health problems, or courting health problems who don't think we should have a nationalized health plan. I can't understand why people think health is evil, or wanting people to have coverage is evil. Could they look into their children's faces ( assuming they don't have health insurance) and deny their children's illnesses? Would anyone have the balls to tell their kid, "everyone has to die sometime?" But at the same time, I look around me, and I wonder if Americans deserve health care at all. People want to do whatever they want, and not worry about the consequences. One of my co-workers is totally aginst socialzed medicine, but smokes. What are the odds if she winds up with lung cancer that she will want every life-saving measure out there to be available to her? And does that make her a hypocrite if she gets chemo, but continues to smoke, like another co-worker does? I'm sorry, but if you smoke, and you get lung cancer, and you're getting chemo, but STILL continue to smoke, you are a hypocrite, and you are wasting money. If I were in charge of an insurance company, I would deny any cancer treatment if you have a history of smoking. The last time I checked, smoking was not a part of the four food groups. And yet my own mother smoked, and Medicare paid for her bladder removal surgery (she had cancer of the bladder, which really surprised her) and her hysterectomy. It bought her six more years of life, but she had to glue a plastic bag on her abdomen so she could get rid of her urine. She joked that now she could pee standing up. But if she hadn't smoked for 50 years, would she still be alive now? Where would I have ended up? I would not have been a truck driver had she stayed alive. She was terrified of big trucks, and I know I would not have tried truck driving if she'd been alive. Would I still have my tumor? Or would I have found other work with insurance that would have taken care of it? The problem is, Americans don't want to take responsibility for their actions. Even conservatives against social programs are the first in line to demand disability because they are 400 or 500 pounds and they either can't find work, or they are developing physical problems so they can't work at all. Yes, they "paid" into the system, so they are entitled to benefits, but you can't convince me that working 15 or 20 years and paying into the system is enough to give them $1200 a month living expenses, plus pay for all the medical services they will need. I had a friend who died last September, and he was 43 years old. I don't know how many years he was on disability, but I wonder how much he paid into the system, versus how much money was used to support him. Then, there's Ida May Fuller, who paid into Social Security when she was 63, and retired two years later, at 65. She paid something like $24.75 total, over a period of two years, and when she retired, she lived another 35 years. Over that period of time, she received nearly $29,000 in Social Security, which is a 1000 percent return on investment. That's pretty damn good. This is an extreme case, but it's something to think about. Yes, you may have "paid" into the system, but in my opinion, if the only income you have is a check that says "U.S. Treasury" on it, you are being supported by the government. Which means there are people out there who are getting SS taxes deduced from their checks to support YOU. It's a great big Ponzi system. It may have been a good idea, and I would like to see it continue, but if we don't have enough people working to deduct taxes from, then what? I have an IRA and 401 K, but there's hardly anything in both of them. Part of it is my own fault, jumping from crap job to crap job, but I think I am on the right track now, and hope to further my education so I have a job I enjoy which pays well. If I have to work until I'm 75, I damn well want to be doing something I don't hate. One of my biggest fears is to be stuck at age 65, working retail, and depressed that I won't be able to get hired anywhere else. Maybe Americans DON'T deserve health care. I despair over my weight, and I've got to do something, instead of saying I'm going to do something. Stop eating out, eat more fruits and vegetables, do more intense workouts. I had to go to RediMed for a bout with poison ivy, and I'm the heaviest I've ever been, plus my blood pressure is higher than normal. It could be because I'm drinking caffeinated pop again, it could be the weight gain, even though sometimes I eat maybe once or twice a day. It's not like I devour a cake a day, or an entire bag of chips at one setting. But I've got to do something. Because I'm scared. I'm tired of looking at my fat self in the mirror, and wondering how much time I have left before my knees start going, or I develop heart problems or diabetes. Or maybe I can just say "fuck it" and gain another 150 or 200 pounds and try and get disability. It's disheartening to realize the obesity problem, but depressing to see people not care that they look like human bowling balls. I'm really tired of seeing people who are really, really fat. What the hell happened? Are the additives in food so bad it's contributing to the obesity problem? I really wouldn't be surprised if there were. Or do we just plain eat too much? I cut back on my work schedule because it was stressing me out. I realized that having more time was important to me, and I think I made the right decision. I'm exercising more, and while I haven't lost weight, I feel stronger and feel like I have more stamina. Since I hate to cook, it would make sense for me to stock up on fruits and veggies that I didn't have to cook (cooking takes the nutrients out of veggies anyway) and just eat those, maybe making a meat dish twice a week. I'm saving for a juicer, because I saw a movie called "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead." It was a documentary about an Australian, a wealthy businessman, who went on a two-month juice fast, talking to people in New York City for a month, then traveling across the United States demonstrating the juice he was living on. He was able to reduce his meds big time, as well as lose about 80 pounds in the process and feel much better. I dread having to be on medicine anyway, and try to avoid it. And I also have a problem with doctors. I had a rash on my had for literally decades. It would come and go, but it would go away when I used a steroid based ointment on my hands. Once the ointment was gone, the rash would come back. The doctor who prescribed it said the rash could be caused by one of several hundred things. He didn't ask me about my diet, or anything I might be touching. One day, I was looking at a magazine cover, and it asked the question, "are you bloated and trying to lose weight?" I was, and bought the magazine. It listed a condition called candida, where yeast grows like crazy in the intestines, once one ingests a little bit of sugar. I happened to be eating a LOT of sugar at the time, so I did what the article said. I cut back on my sugar, started taking L-Glutamine ($17 a bottle) and started eating foods that would combat the candida. And in a week, my hand rash I'd had for decades was GONE. For less than $30, I'd cured myself. And I'm not even a fucking doctor! Which makes me think that most doctors just don't care. They will prescribe the medicine, without taking a good look at what ails you. Or hell, who knows? Maybe the doctor assumed that if he told me to cut back on the sugar and take a supplement, I would have said, "fuck that, give me the ointment." At $95 a tube (and me uninsured) I would have opted for the supplement and not as much sugar. So yes, socialized medicine isn't perfect, but neither is what supposedly qualifies as "health care" in this so-called great land of ours. I think the answer lies in better nutrition. But you don't make much money off healthy people. You make money off the sick. And in showering us with ever bigger proportions (you want the most you can get for your food dollar after all) we are getting bigger and bigger. And more diabetic. And more obese. And getting heart problems, and bone problems, and so on, and so forth. In a lot of cases, the choice is up to Americans. Stop eating crap and start exercising. What's that? You don't like people telling you what to do? Okay, fine. Keep smoking, keep subsiding on your Little Debbie snack cake and pita chip diet. Only, realize that you need to face the consequences. If' I'd known what caused my tumor, I might have been able to do something about it. I asked both my doctors, and they said they don't know what causes fibroid tumors. I suspect decades of drinking cola might have something to do with it. Maybe I'll never know. But I'm convinced that perhaps 50-70 percent of health problems could be avoided by eating properly. I know this, yet I find it hard to resist the lure of Coca-Cola and chips, or fries at McDonald's. It's hard. It really is. But I don't want to end up in a nursing home because of bad health. Maybe I'm doomed anyway. But no matter what, I want to be able to live life, and ski and walk and jog and ride horses and do those things for as long as I can. Because I found it very depressing that the only person interested in going skiing with me was a co-worker in his early 60s. Don't get me wrong; we had a great time and I'd like to go skiing with him again, but when friends your own age are too fat/scared/lazy to ski with you, and your skiing companion is not only 20 years older than you, but in better shape than you or any of your friends, it's sort of mind-boggling.