Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just Say No To Medical Fluff

Would you go in to a car dealership, jewelry store, a realtor's office, a clothing store. . . . or anyplace and say, "Just give me what you think I ought to have. I don't care what it costs."

I wouldn't.  But when a physician ordered three MRIs and an EVR  it took several phone calls to find out how much they would cost. I guess when it comes to medical tests, hospitals consider that I am one of two kinds of people.  I'm either a person with medical coverage - in which case I shouldn't be so gauche as to ask how much something should cost; or I'm a person without insurance in which case. . . well, in which case I wouldn't have gotten as far as to see a physician to have tests scheduled in the first place.

As near as I can tell with the information I was able to rip from the strong, tight jaws of the hospital and my insurance company, my responsibility will be for 20% of the charge plus $75.  That means ol' Fay here, would end up spending $2441.60. 
That's right, the charge for the three MRIs and some test where I stare into a box with changing lights for a couple of hours - which by the way, sounds to me like something guaranteed to cause a migraine - is $11,833.  This does not include the tests on the three quarts of blood they took from my ever-weakening arm.

Well, I ain't doin' it.  I've had MRIs before. They showed some spots on my brain.  I reckon they'll still be there.  But this guy doesn't even want to see my old pictures.  Actually, I'm kicking myself for going to this neurologist in the first place.  Well, live and learn.

Seriously, what was I thinking?  This electrician doesn't care about symptoms.  He cares about numbers and locations of spots.  He's a spot-treater. 

Well I don't care about the spots. I would like to stop running into door jams and having blurry vision.  I'd like to stop toppling from personal earthquakes and I'd like my muscles to behave.  How will counting spots do that?  He can't answer that question.

So I fired him. 

But what sort of a system is this where physicians see you for 15 minutes and order $12,000 worth of tests?  Where it's so rare to ask for the cost of procedures that the hospital switchboard isn't really even sure how to forward the call? Where physicians don't care about symptoms, which are subjective but only signs that can be measured and calibrated.  Do you think this sort of practice has anything to do with why 40% of South Carolinians can't afford health care coverage at all?

I'm very grateful to have "good insurance" and I think it's too precious to use frivolously.  Just because my local hospital has an MRI machine and I have insurance isn't a good enough reason for me to have $12,000 worth of pictures.

I want to make sure that the main reason I'm having a test or procedure isn't because I have "good insurance."

I'm the one running the show when it comes to my health care.  I hire my physicians and fire them if they don't answer my questions.  I pay for my insurance and copay and deductibles and vitamins and medications and I am responsible for deciding what is necessary and helpful and what is just fancy, fluffy, unbelievably expensive procedures.

I don't have to be a physician.  If my physician can't or won't explain things in a way I can understand,  or if she somehow makes me feel as if I shouldn't be asking, she isn't doing her job.  And we all have to be responsible for understanding as well as we can, our health care and be willing to say "Enough is enough, already!"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In a Pickle

In early spring, when planting a garden, it's impossible to remember how big tomato plants get and how many cucumbers one vine produces.  It's inevitable, then, that I over plant each time. 

Why do cucumber seeds come in such large numbers anyway?  The only reason I can think of, is that the people who package the seeds expect us to lose at least three quarters of the produce hidden under leaves until they are just too big to do anything with except to look at them in wonder. 

This year I planted some little pickling varieties so I could pick them at a reasonable three inch length to make into dills.  But if I don't get out there to pick them twice a day, and if I don't find them in their hiding places under the wide leaves in time, they just become shorter, fatter, too-big-to-use, gold-green monstrosities.  I swear today a vine grabbed me as I was passing by and pointed at some of the little devils that were hiding from me. 

Zucchini will hide from a gardener, too.  But even a very large zucchini can be used for something.  I've stuffed and baked a couple this year with a sausage, Parmesan, onion, bread crumb stuffing. That was quite yum.  And I plan to grate a hider tomorrow and make some zucchini bread.  Once when I was very young, a zucchini got away from my dad until it was the size of a newborn.  I drew a face on it and wrapped it in a blanket.  But an overgrown cucumber would make one very ugly baby doll.  You just have to find them in time, that's all.

Even with the hiding vegetables, I always bring in more vegetables than seems possible, from vines that move around the garden like homesteaders. And I've got lots and lots of volunteer cucumbers as well as squash and melons that appeared where ever I used my home made compost.

And tomato plants!  When I buy them they are just tiny little things in four inch pots.  And those tomato cages?  Give me a break!  They are made to fit the tomato plants in my planting-time imagination, not the Godzilla-sized dark green trees that are crowded together making a jungle of my garden now.  Those plants ate my little tomato cages about a month ago. 

Tomatoes don't have the color camouflage thing going for them, so the plants have developed their own protection. Picking tomatoes in my garden requires courage.  I have to brave the mosquitoes and Grimm knows what else that might be lurking in the deep, dark recesses of the tomato patch.  But if ever there was a worthy adventure it's doing just that.  I could probably live on ripe tomatoes still warm from the vine. 

For some reason, I think pepper plants should be planted near tomatoes, so finding peppers is a trick, too.  But let me say this.  If I had to walk through snake-filled pits and jump shark filled water to pick fresh veggies, I would do it.

Yesterday I made 21 half pints and ten pints of a variety of pickles and canned 5 pints of green beans and a quart of tomatoes.  Today I made a big bowl of gazpacho.  And of course I eat fresh tomatoes and cucumbers at every turn. 

Having too many fresh vegetables is like having too many friends, or too much beauty, or too much smarts.  I'm learning to live with it. Is life good, or what?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Carthage With My Girls!

I'm back in my hometown, Carthage Illinois, for a few more hours.  I've been around for over a week.  Probably the best place to celebrate a Fourth of July is in a little Midwestern town in the middle of corn fields.  There was a street dance and a parade and lots of food and fireworks, of course.  Great good fun.

Of course, I haven't been back for a while so lots of folks didn't recognize me at first.

They'd say, "Weren't you Nancy's sister?" expressing some amount of disbelief. To this I'd answer, "Oh, yes, Nancy. Poor thing. But really, she's not nearly so ugly now."
(My sister was and is gorgeous)

My favorite is all the people who came up to me and said, "Oh, you're Phyllis Campbell, I remember you!  You used to be so cute!"

Excuse me? Used to be? Well, ok, I can see their point.  I used  to be cute, and now I'm hot and beautiful.  That must be what they are talking about.  Cause Babies, it's true.  I'm fully expecting 55, an age which I'll become in a matter of days, to be the slickest year yet.

I can't imagine what could be better than being 55.  I still got it and I know how to use it.  Life is grand!  The best part is that I'm not in competition with anyone anymore.  I know what I'm good at and I know what I'm not good at and what the heck, if it makes me happy I'll do the not-good-at things with gusto.  If I would have had this confidence when I was young, I would have been. . . .

Oh, who cares.  The important thing is that every single event that I've lived has led me to (drum roll please)  this living example of the Goddess I am today!

I got to see Richard, Mike. Roger, Shirli, Sherry, other classmates whom I believe have learned the secret. I talked with Amy, Dean, Brucie (just love him) Deborah Kay, Little Ricky, Robbie, and lots of people who were in other classes.  I could just hug them and hug them.  How fun to see us all grown up. And now it doesn't matter who's got the cool clothes, who has the clear skin or the longest hair or the nicest car or gets the best grades.  I don't remember who was a cheerleader.

But mostly, I got to hang with my girls.  When you've known someone since age 3 and have always had a special language; when you know their ickiest secrets and they know yours; when you've had angry times, and sad times, and silly times, and lonely times and somehow stuck together through it all - when you don't try to suck in your tummy or even have to put on makeup to sit comfortably with them - when you carry them daily in your heart and in your mind and in your soul - those are friends.

And it's not because we have that much in common.  We live in different states.  Jac has been married for a gazillion years to the same really cool guy. Graham has never married, and I have got the marriage thing well practiced.  No one brags about our marital status and I know we can all see the advantages in all situations.

We've all had very different experiences in life.  Whew!  And among us, we've covered enough experiences to keep a novelist quite happy for volumes.  We are different shapes and sizes, though we are all beautiful and perfect.  What we have in common is Carthage Illinois.  Go figure.

I can (and have) made and received phone calls from these women at what would be considered inappropriate times by other people without a second thought.  I have verbally cut down people who've said bad things about them and I'm sure they've done the same for me.  Heck, I've even been in (a much exaggerated, but nonetheless true) bar fight defending one of them.  I would gladly kick ass and take names for these women, or fly cross country to be with them, or give them my last piece of chewing gum. 

Being with them is precious and I'm so, so glad to have had this time.  I don't need a therapist, I've got my girls!  Graham, Jac, I love you.