I’m extremely thankful to have health insurance

I’m so, so thankful I have health insurance. I received a statement in the mail from the University of Maryland Medical Center for the surgery to remove part of my large bowel last month.

I'm extremely thankful to have health insurance - Bent Corner
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Because I have health insurance, my out of pocket cost for the whole thing was zero.

I’m lucky to have health insurance. Actually, I’m lucky to be married to Sheri who works for a company that offers health insurance at a subsidized cost. One of the drawbacks of working in the gig economy is that I don’t have employer-subsidized health insurance. That’s because I’m my own employer.  And yes, my boss is a real jerkface.

Not having health insurance is not an option

I’d like to think I wouldn’t put myself into a situation where I didn’t have health insurance. Without actually being in that situation, I can’t be 100 percent certain, but if Sheri didn’t have access to health insurance, I would get a job, any job that provided subsidized health insurance.

The topic of not having health insurance has come up recently in the online Magic: The Gathering community. Wedge, a popular YouTuber, does not have health insurance. He had a serious problem with his back and traveled against doctor’s orders to Grand Prix Las Vegas from upstate New York. The day after he arrived, he woke up not being able to move his legs.

He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and had surgery the following day. Being that he didn’t have health insurance, his sister started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his hospital bills. So far they’ve raised nearly $80,000.

I'm extremely thankful to have health insurance - Bent Corner
Wedge

Because of people who donated to the GoFundMe campaign, he was able to make a huge dent in his medical costs.

I'm extremely thankful to have health insurance - Bent Corner

For everyone’s sake, I hope Wedge does whatever he needs to do to get health insurance. First, it’s the law. Secondly, I doubt people will donate to a GoFundMe campaign the next time he has something majorly wrong with his health. Then again, maybe they will. It’s really hard to say for certain. If there’s anything people online can be counted on to do, it’s doing the unexpected.

My wife is my hero

If I wasn’t on Sheri’s health insurance, if she didn’t work for a company that provided subsidized health insurance, I’d have to jettison my dream of driving strangers in my car and get a job doing something I hated even more than driving strangers in my car. I could still do e-commerce integration jobs on the side. I could also still sell WordPress plugins on my business website. The nice thing about that stream of revenue is it’s all automatic. I created the plugins a while back and people can buy them and then download them without any action taken by me. It’s all automatic. Someone bought one last night when I was sleeping.

Making money while you sleep is the real American dream.

I cannot wait for Thanksgiving this year

I'm extremely thankful to have health insurance - Bent CornerI’m looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. I have quite a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful to be married to the greatest woman in the world. When I first experienced complications from what would be later diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I’m thankful I was taken by ambulance to Meritus Medical Center where I received world-class care, especially from the nurses on staff. I’m also extremely thankful to have Dr. Tu Bui as my primary doctor. He not only provides excellent care when I see him for an office visit, he visited me in the hospital several times. In fact, he told me I had Crohn’s before any of the experts in gastroenterology made the diagnoses. He’s the best primary care doctor I’ve ever had. Finally, I’m extremely thankful I was able to have Dr. Andrea Bafford perform the surgery that saved my life. 

I’m a lucky and thankful man.

I bet you my large bowel is smaller than yours

Last Wednesday I went to the University of Maryland Medical Center and had a portion of my large bowel removed. Crohn’s disease damaged it. It made part of my large bowel narrow and difficult for waste to travel from point A to point B. It’s what caused the G.I. blockage that almost killed me the end of last year.

The surgery was scheduled for 10:00 AM, so I was instructed to check in to the hospital at 8:00 AM. Living about 80 miles away, Sheri and I got there early and I checked in at 7:30 AM. We were taken back to the pre-op area and I was told to remove all my clothes and put on a hospital gown and grip socks and to get in bed.

Hurry up and wait

We then waited. And waited. The scheduled start time of 10:00 AM came and went. We were first told Dr. Andrea C Bafford, the surgeon doing the procedure, was running late on her first surgery. Then, later on, we were told she was called away to perform emergency surgery.

With the passing of each hour, I was afraid my surgery was going to be canceled.

Finally, at 4:45 PM, they wheeled me away to surgery. The surgery began at 5:10 PM and it lasted longer than three hours.

The surgery room looked much different than what I’m used to seeing on TV. There were a lot of people there. University of Maryland Medical Center is a teaching hospital so it made sense there was an abundance of people there in learning mode. I remember there was an anesthesiologist, a nurse anesthetist, and a student anesthetist. The anesthetist was a short woman and she was wearing a black Hello Kitty scrub cap. I immediately liked the cut of her jib and I felt like my life was in good hands.

The robots are taking over!

The da Vinci® Surgical System

 

Dr. Bafford was not only doing the surgery endoscopically, but she was using a robot. I saw the robot. It was huge and scary looking. It looked like a multi-armed murderbot sent back in time to exterminate humanity. I don’t trust robots, but I fully trusted Dr. Bafford.

Even though I shaved my skull that morning, I had to wear a hair net during the procedure. The reason? Because it was a regulation. It pained me for the robot to see me like that laying here in such a vulnerable position wearing a big poofy hair net on my shaved head.

After the surgery, Dr. Bafford told Sheri the damaged section in my bowel was much larger than she expected. It was so big, she had to make the incision in my belly larger just to remove it.  It wasn’t spongy and it had no elasticity.  It was also abscessed and infected. The area could have burst at any moment which I’m guessing would have made me bleed internally and die.

Post-op? What’s this post-op you speak of?

I was out of it when I was taken to post-op. In fact, I don’t remember ever going there. Although I’ve been under anesthesia before, it’s never been for that long.

My memories began once I was in my own room late Wednesday night. Even those memories are foggy at best.

Medication? You don’t need any stinking medication

Even though I provided a detailed list of the medications I was already on and I brought all my medications with me, I wasn’t allowed to take them, nor were the nurses allowed to administer them. The reason? I don’t know.

It made for a very frustrating experience. For example, I take blood pressure medication. I’ve been on it for years. With the blood pressure medication, my blood pressure is normal. Without my blood pressure medication? Not so much. Each time they checked my vitals, my blood pressure was higher than it was before. Considering the stress I was under, I’m surprised my blood pressure wasn’t even higher.

Speaking of stress, I also wasn’t allowed to take the medications I take for anxiety. You’re not supposed to just stop taking anxiety meds cold turkey.  I was definitely feeling the withdrawal side-effects.

The joy of having weapons-grade diabetes

I wasn’t allowed to take my diabetes or heartburn medication either. For the heartburn, I knew I could just run out the clock. It’s not like I was eating anything. Also, I was only supposed to be there for a few days. I could wait that long before having to worry about acid reflex. The diabetes medication was a whole different story. You’d think that by not consuming carbohydrates, my glucose levels would drop. With me, they don’t. Ever since I had diabetic ketoacidosis, my body produces glucose when I don’t eat. If I don’t eat, I normally have to take more fast-acting insulin through the course of the day then I would take if I were eating.

Since I wasn’t allowed to administer my own insulin, I was totally dependent on the nurses to give me as much of their insulin as they saw fit. I don’t even think it was them, I think the charge nurse was making that decision.

I remember one time my blood sugar was at 300. An hour and a half later, I was given six units of fast-acting insulin. That’s not enough. If I was at home and my blood sugar was reading 300, I would immediately take 25 units of fast-acting insulin. I would then test it again in 45 minutes and administer more fast-acting insulin if needed. It’s hypothetical because I never let my blood sugar get that high.

It was also hard to get my pain medication. I had to ask and then wait for each dose. They treated me like I was Bubbles from The Wire. The whole thing was very annoying. Who was the charge nurse, Tom Cruise?

What I had to do to be discharged

I was told I would remain in the hospital until I could pass gas. Even though my surgery was performed by an expert in colon surgery and she was assisted by a MurderBot from the future, being able to successfully fart was the best way they had to tell if the surgery was a success. It was like someone got 8th-century medicine in the 22nd-century medicine.

You know how to stop someone from farting? Tell them they have to fart. I wasn’t able to pass gas on Thursday. Then on Friday night, a miracle happened: I was able to pass gas.

I bet you my large bowel is smaller than yours - Bent Corner

That part of the quest was complete. To finish the rest of the quest, I had to eat two meals of solid food and not throw up. Going by personal experience, I felt fairly confident I could do that unless those two meals included lots of tequila.

I just didn’t realize how nasty the food was at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

When I was on the liquid diet, I didn’t partake of what they were providing. Every meal was about the same. Beef broth, apple juice, lemon Italian ice, and Jello. Everything other than the broth had lots of sugar in it.

Let the solid foods begin!

Saturday my breakfast was fake scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, fried potatoes, Frosted Flakes, and orange juice. I was able to eat the fake eggs and some of the fried potatoes.

For lunch, they brought me a grilled cheese sandwich and fake mashed potatoes. I could only eat one bite of the sandwich. It was so greasy and disgusting. I tried to get Sheri to eat a couple of bites, but she refused to do it. I’m 1oo percent sure she would take a bullet for me but she would not eat two bites from my nasty grilled cheese sandwich. That says a lot about the food at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

I was worried about the powers that be would say I had not eaten enough of my two meals to successfully complete the quest. Sure enough, one of the nurses saw my tray and said they might not release me since I didn’t really eat enough. She brought me cold applesauce and graham crackers.  I hadn’t eaten graham crackers since being diagnosed with diabetes. I ate what she brought me. It was actually good.

They discharged me around 3:00 PM. Leaving the hospital felt so incredible. It felt even better to get home and take a shower.

What I learned from my stay in the hospital

Looking back at my stay at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the next time I go to the hospital, I will do things differently. This includes:

  • I will shave my arms before I get there. Both my arms had IVs. Removing the tape holding the IVs in place felt like torture.
  • I will bring plastic Ziploc bags. Instead of leaving the food I could not eat on the serving tray for the whole world to see, I’ll put the leftovers in plastic bags and put them in my book bag. I’ll then throw everything away when I get home.
  • I will secretly take my own medication. I’ll never allow anyone else to control my medication. Next time, I’ll test my own blood and give myself the insulin I need.
  • I will leave the books and video games at home. The pain was far too extreme for me to play my Nintendo 3DS XL or read my Kindle. I didn’t even watch TV until the last day.

I’m a very lucky man

I can’t even imagine going through what I went through if I didn’t have Sheri at my side. She was truly a life saver. There’s a reason I have Is She With You from the Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice soundtrack as a ringtone when Sheri calls me. It’s the electric cello music that plays when Wonder Woman shows up. My wife is my best friend and she’s my hero.

Sheri is my Wonder Woman.

After tomorrow, I will have less large bowel than I have now

Tomorrow morning I check into the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore to have part of my large bowel removed. It’s the part that has been damaged by Crohn’s. The damaged portion is constricted and there’s no way to make it less constricted. That’s why it has to come out.

The surgery will be done by Dr. Andrea C Bafford. I met with her last month and I immediately knew she was someone who was very good at what she does. She exuded unquestionable proficiency. All she does is colo-rectal surgery and I consider myself extremely lucky to have her operate on me.

As of tomorrow, I may be part cyborg

As far as surgery goes, it shouldn’t be too extreme. It will be done using an endoscope so I won’t have to be opened up and gutted like a catfish. The bad part will be removed and then the large bowel will be joined back up with titanium staples. I think technically that means I will then be part cyborg. I look forward to my subsequent special powers, the type of special powers all cyborgs have.

Because of the surgery, today I’m on a clear liquid diet. I can have black coffee, blue colored Mixed Berry Powerade Zero, Jello, chicken broth, and that’s about it. Starting at Noon, I have to begin taking a powerful antibiotic and Clenpiq, a cranberry flavored solution intended to “cleanse the colon.” In other words, it will make me shit my brains out. I had to take something similar for my colonoscopy, but I had to mix it myself and it tasted like rancid ocean water with a hint of lemon-lime. Clenpiq comes premixed and there’s less of it to drink. A lot less.

I also have to shower tonight and tomorrow morning with a special pre-surgical soap. How fancy is that?

Thank goodness for the Kindle and Craig Alanson

I was told to plan on being in the hospital for two to three days. When I was in the hospital for the initial G.I. blockage, which lead to the diagnosis of Crohn’s, I was in the hospital for ten days, nine of those days in intensive care. The thing is, I don’t really remember most of those ten days. I was pretty much out of it most of the time, especially when I was in intensive care.

In comparison, my time at the University of Maryland Medical Center will be much more in real time. Other then the surgery itself, I’ll be awake and fully aware of things. I plan on playing a lot of Candy Crush and reading the newest book in the Expeditionary Force series, Book 6, Mavericks

After tomorrow, I will have less large bowel than I have now - Bent Corner

How nice of Craig Alanson to write it and publish it before my surgery. That was extremely decent of him.

After the surgery, I’ll still have Crohn’s. Originally I thought the surgery would make me Crohn’s-free. That’s not the case. The surgery will only remove the damaged part of my large bowel that the Crohn’s destroyed. Crohn’s will continue to be something I’ll have to deal with.

I imagine being part cyborg will make things easier though.

 

 

I have Crohn’s disease and will have surgery

I went to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore yesterday and met with a professor of medicine and the director of the inflammatory bowel disease program who is a Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis expert.  I’m so glad that I did. He was like a human lighthouse in the fog of medical confusion I’ve found myself in for the last few months: I have Crohn’s disease.

I do not have ulcerative colitis.

The good news is that my medical problem can be fixed with surgery. A surgeon who specializes in gastrointestinal surgery will open me up, take out the bad part of my digestive tract, sew the remaining good parts of the digestive tract back together, and I’ll be done with it. Crohn’s disease will be in my read view mirror. No more expensive medication that doesn’t work or that my insurance company will not pay for until we (okay, my wife) engage in multiple rounds of telephone kung fu.

My Crohn’s will be gone.

This type of treatment appeals to me on many different levels.  When you have a problem, to me it makes more sense to eliminate the problem than to treat the symptoms of the problem. That’s what taking medication does, it treats the symptoms of the problem. Plus, taking medication for the rest of my life for a serious medical problem means that I have to hope my insurance company doesn’t try to stop me from receiving the medication I need some time in the future.

Delzicol, or as I like to call it, the Blade Runner medication. It looks like something from the movie Blade Runner.

I was told yesterday to stop taking the Delzicol because it’s a useless medication for Crohn’s disease. Expensive, but useless. It’s designed to treat ulcerative colitis, something the director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore is 100 percent sure I do not have.

I’ve been feeling better since taking Delzicol, but that’s because I’ve been taking steroids while taking the Delzicol. Not just any steroids, I’ve been taking Prednisone. It’s a steroid that targets the entire body, not just the area in need of the healing benefits of steroids.

From now on and until the surgery, I’ll be taking Budesonide, a steroid that targets the area where the Crohn’s disease is. The Prednisone has been making my blood sugar levels high and it’s been making me gain weight. Hopefully, the new steroid will not do either of these two things.

It’s hard to mention steroids without thinking of Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr.

I may or may not need another colonoscopy before the surgery. It’s up to the surgeon. I guess I’ll know for sure after meeting with her. A colonoscopy isn’t bad. It’s the prep work you have to do before a colonoscopy that’s terrible.

I imagine getting your intestines operated on requires the same prep work a colonoscopy requires. Now that I think about it, intestinal surgery probably requires even more severe prep work requirements than a colonoscopy. I really don’t want to drink any more of that nasty tasting liquid.

I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel.