When you get sick in this country, you better be sitting on a pile of money

In response to my recent health scare which resulted in spending ten days in the hospital, nine of those days in intensive care, I vowed to myself that I would do whatever I needed to do to never let that incident ever happen again.

My diabetes was a contributing factor to the problems I had. Since getting out of the hospital, I’ve gotten my diabetes totally under control. I avoid carbs whenever I can. My days of eating chips, pizza, and pasta are over. I test my glucose levels up to ten times a day to ensure that it’s as close to 100 as I can get it. Before going to the hospital, I was on a bunch of medication for my diabetes. Now I’m only on two; Humalog, a fast-acting insulin and  Xultophy, a once-a-day injectible pen.

As soon as my anemia is under control, I plan on adding daily exercise to my routine.

The other thing that put me in the hospital, the thing that contributed the most to me almost dying, was the blockage in my gut that caused the infection. They determined in the hospital that it was due to intestinal inflammation. Why my intestines were inflamed is still not known, at least by me.

Because I’m self-employed, I’m covered by my wife’s employer-provided insurance. The way it works is that at the beginning of the year, everything is out of pocket. We pay for everything. Once a certain monetary threshold is met, insurance pays for eighty percent and we pay for the remaining twenty percent. Once another monetary threshold is met, the insurance pays for everything.

Because I was lucky enough to get sick at the end of the year, insurance paid for everything. Our thresholds had already been met for the year, thanks mostly to all of the drugs I was taking for diabetes. Some of them were quite expensive.

My hospital bill totaled over $35,000. Insurance paid for all of it.

This past Wednesday I had a CT scan of my abdomen. As far as procedures go, it was pretty awful.  I had to arrive early at the imaging facility that was doing the scan and sit in a special waiting room where I had to drink three bottles of this nasty tasting lemon-lime concoction.  It tasted like flat, store brand 7-Up that had been thickened.

Once I got those three bottles of yuck down, I went in for the CT scan. I was hooked up to an IV and given a drug and made me feel hot all over. I was told it would make me feel like I wet myself. I didn’t feel that, but it did feel weird.

The next day, I got a call from the Target pharmacy. I was told they received a prescription, but it was very expensive. My out of pocket was going to be $2,400 for a three-month supply. The prescription was requested by my gastroenterologist. Evidently, he saw something on the CT scan that required this very expensive drug. I don’t know because he never contacted me.

My wife called the gastroenterology office the next day and spoke to the doctor’s assistant. She explained $2,400 was a lot of money for a three month supply of a medication and asked if there was something cheaper or a generic version I could take. The assistant relayed the question to the gastroenterologist and later that day I got a text from the Target pharmacy. I had a new prescription ready for pickup. My wife called the Target pharmacy. The new drug was going to cost $700 for a three month supply.

My wife called the gastroenterology office again. A few hours later, I got another text from the Target pharmacy. Two new prescriptions were ready for pickup. One cost less than two dollars, the other was 27 dollars.

Why weren’t these two much cheaper medications prescribed in the first place? What do they not do that the more expensive drugs do?

I don’t even understand why I’m being prescribed medications. I go in for a colonoscopy on Wednesday. Shouldn’t the gastroenterologist wait for all of the tests, both the CT scan and the colonoscopy, before prescribing medication? If he’s able to prescribe medication with only the results of the CT scan, why do I still need a colonoscopy? Is the gastroenterologist ordering the colonoscopy because I need it or because that’s what gastroenterologists do, perform colonoscopies?

It seems to me that if he was ready to prescribe a medication that costs $2,700 for a 90 day supply, he is done with the troubleshooting phase.

So far I’m not very pleased with the gastroenterologist. Communication seems to be severely lacking. The reason I’m seeing him and not another gastroenterologist is that he saw me in the hospital, although I don’t remember it.

I was out of it quite a bit while in the hospital, especially at first when the infection was at its worst.

And because we’re at the stage in our insurance where everything is out of pocket, I have to pay $1,018 when I arrive for the colonoscopy. I don’t know how much the CT scan cost because they didn’t make me pay up front. They will bill me. As much as things are costing out of pocket, we should be hitting the first insurance threshold sooner rather than later.

Remember, we have the best healthcare in the world as long as you’re sitting on a pile of gold like the dragon from The Hobbit, a lot of money in savings, or a credit card with a large amount of available credit. If you don’t have any of that and you experience a catastrophic health problem, you’re screwed.

Another update concerning my health problems

This blog post is part of a series of posts that began with what I wrote about how I almost died. Make sure to first read that one first and then the follow-up post after that before reading this one. Things will probably make more sense that way.

The good news is that I’m totally off the steroids and because of that, the depression has dramatically ramped down to my normal, annoying level of depression. I now only experience the depression that I’ve been dealing with for a while now. Watching the evening news doesn’t make me cry.

Depression is part of the normal human experience. If your cat dies or your wife leaves you for someone else, the normal, natural response is to get depressed. I get depressed for no reason. When I get depressed, there is no outside stimulus responsible for it. I just feel severely depressed.

I was on the steroids to treat the inflammation of my intestines. Hopefully, the steroids did what they were supposed to do, because I don’t want to go back on them.

Cal Ripken Jr.

Again, being on steroids gave me a whole new appreciation for Baltimore Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. I don’t know how he could use steroids for his entire career. The fact that he did and didn’t allow the side effects of steroids to drag him down is a testament to what a great athlete he was.

I’m experiencing shooting pains in my lower abdomen after eating. They can get quite severe. I have pain pills when they get really bad. I’m supposed to avoid anything high in fiber. I can’t eat salad or whole wheat bread. The only fruit I can eat is canned fruit. I think the pain is made worse because it’s related to what put me in the hospital. If I was experiencing the same level of pain in my leg or my shoulder, it wouldn’t bother me nearly as much. The fact that the pain is located in my abdomen bothers me on a psychological level.

Anemia sucks.

It turns out the fatigue I was experiencing is because I have anemia. This is normal for intestinal problems because you can’t absorb certain nutrients.  I’m taking iron supplements and giving myself vitamin B-12 shots. I haven’t really noticed a difference. I still get tired quite easily.

I took two naps yesterday. I feel like I’m turning into our cat.

Tomorrow I have an appointment at the imaging center for a CT scan of my intestinal area. I have to drink some type of special liquid and then they will do what they are going to do. The CT is needed to make sure it’s safe to do the colonoscopy. I will not know what’s really going on until the colonoscopy. I just want to know definitively what’s going on with my guts. If it’s Crohn’s disease, then I can start treatment for that. If it’s something else then I can start treatment for that. What I find aggravating is my gastrologist will not schedule the colonoscopy until he sees the results of the CT scan. I just want to get this done.

Not knowing is the worst part.

The good news is that for the first time, my diabetes is totally under control. Spend eight days in intensive care and it tends to make you take your health issues a lot more seriously. I’m testing my blood constantly throughout the day and I’m recording everything in a log book. I’m not eating anything a diabetic should not eat. My doctor took me off all my medications for diabetes except Humalog, a fast-acting insulin. I’m now also taking Xultophy, a once-a-day injectible pen. That’s it.

Once I get the anemia under control, I want to get back to going to the gym. I have a Planet Fitness membership just collecting dust. With daily exercise, my diabetes should be even easier to keep under control.