Monday, November 28, 2005

The Bureaucracy of Illness.

Salutations dear reader,

Hopefully you had a nice Thanksgiving. I spent mine working on my Artwork’s permanent home. But that isn’t why I’m writing….I had an interesting conversation today with my doctor’s office.

As I’m sure your aware I’m having a new hip put in. I’ve been trying to get things done in advance so that I won’t hafto deal with it while I’m struggling back to an upright position…take for instance the post surgery “skilled nursing facility” that I’ll hafto do between the hospital and freedom. My medical insurance covers it (ie there will be a deductible that I’ll hafto pay but the lions share will be covered by them) however when I contacted my Insurance to find out if I was covered and how I needed to proceed I was told I needed to contact my doctor to request that he contact them with the request that this care was needed and they would send him the forms to fill out. I did. I got a call today from the doctor’s office saying that they had a prescription for this care waiting for me at the office. I was under the impression that as far as I was concerned I was out of the loop. They transferred my call to the operations coordinator who assured me that this would indeed hafto be dealt with by them after the fact, that it was under control and I shouldn’t trouble with them about it. To be honest…the surgery hasn’t been scheduled yet….they still need to call me with the date this up coming month so I can have it done in January. But as I told the woman who handles this…I was just doing what I was told to do…The Doctor’s office was the ones who called me. I have sent forms to this doctor to fill out and have been told that I will get some more to send to him, Insurance forms and the like…not to mention I’ll need to keep a folder of the bills up to date with a running tally for Tax purposes at the end of next year. I truly believe this will be the most documented aspect of my life to date. I can’t be sure but I don’t think my trip to New Guinea and subsequent journeys homeward through the Southeast Asia and Middle East required the reams of paper that this one joint replacement will generate. I findit amazing that the fact that people have been getting sick since we were in the caves, that it’s been blamed on everything from bad spirits to bad humors and has evolved with miraculous cures but at the price of a forest’s worth of paper that needs to be filed and documented. I recall that when my mother finally succumbed to her illness my father took about 6 months of filling out forms and dealing with the paperwork afterwards. Long gone are the days when the kid was sent to " find Doc Pritchard and tell him to come out to the ranch” and you paid him with chickens. It seems the more serious the incident anymore the more people hafto be involved with it and have a hand in accomplishing it. Why is it mankind builds a civilization on this kind of bureaucracy? Why is so difficult to get things done when one is making an attempt to make things better or simpler? It has to do with record keeping and responsibility I’m sure…everyone needs to know what is expected of them and when fingers are pointed the weak point in the chain will be eventually uncovered. But then they make a new form to make sure that this will be the exception to the rule….and the people that are responsible for these quicksilver decisions make a great deal of money doing it… I wonder just how much of my payment to have this new hip in will be sucked up by the people that need to keep track of the paper work that will allow my doctor to fix me? I guess it’s true. Life is a bitch and then it gets more complex...I wonder if socialized medicine in places like Canada or England have a better or worse medical bureaucracy? I think it would make an interesting study.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

I hate having a fuss made over me. I’m unsure if the bear within hates a lot of activity around me that I can’t keep my eye on or if my pride will not allow me to believe that anybody should be troubled with my needs except me.

I’ve always been this way, I was raised to believe that I should be willing to help others but to think for myself, depend on myself, take the consequences when I’m wrong and shrug off the kudos when I’m right. That only I was responsible for myself and self dependency was less a virtue but a necessity.

My parents were very pro “standing on your own two feet”. I can recall when I was 18 having my tonsils out. Everything you’ve heard about having them out that late is more then true…I wanted to die. My mother who I can never really recall ever seeing not running around maintaining her house would come and sit with me everyday while I was hospitalized. I have this clear memory of her sitting on the edge of my bed, stroking my head and watching reruns of Andy Griffith with me while I thought “why are you here? There is nothing you can do for me; it’s all I can handle to be pleasant as I lie here in agony. I know you have so much to do at home and all you want to do is sit here and be with me?” But I saw the expression on her face as she sat there…This was where she needed to be her mind. This would be about the last time I would need her to be my “mommy” and she was going to make sure that she lived up to this responsibility as she done in the past. So I said nothing and allowed her to stay. Years later when she was very Ill it fell on me to be with her alone during one Christmas break. Her care was in my hands, amongst them was as she was bed ridden I was to sleep on the floor next to her bed and be awoken with a bell when she needed her bed pan. I was to make sure that she wasn’t in the bathroom alone in case she fell. I averted my eyes enough to give her what little privacy I could and still be quick to action in case she slipped off the chair that held her frail sick body while she attempted to bathe herself. During this entire episode of our lives together she apologized for having to have me go through this with her. I kept assuring her not to worry about it. It was her turn…She had carried me, cared for me, stayed up nights with me, changed my diapers, wrestled me to the ground to take medicine that I refused to take, etc. This small thing was little payment and I wished I could do more. She had it coming to her and I wanted to make sure that the care and selflessness that she showed to me was to be returned her. During the years of her illness I realized her fears and her loneliness as she battled this illness all by herself pretty much. I called her every Friday night without fail from wherever I was and let her talk until she could talk no more. This was the very least I could do, I allowed her to complain about her long dead mother in law, about some small slight that a neighbor woman had shown her…whatever she wished to say I listened and talked to her about it. We resolved much during these conversations that sometimes went on for hours. Although I rarely mention it I miss that old lady, it's rare to know that one is loved just cause you are theirs.

I bring this up because I recently found out I’ve become a project. I’m going to have my hip replaced soon. Pretty serious stuff but I was/am under the impression that the hard part will be handled while I’m in the hospital…however for a week or two I would need some responsible person within earshot in case of emergency, this would be my fight and I just needed a place to crash, a toilet to be available to me and about 4 square feet of table surface so I could work on a painting that I’ve been planning when I'm not working on my healing process. My Sister and Father have both offered whatever Financial assistance I needed for this ordeal which will be of great assistance. I’ve been planning this for some months and one of the things on the list was to figure out where I’d do this recovery bit. My Father, in his typical heroic fashion, immediately volunteered to assist me. He would fly out and stay with me for the first two weeks. Although I appreciate this gesture and am grateful that my father would be so willing to step up to the plate, he’s 73. My father is a creature of habit, and I feared that the winding confusing road systems around here might prove the better of him. Not to mention he’s 73 and I worry about his own frailty, being 300 lbs I might prove to be a bit much for him. Did I mention he’s 73 and set in his ways in both thought and deed. I love my dad…but he can be pretty stubborn…must be where I get it. I thanked him whole heartedly but assured him I didn’t need to be worried about him while working my way back to the land of the living. He took it quite well. My Sister has two kids and lives on the other side of the ocean. She apologized for this fact but she wasn’t in the running. A long time friend has been blessed with a lifestyle that allows him to live his life without having to do the 9 to 5 bit. An obvious candidate, his wife also freelances from home so when he couldn’t be there she could call the ambulance when and if I fell down from having a stroke. I put out the word that it was getting on time for me to decide where I would do this, probably here, as it was home and the closest location to my doctor. As a back up plan I contacted some other friends, the wife is also not at present working…so maybe she could stay here a day or two when necessary. I heard nothing for a week or two, and then became privy to an email that the downstairs Bathroom at my first friends parent’s former home next door to where he and his wife live was well under way to be completely remodeled and repaired for my stay. That they had pulled up the floor and done the repairs themselves…that they were setting up shifts for my care that included all the afore mentioned as well as a couple of parents. (!) That E-mails had been flying as to who and when and where and what would be needed and moved and rented etc. I was flabbergasted…My Christ, I wasn’t a stroke victim who required this much fuss! Oh NO I was informed…this was serious. This was tad amount to disaster that would require the very fiber of their beings to overcome, and they were up to this huge challenge. A hospital bed would need to be rented…I would need to bank my own blood…links were sent for me to study to prepare for this ordeal.

I contacted my doctor today and the reality of the situation is somewhere in the middle…closer to my end of the argument which is what I plan on reassuring the crew at the strategy meeting (!) scheduled for this Saturday over dinner. However, I am touched that my friends have assembled to help me shoulder this burden…although this much of a fuss is still pretty uncomfortable for me to accept; I guess that it just my turn. Thanksgiving is next week. It’s traditionally a time to reflect on what one is thankful for. I usually spend it in the studio thankful that I’m getting two days off with pay to work on my own stuff. Nothing new there this year however I think that this year I will be thinking of what else I’m thankful for and wondering just how in the HELL I’m going to pay for all the sushi that I’m going to have to buy to cover this Karmic debt. Thank you all…I hope your love and care doesn’t kill me while I’m recovering from having my leg bolted back on.