Monday, November 30, 2009

A Leg to Stand On

So this weekend my brothers and I loaded the family piano into the bed of my brother's Ford pickup for transport to its new home in my living room. Mom's been saying since I was a kid that someday it would be mine - guess she decided to make good. Anyway, when I jumped out of the back of the truck I landed wrong on my left foot. I felt something give. I heard a pop. Not good. Massive FAIL. I knew right away I'd broken something, and I said so while rolling around clutching my foot, "Shit! I broke my fuckin' foot!" I could tell from the look on my brother's face he thought I was just being a big puss.

So I crawled upstairs and got into a recliner whilst the beautiful women of my family came to my aid while the guys all made fun; my wife and mother fetching naproxen and a drink, my lovely daughters by my side stroking my hand with concern etched all over their faces, my brothers telling me it was probably nothing.

Then I passed out. Monica says I didn't even close my eyes, I just went away for about 30 seconds. All I remember is coming out of it and realizing the situation was still real and ongoing and being severely disappointed.

So we go to the E.R. the day after Thanksgiving in the small town hospital of Atchison, KS. There we have to wait. Then we get to give my insurance information before I can even be looked at. I remember thinking this would be a non-issue in a single payer system. Then I go to triage, then back to waiting.

Eventually, it's our turn to actually ENTER the E.R. Monica and I are escorted to a room guessed it...wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

While waiting we get to observe there seems to be just one doctor on duty who is hectically going between patient and computer while a handful of nurses stand around passing out baked sweets and talking about everything but work. At some point a radiologist and assistant cart in a portable x-ray machine and take 3 pictures of the foot, then disappear. More waiting. Monica is cold and getting cranky. We were supposed to be on the road back home well before this and the disinterest of the nursing staff is really starting to get to her.

Anyway, by and by the good doctor makes his way to our room and tells me I've broken not only the one bone I thought I had - the 5th metatarsal, but the 4th metatarsal as well. It's a common fracture, but one that's prone to complication as the blood flow to the area is low and can hamper healing...even leading to necrosis. Yuck! I'll pass on THAT, thanks!

In the end, he can't do much. He's just an E.R. doctor. This sort of thing requires a specialist and I'll have to get with an orthopedic surgeon ASAP. Yeah, right. It's a Friday after a holiday, the sun is going down, and I'm out of town. So they put me in a walking boot, not a cast, and send me on my way with the x-rays on a disc, warning me to not put any weight whatsoever on the foot until I speak with the specialist.

The weekend passes. Obviously I can't do much about the foot until I can talk to my insurance to find out how to go about getting with a specialist they'll actually pay for. Monday morning comes around and I call the number on the card. They tell me to go to their website to find a plan provider and make an appointment. It's just that easy. Don't I have to get a referral from my doctor, I ask? No.


I go to the website, find an orthopedic surgeon on the plan who's a DO as opposed to an MD - just a preference of mine - and call them. No can do, they say. You have to get a referral from your family doctor, they tell me. Hmmm.

So I call my family doctor who I never see because I'm a pretty healthy guy for the most part. Can't get through. Leave a message. No call back for hours. Go to lunch. Call AGAIN, get through to the main receptionist but get passed off to voicemail of the person who handles getting referrals. Leave a message. Wait some more.

Eventually she calls me back, and to her credit is very helpful and friendly and makes haste to hook a brother up with an appointment with a specialist - even trying to get the one I request.

So now I have an appointment...for THURSDAY afternoon. Almost a week after breaking two bones in my foot I will finally see someone qualified to treat me.

Is this really a system that doesn't need fixing? For-profit companies doing everything they can to take money from me and my employer while hoping they don't actually have to ever pay to treat me? This is the best we can do for ourselves?

Consider this blog entry a primer. The real reason I lay out this tale is for reference down the line when I lambast the idiots who think we don't need an overhaul of the health care system in this country.

Consider this proof that I have a leg to stand on when I rant about health care reform. I'll just need a crutch to do it.

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