This golden girl’s saga continues…

Suffice it to say that it was a bit premature to feel better about this whole Obstructive Jaundice/Gallstones mess that I found myself in. (Read What healthcare system? and Life goes on for this golden girl to get the full story.)

By Sunday, my tolerance for the lack of forward motion dwindled to nil. The surgeon’s nurse didn’t call me back with the answer to the question about taking the gallbladder out before having an ERCP.

Deflated and angry, and feeling worse every day that passed, I vented in the only way I know how: I wrote. It took a bit of searching to find places on the UAMS site to communicate, and stumbled on two. One was a form found by following a bunch of links through the physician referral section, and the other a “comment” email address.

If you know me, you know that if I am passionate – or angry – I tend to write in $10 words. I imagine it to be my way of asserting myself with diplomacy instead of ripping new bodily orifices. So, short and sweet, I penned my attack. The first paragraph was the history of the situation. The second paragraph went like this:
At this point, I am extremely jaundiced and in a great deal of discomfort after meals. However, my greatest dissatisfaction is with the lack of cooperation between professionals who's primary goal is patient care. I am afraid I am running out of coins to toss in my favor, with the very real chance of an illness far more severe than what I am already suffering in the near future.
Please look into this situation and help me bring this to resolution.
Oh, if only those words could hold the tense, clenched teeth and hissing voice that I imagined when I wrote it! I had hopes though, and hit the Send button with enough force to warrant pity for my innocent mouse.

Monday, nothing. Tuesday, nothing. I checked my inbox and kept checking my phone, and nothing. Tuesday afternoon, I called the nurse. She’s always so sweet and apologetic that I quickly forget my anger. But, this conversation netted the revelation that she was told the UAMS Gastro doctor wasn’t accepting self-pay patients!

In essence, if a procedure is elective, there is nothing to guarantee a person without health insurance can have that procedure done. But, it is against the law to turn away an emergency. Therefore, since an emergency is much more expensive, the hospital and doctor will lose a whole lot more than if the same procedure was done as an elective. Where is the logic in this?

Lo and behold, Wednesday morning, UAMS calls me. First a nurse tells me that the Gastro doc received an email and he wants to see me that afternoon. I asked a few questions, asked about the many referrals from my surgeon’s office, and suddenly, the infamous doctor himself is on the phone with me. It wasn’t until the nurse was back on the line to tell me to bring my insurance ID that I told them that I was self pay. I could hear her hold her breath for a few heartbeats before she told me that the appointment would cost $104. Fine. Just fine. I’ll be there.

Keep in mind that I’m at work, making a mad dash to arrange a sudden trip to Little Rock between work tasks and updating my boss. Tim went with me, and a friend, in the midst of doing the same mad dash to arrange knee replacement surgery for her husband, drove us down to the massive jungle that is UAMS. But, feeling worse by the minute, not before I left work early to lay down for an hour before journeying south.

My very yellow coloring announced me well, along with an adamant refusal when the doctor reached to palpate my stomach. The ERCP is scheduled for tomorrow. I am on the verge of sepsis and it can’t be delayed any longer. I insisted on being knocked clean out, I throw up when I wake up, and I must be knocked clean out. Nervous as hell, my mouth ran a mile a minute and returned often to the “I must be knocked clean out.” The doctor won my heart when he said, “I don’t care if you’re self pay, I will take care of you. I will be right there with  you.”

On the way home, we stopped at a new Chinese restaurant to eat. I was famished – and prepared for the following agony. To my delight, one of the waitresses quickly created the beautiful lotus out of a paper napkin and handed it to me. What an honor to be the recipient of such simple beauty that completely took my mind off my predicament.

Finally, the ERCP is scheduled for tomorrow. I hope I make it that long.

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