Health Care is Complicated: The Letters

I didn’t actually send these letters. Blogging the thoughts helps me settle down and control the stress-related blood pressure spikes that occur when, irony or ironies, I’m attempting to use the health insurance company web site. 

Dear Customer Service Department;

I found what I needed while waiting on hold. That means the information was too hard to find, the web site is not user-friendly, and the time on hold to reach a representative is much too long.

Sincerely,

Techno Geek

Dear Benefits Service;

Thank you for your prompt assistance and good advice. I’m pleased you walked me through the process to make sure it worked rather than just handing out pithy advice like “Use a different browser.” In fact, I should have thought of it myself. My geek brain was exhausted from searching for the EOBs while on hold waiting for customer service.

Much Relieved,

Daisy

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for your moral support as we navigate the mazes of these online services.

Yours forever,

Daisy

Kate Spade, RIP

She was younger than I am. She was successful, famous, talented, admired. Did I miss any? And yet, she died today at her own hand.

Let’s say the word: suicide. More than an attempt: a completed suicide.

Kate Spade killed herself.

I’ve written about depression a lot. I’ve chronicled my own mental illness and the accompanying pain. I was fortunate; I never felt that dying was a solution. Feeling that way is a common symptom of depression, though. I know that, and I know that my illness could have turned that direction at any time.

I also knew that I put forth a cheery front. It wasn’t an act, it was simply my optimistic nature. As people talk about Kate Spade, her ability to make women smile often came up. She designed sporty, cute, clever accessories. Her handbags were classy and fun. Heck, I have a Kate Spade case on my cell phone – simple yet cheerful polka dots!

Readers, friends, family, it’s on all of us to make sure that people know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem or situation. It’s never the only way to end the pain. Reach out; help is available.

 

Stop Creating Emergencies.

Sometimes I call it “panicking over nothing.” But then I have to remember that whatever’s causing the panic might not be important to me, but it’s important enough to upset someone else.

In the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, there’s a chapter that advises the readers not to create their own emergencies. For example, it’s okay to buy cookies from a bakery instead of baking them from scratch. Pick up an already cooked rotisserie chicken instead of prepping and cooking a big meal. It’s not what I’d do every day on normal days, but sometimes it’s wise to step back and avoid creating unnecessary emergencies.

Right now, those emergencies are either kitchen or garden related. The kitchen remodel is coming sooner or later – most likely sooner. We have a lot of clearing and purging and emptying to do before demo day. We had to clear space in the guest room/office so that we could move the computer desk in there, and soon we’ll need to move the computer desk, the shelves on top of it, and the computer itself and all its cords into that room.

Garden! I started tomato seedlings and herb seedlings, and now I need to prep the containers. Yes, that’s right, the tomatoes are going in containers this year. I have the containers, I have the bags of soil, and I’m ready to start making those ready.

In addition to the containers, I have the pallet. It was glorious last year, and I have plans for the pallet garden again. I just haven’t had a moment to pull out the old, dead plants and fill it in with new soil and move it to its new home six feet away from where it is now – you get the picture. I want to do it all, and I want to do it all right now.

So, Daisy, why can’t you get outside and do it all right now? What’s stopping you? Regular readers, friends, and family all know that I’ve been sick lately. It feels like the last three weeks have lasted more like three months. I’ve been spending a lot of time resting, rehydrating, resting, icing or heating a sore back and sore knee, and resting. You get the picture. In between, I’ve visited doctors and pharmacies. Somehow, I managed to teach a few days and grade a lot, and I do mean a lot, of research projects.

It’s when I’m resting that it’s hardest. I might be sitting on the couch with an ice pack on my lower back and a glass of a refreshing beverage by my side, but I’ll be thinking that I really, really want to break up the soil in the main garden plot. It’s common to find me closing my eyes for a bit and then coming back to wakefulness with an Oh, No, I Need To — fill in the blank.

I’ve managed to sidestep cooking emergencies with the help of a crock pot and a well stocked pantry. I even filled the Stamp Out Hunger bag for the Post Office food drive. But as I patted myself on the back for that, I remembered that the spices will need a new, temporary home, along with the taco mix and my favorite sloppy joe mixes.

And then I say Stop. Little by little, all will be well. For now, I’ll rest and recover so I’ll have enough strength to cope when a true emergency comes along. I don’t need to create my own.

ER Observations and Random Thoughts

I wasn’t totally coherent two weeks ago when we went to the ER, but I did notice a few things.

Doctor paused before coming in the room and asked if I’d had influenza yet this season. I answered no, and he grabbed a mask before he came in. One of the first tests they ran was the swab for Influenza A. Fortunately, it came back negative. I don’t hear well to begin with, and if I had to listen to doctors and nurses through masks, I might have given up trying.

Based on that, I’d gather that flu isn’t through in our fair city. If the ER folks are still concerned, I’m glad I finally got my flu shot.

Today, almost two weeks later, I’m dealing with major dehydration – so much it’s causing lower back pain. Kidneys? Maybe. Doc On Call also had me cut back my blood pressure medicine for a few days. It’s a medicine that can also be a diuretic – in other words, can dehydrate. See how much I’ve learned?

Yesterday Nurse On Call said, “Let’s keep you out of the ER this time.” I liked her attitude. The pain level today, along with the weakness and other garbage, came close to sending me right there again. The big difference this time was that Doc On Call saw me yesterday, and I now knew what to do to fight back. Doc On Call was quite thorough with her testing; I hope, hope, hope it’s all covered.

Meanwhile, a dear coworker is dealing with something much worse. Her sister had a rare and oft-fatal complication during labor. Both mother and baby have made it through the first twelve hours; it remains to be seen if they’ll survive, and if so, what the damages might be.

Back pain? That’s nothing. So why am I so near tears?

And So It Goes – The Saga of the Lost Lanyard

About a week ago, I lost my ID badge. I put off getting a new one, thinking I’d find it. I coded my key fob to use with the printer/copier. And then I got sick. You see, the last several digits on that ID badge are my pass-code to get into the absence reporting system. I remembered the code Monday morning. By Monday night I was so exhausted I entered the numbers in the wrong order – enough times that the account locked me out. School secretary took care of it for me, thank goodness.

Last night, I figured out how to request my log-in information. Duh! I was quite sick to completely overlook the obvious. I got my info, logged in, and verified that all is well.

And I gave in – I contacted Human Resources today for a new badge.

With my luck, I’ll probably find it tomorrow morning.

Encore – Knowing My Limits, Again

How is it that the more things change, the more they stay the same?  This post aired in April of 2014. Obama was president, and Hillary Clinton was aiming to run in 2016. You all know the end of that story.

By 2014, I’d recovered from a stroke, had a retina reattached, uterus removed, stent placed in a major artery, and aneurysm detected in another major artery. I like to think I was wise enough not to ask the fates, “What else can go wrong?” 

Fast forward to 2018. A few days ago I was diagnosed with (another!) urinary tract infection. The following morning, I was in the ER as the infection had spread into my kidneys. I’m now resting, feeling nervous about getting behind at work, and taking strong, strong antibiotics. 

Four years ago, I set these goals. Today, I reaffirm those goals. I want to turn Wisconsin blue in the fall elections, but I won’t be any good to anyone if I’m too sick to help.

To maintain my physical and mental health, I will NOT:

  • sign online petitions. It’s too easy, and therefore often meaningless to those in power.
  • forward emails that call themselves Memes. It’s a chain letter, people, don’t kid yourselves.

To further maintain my physical and mental health, I WILL:

  • learn about the candidates and become an informed voter
  • vote and encourage my family members to vote, too
  • remind friends and coworkers to vote (even on FB)
  • donate small amounts of money to candidates I support
  • for good vibrations, wear my Team Obama t-shirt from fall 2012
  • blog!
  • keep calm, and garden on. It’s cheaper than therapy, and in the end I’ll have tomatoes.

 

Back aches and Legends

About five years ago, Chuck slipped on an icy sidewalk and chipped his elbow. He sent me a picture. Cute, eh?

Two weekends ago, he put his back out while doing our taxes. Yes, taxes. He had to shred a few documents, but the shredder was full, so he pulled out the tray to empty it into the recycling bin. As he did that, he must have twisted awkwardly. Ow! He managed to finish the taxes with the help of a heating pad and ibuprofen.

Two weeks later, he is struggling to clear major amounts of snow from the driveway and sidewalks. He’s not in pain anymore, but he is stiff. I worry about him re-injuring his Tax Break, er Back, while he’s handling the heavy, wet snow.

Chuck’s Tax-related Backache is already legend. The Blizzard of April 2018 may become legend on its own.

Four Years Ago

I was disappointed in NBC’s Olympic coverage. I couldn’t find anything Olympics-related on Sunday morning – not even a compilation of the previous night’s action. Korea is halfway around the world, I thought, they could have some live events.

Four years ago, I watched the Sochi games all day long. I mean that I watched morning, afternoons, evenings – all Olympics, any time I wanted to see it. I was home, resting on the couch, recovering from major surgery (hysterectomy). It was fun having something interesting to watch; I’ve never really gotten into the daytime soaps.

Four years ago, I slowly recovered my strength and also my vision. The left retina had come loose. I’d had emergency surgery to reattach it in December. The hysterectomy and all it entailed was the second surgery within as many months. Learning about ice dancing and snowboarding was a nice distraction from all the crazy punishment my body had taken.

My boss had hired a sub for me, which was a relief. In my online teaching world, we don’t hire substitute teachers for day to day illnesses or short term events. A six week post-surgical leave of absence was a different story. I had a sub, which was a relief – at first. My substitute didn’t quite get the concept of building a rapport with the families, and they were not quiet about it. Our principal had enough complaints that she fired the sub two weeks early. I was tempted to go back early, but I didn’t. It took some will power to stay home and take care of myself.

Four years ago, I had no idea that I had yet another procedure ahead of me – a carotid catheter exam, followed by the insertion of a stent in my right interior carotid artery. That time, I didn’t have any Olympic games to distract me. A little baseball, maybe, because this happened in late April. Or was it early May? I just remember feeling overwhelmed with so many major health scares.

Fast forward four years to the current Olympic games in Korea. I’m healthy enough (knock on wood) to be at work full time, so I guess it doesn’t matter if there is daytime coverage or not. Go U.S.A! U.S.A!

Encore – the 2014 Winter Olympics, Daisy Style

Actual post from four years ago –

Actual conversation:

Daisy(musing): I don’t remember ever seeing so many crashes in ski events during any other Winter Olympics.

Daisy (to self): Then again, I haven’t really watched as much of any previous Winter Olympics.

It’s true. This year, I was home on medical leave, recovering from major surgery. I was resting on the couch, coffee cup by my side, laptop nearby and television on for most of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Amigo and I had a lot of fun watching and listening and discussing various events by day, and Chuck and I enjoyed evening shows.

Some Daisy style observations:

Snowboarders are fearless and amazing people. Add freestyle skiers to that definition, too. Shaun White, despite not medaling, was a classy guy who celebrated his opponents’ successes.

Figure skating judging will forever be questioned because of the combination of skill and style. Let’s not begrudge anyone the gold, even if she has home crowd advantage.

I enjoyed the Today Show each morning, too. They managed to interview all the recent medal winners and media darlings and have fun doing it, too. With the time difference, I would watch the day closing in the mountains above Sochi while I watched the sun come up here in Wisconsin. It was a pleasant way to start my day while recovering and healing from a major surgery.

I did have a few favorites. I liked seeing the back stories from the athletes, even those back stories presented through commercials. There was a short feature on figure skating costumes, especially the women’s costumes. Those little bitty pieces of fabric are expensive!

A friend on Facebook mulled over a question that seems to have no answer. How is it that USA bobsleds are designed by BMW, but figure skates look the same as the pair you would buy at Goodwill or Play it Again Sports? Input, anyone? Speed skating has gone through a few skate changes, but what about figure skating?

My favorite interview and my favorite moment remains Ice Dancing. Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Midwestern young people from Michigan, skating together since they were young, brought home the gold medal. Suddenly, ice dancing is a Big Thing in the U.S. And then, during the interview, it came out that Charlie also plays violin. He’d casually promised the Today Show that if they won gold, he would play for them. I’m sure he never dreamed he’d be pushed to follow through, but when they presented him with a borrowed violin, he did.

Gold medal performance, it wasn’t, but his moment in the spotlight still spoke volumes for the arts, for music, and for well-rounded young athletes.

photo from Classical Lite dot com

photo from Classical Lite dot com

So there you have it, folks, Daisy’s summary of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I won’t talk about hockey (USA lost to Canada), or that Polar Vortex that’s coming from Canada to add insult to injury. If only they’d keep Justin Bieber, too.

Flu memories – let’s not create any new ones

Yesterday Chuck came home from work feeling ill. I was fairly certain it wasn’t influenza, but can I ever be 100% sure? Sometimes. Not always. It wasn’t so long ago that I posted this.

I was searching and sorting and purging a pile of papers and I found this, a predecessor to Monday’s post. It’s on a scrap of yellow legal pad, so it probably rose from the ashes of a school staff meeting or staff development. This piece wasn’t for the CDC. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wrote it pre-blog. To make it current, it would need almost no changes.

You know the flu has taken over when:

  • Chicken soup and cinnamon toast make a meal.
  • The phone rings and the teenager doesn’t move.
  • The blind family member identifies people by their coughs rather than their voices.
  • The dishwasher is full of glasses and bowls because no one is eating real meals.
  • Each sick person carries around his/her own box of tissue.
  • Suddenly the supply of Tylenol and ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet looks woefully under stocked.

The above list was written with a sense of – well, something close to gallows humor, if I remember correctly. Since that year, all of us have stayed up to date on flu shots. Get your own flu vaccine, people. It’s not too late.

The entire family has been vaccinated. This year’s vaccine may only be 10% – 30% effective, but at least it’s something. As for Chuck, he felt much better today and went back to work. That’s a relief to all of us!