Deep breath

Deep breath.

While everyone else around me concentrates on the teacher’s lecture, I pull up my email program and open up the email from the healthcare system. They’re all the same boilerplate, uninformative and nauseatingly cheerful. “Hello! You have a message in your MyChart! Log in to … ” It’s 9 am.

Deep breath.

I log in and read the latest message from one of my doctors. I think for a few seconds and manage to write a response all in one go. I go on to the next. This one is a little bit more difficult to write, and I take a break halfway through to play my favorite online game. A couple seconds of mind-numbing searching for words later, and I can face writing the next email.

Deep breath.

The next email was just some boilerplate reminder about something completely unimportant. Thank goodness. The rest of the class is deep into a debate now and I take a second to track it a little more closely. I sit through this class with different groups of students three times a week. Three times through the same lecture. It’s all right, because it means that periodically I can do what I’m doing right now — perform my role as an assistant while simultaneously handling my healthcare. The “sanity break” that is my chosen field (instead of my I-fell-into-this “profession” of patient) is a relief.

I then plow my way through double-checking the two forms that I need to send to a provider’s office to have my records transferred over to two other facilities. One more email off to them.

Class over, I sit through an office hour and work my way through some class-related materials, tuning out the rest of the clamor. All too soon, though, I have to stumble off to do other things. I go and mail healthcare bills. I go to my locker and pick up a tiny medical monitoring device I forgot and left in my swim bag … I’m relieved it’s still there and functional. I go home and I take medications and I eat. I barely have time to scuttle off to PT in the rain.

At least at PT, they remind me to stop and breathe every once in a while.

I go home, get something to drink, and settle in with a heating pad wrapped around what’s left of my body after doing less than an hour of PT. Now it’s time to make the phone calls. I fish out the paperwork and start with the insurance company about two problems with billing. That takes awhile and involved lab work being sent to an out-of-network lab … like when I get labs drawn at an in-network clinic or hospital I am thinking about asking if those 14 vials will be sent out-of-network for processing. Next comes calling about a hospital bill. I fight that and get it taken care of, although now it looks like someone eviscerated a paper monster in my living room. I spend frantic minutes hunting for a prescription in the mess. I find it and flip to the back, where my physical therapist scribbled a phone number to call for a custom-fitted brace that should help pin my hypermobile joints in place. I get put on hold, and I suck in what feels like my first breath in 2 hours.

Deep breath. It will be ok. Just hang in there …

… and then I’m shuffled off hold to someone who summarily tells me they don’t do that sort of thing. I’m pretty crushed. I have spent ages trying to find someplace to help make this brace. The physical therapists at the local hospital had banded together and tried to find somewhere — this place was the result. They’d sent lots of people there. I feel like I’ve been dismissed without even a chance to explain what I really need. I ask where I’m supposed to go for something like a rib brace, and the curt voice on the end tells me to ask my insurance company and bids me a good evening.

Shoot. It is almost evening. I take a few more deep breaths and fight back unexpected tears. I call the insurance company again. The woman I get is even more dismissive than the orthotics company’s disembodied voice was — a real trick, come to think of it. She informs me that I should look on the insurance company’s website for a list of approved providers. I tell her I’ve tried, that this is a little bit more specialized, and that I have no idea where to go from here. Please. I have had this prescription for over a month and a half. She does listen, at least for a few seconds. She suggests looking under “medical equipment.” On the website. She hangs up.

Now I’m definitely fighting tears. Just. Breathe. There’s still a few more minutes on the clock. I wish I wasn’t so sore … my heating pad quit working someplace in the middle of this. Breathing is a bit more painful than it should be. I remind myself that crying will hurt worse, which isn’t exactly a cheerful thought.

Supposedly my insurance card has the website listed on it, the magic website that I’m supposed to look at that will tell me what orthotics companies are in my area that cooperate with my insurance. It doesn’t. I did save the link though, ages ago, and I manage to find it again. I spend valuable time hunting through various medical equipment suppliers that don’t do braces. I cold call several. Most have closed. Finally, astoundingly, I get through to one place. He doesn’t do that sort of work either, but he thinks he knows the number of someone who does! I take it down and give that place a call. Closed. It’s now after 5 pm.

At least there’s some hope. There’s a number to call tomorrow … although the thought of doing this again tomorrow is gut-wrenching. But at least there is some hope.

Just when I think I’m done, I remember I still have to renew a few prescriptions and call up an office about a problem with one of my meds. Breathe. Listen to my voice mail for the phone number I was asked to call. A few minutes later and I’ve stumbled my way through leaving a voicemail message with my doctor’s assistant … at least they’ll get it tomorrow morning.

My heating pad is broken. It’s about 5:45 at night. I still have medications to take and all this paperwork to file. Dinner’s not made and the dishes are overflowing. You can’t see the floors for the salt and slush crust. I feel physically wretched and emotionally wrecked. I still have the entirety of my “school working day” to try to accomplish — assignments to grade, articles and grants to write, a dissertation meeting to prep for, comps to write, more articles to proof, a conference presentation to pull together.

Tomorrow I’ll still have to call up the doctor’s office about the bill I didn’t get around to today, call up the orthotics company, go to a doctor’s appointment, do PT, battle out more prescription problems, and take medications 14 times. All this is complicated by the fact that I can’t drive and struggle to keep my balance when I walk.

My parents, my friends, my professors … they all sometimes wonder how come it seems to take me so long to get something done, to make any forward progress now. I’m asked if I’ve given up. If I care. If I’ve forgotten how to work.

Deep breath. Even if it’s in between sobs. Just. Breathe.


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