Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Problem With Health Care: People

My uncle told me a story the other day that boggled the mind.

He has been experiencing some pain related to the surgery he just had. The pain is triggered when he breathes or sneezes; a couple of weeks ago it became severe and consistent enough where he thought it was time to make an appointment with the doctor. He was also experiencing some nausea at this point.

So, on a Thursday morning not too long ago, he picked up the phone to call his doctor. This endeavor led only to an exercise in "automated switchboard gymnastics" as he put it. He finally managed to press his way into the voice mail of his doctor's nurse, explained his symptoms, and asked her to have the doctor call him back. Several hours later, she returned his call, told him that the doctor was in surgery, and that someone would call him back after 3 p.m.

At 9 a.m. the next morning when he hadn't heard anything, he called back and left another message. He finally got a return phone call at 6 p.m. that night wherein the nurse informed my uncle in a manner equivalent to one that someone might use to convey the discovery of a cure for cancer that the doctor agreed that the doctor would like to see him. An appointment was set up for the following Monday, which was the earliest possible time he could get in.

Friday night he was in so much pain that he would have driven himself to the emergency room if he could have moved. Fortunately, by Saturday, the pain had subsided somewhat, so he waited for Monday to roll around.

Monday he drove to his appointment only to discover that the parking lot was full. So was the next one. And he assumed by the guard chasing him out of the third parking lot that it is full also. He spent 30 minutes looking for parking, which involved going over multiple speed bumps, which, when one has just had a kidney removed, feels "like it is tearing something inside." He finally found a spot about a 15 minute walk away from the office. Oh, and this office? Not the one he normally goes to. This office is an additional 10 miles away in the part of Las Vegas sane people avoid, but I digress...

This was how the nurse greeted my uncle upon spotting him checking in:

"Oh, I'm sorry, the doctor isn't in today, he had jury duty."

No one called my uncle to cancel the appointment, either at his house or on his cell. As my uncle is standing there trying to figure out something to say that doesn't involve explicatives, the nurse continues to inform him that unfortunately, there are no other doctors that could see him today in the absence of his doctor.

Now, my uncle just had a kidney removed. Because cancer was growing on it. The surgery was supposed to take an hour and a half. It took four, and to my knowledge no one ever explained why it took almost three times as long as the doctor said it would. Now he's experiencing pain and nausea so bad that at times he can't move...friends, are you, like me, coming up with a million and one scary explanations for what could be causing this pain?

My uncle could. He asked the nurse, "Suppose something inside is bleeding?"

Her response?


My uncle was speechless. So he did the only thing he could do. He rescheduled for the following day. The next day, he did manage to see the doctor. It turns out he had an infection, so his doctor put him on antibiotics.

Now, normally, this is where the story would stop, but unfortunately, this one keeps going. While the medicine did help, it didn't completely eradicate the pain, so my uncle decided to go in this week for a second opinion. And thus began round two of Fun At the Doctors.

The second doctor performed extensive blood work and sent my uncle home while the lab work was being finished. My uncle received a phone call later that day informing him that one of the tests had abnormal results and could he please come down to the emergency room right away?

Cheerful news, isn't it?

Fortunately, after a CAT scan, the doctor determined that the pain was caused by a combination of scar tissue and the tightening of the bronchial tubes. My uncle is on stronger medication, and is supposed to be doing deep breathing exercises, so hopefully he is on the mend.

I don't think people would complain as much about the cost of health care if they were actually getting good service.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When Gas Companies Are Full Of Hot Air

Another fabulous day at work...

We are in the process of applying for a building permit for one of our projects. Part of this process includes applying for natural gas. So today I pulled out some blank applications, proceeded to spend an hour looking up the information to fill them out as several people are asking me "When will it be done when will it be done when will it be done" because of course the decision to apply for the permit was made at precisely 10:03 a.m. and the powers that be didn't understand why we couldn't have the permit in hand by 10:11 a.m. I then faxed them to the appropriate utility company and went about my day.

Imagine my frustration when I happened by the fax machine later in the day to see all of my applications faxed back to me with a note that said that I had used an old form, and as such, these applications could not be processed. Would I please fill out the new form that the utility company had so thoughtfully included in the fax and send it back?

I took a deep breath, because, really, what else was I going to do, and sat back down to redo them. But that is when I was met with a very confusing sight. You see, I could not tell the difference between the "new" form and the "old" form. The disclaimer appeared to be the same. All of the requested information was the same. The actual format of the form was the same. I literally had to go through the form line by line to try and find the sections that had been changed.

And you know what I found? They removed one question. They switched the order of the questions in one section. And they added a "print name" line to the signature section.

Seriously? I have to redo four applications because you've made what basically amount to some aesthetic changes? And these changes are so significant that you can't possibly be prevailed upon to process an "old" form?

Where is the vending machine with the Hostess goodies when you need it?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Public Enemy Number One

There is something that I encounter on a regular basis that continues to challenge my patience, sanity and general feeling of good-will to my fellow humankind. The frustration and humiliation I feel every time I interact with it is unmatched in any of my other life experiences. In no other area of my life have I had something insult my intelligence so greatly. In no other area of my life have I had something disappoint me so completely.

This, friends, is a summation of my experience with Saran Wrap.

I have never been able to master the art of using Saran Wrap. When I try to take it out of the box, it becomes stuck to the box. When I try to coax it around a sandwich, it becomes tangled up in a ball, stuck to itself. When I try to use it to cover a dish of leftovers, it sticks to my hands and not the dish. One sheet is just shorter than a large dinner plate, thereby requiring the use of two sheets to cover the whopping 3/4" of space still exposed. The built-in-for-my-"convenience" knife cuts my fingers more than it cuts the Saran Wrap. The only time the Saran Wrap acquiesces to glide easily into sheet form from its original rolled up state is when the roll of Saran Wrap has been dropped on the floor by mistake.

I'm switching to Tupperware.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Love Affair With The Vending Machine

Because my mortgage doesn't seem to want to pay itself, I have to work. And, as regular readers of this blog will know, for the past four years, I have worked at an insane asylum. And, as regular readers will also know, it isn't so much my job duties that generate the stress as it is the office dynamics. After years of having to reprint copies of reports for my boss, who can never seem to keep track of the originals, being interrupted so that I could go fetch him some manila folders, because, God forbid, he should actually have to walk back to the supply room and get his own supplies, and repeatedly reassuring him that our copier, is, in fact, working properly after having to find a tactful way of explaining that his headaches with the machine are really caused by operator error, I finally found one beacon of light, something that I could consistently turn to time and time again for comfort and a pleasant reminder that there are other things in life besides bosses and jobs that bring new meaning to the comic strip Dilbert.

And thus began my love affair with a vending machine.

It was about a year ago now when the blessed machine first appeared in the building across the parking lot. I discovered it quite by accident. I had made a trip next door to get a drink from the existing, traditional vending machine, and, upon arrival in the break room, discovered that building management had made a most welcome addition to their collection of break supplies.

It was a fantabulous vending machine that housed milk, sandwiches, salads, lunchables, soup, and other microwaveable meals. Nothing was more than $2.75, which, when one is consistently spending $7 downstairs at the deli even though she resolves every week to start bringing her lunch like a fiscally responsible person, made it seem much more acceptable to waste 10 minutes every morning hitting the snooze button one last time instead of getting up in a prompt manner that allowed for time to make one' s lunch.

But the best thing about this machine was that it had a whole row dedicated to Hostess products.

I love Hostess. My husband hardly ever lets me buy hostess products because Little Debbie's is so much cheaper, but there is no comparing the two as far as I am concerned. Hostess has completely cornered the market on tasty, preservative-laden chocolate and cream-filled deserts.

It was love at first sight. I began making jaunts next door on a regular basis, as much as the change in my wallet would allow, to see what new and exciting treats the vending machine was so kindly offering. Sometimes it had chocolate covered donuts. Sometimes it had Hostess cupcakes. Other times it had pies or Zingers or cinnamon cakes. It didn't matter what the selections for the day were--the machine always had something that could ease the sting of having to endure another day at the office.

Today I journeyed next door for my regular rendez-vous after deciding that the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had for lunch just wasn't going to cut it, but alas, my brief moment of respite from work/hell was not to be realized. Someone had taken my machine.

I am not sure if building management decided not to renew its lease or if they decided it wasn't profitable, or if the vending machine company went out of business. Whatever the reason, it made for a dark day.

I think this is Fate's way of getting back at me for the return of Deal or No Deal.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It's Ba-a-a-a-a-a-ck...

You know what I love more than picnics and fireworks on the Fourth of July? Celebrating freedom. The freedom to be able to voice concerns about the decisions of our elected leaders without fear of being shot by state-employed militias. The freedom to be able to venture into public without my husband's permission or a male chaperon. The freedom to have more than one child, if I so choose. And the freedom to be able to go to Dave and Busters and play the arcade version of Deal or No Deal.

That's right. It's back.

You didn't really think this was going to be a purely patriotic post, did you?

Hubby and I decided our period of mourning had been long enough, and ventured back to Dave and Busters this weekend. And, as we surveyed the facility to determine how many eight-year-olds we'd have to fight for Ski-Ball, we saw it, standing in all of it's neon-lighted splendor.

We never did ask anyone why the game was returned. It seemed as though we'd be tempting fate if we did, so we decided to leave well enough alone. But they had changed the ticket amounts, and in the very first part of the game, where they reveal the case amounts and then shuffle the cases, it appeared as though the shuffling process had been slowed. Granted, it was still to fast for me to follow, but if you were Stephen Hawking, you might be able to manage.

Hubby and I managed to play several times each without developing any gaming addictions or losing our life savings. I even won 100 tickets!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Year Of Cancer

As some of you know, this year has been filled with peaks and valleys for our family. My grandmother passed away in February. My husband's grandmother has been battling terminal cancer for a year. My husband's great-uncle suddenly passed away two and half weeks ago, after succumbing to an infection following what was otherwise a successful operation to remove cancer in his bladder.

Just when you think you've reached a point where the bad news has to stop coming because, really, there's nothing else imaginable that could happen because everything that could already happen, has, indeed, happened, you realize that cancer, like most diseases, has a better imagination than you do.

We received news about a week and a half ago now that my uncle had been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on one of his kidneys. He had been experiencing back pain, and had been given an MRI back in March. The doctor was actually not looking for tumors, so in that respect, my uncle was lucky that they caught it when they did, as the doctor told him that those who typically survive this type of cancer are those who receive an early diagnosis, and that early diagnosis usually happen by accident.

This particular cancer is associated with overweight smokers. My uncle has never smoked a day in his life and is in fantastic physical shape. He wakes up every morning and runs on the treadmill for I think an hour and a half. (Me, I wake up and walk past the treadmill on my way upstairs to grab a donut.) He is also an avid biker. So needless to say, we were all shocked by this news.

Fortunately, they caught the tumor so early that it had not had a chance to spread. He underwent surgery this week wherein they removed the tumor and the kidney, and he is expected to make a full recovery.

If, however, you could all keep his recovery in your thoughts and prayers, that he would continue to make good progress and would not suffer any setbacks, we would be most appreciative.

In the meantime, I will wait for whatever curse is on this family to lift.