In the fall, I wrote some of my perspectives about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At that time, little did I know how close all those would be to home until I enrolled under ACA and was also a recipient of more than my fair share of medical care during the hectic transition.I have been one of the self-employed people who has had the same insurance carrier for the past several years. My insurance was routinely “cancelled” when the company changed the terms and conditions, deductibles and more times than not raised the premium prices at the end of the year.
I could either take the new plan or be cancelled. I always opted to stick with my carrier, but had to call up every year to see what options I had. Generally, I settled for higher deductibles to keep my payment close to what it was before. The insurance industry is a big legal ponzi scheme, if you ask me, but thank God I have health insurance!
… and I knew I wasn’t going to get dinged for a preexisting condition.
People who are shocked or surprised that their policies are routinely changed tossed out letters from their insurance carriers as junk mail. In March of 2012, I was informed that my insurance would be grandfathered under the ACA if I wanted to go that route.
Pioneer that I am, I set up an account on the Connect for Colorado Health website and after a few delays and glitches, was a approved for a way better plan from my existing carrier for less price. So I was “double-covered” with my existing policy and my new ACA policy because I didn’t quite trust the new system.
I was finally able / gained confidence in the ACA to cancel my medium deductible plan, retroactive to January 1, 2014, which was a good thing.
I have to chuckle when I see the political action groups, particularly on the right running ads on TV about the small minority of folks who claim to have fallen through the cracks when they didn’t take care of their health insurance business during the one year window during which they had a chance and, of course, Obama and all the other socialists are to blame for their current misfortunes.
You know what?
Obamacare, socialism, public / private partnership – whatever you want to call ACA, have nothing to do with reality. Health care reform only has to to do with people like me who were flat on their backs pushing the hospital room call light hoping a nurse’s assistant will come by to empty the urinal or patch a bed sore. Truth is, Obama, Cruz or any other politician can’t help anyone, let alone improving advice individual patients get from their doctors and their staffs. Anyone who disfavors ACA because of a website hasn’t been sick lately.
Before I get into the gory details, I have to tip my hat to health care workers in the trenches, namely nurses and certified nurse assistants. The world wouldn’t turn without them. I’ll jump ahead a bit and say that I’d never really had a hospital stay before and after being flat on my back for six weeks, I couldn’t walk, stand, wipe my butt – but nurses and CNA’s were there to meet my every need, particularly when I got very low and bummed out.
I also have to thank Diana Helzer, who stopped in at the hospital most days advocating and helping me out in Boulder following my hospital and rehab stays. She was reluctant to help, but is an unsung heroine.
This raises another big topic of self advocacy. Being flat on my back, I was complacent and didn’t advocate for myself as much as I should have. Diana was a big advocate. She questioned and kept on the nurses and doctors. She brought over one of our neighbors, Nicki and Evie who also had experience advocating and was a big help, particularly early on when I was first admitted. I can’t say enough about having a strong advocate.
Over the course of the fall and summer, I was being treated for various types of pneumonia and eventually went to the hospital. I was quite out of it because I had lost a lot of weight – eventually 30 pounds – had no energy or stamina, and no appetite. What happened next is a bit of a blur, but, my lung doctor did a biopsy to figure out about my pneumonia.
Did I mention the morphine pump?
Meanwhile, I was on steroids which led to a perforated ulcer and stomach contents were leaking into my body cavity causing sepsis. I don’t know this as a fact, but I’ve been told that I was not given much chance of making it through the emergency surgery to patch up the ulcer – mostly because of the lack of eating and general indifference, translated into “failure to thrive.” I read through my medical record and I was also classified as anorexic.
So I have this emergency surgery and am being fed pablum through a tube bypassing my stomach and intestines while the ulcer patch heals. This causes me to lose weight and strength. I’m flat on my back between ICU and a regular hospital room for six weeks.
Since my parents died a few years ago, celebrating the winter holidays have been different every year. I wrote a stage play about this which was produced by Hitching Post Theater a few years back – i’ll have to dig out that story. This was no different being being in a hospital with the second tier help on duty.
This stint in the hospital was good in that when the biopsy results came back from the University of Michigan, the results sort of figured out about my lung condition as being an auto immune pneumonia now being treated by steroids, which is a good thing – particularly for those of you who had to deal with my hacking and coughing over the summer and fall.
Not so good with the ulcer recovery, I still have a rubber tube sticking out of my stomach that is due to removed in a week. So getting to the bottom of my pneumonia was good, the state of my physique, not so good. Then I was kicked out of the hospital.
Meanwhile, I can’t stand, walk or otherwise take care of myself and I’m lifted into a wheel chair and strapped into an ambulance to go to rehab at this place in Denver. Not being able to move on my own, I start sliding out of the wheel chair and bouncing around like a rag doll. I felt like the dead guy, Bernie, in that bad movie “Weekend at Bernies”. The driver pulled over at the cooking school on Quebec and got me repositioned before getting to the rehab center in Glendale, which is a neighborhood in Denver.
The rehab center was an hour from Boulder, served mostly geriatric patients and I was the youngest one there. It was good meeting some folks from Denver. This rehab center has it figured out. Everybody there gets about an hour or two of rehab each day and the other 22 hours, they feed everyone high protein and lots of carbos. It got a little monotonous plotting out the day based on meal time.
I am totally amazed that I received enough physical and occupational therapy after two weeks to walk out – albeit with a walker, compared to when I arrived as a total invalid.
My diet now is simple – eat anything, particularly high protein and sweet stuff. I’ve been eating a lot of rare steak and ice cream floats. So far, I’ve gained back about 15 pounds.
Now, I’ve been out of captivity since the first week in February and getting stronger every day and back in to the swing of things. Being self-employed, I had many ongoing projects.
I think it’s also an Asian thing to be totally self reliant – but this experience has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. Many thanks to Michael Conti and Barbara May for keeping mud in my entrepreneurial cracks over the past couple months.
After being out of rehab for a week, I attended the Boulder International Film Festival over President’s Day weekend – i’m on the BIFF Board of Directors. It was my first outing “off campus” since Dec. 16th – prior to this, I was in an ambulance, hospital, ambulance, rehab center, in my condo. I’m also back in the editing booth – I cut together a tribute to Shirley MacLaine that screened Saturday night at the BIFF.
It’s been a big wake up call for me, particularly about big picture issues – mostly around downsizing and relationships with people. Small picture issues, I’m now more serious about plotting out some exit strategies for projects I head up and handing off projects to others and getting ready to “retire”. It’s still going to be a long road ahead, I still consider myself “disabled” and will likely be recovering for awhile. I may be out and about, but I anticipate plenty of limitations. I encounter steps and small inclines and places without banisters or elevators that I didn’t before.
Many thanks to those of you who stopped by to visit, sent cards, flowers, texts, emails and other well wishers. My message to President Obama and Congress? Keep muddling through the ACA debate. There’s no turning back.
What a long strange trip it’s been!