Tag Archives: Surgery

13 of 30: Keeping Me In Stitches

You might think I’m some kind of masochist for even mentioning this NOW, but I was researching necklifts. Not the mumbojumbo kind that requires exercising with springs or some weird shit like that or yoga because I am not the patient kind. I want results, immediately.

Ironically, by the time I saved the money for one I could have a neck that could crush a walnut. Except I don’t believe that kind of stuff works. Hereditary trumps all but the knife.

I haven’t been happy with my neck for a while. I use to have the kind of neck that made turtlenecks look good. Long and thin, but lately I’ve noticed wrinkles and sagging and more wrinkling. I’ve always believed that if one could afford plastic surgery, then who is to begrudge them that luxury? Good for them. Lucky them. Except when it goes awry because some poor bitch thinks she wants to be a living Barbie and ends up looking like a Barbie zombie instead. I’m talking about nips (even those kind of “nips”)  here and tucks there. Like my neck. And my eyes. And a tummy tuck. And a saddlebagectomy.

As I said, I was researching necklifts and found this before and after photo…except something’s not quite right with the “before” and “after”. This is the kind of shit I notice that makes my friends and family roll their eyes.

I wonder if botox would fix that eye-rolling problem they have?

11 of 30: Bills, Bills, Bills

Now that NaBloPoMo is a third of the way over, are you just pushing the PGDN button on your keyboard while in your reader? Go ahead, you can admit it to me. I do it and I’m participating for heaven’s sake.

Working a decade in the healthcare industry has given me such an insight to the internal bullshit, especially the patient billing. EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) are not scary and confusing bits of paper to me. Now that I’m self-pay/private-pay/uninsured/underinsured I can easily understand why so many billed people get annoyed and angry and frustrated.

One of the clinics I use locally gives self-pay patients a 25% discount.  The hospital I had my surgery at in The Metro gave us a 20% discount. However, the hospital, my former employer, had a policy of giving a whopping 5% discount for self-pay patients IF paid within 30 days of the first statement. It would seem that in the past couple of years they’ve been under a bit of a financial strain, what with deciding to build a multi-million dollar expansion during the financial downturn and losing their asses SO when I received a statement from them, I found out that the “generous” cash discount offer had been rescinded.

Of course I’ll be calling to negotiate: 10% discount or I’ll pay $10 a month for the next couple of years. Of course I’ll be nice. I can be nice. Stop looking at me like that. I can too.

I also called another clinic about a balance from Doodicus’s visit to find out what kind of discount they offer. The person who took my call countered me with the most ridiculous response: “We are a self-funded, self-employed clinic.”

“And I’m an unemployed, uninsured guarantor on my son’s account, so what?”

“We don’t offer a cash discount. We don’t get kick-backs from the state.”

“Neither do I.”

Really?? As long as that doctor sees any patient who has insurance, he (“he” as in “his business office manager”) is     negotiating discounts. This rep went on to tell me that they can set up a payment plan but that they have a minimum monthly requirement. I should have replied with, “Well, I have a maximum monthly availability and that trumps your requirement,” but I didn’t. I could tell I was stressing her out, so I told her once I get a statement we can figure out how to proceed. Never mind Doodicus’s visit was nearly two months ago already.

The other notable experience I had as an uninsured patient was just yesterday at yet another follow-up appointment with the surgeon (don’t have to go back for another six weeks!). Just as the nurse calls me back, I get halted by the receptionist who informs me that their business office manager wants to speak to me first. O f course I know what this is about. I get redirected to a tiny, windowless, torture room where the manager hems and haws uncomfortably while she pulls up my account on the computer, which she informs me has been “flagged.”

“Have you talked to anyone in our office about financial counseling?”

“No and I don’t need to.”

She stared back at me, a little stunned.

“Oh. Well, we normally try to work out something with our private-pay patients before their balance gets too out of hand and your account, which is over a certain amount was flagged because we didn’t have any arrangements in place.”

I wanted to tell her that it’s not my fault that no one from HER staff contacted me about the financial arrangements. The surgery was scheduled. It wasn’t emergent. Not my responsibility. I don’t work for the surgeon, she does. I also thought about telling her that there’s really nothing she can do at this point as she can’t deny me my follow-up visits which are all included in the surgery itself, but I didn’t. I just told her that when I finally get a bill, I’ll take care of it. She told me it was sent out on the 5th….it’s the 11th and I STILL don’t have it. Gotta love that outsourcing, don’t you?

Now don’t you wish you had clicked the PGDN button?

I Did Not Escape So Easily

My follow-up appointment to my surgery was yesterday. I was SO excited about it because it meant finally getting the plaster splint removed, letting the surgical site heal, and just moving on. Bye-bye, Cancer! Pfffft!!

I was excited about finally getting to take a shower. Shaving my legs that were resembling a tarantula’s. Washing away the week of bed-ridden stink. Wearing shoes; REAL shoes, not Crocs (actually just Croc, since I could only wear one shoe). Returning the walker and the crutches.

What did I say earlier? Bye-bye, Cancer? Pffffft?

I wasn’t prepared – at all – for my appointment yesterday, which was a follow-up with the plastic surgeon. I guess what I saw on the bottom of my other foot was what I thought I would see on my leg. I was thrilled when the nurse started removing the splint without the doctor even there. She unwrapped the compression bandages and then carefully cut away the padding from my shin and eased the plaster cast from the back of my leg, pausing briefly when the gauze seemed to have stuck to the site.

She picked it away from what was holding the gauze: a staple. A staple that was connecting my skin to a sponge. There was a sponge stapled to the back of my leg. A round sponge. The staples pulled on my skin to create unnatural and gruesome wrinkles. I was shocked but fascinated. I took a picture and sent it quickly to Sparring Partner who was in the lobby with the kids.

The surgeon came in shortly and picked up the staple-removing pliers and lifted my foot to his lap. I awkwardly turned my leg so he could reach first one side and then the other, plucking at the staples as I bit my lip in pain. One of the staples was stubborn, he picked at it and I yelled OUCH! and quickly apologized as he halted the torture briefly to almost glare at me.

Finally the staples were out and I fanned my face with my hand. He asked if I was going to faint. I said no, that I had just gotten really hot. I wish I had fainted. The pinching of the pliers and the quiet “click” against the staples was sickening. He pulled the sponge away and a wadded mess of bloody gauze lay underneath. I turned my head away as he removed it. I’ve never shied away from gore, but this was too much.

When I looked again, he was examining his work and I gasped and said, “That looks terrible! ….no offense…” He ignored me and picked up a tiny pair of scissors and snipped an overhang of graft skin. I felt nothing. I said it looks like a shark bite. He replied he’s seen one and yes, the site does look like a shark bite; a very small one, he amended. Small. The size of my palm. I took another picture with my phone. And then I said, “So. This is what malignant melanoma can do…” He nodded sagely.

He cleaned the wound, added some ointment, which because of the depth of the wound, most nerves were gone and I never even felt, covered it with a pad, packed it again with gauze and wrapped it all back up again in a compression bandage. He told me I could shower. I asked what’s the best way to cover it during the shower. Oh, no, he said, you will change this every day and can leave it uncovered for your shower (!!!!). I’ll see you in another week, he said, and walked out.

I have pictures, but quite frankly, they are awful. I will post them, but not today. I am still trying to wrap my head around everything. I wasn’t prepared for being incapacitated for a week. But mostly, I wasn’t prepared to see what I have seen. I guess that’s what I get for thinking this whole MM went too smoothly for me: diagnosed and removed with negative secondary biopsy results. Smooth sailing…I knew I would have a scar. I expected something similar to what was on my foot. A vertical line or something less invasive. But to see that hole in my leg. Well, it upsets me even now to think about it so that’s why I’ll wait to show you another time.

Pain, Pain, Go Away. And so on and so forth.

The night before my surgery I woke up pissed. I was thinking about that stupid pregnancy test and it just made me angry. If my word that I definitely am not pregnant wasn’t good enough, then why do they bother asking?? I thought of all the snippy responses I could make including, “If my test came back positive then I wouldn’t need the surgery, I could heal myself and everyone in the general vicinity.”

The surgery itself went well I guess. It took about an hour and a half. I was a bit shocked to see my right foot bandaged from toe to knee, wrapped in an ace bandage and fortified with a hard splint. Not sure why they didn’t just boot me. While the option of a skin graft was there, it wasn’t until I moved on the gurney that I realized that’s exactly what had happened. The graft site was on the back of my thigh, just under my buttocks. I realized painfully, that the site is exactly where a toilet seat hits when I sit down to pee.

My left foot looks fairly normal with a wadded hunk of gauze taped to the arch. It also hurts like a mo-fo.

Everything hurts.

The dozen steps I had to take between the gurney and the bathroom in post-op made me realize that not even my c-section surgeries hurt this much. On the two-hour drive home from the Metro, we had stopped at a gas station to get something to drink. I think the combination of morphine, percocets and vehicle movement were too much and I nearly threw up in the back seat of the van. The wave of nausea passed but I just felt like crap.

Once we made it back into town, I started dreading the walk that was necessary to get me from the van to the bedroom. There’s no way Sparring Partner could carry me, with his back in poor shape. So we stopped at the in-laws and borrowed an extra walker.

Yes, you read that correctly. A walker. It has been a godsend. Now originally, the oncologist thought that this surgery wouldnt hamper my ability to go to work the day after. I’ve quickly realized that I won’t be going back to work (it’s another temp position) until Monday. The doctor’s instructions are laughable: “toe touch weight bearing”. Not sure how one walks with just toe touch on both feet. I would need a pair of fucking wings for that. Going from the garage to the bedroom was excruciating: I was crying half-way there, which is at the kitchen table where Doodicus was sitting with his homework. I saw from the corner of my eyes (full of vision blurring tears) that he was staring at me, afraid to say anything. I’m not sure he’s ever seen me cry in pain.

I’m throwing back percocets as soon as the four hours pass to counter that pain. I am taking something to help the nausea pass. I am taking something so everything I eat while on pain meds will pass. On top of those three things, I am also on an antibiotic.

I return to the Metro on the 20th to have the splint removed. By then the path report should be back on the second mole. By then, I should only be limping. By then I will be dying for a bath or a shower as I’m not allowed either since there’s no way for me to keep one entire leg dry. It’s whore baths for the next week. You better count your lucky stars that you are where you are and I’m where I am. Not that I’ll get too stinky, but because my mood is most foul. Until I have my perc and then I’m a happy camper. A sleepy, nauseous and wounded camper.