Recent Firsts

A few firsts from the past nine days:

First time to take Naproxen, aka Aleve. My last blog post was about a mysterious back injury that eventually escalated to where I couldn't sit without numbness and pain. I could... can, because this isn't fixed yet... walk and do things, just not sit. I unpublished that post because it felt like TMI.

No, that's a lie. After waiting a week to go to the doc because of a miserable cold, I put off my appointment discussed in that post because I'd rather hope for the best than deal with a new doctor, and I didn't want to admit that I canceled the appointment. Or admit that I was afraid a rectal exam might be required. Wow, I really just went there after all. Now let's see if this post survives.

Anyway! Things got worse. Went to the doc, a different one with a less posh office but better hours. Liked the doc. He said to take the 500mg Naproxen twice a day and we'd see. That was Sunday.

First time to enroll in national health care. Why didn't I do this, oh, four months ago when I got my bridging visa? Because the wording on my paperwork was vague and, being a good American, I was skeptical that I'd qualify. What have I ever done for Australia to deserve benefits? (Well, paid a supplement twice each month to have my Aussie spouse on my insurance when we lived in the States, but still.)

But with the mystery back problem, it couldn't hurt to see if I would be eligible. I braced myself for a visit to the grim, yellowing dole office (where Medicare - the Aussie name for their national system - is housed in this town) full of miserable people shifting their weight on sticky chairs as the hours passed. Instead, it was clean, modern, and high tech. Oh, and it was easy: walked in, sat with the rep who pulled up my visa on the system, and walked out 20 minutes later with health coverage. That was Monday.

First time to the emergency room as a patient. Chest pain. Back pain. Tingly hands. Nausea. Scary results when Googling Naproxen's side effects. And God, after indulging in hours of much-missed sitting thanks to the Naproxen's benefits, the tailbone ache and numbness was in full battle gear. That was Tuesday.

First stab at an IV. Deliberate verb choice. It didn't work. My vein burst and I got a bump and bruise instead. The doc decided he had enough blood, and, well, no morphine drip for me. At that point I didn't mind. They took at EKG and urine sample and waited on the blood results. Since I hadn't slept all night, I was tired but mostly just uncomfortable and worried about the chest pain.

At first. But then the pain in my back started traveling and ramping up. They gave me Tylenol. "Do you need something stronger?" "No, I'm sure I'll be fine." An hour later, telling Mike the medicine would surely kick in anytime. So much zombie pacing of the small, curtained-off room, saying they'd be back with the blood results soon, surely. Surely. Deep breaths. Another hour passing. An hour passing in every minute. I gave in.

First time to take oxycodone. They called it OxyNorm. With the Oz accent, I kept hearing OxyNom. "Yes, nom indeed!" I updated Facebook.

(Not firsts: nose pimples, grey roots, or goofy faces at the camera.)

Mike's bedside mug featured fewer unicorns.

First time to ride on a gurney. I wish I could be respectful of the scary situation, but the gurney was really fun. I don't think that was the drugs talking. (My mouth that wouldn't stop talking was the drugs talking.) Traveling head-first while I gossiped with the tech made it even more exciting. I recommend this method if you're considering gurney transport. All of the vroom and none of the "oh no! feetcrashdoors!"

Tests, pokes, and prods led to some suspicions, which led to...

First ultrasound. I don't know if it was my accent, the drugs, the tech, or my frequently misguided sense of humour, but making comments about the sex of the baby wasn't getting any laughs. Tough room.

Verdict: enlarged liver, enlarged spleen, and maybe past bouts of mono are meaningful, but most of the blame probably falls on the dear old gallbladder. Apparently I now await the surgeon's call. I'd rather put off having it out, but today's doc (the same as last week's doc, since a week has now passed since all of this) put the fear in me. Speaking of which...

First free visit to the doctor. That was today. Obviously, I'm developing some pretty strong love for the Aussie health care system, along with some pretty strong anger for all the rhetoric in the United States about how health care in countries like Australia isn't really as good as it sounds. Mine is just one experience, and I'm not suggesting that things are perfect here or that this model would even scale to the United States. But my hospital experience was outstanding. Care was prompt and professional. Facilities were first rate. And if I'd gone to the emergency room without coverage in the States? And had all those tests? Not only wouldn't it have been free, as it was for middle-class me with the husband with the professional job, but it wouldn't have been two hundred bucks, either.

(In fact, the co-pay to just walk into the emergency room on my "awesome" insurance was $150 with limitations. And remember, cost of living is a bit higher here.)

First CT scan. That was also today, and what the doc recommended for the next step in my slightly improved but still not good back situation. This was not free. This was, in fact, almost as much as an uncovered emergency room consultation. (But still about half the cost of what my insurance charged in the States.) It was also not as fun as a gurney ride, but they did give me a souvenir CD of all 300ish confusing images of my lower back when it was over. I'll get that interpreted later this week. (No need for an appointment.)

I don't mean to harp on. I'm just a wee bit bitter about all the times I didn't get health care in my life because I wasn't insured, the amount I paid for tests and visits and Mike's similar emergency room visit even when I was insured, the amount I paid in COBRA when I left my teaching position ($650/month), and the way I couldn't pay any amount of money for any coverage other than COBRA (which you can't stay on) because I'm fat, not even when I begged companies for a health care plan that wouldn't cover anything remotely related to my body mass.

But no. Cancer? Car crash? Have you met their friend, Bankruptcy?) My father had a heart attack while briefly uninsured. This isn't hyperbole.)

It's a stupid world... Well, no, not a stupid world. Apparently. Granted, Obamacare supposedly means that even fat girls with no other health issues and brilliant test results can get insured at some price (correct?), but I can't stand trying to get smart about that because of all the conflicting partisanship noise, plus the general disappointment that the program seems to be a castrated shadow of what it should be, plus, well, I'm currently living in First World privilege, which means I can afford to wait until the dust settles to learn more.

First (published) post in November 2013. Fingers crossed that the next one will be soon, giddy, and made from a seated position at the computer and not tapping at the kitchen counter like it's the TARDIS dashboard or lying in bed, slowly jabbing at an iPad.


26 November 2013 |

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