Two hospital visits on the same day

transthoracic echocardiogram

hospitalHow I had two hospital visits on the same day. Well, of a sort.

Monday, October 10: Leslie and I return to Albany, stopping to pick up a lot of Italian food. My wife also wanted us to pick up her prescription pain medication, but it wasn’t there. Her doctor’s office had failed to send the info either that day or the following morning. She increasingly needed pain relief, particularly from the inflammation of her left foot. Finally, it was filled, and I retrieved it.

Moreover, in addition to the infection of her ankle, a blister developed on her left shin. When I think of a blister, I think of a tiny, though irritated, area. This was considerably larger. As my wife later suggested, it was also appropriate for the holiday season because it like as though it was from a zombie.

Leslie and I saw my daughter before she left the next morning with about a third of the food, which was fine.

Tuesday, October 11: We were going to go to a timeshare in the Berkshires, but my wife couldn’t stand the pain of being in the car for an hour. Plan B:  After we put the one cat in the basement, Leslie came over and washed the dishes while I attempted to straighten up the house and tend to my wife.

Wednesday, October 12: Leslie and I went to the rental car place to return the vehicle. She Ubered to the airport, and I took the bus home. I certainly didn’t mind taking care of my wife, but it ate into most of my time for food prep and just helping her to get from one point to another.

The day without end

Thursday, October 13: My wife and I had separate medical visits. I went to the cardio section of St. Peter’s Hospital to get a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). What is THAT? It is “a test that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to create images of your heart. TTE can determine how well your heart is functioning and identify causes of cardiac-related symptoms.”

I’m getting this test because of this. I used to get one annually, but then my cardiologist retired, and no one in the office followed up. So I had to get my primary care physician (PCP) to contact another practice in Schenectady, who I had seen a couple of weeks earlier. BTW, the Ellis Hospital main phone line sucks. I was in phone hell for ten minutes before abandoning it, Googling the directish number I needed, and calling that.

Part 2

So after the test, I went home, ate lunch, and watched a recorded episode of JEOPARDY. But before I could finish it, my wife called and said that HER PCP was displeased with the progress of her leg. The antibiotics should have done more. She should go to the emergency room and be admitted. I was to meet there, at St. Peter’s, where I had just come from.

We both arrived around 2:30 p.m.; she’d gotten a ride from the church friend who had taken her to the doctor. After two hours, she was called to the triage office, which involved her using her crutches to hobble there. Yes, the nurse there said my wife should be admitted. She finally got a wheelchair.

Around 6, I went home to take the trash to the curb, feed the cats, and, most importantly, make my wife a sandwich. The selection of graham crackers, saltine crackers, and Lorna Doones has dissipated over time. The bottled water is gone, with just some ginger ale cans.

Finally, my wife gets to go to a bed attached to the ER. I go in about a half hour later as it becomes obvious that she won’t see anyone for a while. At about 11 pm, I go home.

Admitted

Friday, October 14: She tells me that several medical folks saw her overnight, some of which involved doctors waking her in the middle of the night. Around noon, she’s on the fifth floor. But she doesn’t have a room yet. And she hasn’t eaten or even drunk water since 8 pm the night before because the vascular surgeon was supposed to see her.

I arrive on the 5th floor at about 1:45 pm and find my wife, who doesn’t yet have a room. She’s on the floor, with some partitions providing a modicum of privacy. Then I got a call maybe 10 minutes after I arrived. It was my MIL wanting to know how her daughter was doing; I hadn’t spoken to her since we were still in the ER.

Finally, at about 2 pm, my wife gets a room. More importantly, since it was established that the vascular guy WOULDN’T see her that day, she got some food!

I was very distressed by all of this. It was my impression that her PCP could call the hospital and bypass the hours of waiting. I figured it would be like my last ER visit in August. Of course, that was a perceived heart thing in a less busy hospital. One of the medical professionals we spoke with subsequently said that’s just how health care is, especially in the last three years.

Insurance stress: CDPHP, St. Peter’s

health insurance

CDPHPI am experiencing some insurance stress based on two pieces of mail my wife and daughter received the same day last week. If you want to write a blues song after reading this, feel free.

The letter was from St. Peter’s Health Partners. It runs most of the city’s hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices that aren’t part of the Albany Medical Center. All of our primary care physicians are part of SPHP.

“Our records show that at the time of your last visit…, you… receive your health through a CDPHP commercial health plan.” CDPHP is the Capital District Community Health Plan. “Please be aware that [SPHP] has engaged in negotiations with CDPHP for a more equitable agreement to ensure we can continue to deliver high-quality, community-based care.”

Didn’t we do this dance a few years ago, which got resolved at the 11th hour?

In bold: “Our current agreement is set to expire effective January 1, 2023; meaning some patients may have increased financial responsibility when seeking care from [SPHP] in 2023 because CDPHP no longer includes the following facilities in its network.” Over a dozen facilities, including St. Peter’s Hospital, Samaritan Hospital, and five Eddy facilities, are on the list. Interestingly, no related mail from CDPHP has arrived.

On the coverage

Meanwhile, my wife and my daughter also received a Benefits Bulletin from my former employer, the Research Foundation for The State University of New York, or SUNY RF. “If you are a retiree or an eligible dependent of a retiree and you are not eligible for Medicare, your current RF benefits will continue for 2023 unless you make changes during open enrollment.” That window is November 1-30.

Just in case we need to make a change, I went to the SUNY RF portal to see if I could find the forms to change their coverage, but none of them seemed appropriate. Some were for the retiree (me), while some were for the retiree and dependents. I am on a different plan for administrative reasons.

So I called the SUNY RF number on Monday and then a different one on Wednesday. I was offered the same form to make changes, even though it didn’t make sense to me. If I change my wife and daughter to a Blue Cross program, I hope SUNY RF does not muck it up.

CVS

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine writes on Facebook: “We’ve…just been notified by [CDPHP] that CVS will no longer take our prescription insurance effective 1/1/2023… This is very upsetting because CVS is very convenient to where we live, has a drive-through, and the closest to our house is one of the only 24-hour pharmacies in the Capital District.” We got no such letter from CDPHP.

I called my local CVS pharmacist. They said that CVS has declined to take the CDPHP price schedule, so it may very well cost more to fill prescriptions there, but they won’t really know until they start filling them next year.

This issue will be a primary concern of mine this month because I can’t wait until the CDPHP/SPHP issue gets resolved in December if, in fact, it does.

The family that COVIDs together…

Also, four hours in the hospital

What IS that old saying? “The family that COVIDS together…” I’m not remembering the rest of it.

As noted, my daughter developed COVID c. Wednesday, August 24, just as we were about to head off to college.

Friday, August 26, we were all going to get more substantial COVID tests at the urgent care place. But my wife opted out, deciding she had no symptoms. I chose to get one because I had a bit of a sore throat. Truth is, I often have a bit of irritation from allergies or whatever. My daughter was still positive, but I was negative.

My doc asked a bunch of questions, such as if I had chest pain. I had more pain in my right shoulder than in my chest, but she ordered an EKG. She discovered a variation from what she was expecting. Now, I was born with heart arrhythmia. My primary care physician calls it a regular irregularity.

A change in plans

The urgent care doc suggested that I go to an emergency room to get further tests. I called my wife to pick me up – taking the bus after I’d taken a COVID test didn’t seem sage – and got some lunch. Then she drove me to Memorial Hospital because it would likely be less crowded than Albany Med or St. Peter’s.

Everyone was very nice, a couple of doctors, a physician’s assistant, and the nurse. The nurse was great, actually, and I was distressed to discover that one of her other patients had tried to assault her while I was there. The hospital ran a bunch of tests and found me A-OK. My calcium was low, and some other minor things were discovered.

By Monday, August 29, I was feeling achy, and I was coughing, sometimes uncontrollably. More rapid tests. I was positive for COVID, and my wife was likewise, even though we were fully vaxxed and doubly boosted.

I can say that I have felt worse, such as when I had the flu a dozen or more years ago. But it is difficult to focus on much of anything. (This blog post of 420 words I had to do in two shifts.) I feel addled. I bollocked my Wordle on Tuesday – I got it in six – because I couldn’t focus. The word, coincidentally, was ONSET, some cosmic joke. My wife, from her activity level, seems to be feeling better than I am.

My daughter won’t get to college until Sunday, three days after classes begin. Whatcha gonna do?

Sunday stealing: Do you like…?

on the telephone

Doing another Sunday Stealing, Do you like…

1. Do you like your handwriting? No, and if I’m not careful, it is illegible even to me. I think it was in third grade, and for at least one marking period, I received either a D or an F in Handwriting. So this is NOT a recent phenomenon.

2. Do you like roller coasters? I used to. My family would go to Coney Island, or to Eldridge Park in Elmira. I’d sit with my sister Leslie, while my dad would sit with my sister Marcia. Our mom would hold our glasses. But now, it makes me somewhat nauseous.

3. Do you like scary movies? Not really. I’ve not gone to any Nightmare On Elm Street or Friday the 13th films. The first film to freak me out was called Leech Woman.

4. Do you like shopping? I like going into a store, finding the thing I like, then leaving. Did that with a coat my wife bought for me at JC Penney. The first coat I tried on I liked and it fit. “Don’t you want to try on some more?” NO! It took us longer to pay for it than to select it. So I’ve learned to love mail order.

5. Do you like to talk on the phone? Yes, actually. When I was working, I was the one most likely to call a resource on the phone. And, I might add, I was good at it. In 2020, I called dozens of people, rather as an antidote to COVID despair.

Darkness

6. Do you sleep with the lights on or off? Off. My wife’s aversion to the light at night is primarily the reason.

7. Do you use headphones or earphones? If I’m on a public conveyance (bus, train), yes.

8. Do you have tattoos? Do you want any? No, and no.

9. Do you wear glasses? I have since I was nine or eleven.

10. What is your strangest talent? Making a kazoo sound without a kazoo.

11. Have you ever been in the hospital? Yes. When I was 5 (uncontrollable nosebleed), 19 (car accident), a couple of other times to rule out something more serious.

12. What color mostly dominates your wardrobe? Blue.

13. What’s your most expensive piece of clothing? Probably a suit.

14. Have you ever had braces? No.

15. Have you ever been on TV? Yes. I was on the local kiddie show a few times; I wrote about one experience here. I’ve been interviewed on the local news a handful of times. And, oh, yeah, JEOPARDY twice.

Sister Leslie is home, having a birthday

Leslie’s tribe of friends had wanted the feeding tube gone much earlier.

Sister LeslieI had this post about my sister Leslie converting to Roman Catholicism this year pretty well constructed in my mind. It’d have been how it was surprising it was – she did it as a secret from virtually everyone – but how it was fine by me.

Then she had this serious bicycle accident on June 4. To recap, she had been on vacation the previous month in Europe seeing her daughter Rebecca Jade sing on a cruise, but also spending a few days in Copenhagen, Denmark on her own.

She went back to San Diego and decided to start riding her bicycle partway to work. Since she is a safety official, she thought she ought to wear a helmet, so she bought one on June 1; wearing it almost certainly saved her life.

While I was in San Diego July 9-14, her friend Cathy managed to recover Leslie’s stuff that had been in storage at the first hospital she went to, Scripps Mercy. The distinct smell of dried blood remained on the helmet even days after being aired out. She’s keeping it, certainly not to wear again but possibly as a prop, along with her mangled bike, about the importance of bicycle safety.

Sister Leslie was semi-liberated from the SECOND hospital, Kaiser Permanente, on July 4, but she had a hospital bed in her bedroom at home because she still had a feeding tube attached. She was getting 1500 calories via it every night, but we – Leslie, her wonderful friend Leilani, the nutritionist, and i – agreed to start cutting back incrementally.

My primary task while I was out there was to get her from the bed, where she was not comfortable enough to sleep through the night, to a reclining chair. I became moderately competent at detaching and reattaching the “food” line when she needed to walk around.

I went to a couple of her doctors’ visits, notably to a heck and neck guy who removed the eight screws that had aligned her teeth to her jaw but were no longer necessary. Remember the worst pain you ever had at the dentist? Double that and add another 30%. That’s what the removal of the metal appeared to feel like, despite six shots of Novocaine, and I was in the room when it happened.

The good news is that, absent the metallic taste and feel in her mouth, she was more inclined to eat on her own. Then the feeding tube was removed on June 20. Leslie’s tribe of friends had wanted it gone much earlier, and I understood their feelings. I said, and she agreed, that it made her LOOK sick.

A couple of her friends asked me if her cognitive ability had been hampered. She took a test, and not only did she ace it, she explained the flaws in the testing instrument: “If Jill is taking off from her stockbroker job to raise the kids, what money are they living on?”

One of the words she’s had trouble remembering was “morphine,” which she was on during her first two weeks in hospital. It was probably just as well, as she had four broken ribs, but it really disoriented her. Except for that period, she was unfailing polite to everyone.

Given how she appeared in photos a month and a half ago, I note that she looks pretty darn good, i.e., more like herself. She has this little Harry Potter scar, and another hidden by her glasses.

The primary concern now is her left, dominant hand, which is still wrapped. Her friends need to exercise her fingers, lest they atrophy. She also likes lotion, especially between the fingers.

I’ve known sister Leslie longer than any living person and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to help her a little, even though I never did figure out all that long-term disability paperwork.

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