You think it can’t happen to you. You’re insured. You pay your premiums on time. You’re a relatively healthy individual sans the 4000 liters of vodka you ingest annually. You never miss a workout. You work your ass off to do right by other people. You play hard. You’re relentless in your pursuit of happiness. You’ve saved your money for that proverbial rainy day… only to be blindsided when you realize you haven’t saved enough for a ‘wtf’ downpour.
Note: For the sake of transparency, you need to know this is going to unfold as a rant against our current health care system. If this doesn’t interest you, hop off now and I’ll catch you during my comeback.
So three weeks ago…
The good news is I finished. (7:01:01)
The terrible news is I’m very likely off my running legs the rest of the year.
Here’s what’s up in my tiny corner of the world…
So, the half-Ironman was on a Saturday, right? Tuesday I cobble in to see my primary care doctor, who after a performing a series of calisthenics on my right leg says with unquestionable authority, “You have a strained hip flexor. Two weeks on crutches and you’ll be good as new.”
ran limped home, dug out an old set of crutches and stupidly thought, “I can survive anything for two weeks, let’s DO this.” ($30 visit)
A few days later, I’m in Nebraska for my 20 year high school reunion. The pain in my right hip is unbearable. I can’t sleep. I can’t walk. I feel nauseous. My parents, worried, tell me to head to the local Urgent Care for x-rays.
They find nothing.
So I get a shot in the ass, (anti-inflammatory), a cheap prescription that promises jitters and constipation, and a pat on the head with the reassurance I’ll be good as new in a week or two if I’ll just stay on the crutches. ($185 visit)
Intuitively, I KNOW something is still very, very wrong.
When I get back to Denver, I make an appointment with the big boys over at Steadman Hawkins. (A world-class orthopedic clinic here in town.) They are out of network, but I no longer care as I can’t bear the pain. While scheduling, the receptionist says, “I can’t get you in to see the doctor for 5 weeks, but you can see his P.A. Friday.” I ask, “Can he write scripts for pain pills?” “Yes,” she replies cautiously. “Done,” I reply, “Let’s do it.”
By the end of the week I’m face-to-face with the dreamiest P.A. I’ve ever seen. (Think oh so cute and way too young to be a stand-in doctor.)
After a quick conversation about my age, the current state of my health and my affection for bread, booze and triathlons, he orders a second set of x-rays.
Again, they show nothing.
Not deterred, he looks at me and says, “Brook, I know your hip is fractured. I can tell by the way you’re walking and by how much pain you’re in. Let’s order an MRI to confirm.” ($411 visit)
That was Friday.
Last Monday at 6:15 a.m. I arrive at Health Images for my first ever MRI. By 6:30 a.m. I’m crying asking the tech to get me off the f*ing table. (I’m outrageously claustrophobic.) She asks if I want Valium. I laugh and say, “I don’t think so… I drove myself here.”
They reschedule me for a bigger machine later that same day. Still claustrophobic, (of course, you can’t heal that sh*t in 8 hours), I ask the tech to slide my body into the machine one inch at a time. It takes 15 minutes to get far enough in for them to start snapping pictures.
But it works.
As the machine assaults my auditory senses, I lay still for 45 minutes praying for a miracle.
At the end of my scan, the tech comes in and says, “Brook, you have a stress fracture in the femoral neck of your right hip that covers 50% of the transverse diameter.” (Like I know what that means, right?) “We rarely read results to patients, but the radiologist and I agree this is serious. You should not be walking or driving. Can you call someone to pick you up? We’re sending this report over to your doctor now, you’ll get a call from him by the end of the day.” ($450 visit)
Like the renegade I am… I drove myself home anyway. (It was that or Uber and I thought I might need my car.)
Within 30 minutes I’m on the phone with Dreamy and he’s telling me I need surgery – like, now.
I laugh and say, “You’re kidding, right? It’s that bad?”
“Brook, it’s a serious fracture, especially for someone your age,” he confirms. “You need to have this fixed as soon as possible before the fracture displaces.”
I’ve spent $1,046 outside of network for a diagnosis only to realize I need to get back INTO my network for possible surgery. So I do the only thing I can do… I call my provider and request an appointment with an orthopedic specialist.
A wearisome 24 hours later, she calls to tell me they can see me in 11 days. I ask if she’s joking. She’s not. I say, “You do understand I have a fracture and this is urgent right?” “Yes, maam,” she replies. “This is the soonest anyone can see you.”
I start to yell. (It doesn’t work.)
I try sobbing. (That gets me nowhere.)
Resolved, I take the appointment, whisper a quick, “F* you” under my breath and hang up.
I call Dreamy and tell him I can’t get in until the second coming of Christ.
He urges me to go to the emergency room… that they can’t deny treatment. “It’s urgent,” he presses. “You need to be seen today.”
So I pack what I’ll call a ‘surgery prep bag’, (pajamas, clean underwear, my laptop and a tooth brush), and drive my ass to the emergency room hoping for treatment.
Within an hour, it becomes horrifyingly obvious no one from my network is going to see me. Ninety minutes after I walk in I walk back out with a fat bill and a note that says, “Screw you lady, take a pain pill and wait your turn.”
And that’s where I am today… waiting my turn.
There is nothing more humbling than having a health issue ignored by the very people you’re supposed to be able to trust. Not only was I misdiagnosed by my primary care doctor, but his misdiagnosis has cost me well over $1,000 and at least a month of my life. I have felt helpless, small, fearful, angry, ignored, unheard and unimportant. I obsess over where I’d be today had either of the doctors at those first appointments had any interest in getting to the root cause instead of sending me on my way.
I’ll never know.
What I DO know is that when this is over, I will find a way to use my voice to help others get the care they need in a timely fashion. We’re in America for Christ’s sakes. We can do better.
P.S. If you have ideas for how to get involved, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My in-network doctor’s appointment is tomorrow morning – prayers welcome. Please note – this is not a rage against doctors, it’s disgust over how the ‘system’ works.
P.S.S. My Mom had surgery a few weeks ago so right now, all of our conversations revolve around poop and constipation. (I hear pain pills back you up.) I asked if she tried magnesium to loosen her stool post-surgery, she said, “There’s a fine line between loose stool and Depends undergarments, Brook.” We laughed our asses off!
P.S.S.S. Have a comeback story? I’d love if you’d share it here.
For the first time ever I had my groceries delivered (via Instacart) – it was heavenly!