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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cash Cow Patients

No matter how old your kids get, you will always worry about them. Once they pass the age of 18 you do not have as much say, in the legal sense, as you did their whole life. Medical decisions are left up to them and no matter what you say they will have the final decision. Doctors and hospitals will no longer share information with you unless they have written permission from your child, I mean, young adult. It's hard to not go to doctor appointments and hear first-hand what their observations and treatment recommendations are, especially for ailments that are mysteries. You have to depend on your child, I mean, young adult, to relay that info and oftentimes they do not have the answers to the questions you pose. You want to call that doctor up and ask point-blank ??? or tell them did they mention !!!, but you can't. You have to become a spectator in your child's, I mean young adults, treatment.

My daughter has not been up to par since November of last year. She's had numerous blood tests and has seen numerous specialists. She pays for her own insurance, pays her own doctor bills, and it's come to the point where it seems she is working just to pay medical bills. She's on so many prescriptions I've lost count. She's been on medications that interact with each other, sometimes possibly deadly. I often feel the left hand is slapping the right hand, and even though they fall under the same medical facility umbrella, each doctor's office might as well be on different coasts, treating a different patient. Web MD is my friend and even if I didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night I'd like to think I am not a medical moron. I also have my daughter's best interests at heart. I've made myself clear as to what course of action I would take, but she's trusting her doctors more than me. What can I do? I can be there for her when she needs me, like she did yesterday.

The latest round of tests involved a colonoscopy, endoscopy, and biopsies. I'm 54 and never have had the pleasure of any of those tests. Well, I did have biopsies, but not of my intestines. She's 20. When I was 20, other than a dermatologist, I don't think I even went to the doctor. I never would have met a $1,000 deductible by March. Each day the mail brings another insurance letter, another doctor bill, another laboratory bill, etc. My daughter has become a cash cow patient.

She asked me to go with her yesterday, and of course,  I wanted to go. I planned to speak with the billing office who wanted her to pay some money up front, and I also had questions for the gastroenterologist that my daughter couldn't answer. We arrived early for her 9:30am appointment. She was starving and in discomfort from the dreaded 64 ounce mixture. We waited, and waited, and waited some more, until we were the last people in the waiting room. Billing never brought up the up-front money issue. She didn't get into pre-op until 12:30. We waited, and waited, and waited some more while the nurses tried to insert a needle into the top of her hands for the IV drip. Couldn't do it. I winced everytime I saw the girl shudder as the needle was maneuvered in vain to find a vein. They finally determined it was impossible and inserted one in the crook of her arm instead.  I prayed the Hail Mary asking her to help the nurse who wasn't sure it was going to work. Finally, it did. And then we waited, and waited, and waited some more, until the anaesthesiologist came by. As I've done for every one of her past surgeries, I speak to them and tell them they are the most important person my daughter will be seeing. This one brightened up and said, "It's true, but many people don't realize that." I told her I most certainly did, and that I was entrusting her to take care of my daughter. She promised she would. And then we waited, and waited, and waited some more, another hour more, for the doctor to stop by. They almost brought her into surgery a half hour before then, but then realized the doctor hadn't spoken to her yet, so the gurney did an about-face.

Luckily I was there, because when they thought she was going in the first time, they erased her name off the board. When the doctor did come around I saw her look at the board and pick up a file. I knew it wasn't my daughter's file as I had seen the nurse put hers first in line. I went up to the doctor and introduced myself and asked her if we could speak. I pointed to my daughter and said she was her next patient and I had a couple of questions. First she asked my daughter if it was okay for her to discuss her chart with me. Naturally, she said yes. As I asked the questions I noticed her looking confused, as she moved papers around in the folder. And although she was asking my daughter to sign some papers, they weren't her papers. I didn't want to say that's not her chart until I had to, but I was prepared to. The nurse we were speaking with earlier realized it was the wrong folder and switched them out. So, had I not been there to bring her into my daughter's room, the poor girl would probably have gotten pushed back again. It was now 4 hours that she had been waiting, and she looked like she was fading fast.

Anyway, I asked why she was taking biopsies. She explained that she needed to perform them to rule out some illnesses. I told her I looked at my daughter's test results from two weeks prior testing for some of those illnesses, and they were all negative. She said sometimes it's a "false-positive" and the only way they could eliminate them would be through a biopsy. I hope that's true and it's not just a Ka-Ching! They wheeled her off, and by the time I went to the cafeteria to eat a granola bar, followed by a stroll up the block once, she was in recovery.

The doctor said everything looked good, but we wouldn't know definitely until the biopsies came back which could be a couple of weeks. She also said she had tonsillitis and recommended removing them. Ka-Ching! Seriously?! My daughter said her throat doesn't hurt at all. We figure maybe they're irritated from all that gross mixture she had to drink. Tonsils are the last thing on the medical maladies list.

So now we wait. And I pray nothing "bad" comes back, or if it does, it's something minor so they could finally treat her, or perhaps even, gasp, heal her. There's not a lot of money in healing though, is there?  But...if nothing "bad" comes back, where does that leave her? Right back where she started from. Only much, much poorer. And then, maybe then, she'll finally listen to what I've been saying is her problem all along...those damn pills they're feeding her, and will continue to feed her. If she stops them, then she wouldn't have to visit the doctors so often, and I'm sure they wouldn't want that. After all, cash cow patients are probably hard to come by these days. Or, maybe I'm wrong. I'm not a doctor. I'm just a mother.


  1. Did she ever find out what was wrong? I hope she is feeling better.

  2. Nope. Everything came back negative...surprise, surprise. Her follow-up appointment is in August. Stomach is still not right. Now her neurologist has scheduled her for an EEG. Ka-ching, Ka-ching, Ka-ching!!!