Flash back Monday – Shipping Off A Dream

How fast the weeks fly by, don’t they? Well, it’s Monday again, and that means I dig deep into my blog archives and give you another blast from my past

Shipping Off A Dream

Posted on August 19, 2010
Photo by William J. Grimes This is a picture o...

Yesterday, I went to the UPS store and shipped off a package, and with it went a dream. As I placed the package on the counter, I realized with all that the box contained was a wish that was never fulfilled. It was sad, but at the same time, it was a relief. The package contained a collection that my wife and I had put together over the last five or so years of baby clothes and toddler clothes. They were all clothes for our daughter, that we never had.

I am a firm believer in dharma, and it was not in either of our dharma to have a child of our own. When we first got married, everybody started to nag us about having kids. Our answer was always, as soon as you agree to pay for it for the rest of its life, sure, we’ll make one. That eventually shut them up.

Our careers did not allow for us to have a child, and we both decided not to. Then we hit forty, and we both decided to try, but we made the promise that we would only conceive naturally. No test tube baby for us. Then all my stuff happened and we put having a child on hold.

Now as time has passed, I will be fifty in 2012, I have pulmonary and cardiacsarcoidosisheart failurepulmonary hypertension and a leaking PFO, and I can barely keep up with my daily schedule. And a child needs all your attention, all day, something admittedly I am unable to do. It would be very unfair to bring a child into this world, and I am not able to help care and nurture it. If we were to have a child now, I will be sixty-nine when they graduate high school (Hopefully I make it that far).

So I watched hat box go off to be shipped to a charity in New york that distributed clothes to children in need, and although I felt a little sad, I felt  some relief.

Flashback Monday – Being Thankful For America’s Aggressive Doctors

Another Flashback Monday posting from August 2010.

I recently received an email from a reader in Europe that had read the “My Story” page of my blog. They were very angry at the American Medical system for some reason and said that American doctors are too aggressive and love to slice and dice and over medicate, and that I was a victim of their costly propaganda that enabled American doctors to live a life of luxury.I also received an email from another reader in the UK whose wife is a Sarcoidosis sufferer and was first diagnosed in 2008, but was not treated. The UK doctors opted for a wait and see approach to treatment as they deemed the side effects of the medicine to out weigh the risk posed by the actual disease.Although I fully understand the approach of the UK doctors, that approach came at a price to my reader’s wife. In 2008, she had Sarcoidosis in the chest. Now after being recently re-tested, it’s in her skin, eyes, nose, chest, liver, salivary glands. Had they started treatment immediately in 2008, it would more that likely be in remission and she would be fine, just having to live with what ever scarring occurred then. Now she has to be aggressively treated, and will have scarring in all those extra areas to deal with.

I am very happy that I am living in the US and have the aggressive doctors that I have. I am also extremely grateful to have the insurance policy that I have, and that my insurance company pays every bill it has ever received for all of my operations, tests and doctor visits.

I am not sure exactly how the UK and European medical systems work, but from what I understand, the government pays for your medical. They also decide if you get treated and if you don’t. I have an individual health insurance policy, and the monthly premium is more than most third world country people’s annual income, and it goes up 20% every year. The thing is, I decide if I get treated or not, and just how aggressively.

When I had my mini stroke in 2007, I thank my doctor every day for being aggressive and not adopting a wait and see attitude. Don’t get me wrong, many US doctors adopt a wait and see attitude also. But mine did not. He ordered a barrage of tests – MRIs, Blood, CT scans, X-rays. He treated my symptoms as a mini stroke. I was told by another doctor that I was lucky to have such an aggressive doctor, and that he would have dismissed my symptoms as just a case om me sleeping badly on the arm. His aggressive testing led me to learn that I had a congenital heart defect, a PFO. Patent Foramen Ovalae, a hole in my heart. That hole was allowing small clots to get directly to my brain,thus causing my mini stroke.

This led to me having an operation to fix the hole in my heart. The operation is done via catheterization, and you are mildly sedated for it. The surgeon just before the operation decided to be more aggressive and asked me if he could do the operation under general anesthesia to do some thorough testing of the heart. He didn’t have to do that because a month before I had a transesophogeal echo cardiogram, which showed the heart to be strong and functioning properly.

“Who?! Me?! I have heart failure? When did that happen?!”

When I woke up from anesthesia I was greeted by the surgeon telling me that the hole was fixed, but that the heart function was low, and I was in heart failure. In just that month the sarcoidosis went to my heart and caused heart failure. I was later told that if I did not find the hole in the heart, or if the surgeon did not decide to be aggressive in the testing during the surgery, I would be dead in about two months .

And as time went on, my doctors remained aggressive with their testing and probing and I had another exploratory right heart catheterization, and it was then  discovered that I had secondary pulmonary hypertension and that my plug did not completely close up, and the hole still leaks. So I am on Plavix to prevent the possibility of a stroke.

I am truly blessed and my chain of events is definitely being in the right place at the right time. If I did not have a truly great health insurance policy that openly paid for all my procedures, tests, drugs etc., (which I now estimate to well over $500,000.00), and the right doctors in the right place, I would not be writing this blog, but instead just be another statistical fatality.

I am one of a blessed few. There are many Americans out there with no insurance, or with insurance that does not pay for very much. Yet, the doctors continue to be aggressive and fight the insurance companies so that people get the health care they deserve and need.

True there are many specialist out there living the good life, driving their fancy cars and living in expensive homes in exclusive neighborhoods. But I am alive because of them, and they could buy a freaking jet for all I care,so long as they don’t decide to become complacent and sit back and wait to see if I am going to die, then the day after say. “Shucks. Should have prescribed that pill huh? Should I send flowers to his widow?”

The Definition of Me

When I moved to the US 25 years ago, one of the things the struck me with the culture is people’s need to know what you did for a living. They would meet you, and immediately ask what type of work you did. I realized with time, that no matter what, the purpose of that question was to categorize you. Depending on the type of work you did, people would know whether or not you were In their league, or if you were above it, so that they could get into yours.

I have also noticed that people are different towards you when they know that you have a condition or two. You are instantly categorized by the known symptoms of that condition. I have pulmonary and cardiac sarcoidosis, heart failure, a leaking PFO closure, an implanted defibrillator and pulmonary hypertension. Put the symptoms of all those conditions into one package and you expect someone who is dead or on the verge of death. That’s why I am a source of intrigue to the medical professionals. And because I don’t fit that mold, it only goes to prove that I am not the sum of my conditions.

I am the man who enjoys going for walks in the park, for long drives in the country, and strolls on the beach at sunset. I am the man who enjoys eating a small cup of gelato at the beach on a cold winter’s day. I am the man who enjoys a Starbucks grande decaf soy sugar-free vanilla frapuccino in the afternoon. I am the man who hates when people ask what I do for a living. I am the man who hates push button faucets in public bathrooms that only run for 5 seconds. What I do for a living and the sum of my conditions do not define who I am, but how I get back up after a fall is what defines me. I am that man who refuses to be defined by my conditions. I am me.