Thursday, 17 December 2009

First you save yourself...

I've been away.

To be exact I've been away in hospital. On a Wednesday, I was sent home from work with my back problem flaring up. Over the next few days, it got worse and I only got through with the help of a friend. On Monday, I staggered to the GP to get a blood test, and was whipped into an office for an examination. And then an ambulance was called. At the ER, I was stuck quickly in an assessment bed, had saline inserted and was considered stable. Being a busy day, the ER then bumped me down the priority list and I was admitted to a ward in the wee small hours of Tuesday.

It was pretty obvious that it was a bit more than the initial diagnosis of "musculo-skeletal pain". A fair bit was dehydration - saline was pumped into me for three days. I had had a MRI scheduled for later that week; I was bumped up in priority along with the trauma victims and other serious problems, and scanned after hours.

I hate MRIs. As a test it is apallingly stressful; they have to sedate the claustrophobic.

I have an infected spinal disk, pouring pus into abscesses in my back and into my spinal canal. They monitored me for symptoms of nerve damage (past the continual pins and needles in my feet), ready to whip me into major surgery, while pouring huge amounts of antibiotics into me continously, inserting a PICC line after a while. The doctor pointed out the problem was both life and limb threatening. A CAT scan and biopsy got a sample of the bug to see to what it was vulnerable, while ultrasounds and punch biopsies looked at other problems.

I was in hospital for 23 days, most of it confined to bed. I played several long games of Civ 4 and Medieval Total Wat, and got a black belt in sudoku. Some nurses are very good at patient care and some are just petty dictators or mere jobsworths - and so it goes for any profession.

I am now at home, watching DVDs of "Outrageous Fortune" while lying on a couch and very painfully getting around on a walker frame. I have community nurses coming in every day tro check up on me and push antibiotics through the PICC line careful to maintain sterility. I also have clinics and therapists scheduled, contact numbers, and instructions for going straight back if things go wrong. It looks like I'll keep the use of my legs, and wind up with a fused disk.

Being in New Zealand, the stay cost me nothing. In fact, being confined to bed for most of this period helped my bank balance significantly. I had to purchase six drugs from a pharmacy afterwards - 5 of these were subsidised and cost me a nominal $14 (including slow release morphine); one painkiller was not, I chose to keep getting it, and I paid $80 for the privilege of a 2 week supply. I'm on sick leave while I need it, the medical services cost me nothing while things like Meals on Wheels are cheap.

I dunno how much I'd be facing in the US either with or without insurance, especially since some of the other problems were "pre-existing conditions". My worries involve pain and keeping this line into my veins sterile; they do not involve a huge debt, keeping my job despite being off for two months or more, or choices about paying for necessary care to support me at home.

Keep telling us socialised medicine is no good.

BTW, the title comes from a favourite Greg Johnson song.


Anonymous said...

Yeah! Get better soon.


Perry said...

I've missed your blogging, as I greatly value your insight and perspective!

But more, I'm glad to hear that you are on the other side of this challenge, and working your way back.

It sounds like your in for a surgery, so I send you my best wishes for the success of that.

Fortunately you don't have to worry about bankruptcy, which you very well might have over here in the USA.

It cost $10K (my share, $1K) for me to have my gall bladder removed laproscopically, a month or so ago, involving only about 5 hours total as an outpatient. Fortunately Medicare insurance covered all but $1K.

Best wishes for a full recovery!


sudoku online said...

Get well ! Great you have social security in New Zealand. It would have cost you a lot in US. I had the same problem a few years ago. I just feel better now :)