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The obligatory Mother’s Day gift list

10 May

So in an attempt to be a Real Blogger, I follow a few other bloggers via Twitter. They’re all doing Mother’s Day lists, and I thought, well, why not?

Also…my daughter totally reads my blog, so this works in my favor too 😉

Okay, so you have a mom. Or you have a wife, and she is mom to your offspring. Mother’s Day is THIS Sunday in America. You have nothing to give this special woman in your life.

What do you do?

  1. For God’s sake, let the woman sleep in! Seriously. Let. Her. Sleep. In. You get up early, then sit in front of the door to play goalie when the offspring come bounding down the hall at 5:43 am, and grab them before she is woken. Stuff their adorable little faces with cereal as you plop them in front of the television for three hours, letting Mom sleep in.
  2. Does she have a favorite store? Great! Get her a gift card from said store. No, don’t you try to pick out fabric for her, unless she has given you the name of the print, the yardage she needs, and a photo of said print that you can confirm things with – get her a gift card and allow her to pick out what fabric she wants. No, don’t let the kids pick out a blouse at the store she shops at – this is how she ends up with something pink leopard print with a pussy bow that she’s forced to wear to school gatherings. Just get her a gift card, let her pick out her own clothes. She likes to read? Get her a gift card to the bookstore. No, don’t pick out a book for her. Definitely don’t get her “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or you may find yourself Konmari-ed onto the curb. If she likes coffee, get her a gift card to her favorite coffee shop – if you must get a mug with “World’s Bestest Mom” on it, put the gift card in the mug.
  3. Figure out if she’s a plant or flower person, then buy appropriately. Does she like gardening? Plant. Do dandelions shrivel up when she walks by? A nice bouquet of flowers? Does she have seasonal allergies? They make cookie and fruit bouquets.
  4. Give her the gift of a clean house. Seriously. Clean the house for her. Let her sit with her World’s Bestest Mom mug and cookie bouquet and watch you clean. She may cry a little – that’s normal, and those are happy tears.
  5. Let her nap. I know, you let her sleep in, but this mom in your life hasn’t slept since giving birth. Let her nap as well. Maybe get her a hammock, then let her nap in said hammock.
  6. Think outside the box. Maybe your mom needs a Wonder Woman tee (I mean, who doesn’t?). Maybe the woman really wants a Kitchen Aide mixer. Maybe she’s been dying to paint her bedroom, but like everything else, she’s put that last on her list.
  7. Clean out the family vehicle without criticism. Yes, we know, it’s covered in crumbs and straw wrappers and God only  knows what dribbled into the cup holder to cause that sticky mess. Just get to it, make the kids help, while she sits in a lawn chair sipping on a wine slushie. We all know why the car is in that state <glances at kids>
  8. Let her nap again. Seriously. The woman is tired.
  9. Get her that spa day. We’re never going to take the time to get a massage, so force it on us.
  10. Just do something. Anything. We’ll appreciate it. Homemade card by kids? Love it. Dandelions picked by the 3 yr old? Adore. The other parent grilling burgers for dinner, forgetting all the burger toppings, and eating off napkins? It’s a meal we didn’t make so hooray! But first, just let us sleep in.

 

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We were the parents picking and choosing what health services we could afford for our daughter

2 May

Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue about his son’s birth and discovery of a heart defect is making the rounds. I won’t lie – I’ve never wanted to hug a celebrity more than I did watching his video. I’m so glad everything is going well so far, and praying it will continue to go well.

Near the end of the monologue, after awesomely thanking all the hospital staff, family, friends, Jimmy goes on to say how thanks to the ACA, his son won’t be rejected from insurance because of his pre-existing heart condition. He also says “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.”

I totally agree.

But I agree because a decade ago, we were the parents picking and choosing what we could do for our daughter.

Ours is a tale of the self-employed. Back then, my husband was a consultant, and we were living a decent life. We had three small but amazingly healthy kids. We only saw doctors once a year for check ups. We decided to have that fourth and final child. She too was born healthy, though the pregnancy was the first clue that our insurance was not-so-great – it didn’t cover my “pre-existing maternal condition”, so six months into the pregnancy, we discovered we’d have to pay out of pocket for that pre-natal care the insurance rep told me was “not medically necessary”.

Luckily, my ob’s office had a non-insured rate to bill us at. It was still a chunk of change.

For this, we paid at one point, $700 a month out of pocket.

We still didn’t understand just how bad our insurance was. Not until Maura was 15 months old and our pediatrician sent us for a blood test to check her genes, make sure they were all there. They were, and for that knowledge, we got a bill for $1200 – our insurance, it seemed, didn’t cover lab work.

In this foggy time of discovering Maura had developmental delays, we were left with a choice parents should not have to make – “Do we test? If so, who do we go to, because we can only afford so much testing….” We signed up for the free Early Intervention through the school district in the meantime.

I called the now non-existent Behavioral and Developmental Clinic at the prestigious university hospital. I thought our money would be best spent there, since no one was quite sure where to start with Maura. They claimed they would discuss her case with a group of doctors, and we’d be seen by the correct specialist.

“What’s your biggest concern?” the intake person asked me over the phone.

“She’s twenty months old and not walking.” I stated, then mentioned also the fine motor skill delays and speech delays, to boost our case.

They heard “Not talking, almost two” and sent us to a child psychologist, who did a minor screening, then announced happily to me that Maura was not autistic.

“Well, yeah…” I responded – because the one area Maura shined in was social skills, her EI therapists weren’t worried about autism. “But can you tell me what she does have?”

“Oh, I don’t know, you’ll have to see someone else.”

I left, furious, after paying $250 out of pocket because my insurance didn’t cover “mental health issues”.

One nurse did tell me I should check with the state’s Medicaid program for children with any sort of special needs, that we’d definitely get on it, and that would help with the costs. So I called them up.

“What’s your daughter’s diagnosis?” the representative asked.

“She has developmental delays.” I stated.

“Does she have any other diagnosis?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t cover developmental delays. Maybe if you can get a diagnosis, you’ll be able to get on the program.” the rep said nicely.

“Yes, but we need this program so we can afford testing so we can get a diagnosis.” I sighed.

Still, Maura remained healthy and happy. She grew normally. We paid out of pocket for stuff. Josh changed job roles, going from a consultant, to a partner in a consultant group, that was small, but did provide insurance.

So we went to the neurologist. Who found nothing. We went to the geneticist, who found nothing. We went to the orthopedic guy to get Maura much needed ankle braces, so she could walk straight. Those braces cost $1700. Insurance covered the first thousand, the rest was up to us, and oh, insurance only covers the cost of these sorts of supportive braces once a year – so if your child has a growth spurt two months after receiving the braces, the next pair is on you. Except orthopedics know this so have ways of making that one brace last a calendar year.

At one point, we bought a house. A fixer-upper with 30 year old carpet that tore if you stubbed your toe on it. We ripped up all the carpeting….and then received $3000 worth of medical bills for Maura in the mail. So we paid the medical bills and I threw area rugs over subflooring until we could afford replace what we tore up. Because that’s just how life worked at that point. We paid the medical bills and made everything else work.

And then, Josh applied for a job in corporate America. And I read the benefits package. And I may have grabbed him by the shirtfront and yelled “OMG DID YOU SEE THE INSURANCE PLAN? YOU HAVE TO GET THIS JOB!!!”

And he got the job. And I would walk into doctors offices going “Ask me how much my co-pay is? NONE! I have none!”

It’s amazing how much less stressful your life is when you don’t have to go “Gee, I know she needs to see both specialists, but we can only afford one, so which will it be?” But I also will never forget those times, because they sucked. There  you are, learning that there may be something wrong with your child, but you can’t afford the cost of finding out what that wrong thing might be?

No parent should have to go through that.

But wait – in writing this, I realize I need to back up, to a time before Maura even.

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Me and Miriam – April 2001

We had moved from one state to another. And in doing so, our insurance through one state-based firm was supposed to transfer to the other state-based firm. Yet it didn’t. There was a mix up in the paperwork. A six month mix-up that took endless phone calls and paperwork being sent back and forth and lost in the process, and much swearing.

In the midst of all that, we went to my mom’s house that Thanksgiving. Long story shorter, Miriam, then a tiny toddler who was sixteen months old and wore 6-9 month sized clothes, climbed up the stairs at my mom’s. Josh, being a good father, followed her up the stairs, then closed and locked the baby gate when they got to the top. Sean said “Hey Dad, look!”

Josh looked.

Meanwhile, downstairs, I heard a soft thunk. “That’s odd.” I said, as my mother and I both got up from our seats in the living room to go look.

Josh had also heard the thunk. He thought Miriam went into my sister’s room and knocked over something. Then he heard me say “Miriam! Are you okay?”

I was down in the front all, my 16 month old laying on the floor looking dazed. Josh was upstairs trying to unlock the damned baby gate. I picked up Miriam, and was spooked that my child who yelled about everything was being eerily quiet. My stepdad and grandma were now by me. Josh decided to hop the baby gate at the top of the stairs. Just as my stepdad was saying “Here, give her to me, let me see”, Josh came rushing down the stairs.

“She was up there!” he said.

We all looked up, 10-12 feet, and what happened hit us.

Somehow, the tiny 16 month old slipped through a five inch gap in the railing in the upstairs hallway and fell to the first floor. My brain was racing with the thought that I should have never picked her up off the floor. If she had damaged herself, I just made it worse by picking her up.

“What do you want to do?” someone asked me.

“I want to take her to a doctor and have them tell me my baby’s okay.” I replied as I clutched my still not crying toddler.

“Let’s go.” Josh said.

“OMG!” my mom blurted out in horror.  “You don’t have insurance!” Ironically, we had been telling her the tale of trying to get insurance earlier.

“I don’t care, we’ll figure it out later.” Josh said.

$6000 later, we were told that Miriam was, in fact, fine. Miraculously, we left the hospital six hours after arriving, with only a bump on her forehead to show she had fallen. If Miriam had been injured, it would have been a much higher bill. If she had been injured, would we have had to choose what we fixed? We were uninsured, who knows what would have happened if she’d had a broken leg, or head injury, needed surgery or a week’s stay in the hospital. Actually, bankruptcy probably would have happened, to be honest. Because we were racking up $1000 per hour we were in the ER.

Luckily, there was nothing wrong with our tiny toddler. Luckily, the bill was *only* $6000.

My mom ended up filing a claim with homeowner’s insurance, and the man – who had a toddler of his own and a staircase design similar to my mom’s – ruled it a freak accident and they’d cover the entire bill.

Thank God, because honestly? We didn’t have $6000 for medical bills.

We’ve been there, on both sides of the coin. As parents of a healthy child who’s had a freak accident, and as parents of a child who has special needs. We’ve had to choose what to do medically for our children, knowing we would have to pay for it ourselves, or go into debt for it. We have had to choose, do we take her to a neurologist or a developmental pediatrician, because we couldn’t swing both. We have sat with a pile of medical bills, choosing to defer student loans yet again, because student loans would still be there, but we’d want to see the doctor again and we couldn’t be seen if we had an outstanding account.

So as you wipe tears after watching Jimmy Kimmel plead for health care for human beings, especially the tiny ones, remember that this is something so many of us deal with on a day to day basis. There are real live people behind these stories. And these stories are common. Much too common.

I know, because I’ve lived it.

“No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life.”

 

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Maura, Easter 2010? She was having seizures b/c of an ear infection. Luckily, this was all covered by insurance, and she wasn’t excluded from insurance because of her pre-existing condition known as epilepsy.

 

 

 

 

And then I learned that MRI’s freak me out

28 Oct

So, I screwed up my shoulder. It’s been hurting for…oh…almost two weeks now. My doctor sent me for an MRI, and that took a week to get into (to which my friend said “Wow, just a week? That’s fast!”)

Now, during all the pre-MRI questions and reviews, they ask flat out – Are you claustrophobic?

I answered no. Because I’ve never considered myself as such.

I think that if you are claustrophobic or anxious about getting an MRI, they give you stuff to calm you. But I was certain I’d be fine. I joked that I’d probably nap and hoped I wouldn’t snore too loudly.

I was not nervous at all. Actually, I was looking forward to it, even a bit excited. Hey, trying new things! Getting answers for my shoulder! Being left along for like, a whole half hour!

No, being nervous was not on my radar. However, the moment the guy running things hit the button that had me going into the MRI machine, it was as if he also flipped the anxiety switch on to Full Panic Mode.

<spoiler> I got through it.

However, seven seconds into the Tunnel of Terror and I was like “Nope. Can’t do this. Nope. Get me out of here.” The sensible part of my brain took over.

“It’s twenty minutes. He said twenty minutes. Just keep your eyes closed and breathe. He promised music, twenty minutes is like four or five songs. You have to do this.”

Full Panic Mode was all “No. Nope. No. Can’t. Just let me out of here.”

Sensible Brain said “No. If we leave now we’ll just have to go back in. It might be worse. Breathe and keep your eyes closed.”

Full Panic Mode decided to pop the eyelids open, as if seeing what was around me would make it better. Full Panic Mode realized we had made a terrible choice and no, it was not better, that nope, it wasn’t actually bigger on the inside, it was way narrower than I thought.

Sensible Brain didn’t say “Oh for feck’s sake, I told you to keep your eyes closed.” She said “It’s okay, just keep your eyes closed, oh, the music is on…what’s this song? Focus on the song.”

And then it was all WRRRRRRHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRBANGBANGWHRRRRSCREEEPSCREEP for a bit. And Full Panic Mode was all “nope, gotta push the button on the cord that the dude gave me. I’m not going to make it.”

“You will NOT push that button. We can do this.” said Sensible Brain.

“I don’t think we can.” Full Panic Mode said.

“Yes, we can. Because we are not going to start this all over again. Now suck it up. Five songs, just five songs. Ooo…is that Depeche Mode playing?”

“Oh, it is.” Full Panic Mode said. “Okay, I’ll try to concentrate more on the song than the fact that we’re in this brightly lit tube of doom.”

(There was an option to turn off the light and I was like ‘AW HELL NO’. Because what’s worse than a brightly lit tube of doom is probably being in a really dark tube of doom. Of that I am certain.)

Sensible Brain sighed. “It is NOT a tube of doom. We are not trapped in here. There’s an opening on either end. We could easily scootch out of here if need be.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yes.”

“Should we try it?”

“No! Then we’ll have to start all over again. Look, we’re through the first song.”

Now, at this point, because full panic mode had been triggered, I realized I was actually kind of vibrating. Because when I get really really ridiculously nervous, I tense way the fuck up to the point that my muscles start to quiver.

“Calm down.” Sensible Brain said. “Focus on breathing and the music.”

“Can’t. Stop. Shivering.” Full Panic Mode said. “Also, kind of hard to hear the music over the WRRRRRRHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRBANGBANGWHRRRRSCREEEPSCREEP-ing.”

“Fine. Then keep the shivering to the lower extremities.” Sensible Brain said. Because the legs weren’t being imaged. Just the right shoulder. All I had to do was keep the right shoulder still. And remember to breathe.

“OMG don’t hold your breathe!” Sensible Brain said. “Come on, in with the good, out with the bad.”

Full Panic Mode breathed. Shallowly. While thinking “Gee, it would totally suck if I got so nervous I vomited. OMG, what if I have to vomit????”

“You are soooooooooo not vomiting.” Sensible Brain said. “That just isn’t allowed.”

“I’ve never been so nervous that I threw up.”

“And you’re not starting today.”

“Glad I didn’t eat dinner before I left.”

“Me too.”

WRRRRRRHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRBANGBANGWHRRRRSCREEEPSCREEP…

Then the MRI Guy announced we only had thirteen or fourteen minutes left, and I was all “Hey! That’s not too bad. I can do this.”

Full Panic Mode calmed down a little, but I was still so friggen tense that I was still trying not to have a nervous shiver. Different muscles just kept twitching. “It’s okay as long as the shoulder stays still.” Sensible Brain reminded me. “Hey, The Cure’s now playing. Focus on that.”

And I tried.

Until Full Panic Mode whispered…”You know what would suck? Is if an earthquake hit while you were in here…”

Yes. My brain went there. And then Sensible Brain went “Nope, we’re not going to think about that.”

WRRRRRRHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRRBANGBANGWHRRRRSCREEEPSCREEP

“God, wouldn’t it suck if, as MRI Dude pressed the button to get me out of here, if my hair got caught…would my hair just rip out, or would I end up scalped?”

“For Christ’s sake! If your hair could get caught, MRI Dude would have done something about it, given you a cap to wear. But it’s not going to get caught.”

“Okay. Back to vomiting in the tube…that would make a mess…I wonder how many people get so panicked they vomit?”

“Shut it already! Didn’t you hear the man? We’re down to two more pictures. We’re not quitting this close to the end. Now go back to pretending that we’re just laying out in the sun, in a wide open space…”

“But…earthquake…”

“No.”

And that, my friends, is how I got through my MRI. And how I learned that maybe….just maaaaaaaaaaybe…I’m a bit claustrophobic. Or maybe my anxiety can’t handle brightly lit tubes of doom.

My consolation prize – a CD of images of my shoulder. I can totally read them and diagnose myself, right?

 

 

 

 

 

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