Monday, July 13, 2015

Second Chances

You may remember that a couple of months ago my husband had been diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia.  When he finished out his round of antibiotics, he had a follow up x-ray taken to make sure it had cleared up.  They said the pneumonia was gone, but he had a nodule on one lung, so they wanted him to come back a few weeks later to see if that changed in size.  Apparently, anywhere else in the country, a nodule on the lung means cancer.  However, here in Arizona, a nodule on the lung usually means Valley Fever, which is a fungal infection that is common in areas where there is blowing dust.

This past week he began developing the same symptoms he had when he got diagnosed with pneumonia, only on the opposite side of his chest.  Naturally, we thought the pneumonia was coming back.  He had another chest x-ray on Friday, and they told him that it would take a few days for the results to reach his doctor.  He told them he wasn't feeling well and was planning on seeing his doctor on Monday.

Friday night into Saturday, the pain was getting worse in a hurry.  I told him I didn't think he would make it until Monday, and we should either go to Urgent Care or the hospital.  He wanted to wait out the pain until Monday, because he didn't like that the hospital gave him an unnecessary CAT scan that cost $6,000.  His primary physician told him that an x-ray should have done a sufficient job detecting pneumonia, so at the time, we were thinking that the hospital was just trying to bilk us and our health insurance out of large sums of money.  That kind of behavior goes on quite a bit nowadays in the medical field.  Doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies are some of the worst scammers we have to deal with in today's society.

Well, fortunately, our health insurance covered most of it, but getting an $11,000 bill after only being in the emergency room for a couple of hours is quite shocking.  It didn't help that we received a notice in the mail saying that we had something like 10 days to pay the full amount.  That shock leaves a lasting impression in you.  But my husband was able to get a phone conference going between the hospital and the insurance company in order to clear up the clerical error that put us in that position in the first place.  In the old days, hospitals would wait at least a month or two before billing you.  I don't know if that was a courtesy to allow the sick and injured time to heal or if it was just because they didn't have the computer systems they have now, but we got this bill really fast and didn't need the extra stress.  The doctor had ordered my husband to rest, and here he was having to hassle over a bill.  It turned out that someone in the billing department decided that our insurance company had a history of taking too long to pay, so the hospital just billed the patient directly without billing the insurance company at all.  WTF?  People can be such idiots.

I knew at some point the pain my husband was experiencing this second time around was going to get bad enough that he'd give in and go to the hospital, and that happened Saturday afternoon.  Despite having a lot of people waiting to see doctors, they admitted him immediately because he mentioned chest pain.  He said, "I don't mean to make it sound like I have a heart problem.  It's probably just pneumonia."

We sat there in the emergency room bay for hours waiting for a doctor to see him and order some tests.  It was rather frustrating, because he was obviously in unbearable pain, yet they wouldn't give him anything for it until a doctor saw him.  They had one doctor on duty in this emergency room, and I heard him running around saying, "Which bay has the chest pain?  I don't need anymore chest pain cases today."

I was expecting him to come into our bay, but apparently there was someone else who had chest pain, and the nurse who saw my husband dismissed him as having pneumonia and knocked him further down the triage list.  It was so frustrating watching these nurses gossiping and snacking and talking about their breaks at the station just a few feet away from us.  My husband was moaning and groaning, and they acted like he didn't even exist.  Once the doctor got him on a morphine drip and ordered the tests, I needed to head for home to get some barn chores done  I told my husband to text or call when he needed to be picked up.

Several hours later he texted me that he had pulmonary embolisms -- blood clots in the lungs.  That is what killed both of his grandfathers, and his mother has been hospitalized three times for the same thing.  Needless to say, my husband didn't come home, but was admitted into the hospital for several days and nights.  Our kids were coming into town to visit that weekend, so I broke the news to them when they arrived and we all visited him in the hospital.

The doctor told me that it was very fortunate that we did bring him to the hospital instead of waiting, because now his condition can be managed with blood thinners and exercise.  They did need to make sure that he didn't get any kidney damage in the time he was not being treated.  He said that people who don't take the pain seriously wind up dead.  It scared me to think that we were both assuming it was pneumonia again, and worse yet, he probably had these embolisms the first time we took him to the emergency room, and the doctors missed it.  That means my husband has been a walking time bomb for the past two months.  He could have had a heart attack at any time.

In fact, we're not even sure if he ever had pneumonia in the first place.  I'll bet someone screwed up and perhaps saw the nodule or the blood clot, interpreted that as liquid in the lungs, and then stopped looking further.  Since the second pain episode was exactly like the first, he probably had blood clots moving into his lung on one side two months ago, and now moving into his lung on the other side this past week.  It was unfortunate that he got diagnosed with pneumonia, whether he had it or not, because he was ordered to rest, which is the worst thing you can do when you have blood clots.  His current doctor was on the ball and seemed like he was going to investigate who treated my husband the first time he came into the emergency room, and let that staff know that their mistakes nearly cost a man his life.

We're still looking into the nodule in his lung.  There are a lot of factors that cause pulmonary embolisms and he's got the genetic disposition and the sedentary lifestyle where he sits at a desk for hours on end.  If sitting too much was the cause, he may only have to be on blood thinners for six months.  If the problem comes back after he's been treated and after he becomes more physically active, they'll have to assume that genetics plays a larger role and put him on medication for the rest of his life.

I was able to talk to the doctors about his medication choices.  They have him on Warfarin now, and both the Coroner and I are pretty sure that my mother died because of Warfarin.  She was on it to avoid getting blood clots since she had atrial fibrillation, and then she got a bleeding ulcer that she never saw the doctor about.  The ulcer, I'm sure was caused by a radical change in her diet thanks to being on Warfarin, and having to go in for weekly blood tests thanks to being on Warfarin.  The drug requirements just totally stressed her out and didn't do anything to help her heart problem.  So, hopefully, these doctors will be able to get him onto one of these newer blood thinners like Xarelto that do not require weekly or bi-weekly blood draws at a lab and a major diet overhaul.

Being on blood thinners means that my husband will have to be careful about injuring himself.  If he gets a little cut, we'll just have to keep the pressure on it longer, but if he were to, say, fall off a horse and get internal bleeding or a big bloody gash, he could bleed out if we don't get him to a hospital right away.  So, we're looking at a major lifestyle change.  More exercise and nothing risky.  He's going to see if he can get a standing desk for his job so that he doesn't have to sit all day.  He works four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, because that's the way governments around here save money.  Also, they have a tendency to schedule meetings in such a way that employees are prevented from taking lunch breaks.  Unfortunately, it's causing their employees to form blood clots and have heart attacks.  So, these employers are going to have to start offering more breaks more often so that there are more opportunities to exercise.

On another note, my husband asked us to finish a painting job he was going to do in the guest bathroom before he got sick.  I was about to dig through a box of painting supplies in the garage and saw spider webs in the box, so I put on some gloves before digging.  I kept finding all these large exoskeletons of things like Palo Verde beetles and I wondered if the beetles had been nesting in there.  I picked up a stick and started pushing things around while looking for painter's tape, and I nearly vomited because the biggest, most disgusting Black Widow I have ever seen came running up the stick toward my hand to attack me for disturbing its nest.  It was so gross.  I had no idea Black Widows could get that big.  I mean this was about the size of a ping-pong or golf ball.  I went in the house and got some spider spray and blasted it.  I don't know how long Black Widows can live, but I suspect this one has been in that box since we moved three years ago.

I'm just really glad I didn't get bit, because I can't afford to be out of commission right now.  My son and his girlfriend had to go back to Cali to return to their jobs, and my daughter is leaving on a trip to Cancun with her boyfriend, so it's imperative that all poisonous creatures stay away from me for a while and that I don't get sick or have any accidents, so that I can take care of my husband when he gets out of the hospital.


Kate said...

So sorry to hear this! I hope your hubs feels better soon! Keep the bad critters away!

TeresaA said...

oh my goodness. I'm glad that your husband's condition was caught! I hope his recovery is straightforward. I also would have flung that stick and forgot about painting once I saw that spider.

Of course I gave a whole shed to some giant spiders so perhaps I'm a bit of a chicken.

Shanna Border said...

I can sympathize with you on the hospital billing and how they treat you. Our hospital expects people to pay for all their hospital bills within one year. Within ten months, I, my 10 month old son at the time, and my husband had all been in the hospital for major medical problems (all of which darn near killed us if we hadn't been treated). It took us two solid years (and being on a first name basis with the debt collector) to finally get it all paid off.

Hope your hubby starts feeling better fast and life quiets down. I think I'll stick to my neck of the woods where the cold season typically kills off the spiders.

Mrs Shoes said...

I'm glad you got a doctor who could help - knowledge is power. Hope Mr. Nuz is feeling better soon.

ellie k said...

My husband is in the hospital now with blood clots in his lung (lung cancer took his other one three years ago). They started in his feet and legs, make sure they check your husbands legs for clots. Today they put a filter in the artery from his heart to his lung. The dr said blood thinners will take care of the clots in his legs and heart. He was coughing a lot like an hour at a time, that has about stopped. He has fluid in the cavity where they removed his lung, they will draw that out in a day or so. He is on a number of meds right now, some of them cause his sugar to go up, it was 290 last night so he needs insulin, today it was 205. Of course he is 69, I know that makes a big difference too. When we called the ems Friday I did not think he would last to get him to the er. Watch your husband close, they usually don't tell you how bad things are until they are really sick.


Jen said...

WOW. Sounds like the Lord is not quite finished with your husband yet - what a blessing to go all that time without something dire or seriously debilitating happening! Hospitals can be appallingly bureaucratic, not to mention"cold-hearted" places in spite of how we continue to perceive them (as in caring places and what are we thinking there, right? *rolls eyes*).

When DD was born (bearing in mind that this was almost 25 years ago) pretty much everything that could go wrong went wrong; to the tune of a 20,000-ish co-pay for the hospital alone (sadly, our insurance did not have a catastrophic care clause). We also had bills coming in from every "-ologist" within a 10 mile radius, plus a monthly rental fee for an Apnea Monitor. When I went to work out a payment plan with the billing department at the hospital, the woman was incredibly rude and told me, "You had nine months to plan for this baby". When I pointed out that we HAD planned worst case and saved $5,000 for the birth of our child, but this was more along the lines of a "house at the beach", she relented somewhat and finally helped me work out a payment plan. It was quite the shock.

Glad that Widow didn't get you - I don't think (thankfully ;o) I've ever seen one THAT big. Yikes. I'll sure be praying for your husband's recovery girl!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thanks, everyone.

Ellie - Prayers to you and your husband. There must be something in the air. There were five other patients with chest pain in the ER along with my husband and they had to call a "Code Purple" for ER overload because they only had one doctor. I'm trying to watch my husband closely. It doesn't help that I've have headaches for the past three days and the only medication that helps puts me to sleep. I keep waking up and kicking myself for falling asleep. Then I run around the house looking for my husband. He's so quiet that it's hard to find him. The hospital did tell me to watch for the signs of a heart attack when they released him. He'd rather be at home than in the hospital, but I'm scared that each time I go down to the barn to do chores or fall asleep, something will happen.

ellie k said...

They are going to drain the fluid from his chest tomorrow. The pocket where they took out the lung has filled with fluid. That should take care of most of the cough, his chest stays sore from the coughing, he told the dr it is not like a heart pain but just sore. Hope your husband is feeling better, I know how much stress it is trying to make sure they take care of them selves and yours is way more with the animals. We have great neighbors, they have been weeding the flower beds and trimming bushes. One plans to mow the grass this week.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ellie - Thanks for the update. Helpful neighbors are invaluable. My husband is doing a little more each day and getting visibly better, but we think he has dead tissue pain and nerve damage pain from having his blood supply cut way down by the clots. He's seeing the doctor soon.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm sorry to hear about your husband. I hope he recovers quickly. The standing desk sounds like a good idea.

Yikes! That sounds like one giant spider with a bad attitude.

ellie k said...

After all the tests they have run for his lungs and heart they did a scan of his stomach and lower body, The scan shows what they said is cancer of his colon and kidney. They will do a P E T scan this week to see the stage and how much it may have spread. If it is still in stage 1 they can take it out with a 81 percent recovery rate. The poor man is so weak he can hardly stand up and the worry of cancer again is taking its toll on both of us. I have to blink my eyes a lot to keep the tears away. Sorry to tell you all this but I needed to talk to someone. we don't want to tell our kids until we have some real facts. I hope you and anyone reading this will pray for him, his name is Ron. thanks for letting me run on.

ellie k said...

I am sorry i have tried to add to your problems with mine. I know your time is so scheduled and much too busy now. Just delete my last comment if you want and I will try to be a bit better in what I might comment about.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Ellie - I'm praying for stage 1... or better yet that some mistake has been made and he's actually cancer free. I wish we understood cancer better and had cures for each type. I was actually thinking about you and wondering how he did, so don't worry about adding to my problems. Let me know how the PET scan goes.

achieve1dream said...

This post makes me glad my dad isn't on Warfarin.. I don't remember which one he's on but it's not that one. I'm praying for yours and Ellie's husbands. I hope everything is okay.