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Readers share their experiences of health care in the USA.

A RomLand regular writes:

I grew up visiting the doctor and dentist only when something was wrong. Annual visits just for a physical? No, because even with insurance, the co-pay for three kids was a large chunk of change from a not-large budget. It has taken years of adulthood to break myself of that habit, even partially.

Just after my first year of university, I came down with what I thought was food poisoning while home for the summer break. Spent the day huddled miserably in the bathroom, dry-heaving. My younger brother, the bane of my existence at the time, was sweet to me that day, trying to make me feel better. Did feel marginally better that night, because the heaving stopped, but then it resumed the next morning. My mother, an hourly not salaried employee, called in sick and took me to the Emergency Room of our local hospital.

We arrived before 9am and sat in the waiting room for perhaps an hour, answering questions from a survey form and talking to a nurse or PA. The first thing they wanted to do was a pregnancy test, because they were sure it was an ectopic pregnancy. I was confident that wasn’t the problem, but nothing I said convinced them otherwise, whether it was in the presence of my mother or not. After passing (failing?) the pregnancy test, I was re-examined and they determined I was suffering from acute appendicitis.

The diagnosis was made before noon, and the surgeon stopped by to confirm and do whatever surgeons do. I was not permitted to eat (blech) or drink (would’ve been nice, felt dehydrated). Then the surgeon disappeared for about 8 hours. Apparently an ambulance came in and those patients had to be examined and treated first. Turned out that none of them were seriously injured, but because they arrived via ambulance, they had priority over a walk-in. Not sure what else the delay was chalked up to. Busy OR, maybe? At that point, I was kind of fuzzy, and my mother was frantic and disturbed by my disorientation. After 6pm, the surgeon returned and took me to the ER immediately.

While I was waiting in the ER, my appendix split and began to leak material into my abdomen. Instead of being able to remove it laparoscopically, the surgeon had to perform an old-fashioned appendectomy, then leave the wound open with a drain in order to facilitate the removal of all of the icky (not his word) material that had leaked. And then I spent 5 days in the hospital and another week after that on bed rest with a nurse stopping by daily to check the wound.

Here’s the thing: I was extremely fortunate that since I was a full time student, most of my hospital bills were covered by my father’s health insurance plan (through his employer). But my mom paid the rest of the bills off over a two year period. It was ridiculous that the cost of a routine surgery (that should have been much more routine than it turned out to be) took two years of steady payment to be paid down. But it was even scarier that the bills would’ve been ten times what she paid without his (court-mandated) insurance.

If you would like to share your own health care in America experiences, good or bad, please email me at Hairylemony @ gmail.com

1 Comment »

  • wendy
    August 31
    10:48 am

    When I read this this morning I thought it was so sad. This is what the conservatives want to conserve?


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