Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time in health care facilities and speaking to health care people. It’s really quite annoying. The other day I was advised by a nurse over the phone to “get to the emergency room yesterday” for my stomach issues (A family history of colitis, you say?). So I went. Going to the emergency room as a young white woman feels wrong. Everyone looks at you like you’re playing a joke on them. I don’t blame them. For some of them, the ability to walk comfortably would be a luxury. That’s not a joke. But I have found myself in this position. The information attendant at the emergency room wears cushion platform heels and all I can think of is where do you buy shoes like that? I eventually get seen for three seconds after the eight stages of waiting one must go through and I have a follow up appointment at a speciality clinic. My bill is $315.
At the speciality clinic — The Paul Bass Clinic at Brackenridge Hospital — the clientele is a bit different but not by much. Again, there is the dreaded stages of waiting. Sit down and wait to be signed it, get signed in and wait to be weighed, get weighed then wait to be seen by nurse, get seen by nurse then wait in room for doctor, get seen by doctor for four minutes then go to waiting room to wait to be discharged. I meet a nice woman at this clinic, a bit older, a bit hippyish.
“How long have you been here for?” She asks.
“Since nine. How about you?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” She’s hoping I’m kidding with her. “Have you been seen by anyone yet?”
“Oh yeah, I’m just waiting to leave.”
“Fucking, right,” she says, “we’re all waiting to leave.”
I loved this woman in many ways. One, because we were watching MSNBC in the waiting room and when John Boehner came on we both looked at each other and winced. Two, because I don’t have a mother figure in Austin and I’m constantly and unconsciously searching for one. Three, because she didn’t get up in your space if you didn’t want her too — she had made her way around the waiting room, sitting next to random people to spark up convo. But she took a hint — if the conversation was going nowhere she would let it. We also bonded over our inability to have healthy bowel movements, so, there was that.
Eventually my name is called as me and the woman are in the middle of a conversation about our upcoming colonoscopies.
“See you May 30th!” She says, and I get a little shy thinking about the tubes they use during the procedure and whether they reuse them and if there was any chance that the very tube that was to be going up my butt was previously up hers. Sometimes the mind wanders.
The woman behind the desk sends me to the lab where I wait to be given a bunch of empty containers that I am told I will have to defecate in and return. (Cut to my boyfriend texting me, asking, “Is your poop like hanging out somewhere in the house? Do I need to avoid a poop surprise somewhere?”)
As I wait or a lab technician to put stickers on empty bottles that will be filled with poop in the future, my new mom walks in.
“No FUCKING way. You’re STILL HERE.” Fucking way, I was still there. And she sits and we talk about the pitfalls of the healthcare industry but how lucky for us poor people that we can come in and get discounted care. I didn’t feel very lucky being late to work due to waiting for empty stool containers but hey, I got her point.
After 30 more minutes I received my poop containers and was off to the pharmacy where I would run into that cute southern guy who said “Morning” to me in the hallway when I had to run to my car to get my wallet three hours earlier. I am to hand over a prescription for a liquid you must take before a colonoscopy which is used to “clear you out.” So yes, my day is still going smoothly.
I ended up having to cancel my colonoscopy, leaving me with a sense of failure and sadness to not see my new mom again. The reason being my new unemployed status. However, I felt hope: Now that I am unemployed, I can’t be turned down by all those public assistance programs that said I made too much money before. WRONG!
Today, when speaking to a woman over the phone about my appointment later that day to see if I qualify for their health care plan she informed me I no longer qualified because I’m unemployed. Which was really funny after having the people at MAP tell me that I have too much money in savings to be qualified. The woman on the phone then referred me to “211” for more help on the matter. I figured she was joking.
So I find myself in this weird stage where I haven’t had health insurance for ten years but I’ve been too rich to get any public assistance the whole time. That translated into me not going to the doctor EVER until recently when I began to fear I was slowly dying of an unknown disease.
I will be honest and forthright here: The reason I was denied by MAP was due to a large sum of cash money I may or may not have in my savings account. Wanna know how I got this mula? My loving and hip-with-the-times mother wanted to see Tom Petty for her birthday (she has a tendency of singing “I need to know” completely out of tune so much so that my father would beg/scream at her to stop singing as he audibly masticated his butter smothered lobster). I’m the best daughter EVER and I took her, volunteering to be the DD. Also because at the time I had been listening to Tom Petty’s greatest hits like it was the last album left on earth. Mary Jane’s Last Dance was my anthem.
As I swayed to the music of this old man — clearly out of his prime but still rocking it — I watched my mom and my friend, Blair get drunk together as they listened too. Then I felt a thud and fell to the ground. Well, I more of leaned on Blair and slowly melted to the ground. Either way some douchebag threw an empty handle of Jagermeister into the crowd and it landed smack dab on the right side of my head, too close to my temple for comfort.
Some people have remarkable, meaningful moments that change their lives for the better and nothing is the same after that. I got hit in the head with a Jager bottle, got rushed out on a stretcher as Tom Petty began to sing American Girl — which to this day, I’m sure was a sign — as I sang along. By this point I had already been reasonably convinced I wasn’t going to die. After demanding Blair tell me how much time I had left she called my boyfriend to tell him what happened. He still is pissed about the whole thing — “She called and blurted out ‘Aly’s on a stretcher! She’s going to the hospital’ It was the literal worst way she could have told me.”
I just felt like such a celebrity (of course, it’s super easy to say that now). Everyone crowded around me like I was royalty — like I couldn’t be left to die in such a place. In reality, they were all rubberneckers trying to get a glimpse at the girl with the blood soaked headband — I loved that headband.
Ten stitches, five staples, a new history of vertigo and tens of thousands dollars later I would like to thank the asshat that threw that bottle in the air. You were not thinking of the damage you would cause, sir, but there’s no way you could’ve foretold the fortune either. I’m not gonna bullshit here and say if I could give back the money and have my life go back to before the accident I would. I definitely would not. That money paid off my car, allowed me to get current with two defaulted student loans, and pay for the ten other student loans I still owe on. It also has disallowed me from public assistance health programs which I sort of get but at the same time, screw you.
I’ve lived a long time now having to make choices between my health and the other category, whether it be school, transportation, work, money, MONEY, or more MONEY!
I have a big chunk of money in the bank but I owe more than double that in student loans. I feel like Oprah sometimes giving out cars when I’m paying my student loans. Sallie Mae, Discover, ECSI, Nelnet, Wells Fargo, Capital Management Services are among my “people.” By “people” I mean I talk to them more then my family and my friends and only SLIGHTLY less than my dog. If I don’t keep up with these loans my credit score stays in the negative. (I mean like, I-didn’t-know-they-made-scores-that-low negative).
My solution for now is to ALWAYS check public toilets for fear of dying from poisonous spiders like the people that went to an Olive Garden in Florida. I also became vegan. But that’s only helped me think of myself as cooler. I guess things could be worse.