Tales from the uninsured

It has been about two weeks since I last wrote my blog about being uninsured and unhealthy in America.  With the influence of my family, friends, and even our blog readers, I quickly made an appointment for blood tests to see what is going on within my body that I’m not aware of.  Alyssa has had her life engulfed with solving her own health mysteries and it has taken months to get any conclusions out of the medical world.  Finally the doctors were able to tell her that she is pre-hypothyroid and has a fatty liver to add on her to her diagnosis of Poly cystic Ovary Syndrome. The amount of time it has taken for Alyssa to get answers makes me dread how long it will take for me to get my own issues figured out.  But I guess the silver lining is that we get to go through this together.  Joy.

Yesterday I got the lab results from my six vials of blood I had taken from my arm a week ago. Most everything on my lab came up normal except for my liver numbers.  I don’t really understand what all the numbers mean but the doctor told me that my liver count is high and they suspect it could mean that the pain that I have been feeling in my innards for three weeks is gallstones.  My progesterone levels were also low, which according to Alyssa was something she had going on with her PCOS diagnosis.  According to the doctor, it depends on where I was at in my menstrual cycle.  All my other symptoms of PCOS were ignored and a recommendation was written for me to get an ultrasound on my abdomen as soon as I can come up with the $100 it will cost.

I’m fighting for more than the ultrasound to be done on not only my abdomen but on my pelvis as well as I feel like the pain I’m having is not just in my upper innards, but in my lower region.  Every time I sit down, I feel like I’m smashing together my organs.  Sharp pains have been shooting through my left ovary for weeks and while I was going through my horrible Sunday three weeks ago, the pain was incredibly comparable to a ruptured cyst I had when I was 15.  

We know our bodies better than anyone else and if it wasn’t for me trusting my instinct,  I would have put this all off when my original doctor told me that all of my pain was related to the strep throat I had at the beginning of all this.  “Sometimes the bad bacteria (my strep)  just carries through into your intestines.  It’s better to put together your symptoms rather than breaking them into two separate issues”, she said.  Once the second round of doctors took another strep test and saw it was gone, they knew they couldn’t blame my pain on residual strep bacteria having a party in my intestines.  It would be easy to believe that I only have gallstones but since most of the pain I’m feeling is in my ovaries, I refuse to just roll over on this without getting further checked.  Plus, if I am going to pay $100 for the ultrasound, I don’t want to have to do it twice.

I’ve been very fortunate as I qualified for a low-income plan at the Petaluma Health Center so each doctor visit is just $25 and all of those blood tests were FREE.  The ultrasound goes through a private company that allows cash payment and while $100 is equivalent to my new Spanish textbook, three months of my car insurance, or one weekend out in San Francisco, I feel that the money is worth it.

So next Thursday I’ll have yet another appointment at the Petaluma Health Center so the doctor can reevaluate my symptoms and hopefully write me a recommendation for the ultrasound to be done all over my innards, not just on my abdomen. And then I’ll have to make another appointment for the ultrasound and then I’ll be headed onward to…

“I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.”

– By Dr. Suess from Oh, The Places You will Go

Le sigh.  So we’ll see what’s going on within the next few weeks.

The doctor told me I need to stick to eating low-fat and I’ve been doing alright with that over the past week.  I haven’t been GREAT, but I haven’t been nearly at gluttonous as I was upon my first week of behavior after I got home from Europe.  In fact, somehow I managed to lose seven pounds in six days with barely any effort at all.  All that weight is what I had gained during the first week of all this illness so I know it was from bloating but such a large number made me quite freaked out as I know I can’t even lose that much weight when I *really* try.  If the weight continues to just fall off like this, I’ll suspect something more serious because it is not unlike me to fluctuate by a few pounds.  Seven pounds is kind-of a lot though.

Do any of our readers have any issues with their gall bladders or know anyone who has?

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend, free of pain and issues within!





4 thoughts on “Tales from the uninsured

  1. Hi April! Sorry, i was typing my responses on facebook, and I couldn’t access this article from work, but I found a loophole. Anyhoo…

    I’m friends with Alyssa (CSUN woot woot!), and I currently have gallstones and gastritis. The food restrictions caused by these two conditions is terrible, and I don’t wish it on anyone. In my first month of being sick, I lost 12 pounds because my stomach was upset, so I wasn’t eating as much, and my diet was extremely strict.

    Here’s my advice:

    1. GET THE ULTRASOUND. There is no way for them to confirm whether you have gallstones without that ultrasound or a CT Scan (which probably costs more). Also, the ultrasound will show if the lining of your gallbladder wall is thickened, infected or inflamed, which usually means surgery ASAP.
    2. WATCH WHAT YOU EAT VERY VERY CAREFULLY. If the doctor suspects you have gallstones, then you need to be very aware that having a gallstone/gallbladder attack is highly likely for you. I spent 5 hours overnight admitted to the ER from my gallstone attack, and the cost that my insurance paid for that was $8,065. Luckily my copay was only $50 (thank god for County job benefits). The pain from an attack is completely unbelievable and unbearable. Normal meds don’t help, and even the morphine they gave me only dulled the pain.
    3. SERIOUSLY, WATCH WHAT YOU EAT. In the month since my attack, I’ve learned very quickly what is acceptable to eat and what is not because my body immediately reacts to things with too much fat, and the pain slowly creeps in. DO NOT LET IT GET TO THE POINT WHERE YOU HAVE AN ATTACK BECAUSE HOSPITALIZATION AT THAT POINT IS BOTH INEVITABLE AND COMPLETELY NECESSARY. I had a strict rule that I would not eat anything with more than 3 grams of fat per serving–no joke! Eggs are pretty fatty, but I never had a reaction to them. Red meat is completely out of the question because all forms of red meat are extremely fatty. Stay away from dairy and cheese. No sausages. NO FRIED FOODS AT ALL. Really the only things that are safe are fruits, vegetables, certain carbs (bread, rice), chicken breast (thighs are very fatty) and fish (raw, baked or cooked in a pan). Stop using Vegetable oil and start using extra virgin olive oil in small amounts only.

    It was tough for me to do, but you should really start reading labels of everything you’re going to eat. It’s not about cutting down on fatty foods anymore. I highly recommend cutting them out for good until you get your ultrasound and some recommendations from the doctor. It’s hard to undo what long-term eating habits have done to our bodies (I’ve abused mine for years), but in your case, you still have a chance to avoid an attack by changing your eating habits.

    I want to say that I have never been an advocate for eating super clean or healthy. I was the worst eater until this illness crept up and kicked me in the stomach, and at that point I didn’t have a choice. I did not choose this diet. I was forced in to it by my bad eating habits, and I had a choice between eating healthy or ending up in a hospital bed (Not much of a choice). So I don’t want to sound like some fruitveggieleanmeat preacher on a pulpit, because eating healthy was not some innate personal choice. But trust me, if you want to avoid an attack, you have to seriously reevaluate everything you’re putting into your body and scrutinize each ingredient that goes into your meals because there is FAT, GREASE and/or OIL in almost everything.

    I sincerely hope this helps. Alyssa has my phone number if you want to call and chit chat or need more advice. I have to get my gallbladder removed in about a month. The month that just passed was a really tough, life-changing, earth-shaking month for me because of the drastic change in my diet, but in a way I’m grateful that my body forced me to see what I’d been doing to it for years. Now I just feel like I’m starving all the time! Haha 🙂

  2. I had my gallbladder out in 1997, and I distinctly remember that my pain – and oh-my-gosh, SO MUCH PAIN! – was high in my abdomen, like just past my rib cage. If you’re having the sharp pains in your lower abdomen or even into your pelvis, that definitely doesn’t sound like a gall bladder problem.

    Also, to echo Talyssa, if you have a gall bladder problem in addition to whatever is going on in your pelvic region, restricting fat in your foods is critical. I could only eat 5 or less grams of fat per meal and caffeine had to be pretty much dropped so as not to stimulate an attack.

    Glad you found a low-coat medical option and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment!

  3. Even though I’m insured, I hear ya. When I had a lump in my breast, I had to end up paying $300+ for the ultrasound and mammogram visit. Same with my husband- to treat his sleep apnea, the initial appointments and machine cost nearly $1,000. Even WITH insurance, knowing the costs it makes it hard when you feel like you want to be your own best advocate for your health but you don’t want to go into debt for no reason (or even FOR a reason.) My ER copay is $200 and let me tell you, being sent there for a “maybe blood clot” and finding out I paid $200 to know all was fine… that’s not a great feeling. It’s a balancing act we all have to face when making those stupid adult decisions!

    I’ve had friends with gall bladder issues and the only thing I’ve heard about it is that having the gall bladder removed makes them feel like a NEW person. And they both had issues eating beforehand and lost tons of weight – not in a fun or good way. So better to get it taken care of! I’ll be thinking of you and I hope you get everything figured out quickly and cheaply! 🙂

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