Hope It Goes Away

Hope It Goes Away

One of the biggest decisions I’m constantly forced to make is between “go to the doctor” and “hope it goes away.” You’ve probably done it too. It’s like 1 in the morning, and you feel some horrible knot in your guts. It’s appendicitis, or maybe a tapeworm, or maybe it’s botulism poisoning from that can of tuna you had for dinner. Whatever it is, you’re definitely going to die in the night, and they’re not gonna find your body for weeks, the stink of your bloated corpse finally forcing the woman in the apartment upstairs to call the police. The next thing you know, your family has to fly in from out of town and move all your stuff out of the place; they find your drug stash, your pornos, your smutty love letters, and your eternal image is forever tarnished.

Hmm. Maybe you should go to the 24 hour grocery store and wander until the pain passes; when you collapse in aisle 4 they’ll have to call an ambulance. Maybe you should call someone and just talk until you feel better. Yeah, call up one of those bores that go on talking for hours and hours about their history of failed relationships and their bad parents. On second thought that might make you feel sicker. As a last resort, you could drag yourself to the emergency room and get some treatment, but where’s the sport in that?

I guess for me, the biggest fear about going to the emergency room is the bill. Once, a few years ago, I felt this horrible gripping pain in my chest, like a 200 pound diva with 9 inch spiked heels was standing on me (which actually sounds nicer than it feels). I could barely move I was in so much pain. Luckily my hippie roommate came home, found me, and drove me to the emergency room. Once inside, I could barely talk, things were going fuzzy. They shoved me in a room and left me by myself for about 20 minutes (which is a short time compared to many waits I’ve had in the emergency room). Finally a doctor came in and asked me a million questions.

“Do you drink a lot of alcohol?”
“Do you eat a lot of spicy food?”
“Do you eat a lot of fried food?”
“Do you drink more than 4 cups of coffee per day?”
“Are you under a lot of stress?”
“Do you have numerous sex partners?”
“Do you exercise?”
“Do you smoke?”
“Yeah, cigarettes?”
“Do you smoke pot?”
“Do you smoke a lot of pot?”
“Do you do other drugs?”
“Which drugs?”
“Depends what’s around.”
“Do you have a drug habit?”
“I have a habit of doing them, if that’s what you mean, but I don’t stick with one thing. I don’t have enough money to be an addict.”

The doctor gave me an antacid, a muscle relaxer, a chest X-ray, and a lecture about taking care of my body. I started to feel a little better. The final diagnosis was a heavily ulcerated esophagus that was almost swollen shut. Bloodwork showed that I also had mono, a severe vitamin deficiency, a swollen spleen, and my kidneys were about to blow (but my cholesterol was normal, thank God). The treatment: four bottles of Maalox a day, an ulcer medicine called Axid ( I think you can get it over the counter for 1/4 of the price now), lots of rest, and cold turkey on everything unhealthy. Easy enough, I was pretty burnt out on everything as it was.

Then, one calm October morning, I got the bill: $600. I almost had a total relapse. My guts shot up and I actually got to see my own stomach for about 5 seconds. It was time to pay for the years of abuse I did to my body, and I was willing to deal with the physical suffering aspects of this, but shit, 600 bucks? It might as well been $6,000. I eventually went back to the hospital and worked out a deal where I shelled out 50 bucks a month, interest free, until I managed to pay it all off. But that bill made me choose my health battles more wisely, and pretty much removed me from the whole healthcare scene for a while.

Even talking to a doctor costs 60 bucks. Whenever I’ve made an appointment to see a doctor, they usually give me a slot like a week in the future. I mean, by that time I’ll either be cured or be dead. I usually get better by the time I have to see the doc and cancel my appointment anyway, so I stopped making appointments.

My best healthcare feat, however, was getting foot surgery done for $40. I was living in an old shitty farmhouse in Indiana at the time, running around shredded hardwood floors in bare feet, trying to stay cool in the 100+ shitty Midwestern summer. I stumbled and had a huge shard of floor bury itself in the ball of my foot, between my big toe and the one next to it. I was physically stuck. I ripped my foot off of the floor and brought a good chunk of wood up with it. Sitting on the couch with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a kitchen knife, I tried to carve the mega-splinter from my flesh. I only succeeded in making the injury worse. Lacking the funds to even eat my fill at the Kentucky Fried Chicken up the street, I limped around the house for a few days, soaking my foot every so often, hoping that somehow 2 1/2 inches of tree would be magically worked out of my body and I wouldn’t need medical attention. Surprise, it didn’t work.

So after four days, it was nice and infected. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even put a boot on. My girlfriend, who could barely look at the wound without gagging, dragged me to the health center at a college where she was a student. The doctor there refused to do anything. “You have to go to the hospital.” I told him that I was flat out broke, and that if he wouldn’t treat me, I was just gonna try to do it myself. We argued for a while, and he finally agreed. He gave me a shot of painkiller and carved my foot open, pulling out a chunk of black wood that had been clotted into my foot. He cleaned the gash out, collecting enough dirt and animal hair to knit a small hamster. He said something about gangrene and gave me a few anti-biotic shots as well as a prescription. I was supposed to go to the hospital and get stitches, but I just hobbled by the local drug store and got some superglue (bonds skin instantly) to fix my foot. The bill was $40, picked up by my girl.

I still can’t afford health insurance. If I get into an accident or some sort of serious illness, I’m totally fucked. What is it to stay in the hospital for a week, $10,000? $20,000? Hmm, new car or a week in the hospital? I’ll take the new car, thank you. But I think I got the solution to this whole heathcare nightmare: Whatever you do, don’t get sick, don’t get hurt, and if you do, hope it fixes itself. Elements of prayer work well. “Please God, let my ankle only be sprained. I swear I’ll be good forever.” Prayer may not work as well as doctors do, but hell, you can’t beat the price.