Friday, December 12, 2008

Heavy Weight of Waiting

December 12, 2008

I’m bored. For me, boredom is the state of wanting something but not knowing what it is I want or I’m waiting. Waiting is hard, sometimes. Other times it is so very easy to do. I could wait forever for a dentist appointment. I would have preferred to wait for my father’s funeral. Interesting, isn’t it that most of the time you think of waiting you think of the time of anticipation before a happy event, or getting something done you want to get done, but that’s my perspective of life and I’m one of those disgustingly upbeat people who believes that there is something good just around the corner. Even when it seems that I’ve incurred the wrath of evil, I honestly believe that from sadness happiness can come, that from death comes life and I’ve thought that since I was young. Still, I don’t like waiting, I’d just as soon pass the bad parts and skip to the good ones, until I really think about it – then I wouldn’t trade those rotten stinking moments that seem to scar my very soul for all the happiness in the world.

It would be like reading the last chapter of a book, the meaning of the story was in the 150 or so pages before the last 10 – it might be the “best” part of the book – but it means nothing without time invested. I just finished reading a book my eldest daughter thrust at me saying, “I think you’ll like it.” She was right. But, I didn’t like all of it. I admit – I skimmed over one part of it because my eyes started to glaze over – that part bored me and I was unwilling to wait longer than needed to get to the interesting parts, again. I think that’s what we do when we’re bored, we skim through life paying just enough attention to make sure we don’t miss something important, but we’re unwilling to invest ourselves completely until life gets interesting, again. What would happen if we invested ourselves even when life feels humdrum?

I know there have been times in my life when I had to go to a party or some family function when I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed or leaving the house, as sad as this sounds I didn’t feel like investing the energy to have fun. I simply wasn’t in a “fun” mood for one reason or another. But, because I hate letting people down I do it anyway and inevitably – I enjoy myself. I learned and now, when I am feeling bored I look for something different to try or I write. For example, I honestly was bored when I started writing this and I’m not anymore. I forced myself to sit down and start writing because I knew that eventually I would start to enjoy myself. I’ve tried many new things because of boredom – because while I’m waiting I search and when I’m really bored I don’t care if I fail at what I try because I’m just too bored to care. I might be skimming through life but my eyes and mind are open a bit wider and it seems I’m willing to invest a bit more of myself to alleviate my soul of the heavy weight of waiting.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fix Healthcare, Amputate Lawyers

December 6, 2008

How do you fix health care, it is simple. Provide the highest quality care to everyone at affordable prices. First, I think we need to look at what is wrong with the system. I can tell you what I see from a consumer’s perspective.

There is no way for the average American to know what an “affordable” price is because we don’t know what the profit margin truly is regarding pharmaceuticals, insurance, and doctor fees. Anyone who has looked at a bill from a hospital knows how screwed up the system really is. Just try and match up a claim from your insurance company with the hospital bill. The seemingly simple explanation is more complex than a Gordian knot. There is no way you can audit these bills to ensure you’re not paying for items you didn’t get or services not received. Then there are the negotiated prices, I’ve seen services billed to our insurance company being paid significantly less, fifty to seventy percent less. Why is it that the people who don’t have insurance must pay “full price” and insurance companies pay significantly less?

Then there is the issue of quality care, a glaring example of how uneven our current system is the “unneeded test” you hear about all the time. But I don’t know anyone who has had an “unneeded” test. I’ve heard plenty of people who didn’t get a test that might have made a difference. Two come to mind. My ex-husband died one year ago today. About 18 months ago he was suffering from a severe case of diverticulitis at least that was the “official” diagnosis from his primary care physician. One night, it was so bad that he could not stand it anymore he went to the hospital and within hours he found out he had liver cancer. His primary care physician had done an x-ray and they had seen a shadow on his liver but they did not follow up. I can’t presume to know why his PCP didn’t follow up or even tell him about it. He learned much later about it.

Another case in point, today on the one year anniversary of her brother’s death, my ex-sister-in-law is attending a funeral of an old friend. Apparently she died of a heart attack. She had a battery of tests – in truth I don’t know all the details except that she had a stress test. I feel fairly confident that the autopsy will show that had they done an exploratory cath test they would have found a defect that could have been fixed, instead because they couldn’t “justify” the test by the previous results, she was denied a crucial test and now her granddaughter will grow up not knowing her grandmother. And, to add insult to injury – the media has ran plenty of stories stating that heart disease is a leading cause of death among women – mainly because it is under diagnosed and doctors still tend to blow off a woman’s complaints. This I know for a fact as I’ve been the recipient of their disdain in the past. Luckily for me, they were not issues that would have killed me.

The first time it happened to me I was about nineteen; I had a severe back ache and couldn’t stand upright. The first doctor I saw dismissed my pain, I believe he thought I was just too young to have any “real” problem and he ignored the fact that I had fractured my back at sixteen in a car accident. For over three years I suffered on and off from debilitating back pain never going back to the same doctor twice because it was obvious to me they didn’t know or care what was really wrong. Then when I was about twenty-two I was walking across a field and my back seized up, I literally on hand and knees I crawled back to my office. This time I was lucky to find a good doctor. Even his staff was different – I didn’t feel like I owed them my first born child for the honor of being allowed the grace of sitting on a rock hard chair in the waiting room. Within an hour I knew what was wrong with my back and hips. Because of the car accident I changed the “wear pattern” on my spine, I had a bone spur. There is no cure for what’s wrong but now I know how to prevent it.

The last time a misdiagnosis affected my life happened two years ago. I found out I was pregnant and had an ultrasound. A week later I felt my water break and I speed to the hospital. They did an ultrasound and they said my placenta was intact, the fetus was active and had a strong heartbeat and his fluid levels were normal, but I had a clot. They told me it was the clot that was causing the bleeding but they didn’t believe there was amniotic fluid. What they did not do was test the fluid, one test and they would have confirmed what I figured out – I had lost a twin. I didn’t know the test existed until it was too late or I would have requested it be done. The test is a simple and cheap litmus strip, but because they had not seen two babies when they did the first ultrasound, because they did not detect two heartbeats all the doctors told me it was impossible. That clot never went away; it never got bigger it never got smaller. About a minute after my son was born, my OB said, “It was a twin pregnancy.” The “clot” was my son’s sister.

In each of these instances, a diagnostic test or follow up would have made all the difference in the world. For my ex-husband, he might have managed to get another year or more with his girls had they followed up on that shadow. For Joyce, she might be recovering from surgery and planning for Christmas if they had done one more test. I think the term “needless tests” are greed related by-products of the insurance company and causes one of the most expensive aspects of healthcare – lawyers.

Edited to note: Joyce could have survived but treatment was too late.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Catching A Rainbow

Gen:13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (NIV)

Years and years ago my father told me that if he ever wrote a book he would call it, “To Catch a Rainbow”. He didn’t write, but he knew I was an avid writer and although he never said it aloud, I believe he wanted me to write that book for him. It was an off the cuff kind of conversation that you have in passing but one that has stayed with me all these years. Perhaps he understood the biblical implication of the title, I didn’t at the time. Each time I’ve sat down to write that title has been in the back of my mind but a story never came. Today it did – in the shower of course. These stories, this journey, is for my Father – first my Heavenly Father in Heaven and for my earthly father whom, I pray, will also be waiting for me in heaven.

Matt7: 13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (NIV)

So many people and even Churches say there are many roads to God – but the Bible clearly states that there is but a single narrow road leading to life. I believe that there are many roads to Jesus, like estuaries of a mighty river, but only Jesus leads you to eternal life – His is the narrow path. I say this because each and every one of us has our own story to tell about how we reached the point in our lives where we surrendered to Him, where we shed the old man and put on the new and put all our faith that God did indeed sacrifice His only begotten Son for our sakes. I know the humbling moment in time when as an adult I gave my life to Him. I am fairly certain that had not been for the many misadventures down dark roads of my previous life I would not have understood the significance of the narrow gate.

I’ve read and heard many heart wrenching testimonies of people turning their lives to God, and it started me to wonder how my personal story measures up. I know that’s not exactly a biblical way to think, but I am human. I try my best to banish thoughts like that but at church we’re taught you can know the truth by the fruit and I would guess that many other Christians have the same wonderings as me – how does my fruit measure up? I know that some of my personal fruit is the past, not the actions of what I did but what I did despite those actions and even more importantly – how God protected me anyway and then forgave me.

I find it interesting that the Bible refers to it as fruit, a tree takes several years before it reaches the point that it can even bear fruit a most extreme example is the carab tree it takes a whopping 70 years of growing before it can bear fruit! And then it takes some, like the apple, two almost three seasons before the fruit is ripe enough to pick and be judged good, or not. To complicate matters further – how often have you picked up a red shiny apply at the grocers eagerly anticipating biting into the crisp fruit only to find it mealy and tasteless? Scientists say that it is because of human engineering that we have ended up with beautiful big red shiny apples that taste like mealy cardboard. When farmers realized that the bigger and redder fruits sold better at the stores they began cultivating that kind of tree, what they didn’t bargain for was although the fruit looked nicer, it was actually inferior. I think God might be reminding us that it isn’t always the biggest or the shiniest fruit that is the good fruit. Personally, I’ve always preferred a Granny Smith or cooking apple – long before they were popular in the stores. I can remember buying a small green apple at an open air market and the gentleman giving me dire warnings. It’s too sour to eat, it isn’t meant for just eating – you’re supposed to cook with it – you will get a stomach ache. But, it didn’t stop him from selling it to me, after attempting to make me feel foolish for choosing it over the bright shiny red ones right next to it. It was tart, juicy and the best apple I had ever eaten, and still the best apple I’ve ever eaten. I also remember my sister and the two boys (whose mother we were with) each buying one after I had eaten mine. If I remember correctly, they tried mine before spending their own money.

I believe for many of us, our season to grow is in our childhood and misspent youth and some, like the carab tree, may take almost a lifetime. In that time we are growing our branches and roots, eventually we flower and the seasons to ripen our fruits begin. I also think there are spring storms that ravage our blooms and those seasons we are fruitless. But, mercifully God grants us many chances to grow, to bloom and to fruit. I wonder, how does our first fruit, or lack of, impact our Christian walk? Why is that for some, it is the seemingly bad fruit of the past that is in actuality the good fruit of their future? My own, very personal path to Jesus was filled with bad decisions and missteps that bore toxic fruit, and yet it was the harvest of that fruit, the inevitable consequences of my misdeeds that brought me to my knees and I cried not just for help, but for salvation and peace. Knowingly, I entered into God’s covenant and caught the illusive rainbow.