I’m sitting in the chair watching the morning news this morning with about ten minutes to go before I leave for work when the phone rings. It’s odd to get a call that early in the day and it’s a cell phone number so I pick it up. The voice on the other end informs me that it’s Courtney’s bus driver and that they’re at the school and could I please come pick her up because she’s vomited twice and is complaining of severe pain on her left side so bad she can’t walk.
It’s the sort of phone call that makes every parent’s heart stop.
I tell them I’ll be there immediately and hang up the phone. I wake Anne and tell her to get dressed quickly because I’m going to need her help in figuring out where the hell to take Courtney once I get there. While she’s getting some clothes thrown on I collect my cell phones (personal and work) and head out to the car to get it started and warmed up. When Anne joins me she says the school called again and they managed to get Courtney inside to the office using a wheelchair they had on hand. My mind is a swirl of competing thoughts all the way to the school. These include everything to what might possibly be wrong (she didn’t seem ill the night before, she didn’t say anything to us before leaving this morning), what clinic is close enough to take her to at minimum risk, how serious is the problem (life threatening? should I have had an ambulance called?), and not least of all how the fuck am I going to pay for whatever needs to be done? We’ve been playing the odds for over almost three years now as I’ve only held a job that offered affordable health insurance briefly in that time—the two and a half months I was back at Ford Motor Company in 2006—and the odds have finally caught up to us.
For her part, Courtney seemed to be doing pretty well by the time we got to her school and she was as bewildered as we were as to what the hell was going on. Despite her feeling almost back to normal we took her to a local Urgent Care clinic and they did a urinalysis, an x-ray, and drew some blood for lab tests. Their first thought was that she might have a kidney stone, in part because there was a good amount of blood in her urine, but they couldn’t see anything on the x-ray. So they called up St. Joseph Hospital and arranged for her to have a CT scan immediately after we finished up at the clinic. They said they’d get the results and then call us and let us know what was going on and probably have us come back in tomorrow morning. We’ve not heard back yet on what the results of the CT scan were or the blood work. For the moment she’s on a clear liquid diet until we hear otherwise from the doctor.
We are, of course, paying for all of this out of pocket. The Urgent Care clinic was less expensive than I expected it to be, about $153 for the visit and the x-ray, though I’m wondering if they forgot to include the blood work in that cost. The CT scan is likely to be a different story. The estimate on that is around the $1,800 mark, but we won’t know for sure for at least a week until the bill comes in the mail. There’s going to be further follow up treatment of some sort or another as well and there’s no way to guess what those costs might add up to. However at the moment it’s looking like it’s going to wipe out what little we’ve still got in our savings which has already taken a hit from expenses related to my own need to have a couple of teeth removed last fall, some needed auto repairs, and expenses related to Courtney’s last year in high school. The whole event was—still is—stressful enough to begin with and when you add in the fact that you’re consciously making decisions like whether or not it’s serious enough that an ambulance should be called because you know it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg if you make use of one then that just ratchets the stress level up that much more.
It goes without saying that whatever Courtney needs I’ll find a way to get it and worry about paying for it later, but I can’t help and think about how much less of a problem this would be if I still had my old job with the decent health insurance. It makes me feel like I’ve let my family down even though the conditions of my lay-off were beyond my control at the time. It also reminds me of another family member who died because she didn’t have adequate health insurance. That could’ve been my daughter and not my cousin. Fortunately Courtney should recover from this just fine once we nail down what the hell it is exactly and figure out how to deal with it.
How we’ll pay for it will be a problem to be solved as we go along.
Update: The clinic called us back just before 8PM this evening. The CT scan was negative and the doctors think it’s a bad case of constipation. They mentioned constipation after seeing the x-rays, but they weren’t sure if that was the primary cause or a secondary thing. Now they’re saying it’s the primary cause. I was unaware that being badly constipated could result in blood in your urine, but apparently it can. They told us to put her on a laxative for the night and if things didn’t improve within a couple of hours then to move up to a boxed enema and if that didn’t work then we’d need to bring her in in the morning. Needless to say I’ve never seen my daughter so eager to have a laxative work. So we’ve got her drinking water even when she says she’s not thirsty and we let her eat a bit of oatmeal for dinner and we’re hoping for the best.