pretty_cynical: (CRIMINALMINDS. beautifully broken.)
[personal profile] pretty_cynical
This week has been super stressful for a variety of reasons that I refuse to go into out of wanting to keep my sanity intact. So to make me feel even worse, Keith Olbermann does a Special Comment wherein I flat out bawl into my bowl of noodles and wish I could give my parents both a hug.

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As many of you might remember, I had heart surgery at the end of June. It wasn't major surgery, but it definitely wasn't routine: the place where my aorta connects to the heart was bigger than it should be. It's a procedure that's primarily done on senior citizens, so being a pediatric patient (I was 18, but it was discovered when I was 17) and having this procedure done was a bit of a concern. Even though I had met with the surgeon almost a year before this was even planned, explaining to me what exactly he would be doing and assuring me that everything would go fine, there was still this thought in my mind that something could go wrong. After all, it is my heart. Without it, I'm dead.

The hospital sent out an advance directive in the packet of pre-surgery stuff I got a few weeks before it actually took place. And let me tell you, it scared the shit out of me. Even more than the thought of having the actual procedure done. I mean, it's basically asking you that if and when you are medically incapacitated or possibly dead, what do you want to have done? That's a scary thought to have in any circumstance, let alone when you're 18 and haven't really lived your life.

So I made one, with Dad's help. And I don't know what the requirements are at other hospitals but at mine (UMich, holla) you were required to have one on file. And if you decided not to get one done, you had to sign this form stating you were aware that the decisions made regarding you after you are medically incapacitated or dead won't be made with your interests in mind. I appointed Mommy as my medical proxy, as she's a NICU nurse and can understand all the medical jargon; Dad is in charge of what little finances I had at that moment. I declared under no circumstances would I want to be kept alive, just get me comfortable and then let me go. And you know what? They were fine with my decision. They'd let their firstborn and eldest daughter die because that's what I personally wanted. We've always mentioned it in passing, but to have it down on paper in a legal document that could be put into action at any moment was really kind of terrifying.

And to think that that whole process is considered a "death panel". It's not. In fact, it's more of what Keith called it, a "life panel". It's basically having a discussion with your doctor and family members about what do if and when that moment arises. It's a precautionary measure. "Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it." I mean, to think of what could've happened if something occurred and I didn't have an advance directive on file. Mommy could've have said "Don't do anything more, just let her be", but the doctors could've done whatever they wanted because she wasn't acting on my behalf. This meeting between you, your family and your doctor - which everyone should have, regardless of how healthy you are - not being covered by insurance is, frankly, utter bullshit. For God sakes, you're spending an hour or so discussing what you want terms of care after you're medically incapacitated. That's all. There's no "decision" from a so-called "panel", and no one is sentenced to death. Why can't some politicians understand that concept?

Then there's the insurance. Dad lost his job at Ford in the middle of January, which meant his employer based health insurance was terminated, dropping not only him but Graham, Monica and I. We were lucky enough to be picked up by Mommy's insurance. (Dad got a new job at Ford - a severe demotion from his old one - where he gets some health insurance, but it isn't very good.) I received the hospital bill a few weeks after I came home from the hospital, and was so thankful that the insurance picked it all up: out of the nearly $300,000 for the procedure and doctor services, all we had to pay was $3 for Dad's meal (he ordered breakfast after staying the night with me.) A portion of that wasn't even related to my heart surgery - I was having breathing troubles about a week after surgery that required extra oxygen and all these different tests - I had to wonder what if my insurance company was really stingy and wouldn't pay for anything that wasn't related to the surgery? Or what if after Dad lost his job, my siblings and I couldn't be transferred to Mommy's insurance, because she didn't have any? My parents would've had to pay that $300,000 out of pocket - something you have to factor in when you've already got a limited income and need to pay tuition for two kids in private high school and another one going off to college. I was really lucky in not having to be in that situation, but that's what it's really like for a lot of people. And that really upsets me.

Morals of the story: get an advance directive. Tell your parents what you want done with you if you were to be come medically incapacitated, write it down, sign it, and keep it in a safe place. Hug your parents and tell them you love them. For me - because I don't get to see my parents all that often, and that pains me because we're incredibly close - and for Keith especially. I can't even begin to imagine being in the situation he's in.
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