E is for Being Excited About Life! #AtoZChallenge

E is for Being Excited About Life!     #AtoZChallenge

So you or someone you care about has a chronic illness. It isn’t the end of life as you know it.

Remember the excitement for life that you had before you got sick? You can have that again! Just because your health has changed, maybe even drastically, does not mean all is lost.

Today, more so than ever before, technological advances have enabled even the most limited in physical activity to remain at the very least mentally active. So if you have the desire, there are lots of things you can do to remain active and yes, even passionate about life!

Without going into specific examples based on your previous level of knowledge and expertise in any given area, there are still a variety of things you could do to occupy your mind and your time. You could use your previous knowledge to educate others. For that matter, you could use your current situation as a catalyst so that, when you are ready, you can share your experience with others. You could decide to pursue further education and new career goals.

Maybe you are not only chronically ill but also suffer from the effects of chronic pain as I do. If you find yourself unable to hold regular employment, all is still not lost. There are still plenty of ways you can continue to feel like you have something to contribute. Even something as simple as becoming a volunteer in a facility or unit that made a difference for you.

While maybe that isn’t as fulfilling in your mind as employment, I can tell you that there is something quite as fulfilling as being able to give back to those that have taken the time to help you when you needed it. Remember when you were at the worst possible point in your health and someone took the time to stop and talk with you? Remember how good it felt that someone actually cared who maybe didn’t need to, in the aspect that they weren’t being paid to do so? You can be there for someone else. Maybe you encounter a patient who could draw inspiration from the fact that you had been where they currently are, and you prevailed.

Become excited about life again!

Have you found a new purpose in your life after health issues? Share your story with us below!

D is for: Denial to Discovery

D is for Denial to Discovery

A common reaction to any real or potential major change in one’s health or life often begins with denial. Denial of the very existence of said matter. Denial that this could, in fact, be happening to you. Denial that things could even potentially be as serious as even the best case scenario you can envision, not too mention the worst case scenario. Denial is often tied closely to bargaining, depression, and a whole host of other emotions. But once you work through this, and come out the other side, you can begin the process of discovery.

Discovery of what your life will bring with the newfound knowledge of your situation. Discovery of how you will go on, and continue to move forward. Discovery of how you may well be able to live a full and happy life despite, or in spite of, the event you initially felt would end life as you know it. Discovery can be a huge motivator in pushing through the challenges in front of you.

It doesn’t have to be a life-altering event or illness. Maybe you have a boss at work that is making your life a living nightmare. So much so that you don’t even want to get up to go to work each day. By determining what is important to you, and what you can do to impact the effects of any challenge, you can begin to discover how to conquer that challenge. Is this boss someone you can strike some sort of happy medium with to coexist? Or do you feel it is time for you to move on and find another job? By simply answering this question for yourself, you can begin to discover what you will need to do to move through, and eventually past this challenge.

In the aspect of a healthcare crisis, once you discover that you are still the same person, with the same qualities that made you a good person to start with, you will begin to find your way through. I’m not going to lie to you, it may not be easy. You may have to adjust your sights due to limitations on your health. But, you can work through it! When in doubt, feel free to seek out support resources, whether it be your physician, a professional counselor, or even your clergy. You don’t have to go through the process alone.

Do you have a story of discovery you’d like to share? Tell us about it in the comments below, we’d love to hear it!

C is for Compassion

C is for Compassion

Compassion, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”. Or in more simple terms, “it refers to both an understanding of another’s pain and the desire to somehow mitigate that pain”.

Compassion is often an undervalued trait in people as a whole, especially true in the field of healthcare. I’ve had some wonderfully compassionate and caring nurses, and physical rehab specialists of various disciplines, and physician assistants. These people were able to make a very challenging and difficult situation much more tolerable by the seemingly simple act of compassion.

But it really isn’t a simple thing. Some practitioners I’ve encountered, mostly very competent ones, had an apparent lack of ability to show compassion or basic caring for another person. To these few, I was simply a medical challenge placed in front of them upon which to practice their particular healthcare craft.

While these people seem to be the exception to the rule, I find it distressing that anyone in such a caring profession could be without the ability to care about their patient as a human being vs. an illness or disease. These few function as robots who take input in the form of symptoms and spit out a diagnosis in response.

Are we to blame for this, or is an inherent lack of ability to feel for their patients? Is it a result of the demands placed on our healthcare practitioners by an extremely taxed and highly regulated system of medicine? Did they somehow lose their compassion in the bureaucracy of our healthcare system which seems to be run by the insurance companies rather than sound medical judgment? Or have they simply shut off their emotions in an attempt to survive in the sea of healthcare battles they find themselves in on a daily basis?

This article is neither an attack on our healthcare system nor what may or may not be wrong with it. Rather it is simply some observations based on real life experiences that beg for these questions to be answered.

Share your thoughts, with us, below.

Believe…

Believe…

No matter what you are going through, you must believe…

  • In your strength
  • In your abilities
  • In your worth
  • In humanity
  • In yourself!!!

Sometimes in life we find ourselves facing a life altering event of some sort. It could be the loss of a job, or the loss of a loved one. Perhaps you’ve suffered some sort of major medical crisis or traumatic injury. You may think I am being vague, and you’d be correct. I am intentionally being vague because what constitutes a major life changing event is often subjective and as such it varies from one person to another.

Despite the catalyst for your challenge, there are some common reactions and challenges. Depression and even grief are very common results which can add to decreased feelings of self-worth. Recognizing these emotions and their existence can aid you in facing the challenges of adjusting to the circumstances of your individual life challenge. While simply existing may seem counterintuitive to the point of this, sometimes just existing shows your desire and willingness to work through your challenges. Don’t sell yourself short, for sometimes willing yourself to survive is no small feat! The days when you feel up to it,  believe in good things to come. The days you lack the strength or ability to believe this, just believe in making it through the minute, hour, and day in front of you. If you do this over and over, one day you will find yourself suddenly moving on in a positive new direction, despite your challenges.

Despite battling multiple major and chronic health issues and injuries over the last twenty years, I’ve had plenty of days where even I simply had to get through the next hour, and then the next one, one at a time until I made it through the day. Days like this, when I feel as if I just can’t go on, often leave me surprised that I made it through. On the very challenging days, ‘simply existing’ isn’t a sign of weakness. On the contrary I feel it is a sign of strength when you make it through any given day, despite your challenges. So believe in yourself, because if you don’t, how can you expect others to?

As time marches on and you adjust to your situation, you may well decide that while you understandably miss your previous sense of self, you can pursue another passion you hadn’t previously thought about. The only limit to what we can achieve, is our own perception of our situation. While very real limitations may in fact exist, it isn’t uncommon for us to feel that they are insurmountable. Sometimes what we perceive as a limitation, may actually reveal itself as a strength as you begin to work through things and pursue options you hadn’t previously thought about.

I highly recommend journaling to help you comprehend the flood of thoughts and emotions you may be experiencing. Write every day. Write especially on the days you don’t feel like it or just plain don’t want to. Later when you go back and read it days, week, months, or even years later, you will likely find things that surprise you. When you are in the midst of a major challenge, you may not be able to think clearly, or even understand everything you may be thinking or feeling. I’ve spoken with a great many people who swear by journaling to get the jumble of thoughts out of their head, onto paper where they suddenly find themselves more relaxed and thus more able to process all the thoughts. Some people report feeling a calm sense of objectivity when reading their own journal, as if it is someone else’s words that they are reading. This can give a fresh perspective on how to best manage the challenges before you.

Have you had a major challenge in your life that, despite it feeling insurmountable, you made it through? Feel free to share in the comments.

Above all else, remember to just believe….

A is for Access to Affordable Healthcare

A is for Access to Affordable Healthcare

Accessible healthcare has been in the news a lot lately. This is just one story of a recent challenge of accessing appropriate healthcare that I am choosing to share. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, should ever have to choose between food/shelter and healthcare. This is not an acceptable definition of accessible healthcare!

Approximately five weeks ago, my neurosurgeon decided I could finally return to physical (and other) therapies, after three months of post-operative healing time, following multiple simultaneous neurosurgical interventions in my cervical spine (neck). Alas, I had no way to get there, so it took me all this time to figure out how I would get there and to save the money to ensure I could get there and back three times a week, at a minimum. So two weeks ago, I finally scheduled the first of the three therapy evaluation appointments.

The physical rehabilitation facility I chose for my outpatient care was also the same facility I spent over a month in post-operatively, as well as previously both as an inpatient and outpatient for nearly two decades. So I am quite familiar with their level of care, and that being the case I would go nowhere else.

When I scheduled the initial appointment I was informed about their “charity care program”. This program is financial needs based and can help reduce or even eliminate costly bills beyond what your insurance may cover. They sent me the paperwork to complete, to be returned to them when I came in for the first appointment. Or so I thought. Apparently, I was mistaken. I received two telephone calls from the facility the day before my scheduled appointment. The first was to schedule two other appointments around the time for the first. The second call was from another department to verify that I was aware, up front, of the costs that I would be responsible for from these three appointments.

See, Medicare only covers eighty percent of covered services. The patient is responsible for the remaining twenty percent. In my case for the Physical Therapy evaluation, the cost for me was $15.90. The evaluation with the Occupational Therapist (for my hands) would cost me $15.43. Lastly, the evaluation with the Speech Therapist (for ongoing swallowing issues) would cost me $38.68 out of pocket. You may look at these numbers and think to yourself that those numbers aren’t that bad. While you may be right in one aspect, there are aspects you may not be thinking of.

Let’s see if I can shed some light on this for you. First and foremost, the total for one day of three appointments for comprehensive evaluations by each department listed would be $70.01. Mind you I do believe that the therapists in question, especially at this particular facility, are well worth the money. The value of their care is not the topic, rather the ability to access the care is the question. Now, so that you understand what happens next, you must realize that while it may not seem like a lot at first, once you start doing the math, you will see how quickly the numbers and totals begin to add up.

The first thing they informed me was that they had not received my charity care application yet. The discussion went on to address the fact that I was under the impression I was able to bring it with me on the first day. She went on to explain that while I could certainly do that, I would be held responsible for the balance owed for the initial evals, as the charity care application is not retroactive at all. She continued to explain that it could take up to two weeks to get the application approved, though occasionally as little as a couple of days. So now I’m faced with a dilemma, I think out loud. Do I make arrangements to pay the fees for the evaluations so that I can start therapy, or cancel them and await a decision on the charity care application. Her response was rather surprising, as she essentially indicated that while she didn’t know what to tell me, she required an answer immediately seeing how the appointments were for the following morning, and I had been scheduled for a visit in each of three different departments.

“Okay,” I said. “How about each appointment after that?”

“Well that could be even more depending on the billing code the therapist puts in”, she, oh so helpfully, explains. She went on to further explain that it doesn’t cover any specific treatment modalities, which are often in addition to the appointment cost.

“Well then, I guess you should just cancel them all until I get a response from the charity care application.” I said. “I don’t want to but I don’t have, nor can I afford $70 a day for therapy appointments”.

Realistically I could easily be looking at well over two hundred dollars a week just for the therapy time, excluding any specific treatment devices and the like. I had to budget how to afford two to four dollars a day to take the bus to get there seeing how I can’t afford to get my car running at the moment so that I can get back and forth to my appointments. That alone could cost up to $12 a week in bus fares. Let’s be conservative and say therapies wouldn’t exceed the $70 per day, that is $210 per week, plus transportation costs puts us at $222 per week, before any extraneous costs such as incidental / disposable supplies, or specialized treatment equipment. That is approximately $943.50 per month based on an average 4.25 week month.

Now, looking back, the seventy dollar triple visit may not seem so bad. Until you do the math, and find out you would be looking at a minimum of roughly nine hundred and fifty dollars a month that is above and beyond what your insurance covers. Keeping in mind there are many, many prescriptions I cannot afford that are significantly cheaper than even the triple visit cost, you will easily see that there is no feasible way that I could afford an extra $950 per month.

Could you?

In closing, I would like to briefly share a story from a friend. She relayed to me how, when suddenly ill one day, she was literally on the computer researching her symptoms trying to determine the nature of her illness without having to go to the Emergency Room. Eventually, she wound up going to the ER, as she had no other choice. But the fact that she, and many others, have had to weigh their health against being able to get groceries, pay rent, and the like due to the high cost of ER visits, and in some cases extremely high co-pays to be seen in the ER. For her, I believe she said her co-pay just to be seen was three hundred and fifty dollars. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an extra $350 just lying around to pay the co-pay, just to find out if my symptoms are life-threatening or not. If I were forced to do this, I would not be able to. This is one reason that when I do wind up having to make the decision to go to an emergency department, I wait until I know without a doubt I will be admitted. Not necessarily the smartest thing to do, but I know lots of people who are forced to do the same thing. What would you do?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

#AtoZChallenge

Hello, everyone!   We are excited to share that we are participating in the A to Z Challenge this year. For more info on the A to Z Challenge itself, you can visit their website. Our theme for the month will be primarily focused on healthcare issues for those with chronic health challenges, patient advocacy, and self-advocacy. If any of these topics interest you, we encourage you to follow our blog via Bloglovin’, Twitter, Facebook email, or the preferred method of your choosing. We look forward to an exciting month and sharing a wealth of information with all of you!

Thanks for all your support, and don’t forget, if you have a story to share, feel free to reach out to us!