Get Serious [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Looking back on the experience, I see a map of choices.

Kerri fell. Both wrists were painful. We knew it was bad. In the ski patrol hut, the medic’s advice was to go get x-rays. Choice #1: To get x-rays or to not get x-rays? We had a conversation in all seriousness with the medics, that, given the nature of healthcare in America, it might be a valid option to skip it. To go home. To ignore it and let it heal as it will. The problem with ignoring it: the loss of motion that comes with ignoring what might be broken or torn in her wrists.

So the choice was not actually to get x-rays or to not get x-rays. The choice, the real choice, was financial ruin or loss of motion. Kerri is a pianist. It is her livelihood and her life. So, choice made: financial ruin.

We pulled into the medical center and saw a sign. To the right was the emergency room. To the left was the urgent care center. We sat in the truck and debated the option. While Kerri writhed in pain, in all seriousness, we sat in an idling truck and discussed the merits [or lack thereof] of our insurance policy. If we chose the right hand path, we would meet the vast, gaping deductible. Like Evel Knieval attempting to jump his motorcycle over the Grand Canyon, we’d have to gun our engine and run at the edge. No parachute. So, we chose the left hand path. We went to the desk of the urgent care and asked if they did x-rays.

Choice #2 was not, in truth, the emergency room versus the urgent care. The choice was which canyon did we have the best chance of surviving?

A few days later. An appointment with a great orthopedic doctor. She, in all seriousness, told us that she ignores the part of the patient file that speaks to their health insurance. She explained that there is dilemma that doctors face: do I advise my patient to do what is best for their health or do I advise them to do the thing that might keep them out of bankruptcy? She ignores the file because she wants her patients to hear what is best for them. She told us that she needs to keep herself blind to the financial reality that her best advice might necessitate. “Yet another untenable choice,” I thought.

Our choices reminded me of an experience we had a few years ago. We were shopping for a new washing machine. The salesman, an older man, was embarrassed by the products he was selling. He, in all seriousness, took us down the aisle of appliances and told us what was wrong with each machine. He was convincing us NOT to buy his appliances. Mostly, he told us, they were designed to fail. He said, “We used to know how to make things in this country. Now we make crap on purpose.”

The healthcare in the richest country on earth is just like the appliances sold in the richest country on earth: Designed to fail. Making crap on purpose. The way I am certain that I see clearly? Sit with your wife, a world-class pianist, who has just broken both wrists, and listen to the choices you are considering. Clarity, in all seriousness, comes when the crisis hits.

As we shake our increasingly obese and unhealthy bellies, wave our angry signs and shout about making America great again, it seems we are falling further and further behind. We saw it this week in our senate, did we not? At least our capacity for denial of the truth [in our post-fact, low-information frenzy] is running in front of the rest of the world. I can only hope, as a nation, we break our collective wrists sooner rather than later. In our pain, perhaps we will look at the sign and have a real conversation, in all seriousness, about our choices, about what we can and cannot survive.

 

Read Kerri’s blog post [written with a cast and a splint!] on CHOICES

 

 

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