Shitty Obamacare

In 2011 my daughters and I went to Spain for a week. During that visit, my older daughter fell down some stairs, severely cut her head, and had to ride in an ambulance to the emergency room. She was stitched up and given all her care products and prescriptions by the doctor at the hospital. As a non European citizen, the visit cost us $64 American dollars. For everything. For the ambulance ride, the visit, the stitching, the care products and drugs. A similar visit in the US would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $6000, if not more. And since the ACA went into effect, it’s only gotten worse.

The ACA is not a boon to Americans. It’s not. Do you know that it’s virtually impossible to get a plan on low or moderate income that doesn’t have a multi-thousand dollar deductible? Somehow, in over 2000 pages as a law, someone didn’t think to tell insurers to cap deductibles. It’s insane. Pretend to be an average American. Go to the “marketplace.” Look at the options there. You’ll see that all the plans have insane deductibles. The only plans that don’t are too high priced for people in lower income brackets. It’s a joke.

The ACA isn’t a boon. It’s a legislative nightmare. It’s a paperwork nightmare. It’s raised costs, not lowered them. Emergency plans available before the ACA that covered essentially the same thing were cheaper than the plans under the ACA. The ACA operating in reality is anything but an example of success unless you’re an insurance company executive. What would be a real success would be getting rid of the for-profit middle man in healthcare. Then when someone needs to go the doctor, it would cost what it should instead of lining the pockets of everyone along the way while the person in need of care suffers financially in addition to suffering with their health.

What the ACA has done is to take public dollars and use them for privatized profit. People whose health insurance is “subsidized” get their insane premiums paid for by tax dollars. So greedy ass insurance company charges $740 a month for their crappy plan (that’s $8880 a year!) and the government pays part of that premium out of tax dollars. The shitty insurance company theoretically can’t profit more than a certain percentage, but that doesn’t mean they can’t pay their executives more and have less in “profit.” It’s all a big game, but it works out the same: public tax dollars paying a greedy middle man to skim profit off before providing subpar healthcare. And people are worried about socialized medicine because they don’t want to pay higher taxes? The logic escapes me. Really the problem is that the greedy bastards who lobby for the insurance companies have all the “lawmakers” in their pockets. It’s a giant, shambling scam.

We never asked for our daughter’s insurance company to reimburse the $64 spent in Spain the day she was injured. We paid for it because we could because that kind of healthcare is truly affordable. The Affordable Care Act? Not so much.

In. Som. Ni. A.

“Hmm. We’re having trouble finding that site.”

Well, then keep trying, bitches! Seriously. Give the damn wifi a minute to hook its ass up to the computer before turning into a big fat quitter. Jeez.

In. Som. Ni. A. That’s what I have. I diagnosed myself. I didn’t even use Dr. Internets, or read Dr. Wikipedia, or anything like that. I just figured it out all by myself because I’m brilliant and have lots of star stickers.

I thought I had cured my In. Som. Ni. A. You can read all about it here if you’re bored or don’t have a sock drawer to arrange or something like that. And while I truly did experience some relief there for a while, and although sleeping with wifi on next to my head is akin to setting off a bullhorn three inches from my ears, I didn’t actually cure anything because the shit came back with a vengeance a couple of years ago and it likes sticking around like a bad rash. It’s like foot fungus. You put on the cream between your toes and a few days later it’s like your feet are normal or something, but really, they aren’t because one day you’ll wake up with a burning fire on your feet and know that the cream did NOTHING.

That’s how the In. Som. Ni. A. is for me. Thought I beat it down. Thought I cured it. Wrong and wrong again. That’s what I get for making assumptions.

Back when I lived in Portland and during the time I had a regular doctor for a decade because I was being the poster child for public healthcare (see that here), I went to her and asked for a sleep test. My best friend suffers from some of the worst sleep apnea in the whole world and she had been listening to me lament my In. Som. Ni. A. for decades, literally. One day after I was complaining in an incoherent rambling manner (kind of like this blog, actually) because I had been without regular sleep for so long, she said, “You need to get a sleep test. What if you have some sleep disease like sleep apnea that can kill you if left untreated?”

This of course scared the crap out of me because I can’t die before my children are grown and really don’t want to die anyway because I’m too young for that shit and who would take care of my animals and I’m digressing, probably because I’m so frickin’ tired. ANYWAY, so I asked my doctor if I could have a sleep test and she laughed at me. Yes, she did. She laughed! She said the sleep testing center told her that if she sent one more person over to have a sleep test for In. Som. Ni. A. they were going to kill her. Well, they didn’t say they would kill her. I actually don’t remember what she said they said they would do to her if she sent another insomniac for a sleep test, but they would do something really, really bad, so she wouldn’t let me go. Bummer.

This is the same doctor who wouldn’t let me have cortisone shots in my frozen shoulder when it was in the freezing stage and I thought maybe I was going to throw up sometimes from the pain in it. She told me she had had two frozen shoulders and they froze, and then they unfroze and so I could just suck it up. I really liked this doctor, but sometimes she was a little bit like Katherine Hepburn or something. I’m not sure why I thought she was like Katherine Hepburn. Maybe she was a little entitled? Maybe she was like someone who had all sorts of people she could order around when her arms didn’t work so it didn’t matter that they didn’t work. I am not like that. I do not have people in my life I can order around when things don’t work. I need them to work so I can do stuff. And sometimes that shoulder would hurt so badly it felt like maybe I would vomit from the pain and I have a VERY high pain threshold, so it’s saying a lot to say it made me nauseated from the pain.

Again, ANYWAY. I don’t know how I ended up here in this story, but I did. The point is that I’m getting tired of being tired all the fucking time. I wonder if some of the many people in my life who have decided they don’t like me and don’t want to know me anymore got together and put a curse on me and gave me In. Som. Ni. A. There are enough of them, I think they could probably put out some really ugly vibes if they wanted to. But at the same time, I also don’t think I’m that important to them in their scheme of things so it’s unlikely, but I do have some sage so maybe I should just burn it anyway in an effort to rid myself of the possible curse. I will try that. I am at the point where I’ll try anything.

I got new health insurance and it’s AWESOME health insurance. I’m not with the same medical group I was with when I had the wonderful public health insurance I used to have. I don’t know if that kind exists anymore. Obamacare and all the insurance companies made sure of that. But I have this paid for health insurance and it’s wonderful and I have a new doctor, so I’m hoping maybe I can beg and they’ll find a cure for my In. Som. Ni. A. that doesn’t involve horrible drugs that make me feel like I’m stuck in slime or make me drive my car to my ex’s house in the middle of the night and climb into bed with him. That happened to me once about 11 years ago. Took this stupid sleeping pill and woke up across town in bed with my ex. Didn’t remember one minute of the experience. I have to AVOID that shit for sure. I don’t want to die, remember?

ANYWAY. Digressions seem to be par for the course in this blog post. The point is that I’m going to try and see if a new doctor has some new ideas. It can’t hurt. I’ll also try the sage burning. And maybe chanting. Or maybe moaning. I could be like Harry in When Harry Met Sally and lie in bed and moan.

Moan.

Moan.

Moan.

I can dream, can’t I?

No, I can’t, because I can’t fucking sleep and you have to be sleeping to dream.

Shit.

A Dispiriting Decline

When one hits the age where things begin happening to their parents in the decline of old age, it is dispiriting. I see my mother declining and I’m not sure she will last the year. I can’t tell her this. She actually believes she is going to live into her hundreds, as many of our older relatives have. The difference between those long-lived ancestors, though, is that they were very active. My mother is not. She is not active. She has arthritic knees. She sits a lot. She ignores advice that tells her movement is better for arthritis and general well-being. She also has sleep apnea but refuses to wear her sleep apnea machine. She has now had a stroke. They say it came from plaque in her arteries. They want to give her drugs (after scraping the arteries clean), but tell her exercise is best. She won’t exercise. The sleep apnea may also have contributed, but she won’t use the machine. What was the point of going to the sleep clinic and figuring out she has sleep apnea if she won’t use the machine to help the sleep apnea? They said she had some of the worst sleep apnea they had ever seen. Not treating it can cause heart attacks and strokes. Does she want another stroke? Is she trying to kill herself by doing nothing?

I stand aside and watch this decline. It is disheartening, and as I said before, dispiriting. One cannot control another or make them do what they won’t do. I want to scream: Just get up and walk down your driveway, already! (The driveway is a mile long.) Yet this would be futile.

Fue Tile. Futile. Dispiriting. Disheartening. All these magnificent little words. I love the words. I do not love how their meanings affect me.

After I wrote this, I asked my mom directly about not using her sleep apnea equipment. She said that her sleep apnea went away because she slept on her side. I asked my friend Debbie, who is somewhat of an expert on sleep apnea, and she said that if she didn’t have the central system sleep apnea, it is possible that it did go away. I hope this is true. I know my mom did not get told by a physician that it was gone, but perhaps it did. Perhaps it did not cause her stroke.

Bummer

I love eggs. I ate two eggs this morning for breakfast. My body does not love eggs. It actually despises them. It is mad at me for eating the eggs. It is giving me hell for eating the eggs. I should not have eaten the eggs. My body is winning in deciding whether or not I get to eat eggs. Even though I love them, it says I cannot have them or it will rebel and I believe it. So no eggs.

Bummer.

Dear Shaun T

Dear Shaun T,

I can’t say if I’m getting ripped. I look the same to me. (Body dysmorphia, much? Nah, I just can’t tell close up.) First I did your Insanity workout and I truly thought it was IN-sane. Now I’m in the Beta phase of T-25, and all I can say is that it kicks my ass to insanity and beyond. I thought 25 minute workouts would be a cakewalk after Insanity. Hell, most of the time those workouts near the end were a full hour. What I didn’t realize was that all those breaks in Insanity are a Godsend and the lack of breaks in T-25 is cruel and unusual punishment. My forearms are quivering as I write this and sweat is dripping down my ribs. My headband is soaked. I feel like I’ve been beat up a little.

I hope to hell I’m getting fit, that’s all I can say. Not because I want some ripped body everyone will envy, but because I want to be strong to live long for my daughters. Arghhh!

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

This piece was published on Huffington Post.

A Possible Cure for Insomnia

I have figured out one possible cure for insomnia.

I started having insomnia in the mid-1990s. Mine is the sort that wakes me up at night, my little brain buzzing like an electrical transmission tower, thoughts of work, thoughts of family, song worms, you name it.

To keep reading, click here.

My Statistically Improbable Pets

I have a little bullseye on my head, up on top where God can see it. It’s so God knows I am here and can send me pets with the rarest disorders so I can care for them. Maybe God knows I will treat them and care for them, and not put them to sleep or ignore their ailments. That has to be the reason. I think statistically I have got to be a the far end of the range, not only for the dogs I have had with rare disorders, but also for the fact that I have had more than one of them.

The first was Autumn. If you are interested, you can read her entire story beginning here. Or you can read an elegy of Autumn, as well as some of my other canine friends (living and dead) here. Autumn had something wrong with her adrenal gland. We didn’t really figure that out completely until years after her death when studies began to link the issues she had with that gland. I suspected it during her life, but we were never able to confirm Cushings, the most likely suspect. She lived with interstitial cystitis, an ailment so rare it wasn’t diagnosed until after I read an article about a human suffering the same condition in a woman’s magazine, mainly because no one even knew what it was. Then she got Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) and everything that goes along with that. It was just one thing after another.

I also had Poppy, a Jack Russell terrier who was allergic to just about everything, but particularly grass seed. I live in the Willamette Valley, the grass seed growing capital of the world, so life was rough for Poppy. She would develop fungal infections and scratch herself silly. I was constantly having to change the round of allergy shots to account for new allergens. It was frustrating and expensive.

Now I have Oliver. I love my little Oliver. It’s a good thing he’s such a funny, dear little angel, otherwise it would be difficult to tolerate the fact that he drinks about a gallon of water a day and subsequently pees as much. He leaves little puddles on top of the grass. He will pee for a full two minutes, which is a LONG time for someone to pee.

Did I mention Oliver weighs 8 pounds? Imagine it:  This tiny sprite of a dog drinks so much water that he can stand and pee for 2 minutes solid. I have no idea where in his body the water fits. His waist isn’t distended, but he’s got to have the stretchiest damn bladder on the planet.

Oliver came to live with us in late May. His previous owner lived on social security and could not find a place he could afford to live that would take pets. He mentioned that Oliver drank a lot. After several visits to the vet, I contacted this man and asked if he knew what was wrong with Oliver. I told him it didn’t matter what it was, I would never get rid of him, but trying to make the determination was killing me financially. He said nothing was wrong, Oliver just drank a lot. I hate to break it to you Guy, but dogs of 8 pounds do not drink a gallon a day and Oliver drinks a gallon a day. I know. I measured.

In any case, we started with all the usual tests, expecting Diabetes Mellitus (sugar diabetes) or some bladder ailment. Those tests went nowhere. Then Addision’s. Nowhere. Then Cushings. I KNEW he did not have Cushings. Autumn was cushinoid. Oliver was not cushinoid. For one thing, he’s the pickiest eater in the world. He eats like a teenage girl afraid of getting fat. He turns up his nose at raw turkey. He turns it up at cooked turkey. He turns it up at about 10 brands of the most expensive canned dog food in the world. I have finally gotten him to eat the Steve’s Real Food I feed Ava. It took two months to get him there. What he really wants is food I won’t let my children eat:  potato chips, french fries, junk. Anything junk food, Oliver is all over it. Good, healthy food? No, thanks. He also has beautiful, thick fur. Cushinoid dogs have thin, dry fur that looks awful. They also have sway backs. If anything, Oliver’s back is humped.

The point is that I was spending a fortune and finding nothing wrong with this little guy. We even did a test to see if it was psychosomatic, meaning he was drinking compulsively because of a behavior issue, but that failed as well. You can’t fake urine concentration, and Oliver’s urine would not concentrate.

Then one of the vets described Diabetes Insipidus (water diabetes) and it fit. I knew this was what Oliver had. The specialist I was seeing wanted me to spend a bunch more money that I didn’t have to rule out every other cause, but none of those other causes fit, not even close. And I could not afford it. There is a simple test that can be done for Diabetes Insipidus, but they wouldn’t do it without running through these other damn tests, so I called in the big guns. Ah, not really. I called a friend who is a vet, but doesn’t live near me. He has a vet friend who works near me. He said she would do the test and she did.

In a normal dog, the body has a complex system for balancing the volume and composition of body fluids. The kidneys remove extra body fluids from the bloodstream. These fluids are stored in the bladder as urine. If the fluid regulation system is working properly, the kidneys make less urine to conserve fluid when water intake is decreased or water is lost, for example, through sweating or diarrhea. The kidneys also make less urine at night when the body’s metabolic processes are slower.

To keep the volume and composition of body fluids balanced, the rate of fluid intake is governed by thirst, and the rate of excretion is governed by the production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin. This hormone is made in the hypothalamus, a small gland located in the brain. ADH is stored in the nearby pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream when necessary. When ADH reaches the kidneys, it directs them to concentrate the urine by reabsorbing some of the filtered water to the bloodstream and therefore making less urine. With Diabetes Insipidus, either the hormone isn’t produced (rare) or the kidneys don’t have the receptors to receive the signal from the hormone (really rare). There is a test that can be done where the dog is given reduced amounts of water over time at the same time it is given the hormone. If they have the type where the hormone isn’t produced, there will be improvement and the kidneys will concentrate the urine.

In Oliver, he had improvement, but his urine didn’t concentrate. This baffled me. I’m not a vet, but I understand biologically what is going on. How could he drink and pee less, but his urine still not concentrate? Apparently, there is a combination version that is even rarer than the other two, and it appears from all observation that this is the version Oliver has.  Why, oh why? Oh right. It’s that damn bullseye on my head. So now Oliver has to take medicine, but he also has to keep wearing diapers and we have to be more sure than the average doggy that he has lots of fresh water around him all the time. He can’t go all day like other dogs. He has to have a special waterer in his kennel during the day when we’re gone. He gets up at night to drink and pees in his diaper. Good times.

Ava has an issue too. Hers isn’t rare though, but I had not heard of it. It’s actually quite common in girly dogs. Considering all of the dogs I have ever had except for two have been females, I’m lucky I haven’t gotten it. I get dogs with problems I’m statistically not supposed to encounter and don’t get the problems I statistically should have encountered. Go figure.

Ava’s is kind of funny. It isn’t funny for her, but it is still a funny disorder. Her little vulva gets sore because her chubby legs rub together and cause it to become ouchy. She then licks it which makes it more sore and inflamed. Because it is sore and inflamed., the chubby legs cause more discomfort, which leads to more licking, and on and on. Poor little thing. Her chubby butt causes vulvar inflammation. Who woulda thought?