Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How the PDC ended up costing $18k extra...

I was blissfully attending Oslo sessions at the PDC in LA when I began to feel like someone had placed a bicycle innertube around my chest at armpit level and was progressively tightening it down with a stick behind my back. This started about 11am and by 2pm I was fairly disconcerted by this strange sensation and found myself pressing on my sternum with both hands as if to try and dislodge something. By 3:30pm it was getting alarming and I now had the added lovely symptom of feeling like something the size of a ping-pong ball was stuck in my throat.

It was at this at this point I tried calling my Sister who, by happy coincidence, is an ER doc in LA; but, she didn't pick up and I decided to just persevere through the end of the day's session. I did finally get ahold of her around 5pm as we were boarding the bus back to the hotel and was told in no uncertain terms to "get off the bus and take a cab to Good Sam's ER.

I did just that and by 6pm was fully embroiled in all manner of prognostications by a flurry of doctors, nurses, and techs in Good Sam's ER. I was nitro'ed (tongue spray and chest patch), aspirined (baby), lidocained (milkshake), Nexium'ed (intravenously), Xrayed, blood tested, and subjected to other kinds of other interesting interrogations - all the while never more than three feet from a set of defribulator paddles.

At the end of my six hour ER ordeal I was transferred up to the cardio unit for observation and to do a echocardiogram stress test the next morning given it was going on midnight by then. The stress test was interesting in and of itself in that you got to watch your heart beating from all angles even if you were desperately gasping for breath for half of it. I did somehow survive it, however.

A couple of hours later my new cardiologist concluded the combination of the flu shot I'd gotten four days prior, along with 'unspecific stress' (clearly Oslo excitement), had triggered a gastric reflux event which I'd never experienced before. But, given my blood workup was clean and I had maxed out their stress test system (which he said was unusual for anyone let alone an old guy) they relented and let me get back to the PDC. So I made good my escape, but not in time to catch the Quadrant session, which was a bit of a bummer, though being alive was a bonus.

Anyway, the bill just arrived for my 20 hour stay in the hospital - where nothing more invasive was done to me than a blood test - and by the time you rolled the doctor's bills on top of the hospital it came in at $18k, or $900 per hour. I'm pretty sure the docs and nurses aren't getting much of that so I'm still wondering where it's all going. That, and I think I really need to up my rates before the next PDC.

The final word from my Sis - and the point of this post - is never wait that long if you start getting weird sensations in your chest / throat. I was lucky in that I'm in good shape and nothing bad was going on cardio-wise, but she said many folks aren't so lucky and a lot of them don't make it when they [unwisely] try to ride out their symptoms the way I did...

[ P.S. Good Sam's cardio unit was outfitted with cell phone jammers, had no WiFi in range, and anyway I'd left the USB cable for cell CDMA connections at the hotel. Damn if I didn't actually have to read - good thing I'd just nabbed one of the Oslo books... ]

[ P.P.S. Yes, I do have insurance as a self-employed person, so it's not all on me - it's on all of us. Will be having a 3rd party claims auditor go over it all now... ]

1 comment:

RG said...

At SOA conference in 2007 I got very similar sensations that lasted a day or two. But I (probably correctly) concluded it was related to eating a lunch at Microsoft canteen... However, it could surely become a heart attack if I were confronted with $18K bill for medical aid. US medical costs are outrageous...