Friday, July 9, 2010

The Three-Thousand Dollar Grapefruit (part 2)

Yup, I chickened out (read Part 1), unable to move that needle, unable to rid myself of the most humiliating thing my body could have done.

Nothing for it but to call a urologist, set up an appointment. The visit alone would cost $150.00. I was willing to pay it at that point--I just wanted the damn hydrocele GONE. I set up a May 20th appointment.

Montage: Wake up on the 20th, shower, breakfast, drive to the urology center, sign in, fill out 15 pages of name, address, phone numbers, medical history, allergies, sit and wait, my name is called, I give a urine sample and sit in the exam room.

Nurse comes in to check my blood pressure. Hand-held electronic all-in-one tester, pretty cool, but holy crap is the cuff supposed to be so tight that my hand goes numb?

Nurse looks confused. Tries it again. My fingers tingle and she looks confused again, goes to get a different machine. It does the same thing, my fingers tingle, she looks confused, and now she's gone looking for a regular cuff & bulb. I already know I've got high blood pressure, but she can't look confused now that three different tests show something like 290/150.

Holy crap.

The doctor comes in shortly, has me drop my pants, looks the grapefruit over, tells me there's about a liter of fluid there, asks why I waited so long, and tells me to get my ass to the ER to have the BP looked at. He calls for an ultrasound of the grapefruit while I'm there. I'm out the door.

Cost so far: $150.00.

Montage: Drive to ER, park, walk a lap around the Emergency department until I find the admissions desk...another blood pressure test, a thermometer...ushered to a small exam room, drop the pants, show off the grapefruit, why'd you let it get like that, no money, no insurance, left it alone because it wasn't a problem until now, follow me...another exam room...put on this backless robe and hop on the's quiet, so I whip out the current "Dresden Files" and arrives, encumbering me with company...nurses arrive in a swarm, poking, prodding, and now I'm wired to an EKG machine, bleeding into sample vials, and talking to another doctor, answering all the standard questions with standard answers.

I'm wheeled to the Radiology department and the first woman to touch my junk since 1996 works her ultrasound machine, confirming that I've got a hydrocele, there's no cancer, and there's no communication between the hydrocele and my abdomen: no hernia. She found both testes, showed me that there was good blood flow in both, though the right one was being crowded by that freaking fluid reservoir dangling there. She even used the machine to estimate that I was toting about 2 liters of fluid therein.

TWO freaking liters?

Back to my exam room. I'm told that I need to produce another urine sample...or they're going to put in a catheter. I order everyone out and do it.

Montage: Doc shows up, writes a scrip for BP meds...a social worker for the billing department comes in, talks about the paperwork she's about to give me...the nurses return and unplug me from the EKG, pull the IV out of the back of my hand...clothes back on, gather my stuff, out the door.

The prescription was 4 bucks. I wish that were the most expensive item.

I got the bills a few days later:

Doctor: $314.00
Ultrasound tech: $133.00

ER visit "high severity"...936.00
UA automated w/micro...$72.00
Metabolic Panel total CA...$38.00
CBC w platelet auto diff...$85.00
Vascular study limited...$649.00
US exam scrotum...$461.00


Twenty. Three Hundred. Bucks. Add in the doctor's and tech's fees, and it's $2740.00.

Heh. Where is the money going to come from? No insurance, no health plan, and I make at best $15k per year. I put in for the charity/financial help plan from the social worker, but I've yet to hear anything out of them, even after a few calls. I've already paid the two least expensive fees--the doc and tech.

I did a follow-up to the urologist a few weeks later. Another $150.00, so now we're looking at $3,000 in total costs from the medical folks...with nothing to show for it. The urologist wanted to do surgery, was all set to make the appointment, but I reminded him that there's no money there. He set me up with a finance counselor; she gave me a photocopy of a brochure, I did the Google hunt, and I quickly found that I don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare. I went looking for medical insurance plans.


The plan I could afford had a $10,000 deductible. The one I wanted had a $500 deductible, but would eat one paycheck a month.

Okay, screw that.

I dug around, looked at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, didn't even bother to fill out the qualifying survey. By that point, I just didn't care anymore. Tired of the crap. Time to go back to the do-it-myself approach!


  1. I know you didn't even suggest this, but will you need any help making the payments for that ER bill? -- LR

  2. Thank you for asking (and reading!), but I don't think so; I finally got in touch with their charity office--after another trip to the ER a week ago. That blood-pressure problem pretty much took over, and I spent the last week there. Short story is, I've got an internal dissection to my aorta--instead of a balloon, it's a tear along the length. They've got me on BP meds and pain-killers (surgery would be a lot riskier), and I had a long face-to-face with the financial aid folks. I don't know why I never heard from them over the past 2 months, but it seems that we've come to an agreement this time.

    All I need to do now is sit and heal up and keep the BP down, down, down.