Apr 13, 2013 12:02pm
When a person gets rushed to intensive care on the day after Christmas day, you might expect food poisoning to be the problem, or perhaps an injury from some shoddy Yuletide gift. In my case it was a hemorrhaging brain. Christmas can be a stressful time of year but, just the same, an exploding brain was a little bit of an overreaction on my part and, I was to discover later, impossibly bad timing to boot.
It would be dramatic here to say that I spent the next week fighting for my life in the ICU, but the fact is that I was little more than a vegetable at that stage, and not able to fight my way out of a wet paper bag.. It’s true that my life was in the balance, but my brains had been inflated like a carnival balloon and I was too out of it to understand.
So, the fight was left to the experts, who ran about, administered medicine, brought my blood pressure down, and stopped my noggin from popping like a failed soufflé. Meanwhile, the people who cared about me the most wondered whether the gibbering idiot in the hospital bed would ever annoy them in his own special way again.. It was about this time, when I was at my most uncomprehending, that poor Julia, already at her wit’s end with worry, discovered that things were actually worse than they appeared; it wasn’t just my brains that had exploded but my finances too (more on that in a minute).
Slowly, I came out of the fog that I’d been in and was reconnected with my own timeline. There is still a missing week or so where all I have is brief, hazy images like from a dream. Sadly, the reality I woke up to was nightmarish; I was half paralyzed. This was a lot to process; would I ever be whole again? Would I walk? Would I ever be able to draw? It was a terrifying thought, and in fact it still is. I have been a working artist since 1982 and drawn since as long as I can remember. The idea that I may not be able to do so again fills me with horror. So I focus instead on getting better. I am not ready to deal with the alternative.
As my cognitive abilities and short term memory slowly came back to me over the next few weeks, I was to discover that fate was not done toying with me yet. When Julia felt I was ready to both grasp and deal with the realities, she told me the terrible truth that she’d learned from the hospital staff a few days after my admission to the ICU: the insurance card in my wallet was not yet valid for another week. Believe me, having a hemorrhaging brain in the ICU is precisely the sort of situation where you need a valid insurance card. However, in my case the stay from December 26th through to January 1st was not covered and would therefore be my responsibility to pay.
I was not only half paralyzed but also $186,000 in debt.
The particulars of my physical situation are very daunting; it is frightening to have half your body cease to function (especially the half that pays the rent) but I plug away at my exercises and ever so incrementally and slowly I improve, whereas the debt just sits there, because the money to pay it down is needed to live on. I’ve broken into my nest egg, because now that I cant work I don’t have any other revenue. Unfortunately, I was denied state disability, so I’ve filed for federal disability, but it may take a year to be processed.
So what to do? Should I spend down my nest egg, file for bankruptcy and have the seven year credit stain? Maybe take legal action against the HR department that messed up my insurance but risk the only steady paycheck that Julia and I have left? Should I just pay the debt but then have my life savings gutted? Or should I pack up my wheelchair and make a run for Cuba?
While I ponder these options in the back of my mind, I’ve made getting physically better a priority, and I plug away at my therapy as hard as I can. I’m happy to say that I have finally been accepted into the outpatient physical therapy program at California Pacific Medical Center (insured this time) and I feel that I must give this rehabilitation everything that I’ve got, to get well as soon as possible. Julia’s family has taken over from mine as my full time Burgess Meredith squad; Don and Susan drive me to therapy classes and coach me on my walks around town (cue the Rocky workout montage). It is tiring, slow work but it has rewards as I can feel myself getting stronger everyday.
Who knows, with any luck I may just lick all my problems yet!