Free healthcare – in prison

Medical parole: Hospitalized prisoners costing California taxpayers millions – latimes.com.

I got excited when I read the above LA Times article about healthcare in prison. Here I thought that one day I’d have to kill myself when my insurance runs out, but now there’s a possible light at the end of the tunnel – free healthcare in prison.

Of course, I’ll have to commit some kind of crime to get there, and the healthcare in prison doesn’t sound top-notch. However, that seems inconsequential when it comes to staying alive and getting to see my daughter grow up, though it will be on scheduled and supervised visits at the prison. Will I get to keep my iPad? Probably not.

I think I’ll rob a bank. I can pretend to have a gun in my jacket and ask the teller for unmarked bills and no dye packs. See, I’ve watched enough movies to nail it. Then, I’ll just stand outside the bank and wait for the police to arrest me. Life is simple after all. There’s always a silver lining.

Then I think of the honest, hardworking, taxpaying CF individuals and families on GHPP here in California who are barely holding on to it with the state budget cuts. California will provide medical care to people who have committed the most horrific crimes but cut other programs to the bone. Hmm, something about that bothers me – a lot.

Maybe my idea isn’t so hot. I might get tired of having to file my nebulizer mouthpieces into “shanks” or “shivs” – or whatever prisoners call them – to protect myself. Clearly, there’s a downside. Forget I posted this. Thanks.

Next idea?

Facebook makes me want to kill myself

I was a Facebook holdout until this month. I overcame the privacy issues that worry me and signed up. But I’m not giving up the bag on my head – that’s my security blanket until I can afford plastic surgery. I joined because my friends live on FB and I feel like an outsider not being able to read their FB updates. Now I want to kill myself.

Don’t call 911 yet. I won’t be performing any crazy suicidal acts, like throwing myself from the hospital roof the next time I’m in, though the thought has crossed my mind. FB may make me want to end my days, but that’s different from actually doing it or something crazy like jumping in front of the annoying ice cream truck that drives through my neighborhood on weekdays when kids are in school (what’s up with that anyway?). However, Facebook makes me feel depressed and more of a loser than I already am.

I started by looking up old school friends and girlfriends. Big mistake. The school pals are all more successful than I am – my best friend in high school went to Stanford and Harvard and is president of a company. Ex-girlfriends are living in exclusive parts of cities and married to successful men who are doctors and dentists, or who split atoms with a device they made in their garage from beer cans and Lego. The common theme: you did better without me. I’m not that surprised.

Look, I’m not a complete loser (arguable). I had a delayed start with my life when the period for feeling sorry for myself ended (the end of that period is arguable too based on this blog, but let me feel good about myself for a few minutes). I started college late while my friends were more motivated and driven with better reasons to believe they would live long enough to take advantage of a college eduction. I had what we’ll call a “rough patch” near the end of high school. It lasted awhile. (Is it over? Again, arguable) I would like to have a “do-over” on that time in my life, please.

So, I’ll be quitting Facebook soon. I’ve seen enough. Once I find a way to become more successful, I’ll rejoin. Until then, I can’t take the daily FB searches of successful ex’s. If only I could find one homeless old school mate, or ex-girlfriend unable to get over me, who now fishes for meals in a trash dumpster every day. Once I discover that person, I promise I’ll accept his or her friend request immediately. Life can be just like the old days again – on Facebook.

Use the Force next time an anxiety attack happens

After two visits, my new heart doctor suggested I should go on Prozac. “Forget you” very much, doctor. At what point did you not notice my extensive list of medications? The one that comes on a scroll and unrolls onto the floor.

Sure, let’s add another med to the list. Genius idea. Especially a drug like Prozac, which can do all kinds of strange things to your head. May I have a prescription for a .44 Magnum handgun, too? Pretty please with mustard and my brains on it?

How did I get here?

My fantastic regular heart doctor is getting up there in years and is a 60-minute drive each way, plus the two-hour visit. So, every time my heart does its samba, giving up four hours of my day is a real drag just to be told I’m alive. So, I spun the doctor wheel of fortune and picked a new one close by. The five-minute drive rocks. But the new doctor ain’t my old one.

During the first visit he was complaining about his older patients and how slow they moved and how long the visits take. During the second visit, he mentioned how the children of dying patients don’t accept the fact their parents are dying and nothing can be done. He wasn’t making a big production of his frustration, but was whining. And, as I’m the king of whining, I can spot when someone else is stealing my stage time.

I was also thinking he has life pretty good. He’s a doctor, married with kids and doesn’t have cystic fibrosis. Right there he’s ahead of the game. No whining allowed, Doc. What the hell are you complaining about? Where’s the genie that gives you CF for a month to teach you what you should already know? You’re living the high life.

Back to the five-minute Prozac diagnosis.

Along with the suggestion for Prozac came a few suggestions that showed he hadn’t listened closely to why I was anxious, and ended with the simple advice “don’t worry so much.” Oh, doctor, it’s that easy? Why didn’t I think of that? I’m so lucky. You cured me with your brilliant wisdom. May I kiss your stethoscope to show my eternal gratitude? I promise to name my next boa constrictor after you. The one I’ll let wrap me up and squeeze me to death while I’m high on Prozac.

Prozac this. I’m insane, not depressed.

[“Cranky tonight, I am,” as Yoda would say – if he were not on Prozac, though we all know he is.]

How the LA Times drove me mad (or madder)

I am a huge advocate of newsapers. But when the LA Times Marketing department kept calling me, I kept hanging up.

They called at the worst times and it became a game of seeing how fast I could disconnect the call: Hi, LA Times-. Click. Hi, LA Tim-. Click. Hi, LA-. Click.

Then one weekday a newspaper appeared on my driveway – unusual, as I only subscribe to Sunday’s paper. I once received the paper daily until this little invention called the Internet came along.

It must be a mistake by the carrier, I thought. Then another paper fell from the sky, and so on. And into the trash they went, unread, as each one contained yesterday’s news that I’d already read on my computer the day before.

It must have been ordered by one of the operators I hung up on, I realized. Kudos to him or her for the practical joke, which I couldn’t help but appreciate. Respect. You got me. You got me good.

So, I called the LA Times to tell them to cancel the paper I never ordered. When the rep connected, she told me I was receiving the paper as gift from the LA Times for being a loyal subscriber. I told her I didn’t want it and to cancel it. please.

Like a computer that doesn’t understand a command, she couldn’t compute the input of me not wanting a free paper. Can’t compute, can’t compute. After five minutes of back and forth, she transferred me to another operator who had the authority to cancel my free paper.

The second operator did everything she could to convince me to the keep the free paper. As I don’t like to get mad at polite, hardworking people doing their job, I patiently told her to cancel it. She held her ground and stated all of the great reasons I should keep it, ignoring my logic, pleas and, eventually, my crying like a baby.

At this point, I’d spent 20 minutes of my life in newspaper hell. So, I decided to cancel my Sunday paid subscription, which glitched her computer programming and made her admit defeat in trying to save two orders. After 25 minutes of my life wasted, she canceled the free paper and Sunday’s paid subscription, which put me in the doghouse with my wife, as she uses the grocery coupons.

Now this happened over a week ago. And I expected it would take a few days for the cancellation order to happen. However, each day I walk outside and guess what’s there – a newspaper. And it stares at me and speaks directly into my feeble brain and says in a soothing voice: Hello, I’m here, and will be forever. You’ll never get rid of me. Enjoy me. Read me. Kiss me. Burn me. Or, roll me up nice and tight and use me to beat yourself in the head.

My advice: Never hang up on the LA Times. You’ll be sorry if you do. I am.

The woman with the blue hair

I wish I could tell you the exact words spoken by the woman with the blue hair, but I was bending over having an argument with my daughter about not shutting off her Nintendo DS and I didn’t see the woman when she spoke to me. She said something like “If you spank your daughter in public I can only imagine what you do at home.”  Let me clear this up first: I don’t spank or hit my daughter, nor did I on the streets of Ventura that day. But somehow this woman in her late twenties with bright blue hair and a coffee in her hand thought I did. Somehow her mind saw something that did not happen and she felt the need to comment on the illusion.

“Sorry?” I said. “What did you say?”

She told me I shouldn’t spank my daughter. I guess at this point I should have just walked away and ignored her. But as my daughter had already wound me up by continuing to play her game and giving me attitude about it, I was already in “fray mode.” I won’t go into all details of the loop that started at this point, but it started with me explaining that my wife and I don’t believe in spanking and never do it, which is true, as I got spanked a ton growing up and wasn’t going to inflict that on my child. So, this complete stranger accusing me of something like that got me pretty heated fast. My voice was loud and I was pissed, but anything I said was followed by something to the effect of “I saw you spank her.”

Now had this been an argument with another man, it would have escalated into a fist fight, which would have caused me to cough up blood, of course, and the police would have come and it would have been a mess. Fortunately, I realized two things: I couldn’t get in a fight with a woman, as that would cross a line I would never be able to live with; the argument was becoming pointless, as arguing with her would never change her mind of what she thought she saw.

My daughter started crying at this point, which should have a been a major clue for the woman that she was wasn’t crying before, a good indication she didn’t get spanked. “You made your daughter cry,” she said. “You made my daughter cry,” I said, which doesn’t sound that cool on the page but I said it with such intensify that the woman didn’t say anything after that. I hugged my daughter and looked back at the woman one more time. She flipped me off. I just waved her off in a way that said you’re not worth my time and walked away with my daughter, who had never experienced anything like this heated argument in her life.

We went for pizza and it turned into a great teaching moment. We spoke about how we couldn’t let the woman ruin our day. We could have gone back to the car and gone home, but she would have defeated us if we had done that. It also allowed me to discuss the types of people that exist in the world and how you have to be street smart, which is another reason you don’t walk along with your head down playing your DS. People and situations come at you fast. Head up, eyes open.

If there is a karma side to the story it’s this. As my daughter and I got back to the car later, a woman called out to me. She and her two friends were there when the argument was going on. She told me she had seen me standing with my daughter and I hadn’t spanked her, which is amusing as I didn’t need confirmation, but I understand she meant it as support. She said I was controlled and had it happened to her she’s not sure she could have managed it like I did, which is funny as I felt wound up and bordering on a lack of control, but I didn’t use foul language in public and in front of my daughter, which I was happy about.

This nice woman told me she debated getting involved and stating that I didn’t spank my daughter, which deep down I would have liked just to prove the blue-haired woman wrong. But who knows what would have happened or if the annoying woman would have even believed the witness. It may have escalated the situation. So, I let my witness off the hook and told her it was best that she stayed out of the situation. It seemed she needed to hear this, as her inaction was bothering her. I was happy to help her let it go and absorb all of the burden.

Now if I could just let the damn thing go. It’s several days later and I still replay the situation in my mind. It taps into my CF anger and OCD and I keep thinking about it. I like to win and perhaps that’s where my frustration lies – there was no way to win, but I still want to. I also have a new appreciation for the fact many witness statements in court are incorrect. Somehow this woman saw something that did not happen, yet was convinced it did. Or, she just wanted to mess with me, which is possible. Or who knows what her motivation was – and that bothers me. For as long as I live, I’ll never know what really happened that day or understand human behavior, including my own.

And now for today’s grift

 

"Diamond teeth make me feel pretty, oh, so pretty."

 

My wife went to the dentist today – an honest dentist who shares a lot of interesting stories. One was about an elderly patient who brought in his more elderly mother for an exam. The woman was a few weeks out of bypass surgery and didn’t look like she was doing well and might not have much time left. They had gone to another dentist who recommended $35,000 worth of dental work. (It must have been same the diamond package Kayne West recently added to his lower teeth.)

Fortunately, my wife’s dentist did the minimum needed to make her comfortable and saved her enough money to buy a new Cadillac, if that’s what she wanted to do with the leftover money. Whereas the other dentist wanted to buy a new Cadillac for himself or perhaps the Ukrainian mistress he keeps in an apartment in Van Nuys. That’s how I see a person like that who tries to hose an elderly woman in the last stages of her life – he probably cheats on his wife too.

My wife’s dentist shared other stories about the methods dentists and doctors use to bill for money patients don’t owe per the contract of their insurance – if patients pay the bill great, if not and they complain, it’s wiped away like it should have been in the first place. That one really gets under my skin because we get those bills trying to trick us into paying what we don’t owe. It’s unethical.  Yet, it happens. And I wonder who allows it to happen. It’s not some computer that thinks up a great idea to rip people off. Computers aren’t assembled evil and ready to program devious billing practices. It’s a human who thinks this stuff up and somehow finds a way to live with him or herself, along with the pile of money made from the deception.

All of this makes me wonder how ethical we are as a society. Every day I read stories about people skirting the edge of what’s legal and a gray area of almost being illegal, but justified as a billing error or clerical mistake or medical recommendation. This isn’t a robbery of a 7/11 or someone embezzling a million dollars. It’s not an obvious crime that shows up on a grainy video on the 11:00 p.m news. This is a different kind of robbery. It’s not glamorous. It’s not easy to detect. And yet, it feels like it’s happening more often and some justify its financial “cleverness” and ignore it unless by some miracle of detective work it’s exposed.

It’s modern-day grifting and the victim is our bank accounts and faith in others. One’s not so easy to recover.

Not feeling so hot

Though it’s good that I’m out of the hospital, the bad news is that I don’t feel well. During the hospitalization, I suffered from chills, low-grade fevers and sweats that would leave me soaked like I’d stood in a downpour for 20 minutes. In the afternoons, early evenings I would crash hard, which explains the lack of blog posts during the stay as it’s hard to write when you’re curled up in a ball hoping a bolt of lightning will strike you and end your misery. No such luck.

All of this mystified the doctors and they never really came up with an explanation. When I went off the Tylenol a few days before they kicked me loose, they looked at that as a positive sign. So did I. But they never really asked me how I was feeling when they surprised me Friday and sent me home. They made an executive decision that 20 days of IVs was enough. They must have entered it into their mental program and processed it – Send him home, he should feel better by now. I guess I should, but I don’t.

I brought the low-grade fevers, chills and body temperature swings home with me. What a bonus. Now the question is whether I have to go back to the hospital or not. I lived with them over the weekend hoping they would magically go away. Finally, I emailed my doctor this morning and he replied with a few questions about my stomach, which is fine. Then I didn’t hear back. He must be hoping this will pass, go away without explanation, which is what they all must have been thinking while I was in the hospital. Well, it didn’t go away tonight. And tomorrow I go back to work and I feel tired and 50 percent. It’s going to take everything I can muster to get through the day.

This is the first hospitalization where I feel the decision-making system during my stay failed me. It took them six days to embolize me. I wish I had had the courage to force the decision sooner. I didn’t. But I knew I needed to be embolized from day one. They kept throwing the possible dangers of the procedure at me. Yet, my lungs decayed by not doing treatments. I may never get that lung function back. It’s one thing to be hosed by cystic fibrosis; it’s another to be hosed by the medical process. The latter makes me angrier.

I’ll be tortured about this visit for the rest of my life.