Under Pressure

Updated on August 30, 2010
N.P. asks from Santa Rosa, CA
12 answers

My husband lost his job about two weeks ago and the shell shock is just about wearing off. He's applied for unemployment and those funds will keep the mortgage note paid for as long as it lasts but we have to pay all the other bills with what we've saved, which was pretty much nothing. We entered this crisis with an $1800 bill on the credit card and $20 in the savings. Leftover property taxes rotting on credit. Brilliant of me, yes I know. We took a gamble and lost. We sunk all our savings into this house and made sure that my husband's paycheck could cover all necessary bills even if there wasn't anything left over so that when my daughter started school and I got a job, all my income would be supplementary. It would be going into the savings for a new emergency fund and used for activities like summer camps and swim lessons. After the purchase we were slapped in the face with higher than estimated costs for repairs, a 4.5k busted furnace and a broken upstairs toilet that left a crapwater ring on the garage ceiling. Those unexpected joys of buying a distressed home caused us to use the property tax money we saved, and then some, so we were forced to rely on the credit card. I hate doing it but it was that or be delinquent. We've only been in the house eleven months. We didn't even make it a year! I must have been a massive butthole in a prior life.

We rented and saved, rented and saved, rented and saved for years and years. His work had been steady for the past ten years and we had finally pulled together a large enough nest egg to qualify as a down payment for a home. I'm not the gambling sort but I felt the odds were good. I felt he was in a secure position and so I pushed for the plunge into home ownership. We did and it was traumatic. Like giving birth to a huge house shaped baby that ripped its way out of me. After we did it and our safety net of cash was gone, I went into a panic. I got a sick case of the "what if's". My worst case scenario was, "What if you lose your job? We'd be so SCREWED!!" And here it is. My luck rearing its buttugly head and delivering my worst case scenario on a stained sheet.

He got his last paycheck which included all unused vacation and sick time, of which he used none so it was a blessing. His severance was one months salary. A pittance. After running all the numbers, we can keep the household running in conservation mode for about 13 months as long as unemployment is uninterrupted and there are no emergencies. I've turned off the irrigation so the lawn will most likely die but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. Showers or green lawn... hmmm. Not a hard choice. Those numbers do not include any income I could produce so I've dusted off my resume and sent it to head hunters and temp agencies in the hopes that something will turn up that I'm qualified to do.

While shopping in safeway today to pick up bread, bananas and eggs I overheard a man behind the customer service counter complaining about some girl who didn't show up for work today. I trilled at the unspoken opportunity that presents for me. I'm going to go back without my daughter tomorrow and inquire about possible positions. Working in a grocery store would be a double whammy as I would not only get a paycheck, but also get a discount on food. That would allow for even more time for my husband to find a job comparable to what he had before because for the foreseeable future, things look bleak. Hopefully something with benefits will turn up as we could not afford the cobra payments and I don't think the job I'll end up with will come with medical or dental.

I managed to get my daughter hustled into the dentist and the doctor this last week, one visit Tuesday and the other on Thursday, to make sure everything is fine and I filled all my prescriptions so I'm stocked up for the next three months. Insurance will lapse at the end of the month. There's a government program that will cover my daughter as a minor child and I'll still be able to take her to her regular doctor but I have to go in person to the agency to apply. She's due for immunizations in september. I made the dr. apt this last week so she could get her shots before the insurance went away but they said the schools wouldn't count them if they weren't given after the correct cuttoff date which is mid september. If we'd done them sooner she'd just have to get shots again anyhow and that's lame. One month short. What terrible timing. Hopefully this meeting with the medi-cal people will work out and they'll issue my daughter a government insurance card so she will be covered even if my husband and I are not.

I had a dream last night that the house caught on fire and we were only able to scramble out with ourselves and our pajamas. I didn't even have time to grab a bra and I felt totally exposed and lost. The pets died and all my mementos went up in flames. My daughter's birth certificate with her little foot prints pressed onto them. Original marriage licence and the corsage my husband presented to me when he took me to our senior prom. The scrapbook I made for chloe when she was an infant that has her hospital bracelets and a lock of hair from her first haircut as well as all our photos. The computers melted. All our digital photos were on those hard drives and the backups were on DVD's in the closet. (Talk about all the eggs in one flaming basket.)

What got me the most was the pets. I tried to chase down the cats to get them out but Kizzy hid somewhere and I couldn't find him. I managed to get Angus out of the house but when I tossed him in the van he bolted out before I could shut the door and ran down the street never to be seen again. I ran back inside to grab my little lovebird's cage but he was dead from smoke inhalation already. I sobbed and got him out anyway, cage and all. Delicate little lungs.

In my dream, covered in soot and huddled with my husband and daughter with Booga's little corpse in the cage next to us, I tried to think of the positives about the situation but even though I was grateful the three of us got away with our lives... it still felt like I was dying as I watched my house and all our worldly possessions burn. The pets were dead or missing. My parents were too far away to help and the fire department was just arriving to put out the flames. It was a lost cause. Putting out my house would only spare the neighbors homes from burning and at that point I didn't care.

Then Chloe jumped on me and woke me up. She said, "Mommy I want apple juice and cherrioes. Are you crying? Are you sad?"

And i just held her and said, "No baby, it's just the cat fur making my eyes water, but I'm all better now."

Then she went to find Angus to put him in time out for having fur.


There is no questions to be answered in this posting. I just needed to tell someone what I've been feeling, what I've been worrying about and paying to tell a therapist is just too expensive. So thank you all for being here. You are therapeutic for me. I feel like a bomb has detonated at my feet and I'm here to rail at the universe, then pick myself up and keep on truckin'. I keep thinking about how our situation would be different if it were eleven months ago when we were renting and had a large nest egg of cash laid away. We'd be relaxed and groovy instead of scrambling in survival mode.

I hate the "woulda coulda shoulda's". I dwell on them till everything feels rotten and wrong around me, like I'm in an alternate fold of reality. Another dimension. I feel as if I took the wrong path and ended up in a bad fork of existence and my real life is being lived by a duplicate me somewhere else. That line of thinking will only befoul my days and make me a bitter old woman. I wish I could be more positive about things but I feel, in my secret heart, that I'm a super villan and my powers are discovering the worst case scenario of any situation in life then making them come to pass. I'm a pariah and long for the hero to come vanquish me and save the world from my terrible curse.

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So What Happened?

It's been six months since my husband lost his job and the shell shock has numbed into sad acceptance. The unemployment is about to run out and the seasonal job at Target I managed to land was terminated in January after the Christmas rush. I was happy to have it even though it paid less than half of what I used to make before I became a SAHM and it was much more physically demanding. (I felt like I was getting paid to go to the gym which was sort of a win. I managed to lose eight pounds working there and had PB&J for lunch every day because it was cheap.)

I got very sick and needed surgery a few months after our health insurance ran out, shortly before Christmas. The bills are astronomical, almost laughable. When I look at them I see Dr. Evil from the Austen Powers movies flip his pinky up to his lower lip and say, "One Beeeelion Dollars!" then laugh maniacally. I wrote my story up and sent it to the local newspaper and the editor responded asking for an update. Haven't heard back after sending it. Posting what I wrote to him in another entry here. Not going to blob up the "so what happened" since so much has and it would probably exceed the text limit if there is one.

/EDIT - It was auto pulled as a new post so I'll just try and post it here.

Diary of the Unemployed and Uninsured

My husband lost his job, our only source of income and health insurance, in August 2010. It was an unexpected thing, a complete shock. When he called and told me, I thought he was kidding. When I realized he wasn’t, my mouth went dry and my heart fell into my shoes. You see, we had just taken the next step in our lives and bought our first home about a year and one month before this devastating news. We had rented and saved and rented and saved for years until we produced a nest egg worthy of a down payment that wouldn’t have us laughed out of a bank. We house hunted in a wider and wider circle around his work until we found a place we could afford. It was broken and smelled like pee but it had potential so we put in an offer and bought it. We put everything we had into the house then borrowed more from my parents to fix some unexpected issues. A broken upstairs toilet and a burnt out furnace. It took a while to make the place livable but we !
managed to push it into shape with the help of my family. As long as my husband had his job, we would be ok. We just needed some time to build up some savings again to feel secure. Time was something fate decided not to give us.

But I feel like I’m getting ahead of myself. My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We met in our Junior year and started dating in the summer before we were Seniors. We graduated in June of 1996. We’ve been tripping through life together ever since. Funny enough, the reason we finally decided to get married was because I could no longer be covered under my father’s insurance and I was worried about what would happen if I got sick. He saw me fretting and my then boyfriend, now husband looked at me and said, “You know, if we got married you could be covered under my insurance.”

I replied, “Did you just propose?” and he said, “I guess I did.”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Oh, be still my beating heart. The romance is going to smother me!” then we both started laughing and made plans to visit the county clerks office in Santa Rosa that day. $111.00 later we were married and I was covered under the warm blanket of protection that only heath insurance can provide. Life was good. We were married on January 23, 2003. In February 2006 I discovered I was pregnant and we were very happy but life threw me a twist and I fell ill in my seventh month of pregnancy. I went to the doctor in pain, suffering like I’d never suffered before. I was prescribed Tylenol with codeine to help me sleep and sent home with a misdiagnosis of a urinary tract infection when I had protein in my urine, high blood pressure and abnormal swelling all over my body. I’d never been pregnant before so I just assumed he was right and I was just being a whiny woman and this was what pregnancy was like. Pain and suffering. A week later, when the dos!
es of Tylenol a pregnant lady is allowed to have were no longer even touching my pain, I cried out for relief and my husband rushed me to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where I was admitted at 4:00am in the morning on September 10, 2006. My daughter’s due date wasn’t until November 11.

About three hours of monitoring, lab work and other tests later they said that the baby was distressing; her heart rate was dropping dangerously low, as I suffered through my pain. They were about to bring in the sonogram machine to check her position and other things when about five doctors burst into the room and said they got the results of my lab work back and they needed to deliver the baby ASAP. I had an escalated case of preeclampsia and my platelets were down to 26,000. In an adult, a normal count is about 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter (x 10-6/Liter) of blood. If platelet levels fall below 20,000 per microliter, spontaneous bleeding may occur and is considered a life-threatening risk. I had no idea.

In a heartbeat the doctors descended on me and I had one on my left arm trying to start an IV but because I had been vomiting and unable to keep much of anything down the past few days I was severely dehydrated and my veins weren't co-operating. I had one doctor inserting a catheter into my urethra... not fun. Another was shaving all my pubic hair away and yet another was standing at my right hand putting a pen in it and having me sign many many forms. I have no idea what I signed. I could have signed away the rights to this child I was about to have, or signed a document donating my body to the hospital post mortem for all I knew but I just signed everything. I wanted the pain to stop. Another doctor was informing my husband as to what was about to happen and I only heard snatches of that conversation.

The doctor trying to set me up with an IV was hurting me so bad I started crying out for water. I was ready to drink an ocean if it would only get my veins to pop back up and stop the pain she was inflicting on me. They said drinking wouldn't help in time as they needed to get me into surgery right now but they let me try anyhow. So I was drinking water and crying and they were trying spot after spot on both arms to get an IV started. They finally succeeded and then needed another so I had to go through the pain all over again but this time they didn't have many places left to try on my arms and they were starting to eye my feet. I tucked them under the blankets and kept trying to process what was happening.

The anesthesiologist came in and explained to me that they were going to put me under a general anesthetic because it would reduce the bleeding during the surgery and because my platelet count was so low they couldn't risk having me bleed more than absolutely necessary so lowing my heart rate was one way to control it.

They wheeled me away and my husband looked white as a sheet. The lights were flashing above my head pretty fast and the only thing I could think of as I was being rushed down the halls was that I didn't think I wanted to watch another medical show on TV for a long while. I get to a room that is filled with machines and there is a big metal table in the center of the room with two very large round lights above it. It looked like an alien autopsy room. There were about fifteen people in that room rushing around, poking at machines, ripping open hermetically sealed plastic containers of items that I'm sure would be used on me in some way or another. They pushed my gurney up against the metal table and dropped the arms so my gurney was more of a table. People got on both sides of me and counted to three then pulled me onto the metal table and under those big lights.

My doctor was there at my side all of a sudden and patted my hand telling me that everything was going to be fine and I was going to feel something like a shower curtain over my abdomen. Sure enough a second later I smelled that plastic new shower curtain smell and felt it stick to my skin. The plastic was raised up in front of me and attached to something providing a blind so I couldn't see anything below my ribcage but by this time I started to get a bit crosseyed as they began to pump some narcotics into my IV. I was passing out and the last thing I heard before I went under was someone say that they didn't think the baby was going to make it. Then there was darkness.

I was on fire. I was itching like crazy and started to scratch at my face. I felt someone take my hands and hold them down at my sides and I slurred that I was itching very bad. I heard someone say, “You're just coming off the meds. Don't worry it's in your head.” The itch continued and started moving along my limbs and it felt like spiders or something moving methodically along my body biting me, leaving no bit of skin untended. I started trying to open my eyes and move my legs in an attempt to scratch myself with my toes.

"Look at this. It looks like hives! Mark her here and watch the clock. Make another mark in five minutes and we'll see how fast it's moving.”

I felt a little brush on my arm and another in what I assume was five minutes.

"It's moving really fast. She'll be covered in them soon. Get the Benadryl.”

I still couldn’t open my eyes but I felt this cold flush wash from my wrist up my arms and race over my body killing the spiders all along the way. Later I found out they had given me a transfusion of platelets and I had a reaction to it. I broke out in hives and they were taking over my whole body so I was given a dose of Benadryl in my IV and it fixed it fast. I think I passed out after that because the next time I woke up I was in a room facing a large sliding glass door. The walls on either side of me were bare and there was a menagerie of machines beeping in a line behind me.

I was hooked up to a blood pressure machine on my left arm and it would auto inflate and scare me awake. This would go on 24 hours a day, every half hour, so I really didn't get any sleep. Every time I started to drift off the cuff would jar me awake like someone gripping my arm tight and saying, “WAKE UP!”

A nurse came in and handed me two controls attached by a wire to the bed and to a machine behind me. One button controlled the TV hanging in the corner of the room and it also had a big red button on it that called the nurse if I needed help. The other control was smaller. It fit in the palm of my hand and had a large glowing green button on the bulbous end. This was my morphine button. The nurse said I couldn't overdose so I could push the button as much as I wanted. When it was glowing solid green it means it is charged and a dose is ready to be discharged into my IV. When I press the button it will flash for about a minute indicating that it's dosing me and then it will go dark. When it lights up again I can get another dose. If I push the button when it's dark nothing will happen. I used that button for everything. When they came in to take labs (drawing blood and general poking and prodding) I would hit the button and ignore them feeling only their breeze as they walked!
around me.

I felt comfortable and safe. I had my nurse button and my “no more tears” button so I was ok. I still hadn't seen any family yet. They were still worried about me and didn't want me to have any visitors. Another nurse came in and wrapped my legs in these tight white Velcro leg wraps that went from angle to knee and were plugged into the bottom of the bed by many air tubes. When they were turned on they would inflate and deflate in patterns to simulate massage. The nurse said it was to prevent blood clots in the legs. This was another sensation that was automated and would also startle me awake in addition to the blood pressure cuff. I also still had three IV's in my arms so I didn't want to move them around too much.

My mom, dad and husband came to visit me later that day and said my daughter was alive and well and they even went to see her! They let my husband in to see the baby before he was allowed to come se me so he took video of her to bring to me and show me since I was trapped by an army of nurses. The day went ok and I got lots of hugs and kisses and ice chips. I wasn't allowed to have anything solid and I couldn't drink anything even though I was very thirsty and my mouth was dry and hot. I was getting everything I needed pumped into me intravenously and they wanted tight control of things. I really don't remember much that happened in the ICU except that I couldn't sit up to save my life. My sit up muscles wouldn't work. I couldn't really roll over either. I was trapped on my back and I felt more helpless than I've ever felt in my entire life. I wanted my husband to sleep in the room with me but they said no so he slept in the waiting room. I was so lonely I cried most of the !

The next day some guy was moved into the room next to me and it sounded like he was being tortured. Screaming and moaning... it was terrible and it lasted until they moved me to the maternity ward. It was incessant. I think I managed to fall asleep for a little bit at some point because I got jerked awake by the blood pressure cuff and a pressure on my bladder. My Foley got a kink in it and wasn't draining properly.

I reached for my nurse button and couldn't find it. I must have lost a grip on it during my brief moment of unconsciousness. I started to panic. I called out but my voice was very weak and I most definitely couldn't out yell the poor guy in the next room. So I started to cry and feel terribly helpless and sorry for myself. I tried to time my yells so I would bleat out sound when the other guy was breathing in, hoping someone would hear me. Ten minutes later I was desperately trying to think of ways to get their attention so I started to remove my O2 monitor as well as some of the other things stuck to my chest.

The machines behind me started beeping like crazy as they started to read flat lines in heart rate and respiration and finally, I got a nurse. I held up the wires so she didn't try and difribulate me or something and she asked what happened. I told her my nurse button fell on the floor and I needed a nurse and couldn't contact one so I removed the monitors to get some attention since I couldn't out scream the man in the other room. I told her about the bladder pressure. She located the kink in the catheter and fixed it. It was instant relief. The lady pinned my nurse button to my bed so it wouldn't fall down again. I abused my green button during that ordeal.

I was soon moved to the Maternity ward and the story goes on. To summarize, I was very well taken care of. I recovered. I was sent home before my daughter was as she was underweight and needed a longer recovery time in the NICU. Now, my daughter is a happy and healthy four year old, gregarious, curious and filled with the excitement of life. Our combined bill for everything was nearly half a million dollars. Our insurance covered nearly that entire bill. My prescription medication cost more than my co-pay for the hospital visit! After this ordeal I found it difficult to go back to work and my husband told me that I should stay home with the baby and our life was ok on just his salary. Things were tight but we trimmed away luxuries like cable TV and were still able to put money in a savings account. Three years later we went house hunting. We bought our house in September 2009.

Back to the dreary present. It’s almost Christmas. My husband has been out of work for nearly four months and has been desperately following up a dwindling number of leads. He’s been to a couple of fruitless interviews and our bills are mounting. I had to put our property taxes and a number of other bills on a credit card in an effort to continue to have enough to pay the mortgage. His unemployment will end in less than two months and I don’t know if we qualify for an extension. He was given a severance of one month’s salary and that is gone already. Our savings was non existent coming into this crisis due to the adjustment between renting and home ownership. There were a lot of unexpected costs that soaked up what little we were able to put away every month.

I’ve sent my resume to temp agencies, head hunters and numerous retail stores in an attempt to try and shore up this breaking dam. I finally got a call back and now make minimum wage as a seasonal employee at a local retail store. I’ve been laboring at this job for the past two months and I had to sign a document stating that I understood my employment will be terminated on the first of January. This date is quickly approaching and though the pay is a pittance and doesn’t provide much, it’s better than nothing and I’ll be sorry to lose it.

And then I got a terrible pain. Upper right abdominal pain right below the rib cage. Worse pain than I had when I was suffering in my seventh month of pregnancy. I was very scared. I had no insurance and my regular doctors wouldn’t talk to me for “legal reasons”. I felt abandoned and alone and desperately sad. I remembered back to how easy it was to just go to the doctor. It wasn’t something I had to think about, I just went. I rocked, huddled on the floor of my bedroom while I was on the phone with the hospital. The very same hospital that cared for me before. I explained my situation and asked what recourse I had and I was told I could come in, they wouldn’t refuse me care, but I would have a very big bill at the end. I started crying and said that I couldn’t do that to my family, I’d rather die. And the man on the phone said, “Ok then. Bye!” And in pain, I rocked myself to the sound of the dial tone.

For three days I suffered, always at night and for over four hours of pain each night. I scoured the internet for answers to my problem because I couldn’t pay a doctor to tell me for sure. I researched and deduced that my pain was probably my gallbladder and that my suffering was because I had stones and when I ate meals that had fat in them, it was causing pain so I started eating nothing but rice, bananas and toast and I stopped having pain. Thanksgiving was sure bland for me. I got the pain again about a week ago but it wasn’t as bad nor did it last as long but I got scared again, scared and sad because I couldn’t think of anything to do. If my life were normal I would have made an appointment with my doctor at Kaiser and had some tests, paid a $20 co-pay and gotten some answers and care.

I had tried to apply for medi-cal but after the department denied me twice because they kept losing my paperwork I finally had to go into the office, stand in the middle of the crowded room and start wailing. The big open-mouthed ugly cry. They miraculously found my paperwork and began to process it. When the results came back, my daughter received a benefits card but my husband and I did not. They stated that we “had too much property” and pointed to my husband’s 401k. If we touch the 401k before we’re sixty five years old we’ll lose forty percent of it. It wasn’t an option. If we dissolve our 401k to pay bills now I don’t see how we’ll recover to have enough to help us when we’re old and unable to work.

So uninsured and not positive of what was wrong with me I decided to try an experiment. I ate a fast food hamburger to see if it would cause me pain. If I suffered pain then I could genuinely say it was my gallbladder and not some stress induced pain that was in my head as was suggested by an on call doctor during another frantic late night phone call I had made to whatever late night clinic I could reach. I ate around lunch time and later that night I suffered. I suffered for six hours, longer and more painful than anything I’d ever suffered before and I thought I was going to die. My husband felt helpless and said, “Screw it, we’re going to the hospital.” I kept crying, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” the whole way there.

I was admitted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on December 11, 2010. I peed in a cup and they drew my blood. Then I waited for about five hours until I was wheeled into radiology for an ultrasound of my gallbladder. An hour later the doctor came back and said, “Congratulations! You get to have your gallbladder out!” and I panicked. I told him that we had no insurance and asked if the surgery was absolutely necessary right now? He said he didn’t have the full report back yet but they wouldn’t suggest surgery unless my gallbladder was swollen to a certain degree and it contained some stones but he didn’t tell me how many or how big they were.

I was no longer suffering pain at this point and the doctor said, in all seriousness, that I should consider going to Australia or Canada to have my surgery because it would be cheaper. I don’t even have a passport. My family has lived in California for five generations. I’ve lived in California my whole life. I wasn’t about to go someplace else for care just because I was uninsured. Surely something could be done? I’m not a drain on society. I’ve just hit a hard patch and need a little help. What are my options?

I was discharged with a prescription for pain medication and a doctor’s note so I didn’t get fired for missing a day of work. I was told to stay on a low fat diet so as to not aggravate my gallbladder but I feel like a time bomb. I feel like at any moment I’ll be sent into nauseating pain with no recourse. I’m so depressed at this situation I just don’t know what to do and I haven’t even received the bill for my “care” at the hospital yet. I’m sure it’s going to be bloated and unreasonable but I was in so much pain I didn’t want to die and leave my husband and daughter alone. I want to see her grow up.

While we were in the hospital I thought of what was holding me back from getting care. It was the 401k that was in my husbands name only, money invested from his work. Our liquid funds and income definitely qualify us for aid. I suggested to him that we get a divorce so I could qualify for medi-cal alone just to get us through this. We married for insurance and now it looks as if we’ll be divorcing for insurance as well. I never thought our lives would come to this.


Since the federal government and the state government both would not help us, stating that we had too much “property” to qualify for aid; that in order to get aid we’d need to let the government take 40% of our retirement funds via taxes and early withdrawal penalty fees and then we’d have to dissolve the rest to pay the bloated hospital bills, we decided to apply for the hospital’s charity care program. Their requirements and ideas of what constitutes “property” are different from the government programs and we had a better chance of getting help directly from the hospital. After filling out pages of paperwork, writing a three page synopsis of our finances and making a plethora of photo copies of tax documents and other important paperwork, we were granted aid. It only covers partial costs of the hospital bills themselves as the doctors, radiologists, surgeons and anesthesiologists all need to be paid separately from the hospital. Without insurance, a trip to !
the hospital is a financial nightmare with bills rolling in from every Tom, Dick and Harry who bothered to take a sideways glance my direction with an opinion about my condition. It’s overwhelming to say the least.

I was instructed to make contact with the surgeon who was on call the night I was in the ER for a consult about my condition. I made an appointment the day after coming home from the emergency room. This appointment was to cost $200.00 to be paid at the front desk prior to seeing the surgeon. When I got there and filled out all the prerequisite paperwork I was asked for payment. I discreetly tried to explain to the receptionist about our situation and the prior hospital visit, but I was unable to keep the tears from streaming down my cheeks as I begged her to have mercy on my checkbook. She seemed to have no real concept of how things work in the world of medicine when one does not have an insurance card. Completely oblivious to the increased charges and cornucopia of bills that occur when one has to visit the hospital not once, but twice without insurance. She seemed to be sympathetic but wasn’t sure what she could do. I handed her my credit card and hoped for the best. S!
he was able to drop the charge to $100.00 which was charged to my card that day. And then we waited.

The surgeon was late but since my little family and I had the time, we waited patiently. My husband knew I was distraught and didn’t want to let me go alone. There was no one we could call to watch our daughter so we all bundled up against the chill and went together. After answering my four year old daughter’s million and one questions about all the strange things she was seeing in this office, the surgeon arrived. He poked at my abdomen a bit, discussed the surgery and risks and said that based off the sonogram his opinion is that we should go ahead with the surgery, insurance or no, because even with diet changes the thing was eventually going to “get me”. So with a heavy heart I agreed to do it and he shuffled us out to the receptionist so she can go about trying to book a room at the hospital. Today’s date was December 17, 2010. A week of waiting and we were informed that my surgery date would be January 4, 2011. I had the holidays to get through so it was tim!
e to put on a happy face and survive.


It’s now December 25, 2010. My in laws have been here for over a week and they leave tomorrow so when I'm not working or sleeping I'm downstairs cooking and entertaining family. When you get metaphorically kicked in the pants in the ways I have and in the short succession in which this pants kicking occurred, it's easy to feel like things are absolutely dire and out of control. Death, illness, surgery and job loss all in the span of four months is just a lot to swallow. If I see a shooting star I'll make sure to wish that any future bad stuff that wants to come to me space itself to at least a year between crisises... crisisies? More than one freaking crisis.

My surgery date is 7:00am January 4, 2011. They want me there at 5:00am for admitting and paperwork. A lady told us that our billing status is filled under "charity care", what that means in terms of what the bill will actually look like, I couldn't tell you. I don't know if that means the hospital won't charge us at all or if we're just getting a discount. The surgeon and anesthesiologist are billed separately and will be full price, but like everyone's told me before, it's the price of the room at the "St.Josephs Expensive Hospital" that's going to cost us the most so the fact that they're considering us for charity care is at least one feather in my cap.

I'm nervous and frightened about the surgery. I am crossing everything I can cross that it goes without a hitch and I suffer no complications. I have a sinking empty pit feeling in my gut because I just know something awful is going to happen that will turn my routine laparoscopic surgery into a full on giant cut open surgery with the works that will end up running up a huge bill, that even with a charity discount, will cost us an arm and a leg... along with that gallbladder.

I'm also stressed about what life is going to be like without one. Are there complications to the body after years of a slow and steady drip of bile into the intestine because the gallbladder is no longer there to store it up and release it on demand? Am I going to be one of the 50% of people who suffer lifelong digestive issues after the gallbladder is removed?

I put my two hands out in front of me palms up. In one hand I have a question mark of a percent chance that if I keep my gallbladder and monitor my diet a gallstone could shift and wiggle its way someplace it shouldn't be, block a duct and cause necrosis of my gallbladder whose end result is death. And in my other hand I hold a pretty firm documented 50% chance of life long digestive issues which the medical field loosely calls IBS. (Which is crap because it's not IBS since we KNOW they are bile related issues.)

So which hand do I pick? Keep the gallbladder, my ticking time bomb with a ?% chance of killing me or take the 50% chance of life long pain and discomfort after having it removed... along with the chance that I could suffer nerve damage during the surgery which could cause pain that even morphine can't fix.

Percentages and risk weighing heavy on my mind. Appointment is already set for the surgery. Do I cancel it and cross my fingers? Do I go through with it and cross my toes? I haven't had any pain or discomfort since that fast food related attack that landed me in the hospital. As more days pass by pain free it becomes easier to feel that it was a fluke. That it won't happen again. I've maintained my low fat diet and wonder if I could keep it up for life. Passing up cake at work when a co-worker is having a going away party. Never having another pizza night ever again. I've done it so far but for life? Could I do it? I broke down today since it's Christmas and had glazed ham and a few Christmas cookies. I had some butter on my mashed potatoes and took a sneak sip of eggnog just to let the fleeting taste of Christmas kiss me for a brief moment. Will it lead to suffering tonight? I hope not but it was on my mind even as I tried to forget about it, just for today.


January 1, 2011

I haven't had any pain or problems since that trip to the hospital part in thanks to my very low fat diet I’m sure. I did qualify for "charity care" from the hospital but how much that will cover is not yet known to me. I got a phone call from the surgeon’s office and was told to go to the hospital for pre-op labs yesterday but when I arrived the ladies there told me the lab decided to close early. I woke up early on a day when I had to work a late closing shift to go do these labs and then was told I had to go home without getting them done. When they apologized I said, "It's ok, in the game of life lately I've been rolling snake eyes so I didn't expect this to go any smoother." Their faces were sympathetic and they apologized more but I had already turned and started to walk away. I began crying before I got to my car. I'm sure the people I passed on the way must have thought I had a loved one dying at that hospital and I felt stupid for weeping for the reason I was. I!
was having a little pity party in my head and couldn't stop. I was cold and tired and tried to turn lemons into lemonade by running a few errands that had been put off for a while.

Chloe is sick now, having contracted the head cold that's been raging through this house and she's just miserable when sick. Her nose is a fountain of snot and she still has yet to master the tissue-grab-cover-the-mouth-and-nose-when-you-sneeze so I'm constantly following after her wiping up a gleaming sheen of mucous that she leaves behind. I've started to call her "snail trail" which she thinks is pretty funny even though mommy isn’t laughing.

I stopped off at the store and bought three boxes of tissue. We don't normally buy boxed tissue because of the expense, preferring to use regular cheap bulk toilet paper to take care of our noses, but after thirty minutes of using TP to wipe her nose it was already raw and irritated. So the boxes of tissue are for Chloe only and she's happy with them.

After that I went to the bank to deposit my husband's unemployment check and then I visited Costco to buy some groceries to bolster our flagging cupboard. Our membership hasn’t yet expired and I’ll be sad when it does as I don’t think we’ll be renewing it. I worked till 11pm on new years and when I came home I logged onto my computer and played games and watched movies until 5am before I blearily crawled into bed and visited oblivion.

I wish I could shake this cloud I'm under. I feel like I'm drowning. I'm sure I'm clinically depressed but there's no way I'm going to the doctor to get medicated for it. For one, the whole non-insurance thing is a deterrent because I don't want to be on the hook for a $100 visit just to have the man say "Damn, you sad girl!" but even if the insurance wasn't an issue, being depressed seems like a natural and normal thing considering the state of my life right now. Trying to medicate it away feels wrong. When things are sad you should be sad. When things are happy you should be happy. If I were happy right now, that wouldn't be the right emotional response and then I may need to seek care for fear that I might be mentally unsound.


January 12, 2011

I’m alive. Sore, but I survived the surgery. This experience was much different then when I was rushed in for an emergency C-Section. Since the surgery was scheduled instead of an emergency, I actually got to check in and sit around worrying before I was drugged up and carted off. I was told to fast the night before, which was easy due to the lack of appetite from stress. After proving I was who I said I was, I got an arm band and was asked to undress and put everything in a bag that would be stored under my gurney until I was discharged.

I was separated from my husband during this period and he took this opportunity to go down to the billing department to discuss our finances again. While he dealt with that, I was trying to figure out how to keep my bum from flapping out of my hospital gown and trying to get comfortable while I waited for my IV. It was so very cold that day and the hospital was having a hard time raising its temp. Nurses cracked jokes about the nuns not paying the PG&E bill. I was not in a separate room but was one of a long line of gurneys separated by hanging, moveable cloth walls in a large room. I could hear muted conversations all down the line.

While I was waiting for a nurse to come take my history I heard the lady in the gurney to my left complain about being cold while she was in the middle of giving her history to the attending nurse. I heard the nurse roll something from against the wall up to where I assume the bed was, then the sound of crinkling paper and plastic and then the sound of what I could only describe as muffled hair dryers.

When it was my turn to talk to the nurse, before we began she lifted up the blanket and felt my skin, then pulled a wheeled machine from against my wall up near my head, opened up a sealed plastic bag that contained a disposable perforated blanket with a big round opening in the middle and unfolded it upon me. She plugged a hose from the machine into the blanket and kicked it on. Hairdryer sounds were now coming from my little cloth room as well and my paper blanket puffed up about three inches as it filled with warm air heating me up pretty quick. I glanced at the top of the little unit. “Hypothermia” was the only word I remember seeing. It sure was toasty. Then the nurse said she’d be right back and left while I warmed up.

My husband was invited back to sit with me while I waited to be wheeled into surgery. We chatted about things, and life and then the nurse came back to take my history. After answering her many questions and joking around about the strangeness of not wearing underwear in a public place, the anesthesiologist arrived to insert my IV, start my fluid bag and give me some drugs to calm me down since my blood pressure was elevated a bit, probably due to my inability to calm down in hospitals despite my jocular tone.

I don’t recall much after I was intravenously calmed because soon after I think they actually knocked me out. I remember waking up in a room with two TV’s perched high up on the wall, a cloth sheet separating me from my room mate to the right and my husband sitting in a chair squeezed tight to the bed on the left. I had oxygen tubes up my nose, the IV in my right wrist and pain in my abdomen and my belly button. Apparently I was done and it was just about noon. I’d been in the hospital for seven hours. Wasn’t sure exactly how long the surgery took. I think someone told me it was about two hours. They gave me ice chips and a little pillow to hold against my wounds if I had to get up or cough. I felt like my guts wanted to fall out and had a horrible image in my head of wounds ripping open and my bits and pieces falling to the floor. The only thing keeping this from happening was a tiny pink pillow with a little rose sewn on the front. I did not let go of that pillow.

I was not catheterized like I was when I had my other surgery so I had to get up to pee fairly often. Hobbling up with my husband manning the IV cart I was instructed to put a plastic pee catcher on the toilet so they could monitor my fluids. They checked the first couple of times but then stopped responding to my nurse call button. I found my husband to be invaluable during this time since if I were alone, I’d have suffered and possibly wet the bed due to nurse inattention. But the two of us, we’re a great team and he had the mussels I was lacking at the moment to help me to and from the bathroom.

I was bloated with the CO2 gas they pumped into my abdominal cavity so they’d have more visibility and room to work. I asked them how my body was going to get rid of the gas. They said it would be absorbed and then passed like regular gas. Joy. I spent two days wishing for nothing but a fart. The gas pain was pretty horrific. The nurse kept asking me my pain level but never gave me any drugs. Finally I said, “Can I please have something for this pain?” and she came back with a tiny dose of morphine that she shot directly into my IV. My whole body clenched up when it hit my system, not what I recalled from my prior experience with the drug, (possibly due to the way it was administered?) and then I relaxed and floated on a cloud of pure bliss. I slept.

I woke about an hour later and had some jello and broth. I was given a full meal about 5pm and monitored for about an hour. Then I was released from the hospital around 6pm with instructions on how to care for my wounds and a prescription for pain killers. Home again home again jiggity jig. My mother was waiting at home with my daughter and she was on pins and needles to see how I was doing. I told her that I didn’t want her visiting me in the hospital since I’d be home in a few hours and the last time she came with me she fainted and got admitted herself. I didn’t need the extra drama.

Sometime last week my mother picked up the head cold that has infected our house and she was laid up and miserable so my poor husband was stuck taking care of the whole house. One needy toddler, one wife who felt like she’d been shot with a revolver four times and given a prescription for narcotics for being such a good sport about it, and one mother in law who was feverish and banned to the spare room so she didn’t kill me with germs.

In addition to all this, while I was sleeping upstairs one day, my mother was downstairs with the curtains open and saw a police officer with a metal detector walking across our lawn, sidewalk and driveway before moving on to the neighbor’s house in a systematic sweep of our neighborhood. I found out why a few days later when I went to the Santa Rosa police website to look up their number to figure out what all that was about. There was a police news bulletin on their website about current crimes and on the day my mother saw the officer there was a report of a shooting at the elementary school across the street from my house. The elementary school that Chloe will have to go to unless I figure out how open enrollment works and find her a better school. Turns out some 20 year old gang member got himself stabbed to death in the halls of the school and the killer has not yet been found.

I began scouring the web to try and figure out how to get the ball rolling on enrolling Chloe in a better school. She’s fast approaching her fifth birthday and will need to start kindergarten. If I can’t figure out how to enroll her in a school that she’s not auto assigned based on our home address, I’m just going to home school her. It’ll be hard and I don’t know if I can do it but I would rather home school my little girl then send her to the worst rated elementary school, where English is a second language and gang members have wars in the hallways. I’m sick to death about the fact that the only place we were able to afford a house was next to this horrible school. I’m willing to drive to another town to take her to school daily to avoid this place. But I’ve never enrolled a child in school before and have no idea what to do, where to go, or who to talk to! Hindsight is 20/20 and with my spectacular vision I would never have bought this house, I would ha!
ve stayed renting to avoid this crisis of finances and had the freedom to move around at will to get my daughter away from this cesspool they call a school. I ache in both body and mind right now.

The bills from the ER visit and the surgery are starting to roll in. The sums are astronomical and almost laughable. They might as well be a billion dollars since I'm unable to pay them as they stand now. Over $50,000.00 for the combined bills is what's being asked of me now. Some charity care paperwork is being processed so the total is in flux, but even if it's $5,000.00 I don't know where I can pull that from. I suppose I could liquidate our 401k and take the 40% hit in taxes and early withdraw fees, but then everything we have will be gone. Eaten away by bad luck and happenstance. I'm scared and extremely depressed. Sent my resume and a cover letter in to another company in my pre-mom field of work but have not yet heard back. Starting to feel the sort of clench-fisted desperation of someone backed into a corner. The fight or flight feeling is pulsing in my veins but I have nowhere to run.

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answers from San Francisco on


Wow, you have such a full plate. Unfortunately, I don't have any words of wisdom. I do have one idea that I think could produce some income for your family.

You have an amazing ability to write!!! Your writing is intriguing and I think you could get a good paying job as a blogger or write ads for companies etc. I have heard that is pays pretty well. I would check into it!

Take care and remember to take things one day at time. Things will get better!


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answers from Austin on

wow, that sounds really crappy. :( I hope things start looking up for you.

...not to sound insensitive or anything, but your rant was actually pretty fun to read. :)

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answers from Minneapolis on


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answers from Boise on

N., sweetie you are NOT alone. I have similar dreams and feelings.

I just moved away from the area I loved in northern CA. I grew up there, my lifelong family and freinds are there, and we had just finished remodleing the house to be our dream home. My children were born and partially raised in that lovely house. We had to sell it because we could not afford the second mortgage anymore that my husband had taken out for a business. We sold, paid off the second and some other bills , and went to Idaho to start a new life. We were hoping to buy here free and clear, but when our house finally sold, it was 80K less than we had expected. Then the IRS hit us up for 12 grand. We ended up buying another home in Idaho with 100K on a loan. But with the economy getting worse, and jobs NO WHERE to be found here, It is only a matter of time before this house gets pulled out from under us too.

N., I learned so much through all of this. I learned I put too much energy and emotion into material things. They never really brought me any true happiness. One day I will have to walk away from it all. I am better prepared to do that now than ever. And dont kick yourself for not saving money- because people's savings are going to be eaten up by inflation anyway.
Really there is nothing we can do - all we can do is ride the wave and trust that the LORD is there for us. He is our hope. Just focus your thoughts on him- He promises he will never leave or foresake you. You must put your worries and fears at his feet, and then you wont have those dreams anymore.
The end of the world for me is if my family is separated and ripped apart. As long as we have eachother- we've got it all.

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answers from Williamsport on

You have an awesome attitude to want to work wherever you find the opportunity. But no matter WHERE you work, you need to start writing on the side as well-perhaps a supervillain mom story where you aren't really evil but think you are and all your negative thoughts happen. Your dream sequence and writing is awesome and I was laughing that your daughter put the pet in time out for fur. Be sure to save this passage you just wrote and expand on it. Maybe submit a segment of it to the mampedia blogs-or a parent magazine! It is fascinating to catch a glimpse of a spirit like yours confined in a hell like you're dealing with. It's fascinating to see what goes on in other homes.
Your husband will find a job.
You did the right thing, made the responsible home owning choice, and learned a lot. Most people cannot afford all the extra spare money on top of living costs the experts recommend or they would never afford homes. I love the Saturday Night Live sketch where the guy is talkign to Suzie Ormond about being broke and she's liek, "Oh, just roll over your 401k and dip into your emergency fund" and he's all, "But Suzie, I said I have no money" and she's like, 'Oh, well, I usually dont' say this, but dip into your savings or junior's college fund" and he's like "I LIVE IN A BOX!!!"
If you didn't save diligently for the house, you wouldn't be flush and groovy now, you'd be month to month renting. You have seen your will power and prudence in action, you know you can save and succeed. Your debts could be much worse. You will be OK. Blessings to you and your family, I know how this feels. We've been fighting an erroneous IRS calamity for 3 years now causing a back breaking financial strain with 3 kids under 5 and no health insurance.
It's unbelievably stressful, but you'll never lose your good heart or your potential. Hang in there.
My thoughts and prayers are with you!

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answers from Columbus on

I know you're not expecting any answers, and I don't really have any. I just wanted to say that we'll be keeping you & your family in our thoughts & prayers.

If you can, try to take a few minutes every day to be active or immersed in something that you really enjoy. Go for a walk with the family or by your self, punch a pillow, read a book or magazine, but something where you can "turn off your brain" for a few minutes to give yourself a break (TV is not usually a good option, ironically). If you can grab a few minutes a day for some slow, deep breathing, using a mantra (you can make your own or I'm sure find thousands of good ones by googling) and a candle. By focusing on the mantra and your breathing, you are clearing your mind and giving yourself some psychological and emotional stress relief.

Check out the Tightwad Gazette for some wonderful ideas and tips for helping to cut costs in all kinds of areas. I also really like the Canny Women website (www.cannywomen.com, formerly Cindy's Porch) for ways to help cut costs as well.

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answers from Provo on

I just want to wish good luck to you, but not to burst your bubble, but when I worked at a grocery store we didn't get a discount on food. I think at walmart you might. We also don't have safeway's here in Utah so I don't know about them. So i just want to let you know that some stores don't give discount on foods since their profit margins are very slim on them. BUT I don't know all stores. Good luck!!

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answers from Columbus on

I am so sorry!

I was spell bound reading your post, I forgot that i was reading on Mamapedia, and just got lost in the first chapter of a book! I think that after you get home from your Safeway job, you should start on a book. Write about what you know, the first great 21st century depression era novel about making it work with a sense of humor and a lovely family in 2010...

I sure hope things look up for you soon, and I hope you get that job. Even if you don't get a discount :( I saw a checker at the grocery store with a full cart of marked down stuff the other day (she clearly knew when to go shopping!) so there have to be perks!

Really, write a book!


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answers from Kansas City on

Wow, I enjoyed reading your post. I really feel for you right now, but you know what? As cliche` as this may sound, you and your family will be brought together even more, because of this experiene. If you guys were close, you will become even closer and realize just how important family REALLY is. None of the other stuff matters (well, it sorta does :) ) except for family. Isn't it strange how tragedies will bring us closer, even when we don't think we need to get closer?

I can tell just by your attitude(sadly, not many people would be willing to go to work at a grocery store AND see the benefit of the discount too!), that you guys will pull through this just fine and you will be an even stronger team when it's all said and done.

I wish you the best through these tough and trying times!! You can do it! :)

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answers from San Francisco on

Well, N.. Everyone else has already said what I wanted to say, curse them! But really, your writing is a hidden talent, unless you already know! I wish I knew some avenues to steer you towards in that regard but, sadly, I don't. I'm sure, clever as you are, can find out, though!

We too, bought a house when we thought the time was perfect. Less than a year later, my husband's company was sold and everyone in the company were able to keep their job except him. The new company had a different way of doing his job, which was different from the other workers in the company, down in LA rather than locally. They didn't need him right away anyway as they were full in that department and we weren't interested in relocating there so it was a blessing in disguise in a way as that would have been one amazingly stressful upheaval for us all. So, here we are depleting our small savings each and every day and realizing that jobs these days ask for the employee to be a post graduate super hero, while offering dismal compensation and benefits in return.

I'm not much help, I know, but just letting you know, we are in the boat with you and you're right, it's not very comfortable in here! Hang in there. Hug your kids and hubby and promise each other that you will turn toward each other rather than on each other in these difficult times.

Things happen for a reason and hopefully, the reasons will come clear to us soon and life will take a wonderful turn in a new, exciting direction.

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answers from Houston on

We were unemployed for 4 months. Fortunately, we had some savings, and a church that helped us with a food pantry for free, but we spent almost all of our savings on early termination fees from an apartment, a relocation and move to the new job, dr. bills, living expenses, car expenses....

but, in reality, most people are unemployed for 3-6 months until they find work again. with you going to a small job, and your husand actively searching for work and on unemployment, you will be able to be out of the situation in much less than the 13 months you anticipate.

good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

Make sure your house is insured for current day re-building costs.

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