Why we can’t have nice things (aka why Alison can’t get the dental work she needs done)

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Photo via Visual hunt

So, I had a visit to the dentist this morning. I had a tooth that was breaking apart that I needed to get pulled ASAP. I’ve been putting it off while I paid down the balance on my last dental bill, but it was to the point I couldn’t wait any longer.

I went in and my dentist – who is AWESOME – looked over my teeth and said he’d pull the broken one and the one next to it since my ultimate goal is to have all my teeth pulled and dentures fitted. I agreed, as long as we could do it as an emergency extraction which is $99 for cash only patients – aka those of us who don’t have dental insurance.

The dental assistant/hygienist talked to the front desk person and came back to tell me that the $99 emergency extraction was only for new patients, and as an existing patient I’d have to pay the full price of $101 for each tooth. That’s $202 to get two molars pulled.

I couldn’t afford it. I have to keep my balance under $300 to maintain the kind of payment plan I have with them so I told her that they just needed to pull the broken tooth. She said she’d go let the dentist know. I wasn’t happy. I really wanted both molars out simply because it meant one less trip to the dentist, which I don’t like anyway.

The dentist came back and told me they were still pulling both teeth, but he’d only charge me for one. He said it would take him an extra 10 seconds to pull the second tooth and he didn’t see any reason to make me go through another visit just to pull one tooth on the upper left side. He told the dental assistant/hygienist to mark it as the first one as a regular extraction and the second one as a provider write off. He said he didn’t care what corporate said. It was his time he was being paid for, and he wasn’t going to waste it making me suffer.

So I got two teeth pulled for the price of one. My mouth is extremely sore right now, and I’m waiting until the numbness fades a bit more before I try to eat something so I can take some Tylenol. But talking to the hygienist/dental assistant, she showed me my treatment plan. I still have a long way to go, and it’s still going to cost me almost $4000 in the end to do what I need to.

Let me point something out real quick – that’s $4000 AFTER I pay off this current extraction and the rest of my earlier balance. That includes all extractions and the dentures. I also want to point out that I’ve already had four teeth pulled. The first was $99 because I was in pain. The other three were the $101. I’ve also had x-rays twice, which are around $180 each time. So I’ve already paid a little over $400 to my dentist. I still have the rest of the balance from the last visit as well as the new balance from this to pay off. That’s going to bring that total up to a little over $600.

Now, I’m on Medicare with Medicaid paying the deductibles for me. Which means I don’t have dental coverage. I did some checking on dental insurance. For the kind I’d need to get the work done I have to have, it would cost me approximately $100-$180 per month as a premium. I can’t afford that. And that was on the low end that barely covered my needs. The really good plans can run you upwards of $300+, if you’re lucky.

I don’t understand why medical, dental, and vision insurances are so fucking expensive. Well, yes I do. It’s because the US utilizes a for-profit insurance system instead of universal healthcare. With the insurance companies out to make as much money as they can while paying out as little as possible, low income to the middle class have to pay so much that it’s almost impossible to get good, comprehensive coverage.

The US Senate wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering us a replacement. They want to take insurance away from almost 11.4 million people. They want to end the Medicaid expansion, which would mean I’d lose my coverage there because I make too much according to the normal federal guidelines. So that would mean I’d be forced to pay all of my deductibles for Part B and Part D Medicare on my own. That would remove an additional $300 from my already extremely limited funds. I would then have to find a supplemental insurance coverage plan since Medicare really doesn’t cover all that much anymore. Which would cost me even more, cutting even deeper into my fixed income.

This is bullshit. Comprehensive coverage – medical, dental, and vision – should be provided for everyone. These are necessities for a good quality of life, not to mention life saving at times. Yes, I realize my taxes would probably go up a bit if we did implement a universal healthcare system here in the US (once my husband’s business starts generating income we will be paying taxes.)

You know what? I’m okay with that. I’m okay with keeping everyone in this country healthy. I’m okay with spending more to help those who are unable to pay exorbitant medical bills due to financial hardships.

People say that with universal healthcare there will be long waits for providers. Like there isn’t right now? In order to get into see my regular doctor, I have to put in a request at least 2-3 weeks in advance of when I want to see her. If I don’t and call for an appointment out of the blue, it could take a month or more before I can see her. If it’s serious enough, they tell me to go to Urgent Care or the ER. Neither of those are cheap, and can often lead to a lot more problems for me.

And specialists? Ha. I had to wait four months to get my first appointment with a neurologist even though my seizures had kicked back after being controlled by medication for 4 years. The hematologist and vascular surgeon I was told to see? The vascular surgeon took three months and the hematologist took a month. The sleep doctor I’m supposed to be seeing for the fact that there’s a chance I have sleep apnea? Four months. So don’t tell me there’s “no wait” with what we have now. Our whole system is fucked and no one seems to care.

I don’t like doing political rants on my blog very often, but right now, call or email or fax your Senator and tell them to tell Mitch McConnell to go fuck a light socket. We deserve insurance. We deserve healthcare coverage. And those like him who are too wealthy, too pampered, too sheltered to give a fuck about the rest of us? They need to go. ASAP.

Not “just a toy”

Fidget cube

This is a fidget cube. In fact, this is MY fidget cube. It has multiple sides and multiple ways of engaging my fingers and my mind. To be specific, let’s turn to the description of the cube itself. “It has sensory tools on all sides: an on/off-style switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a “rubbing stone”, and 5 buttons.”

The reason I’ve been wanting one since I first heard of them is because of their intended purpose. As per the description I found: The cube is intended to provide an easy way to occupy one’s hands and other senses, particularly for self-soothing.

I suffer from anxiety and PTSD. They can be pretty bad, especially when I’m out in public around a lot of people and/or loud voices. I have a tendency to start wringing my hands, picking at my skin, or pulling on my hair when I get frazzled and that causes serious damage. I’ve actually made myself bleed several times because of it. The cube, which is compact enough to fit in the pocket of most of my jeans, gives me something to work with my fingers so I don’t start wringing my hands or doing anything else to hurt myself.

A lot of people are turning these into toys, giving them to children (and even some adults) because they’re novelties and causing problems for those of us who need them for the self-soothing properties. It’s the same with fidget spinners. Fidget spinners were first created in the 1990s for a similar purpose – they were designed to help people with ADHD, autism, or anxiety release nervous energy. Yet they too are being seen as toys, as games for everyone to play with instead of being recognized for their original purpose.

When I was in the store where I got my fidget cube, I watched a rather large family getting fidget spinners. I listened as the children talked about how they were going to practice until they were better than their friends so they could win the bets they made and get candy from their friends. Their mother, who was with them, was encouraging this. I was appalled by this flagrant disregard for the fidget spinners’ true purpose, and then I realized that this was perfectly normal anymore.

People turn therapeutic devices into toys for children all the time. Then they get banned because someone does something stupid, and those of us who are helped by those items are left with nothing to use.

I wish people would understand that what you see as a nonsense toy is actually a tool for many of us to keep us sane, to help us not hurt ourselves, to keep us from passing out from panic or to make sure we can focus on what’s going on around us.

So when you see the next biggest “fad,” do some research. She if there is another purpose behind it. I’m not saying don’t buy it. If you want it, and can afford it, by all means go for it. Just keep in mind that there are people who use the device for something other than just amusement. (Because I will admit using my fidget cube is fun, which is part of what helps alleviate the anxiety.)

My new journey

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Photo via VisualHunt.com

I’ve been absent for a while because I’ve had some changes to make in my life, not the least of which was removing a roommate from our house due to the fact she was a major cause of stress and anxiety for us. We got a puppy specifically to train to hunt and kill moles and it’s my responsibility to help get him trained. I also hit a bad bout of depression and didn’t want to do anything. So I’ve let the dust gather here and kept telling myself “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Well I’ve started something new and with that, I’ve discovered that “I’ll do it tomorrow” doesn’t cut it anymore in some things. One of which is this blog. Another? My physical health.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen my pictures. You know what I’m working with. My goal is to change that. For those who haven’t seen the pictures (and you won’t unless we’re friends on FB), I am overweight. I don’t like how lethargic it makes me. So last week I started poking around with fitness apps and doing some walking and half-assing yoga in an attempt to figure out how I wanted to do things.

This week I posted front and side view pictures of myself on FB showing my current physical state. After that, I made a commitment to myself and to every one of my friends that I would see this through. I would achieve my goal. And I intend to follow up on that.

Tims is the main spur behind this. He’s been working on himself for over a year and has trimmed down. He says he feels better and I realized part of my depression was probably because I sit in a corner all day on my computer. With the addition of Whiskey, our terrier mix puppy (I’ll share a picture of him at the end, along with Blackheart, our new New Zealand rabbit), I don’t have any choice. I have to be up and moving part of the day.

So I decided to make Whiskey part of my motivation as well as my husband. Tims pushes me to get out of bed, do my yoga/stretches, and encourages me to keep up the good work even when I feel like I’m faltering. Whiskey gets me outside multiple times a day and I end up taking at least 2 walks with him (barring heavy rain since neither of us likes walking in that) to exercise us both. Add to that access to a stationary bike and now you have my entire fitness regime. Along with watching my diet, the caloric intake, what types of calories I’m taking in, etc., my health goals are on their way to success.

I’m aiming to drop 90 lbs. To get to my “ideal” weight as per the BMI, that would require 130 lbs coming off. Also, I’d look like a skeleton with skin stretched over it if I got that thin. Honestly, BMI is bullshit. What’s “normal” for some is far from “normal” for others. Tims, me, and the one of our roommates who is actively charting his fitness goals and endeavors with us, all prefer our personal goals and are working hard to achieve them.

My successes today: I made 2 miles total in my two walks, did 10 minutes on the stationary bike at a low resistance level (when I couldn’t even make it 5 at 0 resistance level before), and managed 20 minutes of yoga/stretching in two separate bouts. My hope is by May I’ll be up to walking 3+ miles a day and can handle a higher resistance level on the stationary bike. I also want to be more flexible.

If you’re starting something new, take it in small steps. Set easy goals at first, and then increase their difficulty as you get better at it. Keep working and, if you can, work with someone else. It makes the journey so much easier.

(No, I’m not going to fill my blog with health posts…this is just a “hi, I’m not dead, here’s what’s going on” post. I’ll get back to the stories shortly.

And as promised…

My recent adventures

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Photo via VisualHunt.com

So, yes I’ve been posting little random bits of stories and yes, I’ll get back to that. But I wanted to tell you what I’ve been dealing with lately. Namely…my heart.

Back in August I started having chest pains. At first I figured it was nothing. I didn’t have the signs of a heart attack that they tell you to watch for in women. I just had a lot of pain radiating from the left side of my chest into my arm and down my side. When the pain continued to the point where I was almost sobbing, I went to the ER. They did an EKG, told me I was okay, gave me some pain meds and a muscle relaxer, and sent me home.

This was the second week in August. We’re in the 4th week (or 3rd if you don’t count the first few days as a week) of September and I’m still having pain. It’s not as bad and it seems to have relocated to mostly my shoulder, but the concern for heart issues is there as there is a huge history of early onset heart issues in my family. So there’s the chance, given my age (not 40 yet but close) and my family history (don’t get me started on that), that there’s something wrong.

So on Monday I made the trip in to have a heart stress test. Because I’m having trouble with my left knee – another reason I’ve been having issues most of August and September – they didn’t put me on the treadmill. Monday I went in after fasting and was injected with something that sped up my heart. It also made it hard to breathe, made me sick to my stomach, made me feel like a heavy weight was sitting on my whole body, and made me feel hot (and not in a good way.) That feeling lasted 5 minutes, and then I was a little disoriented after for maybe a minute, but beyond that I was fine. They did another EKG while my heart was sped up and nothing came up on it. They’d also shot me up with a radioactive isotope to make my heart stand out better in pictures. They took some pictures of my heart and told me to come in the next day for the second half of the test. Total time in the doctor’s office? 4 hours.

Tuesday I went back in and they injected me with that isotope again. Twenty minutes after the injection I went in and she took pictures of my heart during my “resting” phase. After that, we were done. Sort of.

See now that the test is over, I still have to meet with my regular doctor to find out what all those tests mean. So the first week of October, I’m making two trips in that I’m not looking forward to. One is for an EEG (sleep deprivation…yay!) and the other is to talk to my doctor about the heart tests. Now, I’m pretty sure if something was wrong I’d be in there a whole hell of a lot sooner than the first week of October, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something. Just not something life shatteringly dangerous for me. We’ll have to see.

So yeah. I’ve been dealing with that lately. We’ll see what else happens going forward.

Okay, and now we’re going back to our irregularly scheduled flash fiction and random weird story bits.