We’re Sorry You’re Unwell. But That’s Not Our Problem
Welcome to the legal pyramid scheme we call US healthcare.
Two months ago, I had my third-scariest experience ever. Among terrifying moments where my life or someone else’s flashed before my eyes, what happened that Thursday morning is topped only by what happened the Sunday morning I was attacked by burglars in my apartment in Buenos Aires and what happened the Tuesday morning I watched the second tower of the World Trade Center crumble to the ground in slow motion while walking down Avenue of the Americas in New York City. (Mornings can be rough in my world.)
As with 9/11, I didn’t fear for myself during the latest frightful episode. Unlike 9/11, though, it wasn’t about countless strangers perishing in real time several miles away but the person I’m closest to, the man I go to bed with every night, fainting right in front of me.
My husband has suffered from recurring lower back pain for most of his adult life. Over the last three years, it’s tended to recur like clockwork every six months, leaving him mostly bedridden for no more than a week each time. On January 20, however, the agony was worse than usual. It became so excruciating that my husband passed out with his eyes open — at least that’s what the EMT told us later. To me at the time, it looked like he was having a seizure.
I called 911 and two EMTs arrived, checked his vitals, hooked him up to an IV drip, put him on a stretcher, carried him downstairs, loaded him into an ambulance, and rushed him to the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital. Aside from routine blood work and an EKG, no tests were taken, and no diagnosis was made. The ER doctor prescribed him three different painkillers and recommended several days of bed rest. About a week and a half passed before my husband started to walk like his old self again. He continued to improve until February 15, when a relapse during our belated Valentine’s Day dinner sent him back to bed.
This time, we decided it was best for him to see an orthopedic surgeon who would hopefully pinpoint the source of his recurring back issues rather than just treat the symptoms. Two X-rays later, we had a name for what has supposedly been ailing him for years: spondylolisthesis. The doctor prescribed…