Friday, 23 September 2011

Adventures in Healthcare and Automobile Ownership

Wow, a double-whammy post!

Okay, first healthcare. I seem to have neglected to post about the latest Unpleasant Medical Procedure, so here's the story.  I forget what I have blogged about, so here it is in a nutshell.

Apparently I'm going anemic.  Since I seem to have a 'normal' diet, from the point of view of not obviously having no source of iron, the only obvious reason for me to be going anemic is to be bleeding somewhere.  But countless occult blood screenings, two colonoscopies and a gastroscopy later, there is no evidence of bleeding. (They only worry about GI bleeding because if you're just bleeding internally, there may be many problems, but in the end you don't lose the iron and it reabsorbs.)  So off to the hematologist.

Hematologist looks at everything and does a sternal aspiration, which is basically punching a hole in your sternum and sucking out some marrow with a syringe.  Marrow is normal except for "absent iron stores". Which according to the doctor is good news. a) I don't have leukemia or something and b) I'm using all the iron I take in. So, says the hematologist, the only reason to be anemic is to be bleeding somewhere.  Hematologist orders an upper GI/small intestine X-ray series, and a trip to the GI doctor again.

GI doctor says I'm not bleeding anywhere, and if I were there wasn't a lot they could do about it considering I'm not anemic enough to really bother. Also there would be no end of Unpleasant Medical Procedures, although we could do that if I (or the hematologist) really, really wanted.  (The one thing he suggested was basically swallowing a capsule containing a tiny camera, which sounded, cool, if Unpleasant.) My hemoglobin was up slightly the last time I saw the GI guy, so maybe, says he, I'm just one of those people who don't absorb iron properly.  Continue supplementing and if something happens we can try again with the Unpleasant Medical Procedures.

Meantime, the hematologist has scheduled the Xray series.  So here's how that goes.  Actually not a lot of unpleasant prep, relative to the unpleasant prep done for the colonoscopy.  But there's an early trip to the hospital, with all the attendant sitting around.  Meantime one of the X-ray machines has gone down again (this is the rescheduled appointment from the last time it broke), so things are taking longer than they should anyway.

First step, upper GI.  Swallow a big cup of milky barium stuff. It's a lot like in Curious George. It's sort of thick milk/thin milkshake consistency, vaguely sweet and chalky.  There's also a teaspoon or so of stuff that turns to fizzy gas when it gets wet, so best to just knock it back and have a tiny sip of water to make sure it doesn't just sit in your throat.

Then you kind of stand on a platform with a backboard and they shoot xrays through you, into some kind of video system that the radiologist is monitoring. Then there's the tilting of the table back and you rolling around at odd angles so the radiologist can see your esophagus, stomach and duodenum in all their radio-opaque and gas-filled glory. 

Then there's more sitting around while they figure out that they're going to have to move everyone through the one x-ray suite (have you noticed I'm not sure I know the modern way to spell x-ray?).  Then there's a bigger, thicker volume of barium to swallow and a 20 minute wait.  Then they take you into the suite, have you lie belly-down on a table while they try to take an x-ray. Since you're the first one in this suite this morning it takes them a while to figure out what's going on.  But they do it, they leave you there while they develop a quick film to make sure they have a image.  This happens a couple of times, since the first couple of times they don't get a decent image.  Then you go and sit for another 20 minutes while they do all this to someone else, before they call you back.

At some point, the barium moves from your upper GI tract into your small intestine and then the real fun begins. Because you (I) are a wide individual, it actually takes two xrays (one panned slightly left, one right) to get decent images of your small bowel.  But they do them and then you go sit for another 20 minutes and then they do it again.

This goes on until, by minute 100 (according to the report) the barium has cleared your ileocecal valve (the junction of your small and large intestine) and clearly begins heading up your ascending colon.  Then you're done.

Yes, that was the nutshell version.

So fast forward to day, which is the follow up with the hematologist.  Turns out, I have a "moderate" hiatal hernia, but no reflux identified. That's the entire pathology.  Lucky for me, the hematologist believes that this could explain the anemia.  In spite of still not having any evidence of actual bleeding anywhere, and anyway, it's before my stomach and so there should be time to reabsorb the iron, but whatever.  No more hematologist necessary.  According to hematologist, which is fine with me I guess. I mean, how many specialist can I juggle?

So update on the new car.  It's so cool. I love it. some stuff I'm still not used to, like the shape of the bucket seat, but basically, I'm very happy. Except...

A couple of times the last couple of weeks, I've had trouble starting.  "Click click click, but no vrooom vroom vroom

Monday night I was at school late and stopped off at Safeway on the way home. Get back in the car. "click click click" but no "vroom vroom vroom', Which goes on. And on.  It got to the point that the guys in the store noticed the guy in the blue car who's been trying to start his car.

So I call CAA, tow truck comes and takes the car to the dealership.  Since the whole point of buying a new car was to have all kinds of expensive warranties on it, I figure let the dealership deal with it.

Tuesday morning, I call the dealership to make sure a) they got the car and b) they got my weird call the night before about everything that went wrong.  They did. Yay.

So now what? the plan for Tuesday was to go to breakfast somewhere and do some work before, possibly, not going into the office at all.  Well, that goes out the window.  So in the first significant rain of the season, I trudge to the bus stop and take the bus to school.  Where, it must be said, I was more productive than I thought I would be, but never got to the task I meant to do at breakfast.

So at about 2:30, I'm finally ready to start that, and that's when the dealership calls.  Car's ready. Battery failed (any body remember when they couldn't get the batter to charge when I bought the thing?), so they replaced it. No charge. Gotta love warranties.

So around 3pm, I dash into my Head's office and say, "My car's ready. Do I stay and try to get some work done, or do I go pick up the car and go somewhere else to get some work done." He enthusiastically endorsed the second option. So I did.

Cool. Until Thursday afternoon, when once again faced with waning productivity at home, I decided to take a quick break and dash out for socks and comic books. Yes, that's what I said. But what do I discover? Apparently, I've left my lights on all night and my brand new battery is completely dead.

After dithering for about half an hour, trying to find someone with booster cables, I decide that this is why I have a CAA membership.  CAA says that 'the battery people' are busy and it could be two hours, but if I want a regular truck just for the jumpstart, that should be at most an hour. So that's what I do.

Only, without stretching out the story any more, it takes about 2 and a half hours for the guy to appear and jump my car.  Which he does, very efficiently.  Can't help but wonder if I'd chosen the battery guys they might have made it in the hour.  But whatever. Point is, afternoon and evening totally shot as a result of having to drive the car for 20 minutes to get the battery partially charged again.  Took the opportunity to drive to Canadian Tire to buy a portable battery booster pack, since I figure if this happened once, it's going to happen Again. Also stopped to buy socks.

So by the time I get home, it's 8pm and I need to get ready for bed so I have a hope of getting up to have some blood work done at 8am so I can see the hematologist (see above) at 8:30.

It's been a long week. But never let it be said I don't get my money out of my CAA membership (readers of this blog will recall my two lockouts in 10 days over the summer). Also never let it be said I don't get my money's worth out of the Canadian healthcare system.  Although I'm pretty sure I've now been exposed to more radiation in one day than I have in my whole previous life. But whatever. Hiatal hernia.  Car that starts.  All is well.