Thursday, November 1, 2012

this story has a point, I promise.

So I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that in early September, I almost blew myself up with my gas stove. There was an actual fireball.

(Lesson one: do not let the gas run too long before you try to light the pilot light.)

The events that happened afterward went like this:

No one was home at the time, so I called two of my wonderful, lovely friends in a panic. They came over to my house, rescued me out of the bathroom sink where I'd submerged my forearms in cold water, and drove me to the nearest ER at Penn Presbyterian. (Helen did the "take a deep breath, hold it - 1 2 3 4 5 - exhale" thing for me the entire way there, because I was kind of going into shock.)

At the ER, I was pretty much checked in as soon as they heard "burns."

The triage nurse: "So on a scale from 1 to 10, what's your pain level?"

Me: "Uh. About a 7 or 8?"

Her: "Wow. You're very stoic."

Me (in my head): painkillers? Please?

The ER doctor took a look at my arms and hands and said that he wanted to transfer me over to Temple University Hospital because they have an actual burn unit.

Me: "So I guess I won't be going into work tomorrow?"

Helen and Scout (who brought me in): "Hell no."

ER doc: "Yeah, I don't think so."

They put me on morphine. Gave me a tetanus booster. Put tons of fluids in me, and were generally  pleasant people (even more pleasant after I got the morphine in me).

I was transferred by ambulance over to Temple and kept overnight. My roommate (bless her) brought me food, because I hadn't eaten, and a change of clothes, because I was soaking wet from trying to cool off the burns.

Last week, I got the bill from Penn Presbyterian. Overall, my ER trip cost a couple thousand dollars. My actual bill from Penn Pres? $100.

I haven't gotten the Temple bill yet. And why not? Still getting processed through insurance, I guess.

And there's the point right there: I have health insurance -- I have fairly good health insurance that ensures that if I blow myself up in a fireball (that's an exaggeration) or get in an accident or get sick, I'm not going to be paying thousands of dollars in medical bills.

I'm fortunate. Lucky. Privileged to be working a job that allows me to have benefits. And look, I'm fairly young (turning 29 on Saturday, oh god) and healthy, but shit happens. Like fireballs and second-degree burns.

And shit happens to other people who don't have insurance -- who will get those bills in the mail and see that they have to pay those thousands of dollars.

Those "other people" aren't abstract. They might be my neighbors and friends. They might be the people on the trolley next to me, who work but don't get insurance. They might be my brother or other members of my family.

Why is this so hard to understand?


  1. "Why is this so hard to understand?"

    I'd ask, "Why is this so easy to ignore?"

    Also, happy birthday! I'm glad you didn't blow yourself up.

  2. Happy birthday!

    And, if it's any consolation, I found that turning 29 was harder/weirder than actually turning 30. I hope you have a wonderful year.

    And likewise, I'm glad you didn't blow yourself up.

    I don't know why the needs of other people are so easy to ignore, either. Fear, maybe; if they get more, I'll have less. But as it is, with the way our health-care system runs (or lurches like an undead thing) we're all getting less, and some of us get nothing.

  3. I'm glad I didn't blow myself up, too. That might have been the scariest moment of my life, actually. Fire's no joke.

    It's easy to ignore if you don't have problems. But once you don't have insurance, once you're fighting with insurance companies, once you need it -- that's when it's not easy to ignore.