Sunday, July 11, 2010

Part II: The Empire Strikes Rack

For as long as I can remember, it has been my goal in life to have an MRI with GAD (dye contrast). As a child, I would lie awake at night, praying that someday, no matter what, I would annoy my way into getting one of my very own.

None of that is true.

For starters, the only thing I lied awake at night praying for was Kyle (Michael Biehn) from Terminator. I also have documented proof by way an unfortunate kindergarten art project, that my earliest career aspiration was to be a babysitter and a cheerleader. Always the multi-tasker. The only possible defense I have for this is that I must have misunderstood the assignment as 'Who I Want To Beat Up When I Grow Up.' Either way, I am periodically reminded of this low setting of the bar, which has taught me a very important lesson: never leave a paper trail. While my parents’ amusement is genuine, I feel it's peppered with a bit of sadness, as I'm sure that for a short time, they were assured that college tuition would be a burden they would never have to face. Unfortunately, life has clearly hardened me since I was 5. My goals progressed into somehow ousting Alyssa Milano as Arnold Schwarzenegger's daughter, should there ever be a sequel to Commando, while simultaneously acting as Ripley's sidekick in Aliens. I could go on. And on. The point is, while my goals may have been varied and ludicrous, being the lucky recipient of an MRI has never been one of them.

But it's certainly beginning to feel that way.

Since last we spoke on this here blog, I have been approved to have an MRI....after 2 weeks. Guess they were playing hard to get, and I'm ashamed to admit that, hot damn, it worked. I was waiting by the phone. Anyway, I get the OK late in the day on a Monday, with a reminder that I have to have this completed by July 21st. Or, what? They turn into pumpkins? So I call the scheduling department the next day, thinking all I have to do now is schedule the thing. Silly Rabbit. First, I'm told to call my doctor's office to get the insurance authorization number, which seems to somehow be missing from the order they faxed. OK...? Oh, and would I mind asking them if I'm supposed to have a dye contrast? Thanks! What? What does that even mean? So, I call, get the info, then call the hospital back, where I meet Kathy, in all her Midwestern-accented glory, who asks to call me back, as they are slammed. Is this Wendy's? Fine. She calls me back, and halfway through, puts me on hold. She returns with, "OK, now what you have to do is call your doctor..." WHY? The doctor put in an order for a standard MRI (one side), with directions to reference the order from the radiologist, who ordered a bilateral (both sides) MRI with GAD.

Looks like my doctor and the radiologist are thinking two different MRI's, which is daunting to someone who had no idea until 4 seconds before that there were different kinds of MRI's. Basically, one's saying to just check one tire, and the other's saying to check all the tires, fluids, emissions, brakes, transmission, etc. Nice. Until both orders match, I'm not permitted to even make an appointment. Yougottabefuckingkiddingme. So, I'm to call my doctor and tell her what to do. In what world does this make sense? I call the doctor's office again. I can’t help but feel that this would be a much more efficient process if they would just be proactive enough to pop up around me in boxes with Kathy on one side, and the multiple nurses from my doctor's office on the other. What's the story, Morning Glory? What's the WORD, Hummingbird? This continues through a 16 hour day of 2 jobs. And not once did they have the decency to break into song.

The next morning, I get a call around 8:30 from my doctor herself. "So, now, vat is zis? I'm supposed to send zis order for bilateral?" I inform her of what I've been told, and explain that I spoke with Kathy. The silence is icy. "Oh, yes. She ees problem. I know zis woman very well," she says, with the bored disdain of a Bond villian. She would be a perfect one, too; tall, blond, accent. The thing is, Kathy's a talker. She is, literally, a Chatty Kathy. We all know the type, the kind you ask for directions to Kmart and 45 minutes later you know the history of the people who owned the store that used to be where the Kmart is. You can tell she is a thorn in her side. A hapless hero, of sorts, that messes things up for the better. Though I now fear for Kathy's life, I suggest that the offices discuss this amongst themselves and let me know when we're all on the same page. Kathy calls me later just to assure me that "I haven't forgotten about you!" which is nice. Almost makes me want to warn her that my doctor is most likely unreachable because she's propelling herself from the ceiling to crack her windpipe without breaking a nail.

After several calls and ridiculous but necessary questions: Do I weigh more than 350lbs? Am I allergic to shellfish? (Why? Are there hors d'ouvres?) Am I claustrophobic? And my favorite, do I have implants? (This one sent me into hysterical laughter. "No, but thank you." "Well, it looks like it from here." WHOOOAAAAH! Looks like we got a spitfire in the scheduling department.) Somewhere out there, there's a 500lbs woman with an aversion to shrimp and enclosed spaces, who will one day regret spending her savings on those double D's. After all is said and done, I get the final kick in the balls in the form of, "Now you have to check with your insurance to make sure the code will cover a different MRI before we can schedule you." It took 2 weeks to get to this stage of idiocy, and now I have to possibly start over?

As a wise man once said, "All this aggravation ain't satisfactionin' me.”

At this point, it's been 3 weeks since my first appointment, and I feel like I've been trapped in Who's on First? for the majority of 2 days. I'm convinced I've spent more time on the phone than my entire sophomore year of high school, and am totally frustrated. If this is all standard and nothing’s wrong, then why are 2 people asking for totally different tests? All I want to do is get it over with and move along. The fact that I have been at work since 8am, after working a stupidly long day before, is not helping. I am spent, and do what any rational adult would do in times of trial: I run crying to my mommy.

Big mistake.

I don’t cry often, so when I do, my mom is always mildly stunned. She answers the phone, and is met with the 'trying not to cry, but clearly crying' technique. You know, the kind usually reserved for Lifetime Television heroines, as they explain to their concerned neighbor why they stay with their husband who just threw them down the stairs for the umpteenth time? Lots of pauses, breathing, pulling it together, etc. The desired effect is a quiet struggle to keep some dignity, but…they just end up looking like stupid bitches who want sympathy for being just that. Well this time, that stupid bitch was me. Take that, Ms. Baxter-Birney! She hears me out, saying such reassuring things as, "Well, if she's a specialist, then she should know better!!" Hard to argue with that logic. Suddenly, she's eerily calm.

"What's your doctor's name?"

"It's Doctor W-" Waaaaaait a minute. "I'm not telling you that."


Because I know she knows how to use the internet now, that's why. And she is Mom Incarnate. I’ll be 50 and still getting phone calls asking what I ate that day. Couple that with Google and the woman is virtually unstoppable. She may be 5' tall, but she has the mouth of 10 men. The thought of her going behind my back to have a verbal Hulk out with my doctor’s office is my worst nightmare realized. "Hello, this is Jayne Conley, Chrissy's mother? Well, I just thought you should know that you’ve made my daughter cry, and you should all be very ashamed of yourselves. Can you get your head outta your ass long enough to tell me who seems to be in charge here? I mean, she’s CRYING. Yes, I’ll hold. And you be sure to tell her she’s crying!" (Incidentally, I passed this little event on to my friend, Christina, who, after 14 years of friendship, is well-schooled in the ways of Jayne. She felt it would actually go down more like Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment. "GIIIVE MY DAUGHTER THE MRIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!" Both are strong possibilities.)

"I am 31 years old. You are not calling my doctor."

"FINE!" Busted. You almost had me, but your flippancy was clearly forced. Nice try, grasshopper.

"You listen to ME, sweetie," the mominator continues, "I've been doing this a LOT longer than you have, and I have been dealing with this for FIIIIVE YEARS!"

If assaulting vowels were a misdemeanor, my mom would've been in prison on multiple counts years ago. Her vocal chords are built in such a way that even the most endearing of pet names can be instantly converted to a shiv. My full name is Christine, and after years of hearing it yelled in various stages of anger, I’ve learned to fear that second syllable. If I had my choice between a dark alley and the long 'e', I’d take a dark alley any day. That 'sweetie' was merely a thin candy coating for the 'you unbelievable dumbass' that lay beneath. (Go ahead, insert it into the sentence. It totally works.) I have no one but myself to blame. I triggered her primal instinct with my distress, only to foil her scheme. She also played the C-card with that ‘this.’ I knew I had to disarm the situation with a brilliant response.

"I know."

Yeah. I don't think the UN will be calling me in to mediate anything anytime soon.

I somehow assure her that I am a functioning adult, and get her back in her cage. At some point Thursday, day 3 of the Three Stooges Phone Marathon, I get an appointment set for the 20th. Three more weeks. Fine. Whatever. All good, right? Wrong. During, and since, this crapfest, I've received all kinds of mail from the hospital and insurance company, which I suppose is nice, as I’ve always wanted a pen pal. One letter informed me that the results from the mammogram and ultrasound warrant further investigation via MRI. Really? Get OUT?! I got two more stating that the company received insufficient information from my doctor’s office, a bill for $0, a bill for partial payment, and last, but not least, another saying that my insurance company is unable to cover any of it now until I provide adequate 'Accident Information.' As I don’t seem to recall falling from a 10-story window and landing in a mammography machine, you see my confusion. But, hey, at least they thanked me for my assistance ‘in resolving this matter.’ (If you ever want to see my head explode, be condescendingly polite to me.) Christina’s response to this last tidbit: “I think it’s time for your mom to call…and may God help them.”

As of this morning, all seems to be normal. Well, as normal as it can be to anyone with half a brain. I was informed by the claims rep that this clusterf*ck of paper is due to my being insured with them for less than a year. As of August, the hijinks will stop. 'Accident' really means the date of my original appointment (which is already in the co-pay information, but hey, what do I know?) to verify that this is not a pre-existing condition…that I waited 11 months to see a doctor about…? (I would bang my head against the wall, but I’m afraid I’ll have to go to the hospital). So, basically, I’m a rookie and am being hazed to prove I’m not a lunatic. Hopefully, they have the good sense to let me climb out of the MRI before dumping Gatorade on me.

Ironically, in the month since this all began, a friend of mine's dog, Jack, began having seizures. Luckily, he has pet insurance. Jack has had a battery of tests, including an MRI, and the resulting surgery, all in the time that I, a human, have been waiting for permission to get half as far. Huh. Maybe I've been looking at this thing all wrong. I should really take all of this hassle as a huge compliment to my demeanor. Clearly, I'm not a bitch. If I were, I'd have better insurance.