After spending five days in the hospital and the last two weeks in my modified home (read: first floor conversion to combined living room/dining room/bedroom/bathroom space) I’ve been thinking thoughts I never expected to have. For example:
“I wish I had paid better attention to healthcare policy.” I worked on Capitol Hill for a number of years, but I was so caught up in energy and environmental policy, I never engaged my brain in healthcare policy debates. In fact, I rarely dove into my own health insurance policies, merely opting for what looked like the most generous plan. This strategy backfired on me when the monthly premium for the gold plan I subscribed to for 2015 under the Maryland Health Exchange shot up an additional $200/month for 2016. I opted to reduce to a silver plan, which costs me the same as the gold plan did last year (nearly $400/month, for the curious). I presumed because the new plan was also in the CareFirst family, all my doctors would still be covered. Wrong. My shoulder surgeon is now out of network, as is my physical therapist. The $2400 I “saved” by bumping down to a lower tiered plan will now be spent on out of pocket expenses to keep the doctors and therapists I know and trust.
“I’m glad I don’t have a boyfriend.” While I had some teary why me? moments in the hospital, I never lamented my lack of a romantic partner. My best friend Nancy served as a fierce but loving advocate and constant companion during my hospital stay. She was present for every conversation with the doctors; participated in all the PT/OT sessions; called for the nurse when I needed pain relief, water, or other help; dealt with some security breaches; and on numerous occasions, was present while I performed bodily functions. I’m a rather private person; needless to say, these last three weeks have been a huge test in letting go of any sense of modesty. Since my injury, my friends and sister have helped me bathe. Get dressed. Use the toilet, a flushable/portable one at home that requires periodic emptying (thank you, Meghann). I’m suddenly immune to peeing in front of guests. BUT, would I feel this way if I had started dating someone a few months ago? Or even a year ago? I can’t say that I’d feel comfortable flashing my backside in a hospital gown, perching on a bedpan or using my new potty arrangements in front of a love interest.
“I need help.” I’m independent. I live alone 50 percent of the time. I work out of my solitary home office. I have to muster a lot of courage before asking for help. But I could not live in my own house right now were it not for the constant care and companionship provided by my friends and sister. I could not feed my children without the meals friends, acquaintances, and even strangers generously drop off on a nightly basis. I could not leave my house to get to doctors appointments and PT sessions without the arrangements my dad has made. I hate asking to have my water glass filled or for my toothbrush to be rinsed off, so I wait until the last possible moment to make these small requests. Today I have to ask my sister to wash my hair, no longer a simple task, but it’s been six days. I don’t know when I will step (or roll) into a grocery store again, be able to feed my cats, or tuck my children into bed. I need as much help for the small things as I do the large. And it’s hard, even when those answering my needs insist it’s their pleasure to help.
Each day brings new challenges and thoughts, but also presents countless expressions of love and valuable life lessons I will carry with me as I wheel toward full recovery.