So for those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with Essential Thrombocytosis (also called Essential Thrombocythemia) in September of 2011. My husband was not with me when I received the diagnosis, because the whole scene came down in the States.
The quick and dirty version of this illness is that I overproduce platelets. Platelets help your body to prevent bleeding-for example, they make sure that your blood stops flowing if you get a cut. Due to the fact that I overproduce platelets, this puts me at a much higher risk for strokes and blood clots.
There’s also a 3% chance that this could one day blow up into leukemia. I decided a while back to stay focused on the other 97%.
Monday night, I said goodnight to Heather Wilhelmina and Mr. Vulcan, and put myself to bed. It had been a long yet wonderful day. I did a photo shoot with Heather Wilhelmina for my website, and I loved the results.
I couldn’t sleep. There was a pain in my right arm that just wouldn’t quit. It started the day before, but now was a lot stronger. When I went to the bathroom, I saw that my right arm was slightly swollen, from my shoulder to my fingertips. I busted into the dining room and told Heather and Mr. Vulcan what was going on. We decided that since I’m at a high risk for stroke and blood clots, I should go to the emergency room. Mr. Vulcan offered to take me, and Heather Wilhelmina held down the fort at home.
At this moment, I realized that there was a heat and tingling traveling over the entire right side of my body. I also felt a pressure in my right leg, which was slightly swollen as well.
I started to cry.
The thing that I’ve been so deeply fearful of since my diagnosis was now possibly coming true-that some serious shit was about to go down health-wise, and my husband wasn’t here at my side.
Before this moment in my life, I never had to take myself, or anybody else to an emergency room.
I don’t have health insurance. When I lost my job last year, I lost my health insurance as well, because it was too expensive for me to keep up with the COBRA payments, support myself in the US, Picasso in Mexico, and finish up the tail end of his waiver application.
We went to the Kaiser emergency room here in Oakland, because Mr. Vulcan and I figured that since Kaiser Permanente was my provider before I lost my insurance, they’d have the best and quickest access to my medical information.
I was attended to very quickly, which we expected at Kaiser. I put on a hospital gown, got into a hospital bed, and a nurse who I’ll call Mr. Meow started the process of analysis. His wife loves Hello Kitty as much as I do.
He took about six-seven small test tubes of blood. I got hooked up to a machine that read my blood pressure and pulse every fifteen minutes. Mr. Meow left a tube in my left arm to be ready for any IV work that possibly was going to be pumped through my body.
Because I have Essential Thrombocytosis, my symptoms were worrisome for the doctor. I had a CAT scan done on my neck and head, and an ultrasound done on the right side of my neck, and my arm, to check for blood clots or stroke signals.
When the CAT scan was ordered by the doctor. I started to shake uncontrollably on my hospital bed. I was petrified of the cost, the process, and the possible results. Mr. Vulcan took my hand, and helped me to breathe in and out on his count.
Right before the CAT scan started, the technician gently positioned my head, and asked me to turn a little bit more to my right. My mind jumped to the photo shoot just a few hours before, where Heather Wilhelmina gently moved my head and asked me to turn more to the right for the next shot.
No stroke signals or blood clots showed up in the blood tests or the CAT scan. I got that news in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I asked Mr. Vulcan to go home and get some rest, because the ultrasound was going to have to wait until 8:30 in the morning, when the technician arrived. He was so great and kind with me, and I’ll never forget it. He stayed for so long with me for many reasons-one of them being that he wanted to be there when the first round of results came through. Mr. Vulcan has danced quite the two-step with his own body, even though he’s younger than me. He’s a pro at hospitals, because he unfortunately has a ton of experience with them.
He went home at four in the morning. I stared at the ceiling from my hospital bed and cried silently.
What made me cry while I stared at that ceiling were two facts: The fact that health insurance is so expensive in the United States, and the fact that my husband is banned from entering the United States.
At that moment, I felt a rage towards this country with all of my heart.
I called A Tall Drink of Water and Green-Eyed Sweetie to tell them what was going on. I decided not to call my husband, because I didn’t have any definitive answers, and he’s in the middle of a major floor installation job. Telling him before he left for work was going to blow his concentration. The fact that I was in the emergency room of a hospital, and he wasn’t with me, would do a number on him like nobody’s business. So I decided to wait.
After my ultrasound in the morning, a Kaiser Patient Care Coordinator came into my room. She asked me some questions. One was about family. I told her that my roommates, Mr. Vulcan and Heather Wilhelmina were not my biological family, but that I considered them to be my immediate family here in Oakland.
Then she said, “No, I mean, is there anyone else? For example, a husband?” I told her that my husband was in Mexico. She wrote that down. She asked, “Is he there on business?”
I told her that he was deported in April of 2001.
She put her pen and paper down, and looked at me with a lot of compassion. She then asked me if I had any insurance. I told her that I didn’t.
The patient then had to take care of the Patient Care Coordinator for a moment.
My ultrasound came back clear, i.e., no signs of clot or stroke. I was free to go. It was now 10:15 on Tuesday morning. The doctor suggested that one cause for all of the symptoms could be stress, but didn’t have much diagnosis-wise past the stress suggestion.
Kaiser Permanente has a foundation that provides full financial coverage for one visit. I completed an application and will hear back in 2-3 weeks. If I’m not approved, then I’ll be socked with a medical bill that will surely be in the thousands. I truly hope that I’m approved.
The good news is that whatever was going on, it wasn’t a blood clot or stroke. Everything in my body has pretty much gone back down to normal.
However, the rage that’s emanating from the core of my body about the cost of health insurance in the US, and the fact that my husband is banned for life from entering this same country?
That’s going to take a while to go back down.