As you know from my last post, things moved very fast in what was supposed to be a leisurely and centred day yesterday. I’d just popped into the webinar, when the surgeon’s rooms called to ‘remind me’ that I was going in for the port insertion at 1pm. I would need an authorisation number from the medical aid and these were the Procedure, ICD and Practice Codes that would be needed by the Medical Aid. I’d just finished that call when Discovery called to tell me that the chemo treatment has been approved (I had thought it already was) and that it would cost R328 172 and that my plan would cover R192 722. (There was a little confusion with thousands and hundreds until I asked her to read out the numbers one at a time. As most of you know I get confused when there are more than three digits in a number.) My brain couldn’t process this lot. I did wonder whether such expense was justified and kicked myself that this is the reason I’ve been paying med aid contribs all these years.
I confess I panicked a bit, visualising extending the bond and selling all my worldly goods, then remembered the Dread Disease cover on a policy I’d forgotten taking out in the 90’s. When I called the agent – they’d lost track of my contact details (which tells you how long it’s been since I thought of these things). Luckily I had the policy number and she’s now working on updating ‘my portfolio’ and sending me the claim forms. Then I realised that of the balance of the costs not being fully covered, I only get to pay 20% (if I’ve read things right see previous post about the skill of reading T and Cs).
Whilst I was on that phone call the landline rang, with Busi from the Oncology Treatment Centre calling to tell me that the treatment had been approved, and that she was so pleased for me. (What a lovely lady.) Again there was confusion to clear up. The treatment that they were all talking about is the addition of Avastin (a biological) to the Oxaliplatin (the chemo). Getting approval for Avastin (which I see has also been used in macular degeneration) has been difficult.They got it for me. Apparently what it does is ‘bind’ to the tumour receptors cutting off the blood supply to the tumours preventing them from growing. Then the Oxaliplatin zaps the tumours. This seems like a very Good Thing to me. Busi also told me that it’s not usually approved or even applied for, if the oncologist and the scheme don’t think there is a good chance of resection. I felt very heartened by this. She asked when I could come in to start treatment and I told her about the port insertion. “Great,” she said, “that will give us a chance to order your drugs – so 9.00 am on Wednesday, then?” I said yes.
Then it was off to Westville for what I thought was a day clinic procedure. The part that I don’t understand about the processing is why everyone asks the same questions and fills in a different form, even though there’s a file that goes with you. Moreover, all the details were the same since I went for the colonoscopy, three weeks ago, with the same surgeon. Think of the forests and the time that could be saved if they just had a decent, accessible database. Waitrons can handle mobile data units…?
There was a definite disconnect between Reception, the surgical ward and the theatre. I won’t go into detail here – just that most of my communication with the various, very caring folks I encountered was about what time Pat could fetch me. It was a day clinic procedure after all. The lass in the bed next to me had been lying in the ward for nearly 2 full days waiting for her surgery. She was still there when I was wheeled down to theatre at 3, and only left for theatre just after I got back at 4. I thought she was rather calm about everything.
While I was waiting the Discovery liaison lady bounced in to welcome me to the oncology programme and to answer any questions I might have. I asked her about the costs of the diagnostic scans I’d had before getting onto the oncology programme and she assured me that I could claim my co-payments back and that she’d email the forms. That was a relief. Also I asked about upgrading my scheme and what the implications were. I thought that was a nice touch – to have pragmatic soothing before surgery. Apparently there’s another Discovery liaison person at the Oncology treatment centre. I’ll meet her tomorrow. That was the clearest communication I had all afternoon.
It became quite funny. I was afraid that the nurses would find me ‘bolshie’, when I got back to the ward, because I asked for the anaesthetic thingie to be removed, because I was going home now. They were under the impression that I was staying the night and might need it again. I was a bit irritable because my boob was hurting, where the port cable lies just under the skin, so moving my right arm was difficult. (Ever tried capturing a chunk of ice with your left hand when your arm won’t bend because there’s an unconnected tube in it? Satirical, especially if you add the fact that I was lying flat!) I went to the loo – and suddenly things started happening. (Did you know that that is the secret key?)
A stern sister came in and said a) you can’t go home until you’ve eaten supper b) until the surgeon tells you that you can, and c)you can’t have a painkiller until you’ve eaten your supper. I had visions of looking at the ceiling for 18 hours. Pat arrived at 5 having been told, when she called at 4:30, that I was still in theatre. I’d heard the phone ring and the answer given and wanted to yell, “I’m here!” but didn’t because everyone else in the ward was asleep. She’d decided to come anyway and stuff the visiting hours rules. She thoughtfully had packed an overnight bag with all the necessities for my sleeping routine – including my goy.
Supper was chicken maccaroni cheese and quite tasty – I was starving – though I did wonder how they knew I wasn’t a vegetarian. Chicken is a vegetable. right? That wasn’t a question, of the many, that was asked. Pat tried to get me to eat the gem squash and the jelly and custard, but that was just too much – big meals cause blockages! I ate it and then got dressed – takkies and all. The surgeon came round and asked if I’d manage at home and Pat and I said yes resoundingly. They took the anaesthetic thing out and the sticky lead connector on my side, did a final blood pressure test and I waved goodbye to all the nice people, still wearing my wrist tags and carrying a plastic bottle with spare parts in it. I figured it’s like when a mechanic changes the spark plugs and they give you the old ones back to prove they’ve done the job. Nothing to sign. It was clear that peeing and eating were the main criteria for passing the ‘go home’ test.
The couch in front of the TV has never looked so inviting or felt so comfortable. Definitely better for my headspace and Pat’s. We looked at the spare parts and decided to photograph them. Profound decision, but symbolic of a victory day I think.