Thursday, August 09, 2007

Nobody nose the trouble I've seen

Something that’s been causing me angst over recent months has been my increasing nosebleeds. Up until two years ago, I was involved in a program specifically to treat nosebleeds in Osler’s sufferers. There’s no cure, and they’ll never stop completely, but the frequency and severity can be reduced by various methods of sealing the lesions, most of which involve burning – electrical, chemical, whatever. The latest whiz-bang medical technology involved laser treatment, and Monash Medical Centre had a big research program thingie happening, which seemed like a good idea at the time. It was actually working quite well, but there were a number of drawbacks to the whole thing.

In the end, I got really fed up and I weighed up the cost of the 5 treatments over 13 months. There was no $ cost to me at all, except for petrol, some coins for parking, and a few prescriptions. The real cost was in the innumerable days off work, the after-effects of the surgery (you SO don’t want to know…), a perforated septum, never being able to talk to the surgeon and have my questions answered…. hell, never even having the same surgeon twice! No follow-up by a doctor, a nurse, or anyone at all, no control over when my next treatment would be, having to leave home at 5:30am to make the 7:00am admission time way across town, the inconvenience to the whole family, and the whole nobody-gives-a-crap atmosphere at Monash Medical Centre. Plus there was the emergency trip to the local casualty ward following a spectacularly unsuccessful procedure. Oh, and the fact that some health bureaucrat decided to move the whole program to Berwick in late 2005 was just the icing on the cake. Is that even in the Melbourne Metro area? Whatever, it would add another 20 minutes or so to our trip. So I made the decision to pull out of the program and just wait and see what happened. I was good for a year, not bad for another 6 months or so, but lately things have been pretty awful, with several bleeds most days, and some pretty severe ones amongst them.

The whole thing was really troubling me. It seemed there were no other options, and I just couldn’t face getting back on the public system conveyor belt. So last month, while I was seeing my doctor for some blood test results, we had a long discussion about the whole thing, and she referred me to a different ENT surgeon, so that we could have a chat and see if there was another solution. I saw my new ENT guy yesterday, and it seems we have a plan B. He believes that old-fashioned electrical cautery gives as good results as laser, if it’s done expertly and specifically targets very small areas. He does it in hospital, under general anaesthetic, to make sure he can hit the spot exactly…. and also in case of a bad bleed, which can be pretty hard to deal with outside an operating theatre. And he assures me that the recovery should be a piece of cake.

So my appointment finished like this:

ENT doc: OK, when would you like to have it done? I operate on Fridays.

Me: (checking my diary) Next week would be good.

ENT doc: Great, I’ll get my receptionist to book you in. It’ll be just across the road here in XXXXX (insert name of palatial private hospital only a 20 minute drive from home)

Receptionist: Fill this page in, sign here, and here’s a postage paid envelope so you can just drop the forms in the mail. The hospital will call you next week to confirm admission details.

Me: *sigh* I don’t mind surgery, but I hate missing breakfast. It makes me grumpy.

Receptionist: Oh, you can have breakfast. Admission time isn’t till 12:30pm.

Yippee!! I even have time for second breakfast! Fasting starts at 9:30am. :)


Just this morning, I was reading a review of Michael Moore’s new documentary, Sicko. I knew already that the US health system sucks, but boy, some of the stories he covers in the movie are horrifying. It got me thinking about how most of us really aren’t badly off, in spite of all the flaws of our Medicare system.

And I’m grateful that I have the option of going private. I get to choose my doctor and hospital, decide when to have the surgery, and know that I’ll be treated like a human, not just a number. I also won’t have to sell my home or a spare body part to pay for treatment. I’ll have some small out of pocket expenses, but I can live with that. My hysterectomy last year ended up costing me $400, and that was just the gap for the specialist obstetric anaesthetist. The hospital and the surgeon cost me nix. I’m not complaining about paying a few bucks to the guy who holds my life in his hands…..


Kathryn said...

I don't have private health insurance but have been thinking about it lately. Even though I have a business degree and am very good with stuff like tax etc, still can't get my head around the numbers of whether I'm better off or not. It's insane, but like you say it's about peace of mind as much as anything.

I've been a patient in public hospitals a few times and got stuff done under medicare. I'd hate to live in the US and not have the option of treatment. We really are lucky here. But it would be nice to not be part of that public health thing.

I know the feeling of being just a number or a collection of body parts, and as for speaking to the surgeon, forget it.

Debstar said...

Several nosebleeds most days!!!! Holy Dooley I can't imagine how crap that must be. Hope the next procedure is the answer.

The varicose vein thing I had done cost a packet. The specialist charged $2,500 and I got $800 back. That sucked big time. So much for going private.

Amy said...

How do you put up with it? I get them when my sinusitis flares up and they drive me absolutely mental. Especially when you wake up in the middle of the night with one, and ALL you want to do is go back to sleep, and it seems like it'll NEVER stop bleeding...

But I must stand up for the south-east, Berwick certainly is Melbourne metro! It's the centre of the biggest residential growth corridor of Melbourne. I'm not really sure why they call it a corridor... er, anyway, it's not THAT far out.

BeepBeep said...

Good luck! It'll be great to get that fixed.

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