Understanding American Healthcare
How do you properly assess a hospital visit in the United States without any health insurance?
This is not a set-up to a joke. The system is a joke, but there is nothing funny about the system.
Several months ago, I took a little ride in an ambulance to a glittering hospital. It was a majestic building; I had been to it before. It shines like the city of Oz at night. You would believe that great and powerful things are happening there. There must be: why else would I get a $7000 bill to sleep off a sedative overnight? But first, you have to have a crack ambulance team to get you to the ER. That ambulance team is probably on crack itself, because they had the police drag defenseless me across his own lawn because they assessed that I was a methamphetamine addict, unpredictable and angry for more drugs. This was untrue. I had a toxic reaction to my antidepressant. They had my med bag. It was pretty clear that I had a psychological condition.
That condition was not produced by methamphetamine. Oh, I suppose the three beers I had might have exacerbated my condition, but even my most fucked up friends do not go stark raving bonkers after half a six pack. Meth addicts were common in my area, so I can sorta understand why it at least occurred to them that I might have been one of them. I was packing my house up to move, so my clothes may have said “I am a dangerous dope fiend”. There as also a can of compressed air atop one of the boxes, so they may have reasonably thought, “This is a dangerous dope fiend who huffs air for laughs”.
I’ve never understood the excitement that comes from hyperventilating. I never even tried to hold my own breath when I was a kid or play the “You Strangle Me First And Then I’ll Do It To You” game with anyone. I would breathe the air, and my brain would singsong to itself, “I like this stuff. I think I will continue to enjoy it at the present rate of respiration”. Only during locust season would my brain say, “Perhaps life is overrated. I think I will have my host run very fast, elevate his rate of respiration, and then we will have less of this air and maybe we can die before the locusts eat us.”
When your brain says these things to itself in a ten-year old body, you, the host, go into mild shock as those little fuckers hiss and buzz around you and the little poor bully kids would pick them up and put them on girls and every step you took sounded like you had just crushed a pack of Grade A eggs underneath your feet because not only do locusts hiss and buzz, they also die and shed their pupas at an astounding rate. The locusts really don’t know it, but nature is telling them to go live somewhere else, terrorize school children, and then wait over a decade to terrorize a new set of children who have never seen them before.
I must admit, at 38, I wish I could be a locust, and my first target would be the ambulance crew that picked me up that night. Because it hadn’t yet occurred to them that I had bipolar disorder, and I was having what we bipolars understand to be an “episode”. What’s so funny about this, is before my mom called the ambulance on me(she was helping me pack to move to Georgia), she had been hyperventilating. She had become tired of Colorado. She had been there for days, packing up all of our belongings while I tried to sell anything that wasn’t nailed down. She wanted a plane ticket IMMEDIATELY after we were finished. I told her there was a monstrous snow storm on the way and that there was no way in hell anyone was going anywhere once this thing hit. I looked at it on radar; it was the size of China and its tail was about to hit the storms’ fourth quadrant. We were in that quadrant, deep. The wind began banging doors; dogs began to howl. Neighbors who knew well enough what could happen in a storm left quickly to get batteries and wipe the staple shelves of the local supermarket clean as long as their food stamps could hold the balance. My poor sick mother was having none of this. She insisted on a plane ticket. She became very angry when I told her we would not get one.
“HAVE THEM HOLD THE DAMN THING!!!”, she hyperventilated. I went to the plane website. Tickets for the minute I arrived at the screen were going for thousands of dollars a seat, coach class. I looked at the weather again. The China-sized blockbuster was moving west, which is to say that the eye wall was closing in on us.
Rain fell in sheets. My mother was still screaming for a ticket. My sick mother did not know it at the time, but she was suffering from altitude sickness, the kind that takes about two months to get over if you continue to live near a three-mile high mountain. When you are up this high, every step counts, because you are a lot closer to the moon than you should be. So I took my sick mother outside. The rain was falling in a cool drizzle, and I was thankful for it. I began to walk my mother down the street, which had a downslope. There was a small alley that led down to a dirty reservoir ditch. I brought her down there, despite her protest that the ditch was scary. I suppose one could say that about the alley when it was dark, but only young, harmless juvenile delinquents would spend time in there, playing, going down into the reservoir tunnel to throw rocks at the reservoir, or spray paint the tunnel. Evidently, a tiny delinquent had found out that the devil’s number is “666”, and proceeded to make a record of his parental neglect by spray-painting just that on the reservoir tunnel. This is nothing but mild amusement to me. If my mother, who is highly religious, had seen it, she would have given me a reason to chase her across the reservoir, which I was not going to do. The reservoir bed is made of sand, and the combination of the moon and the sand (isn’t that a band name? They probably suck) would have stopped her.
Anyway, the twenty feet or so that we went down was enough to calm my mother. I felt like a hero, having saved her from an anxiety attack. We went back inside. The ticket prices had gone back to normal. Whew. The weather stopped flipping out. Curious, I checked the weather.
We were inside the eyewall.
If you are looking at this from anywhere from the Leeward Islands to Cuba, you know not to take comfort in calm weather after you have been whooped by a hurricane. Storms on land act just like storms coming from the African cape. The only difference is that storms gain exceptional power as the Earth spins them over the ocean. They hit land like 300 trainloads of bricks, shit gets broken really bad, and then people wonder why they still live on a beach. Dumbasses. Lazy rich fucks slay me; they buy a view, they insure the view, and then they have to nail and tape up their view when nature decides that your particular view is no longer necessary. What an amazing waste of time.
The time and money that is spent in the United States trying to live in an area that does not want you to be there is staggering. The rich get the coasts. The poor get the gulfs and the islands. Great setup. Fuck, I hate this country sometimes. It is A-OK for the destitute to have their homes swept away by the earth’s anger, but it is not OK when someone’s beach property is crushed because you decided to live on a latitude that is in line with the Cape of Africa. Insurance companies love this setup.
Land storms, on the other hand, are beholden to certain atmospheric anomalies. It is why they happen in the first place. Once one gets going, then it has to obey “fronts”.
Oh, fuck it. I am a storyteller, not a weatherman. I have probably gotten most of this wrong anyway, and I do not care. Everyone thinks I have this storm wrong anyway, because there was plenty of “sunshine” in that are after that monstrosity left the area. That’s because we got a break, and Mr. Storm went to the mountains where only a few rich fucks got their due, and even they probably survived because the storm preferred the top of the mountains to dump its precipitation on. This is why so many people love living in Colorado. That is why the Indians liked it. We liked it more, so we killed the Indians. We are so cool!
Frank Zappa once said in a song, “You know what, people? I’m not black but there are a lot of times I wish I wasn’t white.”
I feel this way every day.
This bitch of a storm was certainly not done with the general area. Looking at the weather, I realized that its eye was moving again. Towards us, again. My sick mother began screaming for a ticket out of this god-damned place. She began calling people she knew, wondering why I would not let her leave and why would I do this to her. She said I was behaving strangely. I’m standing there, listening to this shit, thinking I am the only one who remained in control here. So, to mollify my mother, I took an extra antidepressant, a childish way of telling my mother to fuck off and that I was fine.
Not a good move. The antidepressant began to make my head spin. In order to remain conscious, I decided it would be a good time to let my body spin. I must have looked like a deranged Sufi. In my head, I knew that all I could do was either spin, or pass out. This was the final straw: my mother dialed 911 on me. I’d have done it too. But not before I knew what she was suffering from. I mean, I should have had her checked for anxiety due to altitude sickness- if anyone was going to call 911, it should have been me. But I had lived in Colorado long enough to know what happens to people when they do not live in Colorado. It can be painful if you don’t wait for blood adjustment to go away. So I did what I was supposed to do-bring her to a lower altitude. She was fine. What she didn’t understand was what was happening to me.
Like I said, I was dragged by the cops and shoved into an ambulance and shot with sedatives. I find out later that you NEVER do this to someone on antidepressants. They tied me up after I had a petit mal seizure and accidentally popped a female ambulance worker in the hip. Then I received more sedatives and I heard them saying that they had never seen a meth addict take so much sedative and stay awake. They put so much in me that I almost had a heart attack, which at least the dumb bastards stopped me from having. I go to Oz, where they drip Benadryl into me until I nap.
I wake up the next morning, still in the ER and not the loony bin or the ICU. That was good; I was stable after all that stupid crew had done to me. I was released after I told the psych examiner that I had been terrorized within an inch of my life by the ambulance and the police. She understood. She signed the release papers and I was free to go home.
I go for the door, but first I have to stop at “payments” before I can leave Oz. The lady asked me for $150 before I could leave.
I had had enough of being hurt, but I kept my shitty thoughts in my head lest someone take me away again. How in the holy fuck does a hospital think they are going to get money from a man who was taken to the ER against his will?
Think about that for a minute. I am mistreated badly, and I owe the hospital money. She gives me some papers about how to pay for my visit and I leave.
Yesterday, I received a “how was our service” card from the ambulance company, (who wanted $1000 for their opportunity to poison me), the kind you might find at IHOP but the card is too sticky with blueberry syrup for you to bother.
I am happy with what I told them, and I will mail it today.
In the comments section, I wrote that they treated a bipolar like a drug addict and they should be shut down. They will get this card, but there will be no check forthcoming.
So, if anyone thinks that American healthcare needs no improvement and there is no benefit to pooling knowledge and services, I would like to tell you to go fuck yourself so hard that your dick comes out of your eyeball. I am angry, and will remain so.