I walked half-way through my daily exercise and stopped to catch my breath. I thought I was walking too fast or was exhausted from work so I decided to cut it short and head home that evening.
One week later I was feeling the same. I was struggling to catch my breath in between taking care of my patients. Smallest chores became a burden. I felt like I was carrying a big rock on my chest; so I took off and went to see my primary care physician.
Her first impression was that I was going through too much stress and needed to relax, but I told her there was something more than stress. She gave me a prescription for anxiety pills and I took them for ten days. My pain increased quite a bit. So, I went to see my doctor again.
This time I told her I felt the issue resided in either my lungs or heart. I had a gut feeling that maybe I was having angina, since my whole family is diabetic with a history of heart problems. She sent me to her husband who was a pulmonary specialist and he ran some tests. She believe I was too young to have a heart problem. The pulmonary tests came negative. Still, I was given nebulizer to breathe more freely and antibiotics for bronchitis.
Three weeks later I could not take but two or three steps at a time. I didn't know what else to do but visit my primary again. By this time I was hardly sleeping in the nights fearing that I would not wake up in the mornings. Once in a while, in the middle of the night, I found my 14-year-old holding his finger near my nose to see if I was still alive.
This time I insisted on visiting a cardiologist to get my heart checked. So I was sent to a cardiologist; another associate/friend of my primary . I was told I'd be given a stress/echo test in the office within the next week. Meanwhile I was having trouble getting the day off at work for this test by my supervisor.
Somehow, I managed to keep my appointment. The test results came positive and I was told I would need a cardiolite stress test with nuclear images. I waited another week and by this time, it had been four weeks since my troubles started. I was told at work that I could not take off for my cardio test since I had to pull my patient load and I needed to give atleast three weeks notice. I called the doctor's office and my report was submitted to my insurance company for approval. Another week passed, I called the office again to see what was going on and I was snapped at for requesting the status of my insurance approval. I was told to be patient. I waited.
By this time my child was calling me every hour from school to see how I was feeling. Two weeks passed and still no word from my doctor's office about the appointment. By this time I couldn't say two words without panting and I was still being given my twenty nine scheduled patients at work. Carrying mammography films was getting to be an ordeal. I could see my face pale and lifeless in the mirror and my hands shook everytime I tried to take a step, but I could not afford to loose the job. I needed my insurance.
Almost four weeks into the whole issue, my sister insisted that I called the insurance company directly and find out what was going on. Until then it didn't occur to me that I was in the medical field, I should be knowing the system to find answers. I guess my condition wasn't allowing me to think. Finally after being told that my insurance company was not responding to the doctor's office with the approval, I called them myself.
I was lucky to get a gentleman who was very cooperative. I told him the entire circumstance and literally begged him to save my life. He looked into it right away and found out they didn't get any fax from the cardiologist's office for approval. So he called the office himself. He got back to me immediately and told me that my initial consultation chart and the eco stress results were still sitting on the doctor's desk for dictation. The form was never sent to the insurance company because the doctor never had time to open my chart to dictate the consult report. He gave them half hour for the report to be submitted to him directly. After an hour I was given approval to go ahead with my cardiolite test.
Despite alerting my supervisor I could not perform my duties with the radioactive material injected from the cardiolite procedure, I was still not given off from work. Sure enough I had three blocks in my heart and was told to schedule and angiogram some additional procedures as needed. I knew I had to schedule my appointment for my angiogram around the patient schedules three weeks ahead of time, so I told supervisor they either approve or else.
I had the angiogram, angioplasty and a stent placement in my left anterior descending artery at the same time. My cardiologist told me there was 60 percent blockage in the descending artery so I was given medicine and sent home after three days. Five days after that my blood pressure dropped significantly enough to be hospitalized again. Neither my cardiologist nor my primary came to visit me at the emergency or the ICU where I was placed. Ten days after I went for a follow-up and I admitted to my cardiologist that I was having a burning sensation in my heart.
She sat there in front of me and looked at me seriously. She said, "If God wants to take you, no matter what, he will take you. Why are you so worried about death?"
"If you have to go, you can't stop it."
Three weeks later I visited another cardiologist group that was supposed to be the best in practice. This particular cardiologist took himself to the hospital, got two copies of my angio procedure, called me at his lunch hour to his office and showed me the entire procedure on his personal computer. He explained that my artery was not blocked 60 percent but 95 percent. I could have died any time with a major heart attack while I was waiting for the insurance ordeal and my previous cardiologist's delay.
My whole ordeal started in 2004 before my birthday on April 4th. My angio procedure took place on June 28th. It took my cardiologist almost three months to finally look into my life seriously. I could have died while living for three months with a teenager and a work place that would not sympathize with my situation, despite being a major hospital system itself. I quit my job following the whole episode and found another with less patients.
All this hardship, I understood later, was because I was an HMO. If I was a PPO I would have given more importance but, I was a small fish to fry. At work keeping up with numbers and PPO patients was more important than an employee who was having a major issue. I remembered an appointment cancelled on me because I was an HMO, at one of my endocrinologist's office on the day of the appointment, while I waited in the doctor's office without notice of termination of services for HMO patients.
Long after, I overheard a coworker talking about a patient's complaint that she was waiting for a long time in the front before being brought in for the exam. She said, "And she is not even a PPO. She is just an HMO." I turned around and said,"We are all HMO's here. But we are humans and need to be treated with compassion." I wouldn't have realized this fact if I wasn't in the situation myself. And I wouldn't have thought, whatever our insurance policies maybe, 'OUR LIFE MATTERS' the 'MOST'