Personal Story Time: The Human Side of My Medical Nightmare

The last 7 days have been hard. Multiple visits to doctors and a surgeon, complicated by car problems which precipitated lack of reliable transportation making it harder to get to doctor appointments. My anxiety, which is normally pretty low, kicks into hyperdrive when anything medical comes up. As a told one doctor, on a scale of 1 to 10, my anxiety has left the solar system.

All of this was before I found out the health insurance coverage that I thought I had doesn’t actually exist; so this entire adventure is going to be self-pay. But let’s set aside the tomfuckary of health insurance in the US for this post.

Because I’m sure you’re wondering, briefly here’s what’s up with my health…

Now, let’s be clear – as health problems go, this is super, and I mean super minor. As I think about it, anxiety over the financial fallout far overshadows my concerns about my health.

So without boring you with too many details, some bacteria decided to take up residence under my skin in the middle of my chest. My immune system attempted an eviction and was losing the fight. Antibiotics (💰) and a trip to the doctor (💰) cleared out most of the infection, but a surgeon (💰💰) is going to need to go in and clean everything out. The surgeon feels this needs to happen in a hospital (💰💰💰💰) with an anesthesiologist (💰💰💰💰💰).

Strangers Who Kept Me Sane

The kindness of strangers has been has kept my faith in humanity up, especially when these individuals have an economic incentive to push me aside and keep going with their work.

My car decided to crap out on me the day I was supposed to have my initial surgery consultation. My portable jumper wasn’t enough to bring the battery back to life, and there wasn’t an Uber or a Lyft to be found anywhere in West O, so I missed the appointment. That was slightly stressful and I’m sure it was obvious to the AAA Roadside Assistance subcontractor that I was near my rope’s end.

He’s paid by the job, so he’s got every incentive to jump my car and rush to the next person. But instead of doing that, he took some time to bullshit with me. Honestly, that was the first time in a few days my mind hadn’t been consumed thinking about my health or my impending financial doom.

At the doctor’s office, I told the nurse I was self-insured and she took time to explain to me how to best work with the billing department to negotiate my bill down. I’m sure the business administrator wouldn’t appreciate an employee giving insider advice on shrinking their profit margin.

The “cheap” generic antibiotics were still about $70 – I guess that’s cheap relative to other medications. I didn’t think to pre-install Good Rx on my phone, but instead of charging me full price, the guy at the pharmacy flipped through several discount codes until he was able to give me the best discount.

I don’t think anyone would consider any of these to be grand gestures of kindness, but to me – especially in that moment – they made a world of difference.

What if the System Incentivized Kindness Instead of Profit?

All of this has led me to think about my actions during my time in the corporate world. How many times did I pass on being nice to someone so I could hit a productivity goal? As a self-employed individual, how many times have I passed on taking extra time to understand a client or ask them how they’re doing when something seems off just so I can make another dollar? How many times have you done that?

The relentless pursuit of profit is dehumanizing. What’s worse, hardly any of us see any of the value that we create. We the workers have been intentionally misguided to discount human relations so that those who own the means of production get richer at our expense.

I guess I’m lucky – I’ve broken out of the system and am self-employed. I’m the only person who’s scoring my productivity and from this day forward, I’m going to make sure I don’t prioritize profit over people.