Travelin’ through this weary land

Travelin’ through this weary land May 30, 2024

This bit from T. Kingfisher’s Hugo speech has become something of a mantra and a lifeline:

There is a species of water beetle that regularly gets swallowed whole by frogs. And while there’s a lot of things you can do to keep from being eaten, once you’re inside a frog, your options are severely limited. Generally you get digested. But this particular species of beetle said “You know, I bet there’s another way.” And it started walking. In fact, it walked through the frog’s digestive tract and out the back end.

This is 100% true, you can look it up. 19 out of 20 of these beetles will simply walk out of the frog, unharmed. It usually takes them about an hour, although one beetle speed-ran the frog in five minutes, which I’m sure was very exciting for the frog.

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that no matter how dark the situation, there is always a way through. And there’s always a light at the end of the frog.

We are deep in the frog and every time we think we’re getting closer to the exit it moves farther away.

When I wrote this post about just trying, somehow, to get through the next six weeks, it was because tomorrow was supposed to be surgery day.

Tomorrow will not be surgery day. And we have no way of knowing when, or if, surgery day will ever arrive.

A month ago, the hospital told us the end-of-May date would have to be pushed back until the end of July — 19 months after our first attempt to schedule this surgery. But then — joyous news! — we found another option. A well-regarded surgeon a couple of hours west of here could perform the procedure on May 23!

If that had happened, my wife would be home, nearly fully recovered. She’d no longer be in pain. She’d be able to eat normally again. She’d be back upstairs, in our bedroom, instead of in the living room downstairs that we have converted into the grimly nicknamed “invalid’s suite.” And she’d finally have the health and the energy to pour into getting her new business going for real, rather than just as a treadmill that barely covers its own expenses.

That’s not a rosy fantasy about what this surgery will mean if it is ever allowed to happen. Her problem is fixable. The surgery that would completely restore her to health is not experimental or even unusual.

Tens of thousands of women have this problem — a complication of child-bearing that develops later in life. It involves sometimes having your insides on your outside. People usually grasp that this can be inconvenient, embarrassing, and sometimes gross, and that’s all just as true as they imagine. But what they don’t understand is that it’s also painful. When your insides are on your outside, it hurts. And it means eating hurts.

It also makes you vulnerable to infection. That’s what put my wife in the hospital — the wrong hospital — for all of January 2023. She caught a pair of infections that tried to kill her and spent most of that month in the ICU. The recovery from that was long and slow, delaying her fix-the-problem surgery until December. That recovery also meant her doctors ordering some medical accommodations for lighter duty and shorter hours at the salon where she’d worked for more than 20 years.

The salon decided not to accommodate those accommodations and so, last October, she lost her job and, with it, her health insurance. We quickly added her to my health plan through the Big Box, but the December surgery was cancelled due to the lack of continuous insurance coverage from a single provider. Switch coverage and you have to wait three months before they’ll do the procedure.

So we revised our plan. Just grit through the pain and fatigue and keep the new business limping along for a few months and then, come February, she’d have her health back and the energy to take on enough business that it would actually provide an income.

But the January surgery got nixed because her pre-surgery blood-work found her electrolytes were all again dangerously out of whack. This is, of course, a symptom of the very problem the surgery would correct, but once again the surgery was delayed due to the symptoms of the reason for the surgery.

Which brings us to this month and the day we went to get her pre-surgery testing for the 23rd. That was the day we found out that the Big Box had “dis-enrolled” my wife from my health insurance plan. We had signed her up online and had printouts of all the “confirmation of coverage” from that as well as an official insurance card with her full legal name on it. But we hadn’t realized that was all contingent on my also filling out the “validation of marital status” form and mailing it to the same Big Box benefits center that has had my wife and her SSN listed for the past 13 years as my spouse and beneficiary.

I did not send that form. And now my wife does not have health insurance.

It seems strange to be 55 years old and to realize that your greatest regret in life is not submitting a redundant insurance form. And to realize that your second greatest regret in life is trusting your store HR rep when she told you, “If you’ve got the membership card, then you’re good.” I’ve committed real sins in my lifetime — sins of omission and commission due to my own selfishness, malice, cruelty, or cowardice. But in terms of consequences, those were the two biggest mistakes of my life. This failure to submit the final piece of paperwork was the worst thing I’ve ever done.

This, you may have guessed, is why it came to be that I have had multiple conversations over the past week and a half in which I’ve alluded to touching the hem of his garment or digging through the roof, I’ve been making dozens of phone calls, banging my head against the wall of “You failed to submit that form, now you may not re-enroll your wife until November.”

But I’ve also been proper-channeling through the HR chain of command, where I’ve found some help from folks who seem to legitimately be pleading our case. I should find out tomorrow if we’ll be able to get her covered again with something we can afford.

That’s our hope and plan and desperate need: Re-establish three months of continuous coverage we can afford so we can reschedule surgery day for as soon as possible after that.

So October, maybe late September if everything that has so far refused to go right finally goes right. That is our best-case scenario hope right now. And if that unfolds then the rosy-sounding scenario I described above would be not just possible but realistic: She’ll have her health and her appetite back. No more pain. No more electrolyte-crash fatigue. No more just gritting through every day. No more “invalid suite.” That’s all really, truly possible.

Do I sound hopeful? I’m trying to sound hopeful. I’m looking at the possibility of her finally getting the surgery to correct her entirely correctable condition more than two years after this started without the cruel possibility that this healing will be yanked away from her yet again because of test results or her employer’s cruelty or my f–king up by getting lost in a paperwork maze. I’m trying to have hope about that.

October (maybe) is a long way off. Again. But we’re just going to keep walking and keep believing that there’s a light at the end of the frog.





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