A Day Of Answers And Blessings

As a writer, you always wonder how much impact you have had with your work. If a book sells well, you know you’ve done something, even if you may not always be sure what you have done. With a lot of other work, stories and online posts, you never know and comments are an extremely unreliable thing. In fact, I will join with others and say never read the comments in posts or such about you and/or your work. That said, you always wonder if you have ever truly been able to reach even one person, for if you have, you have done at least some good in the world.

But, I have to admit that since the open heart surgery, I’ve been questioning my life and what, if anything, I’ve accomplished. Many of the normal things, like a wife and children, are not there for reasons that I won’t go into. I wanted them, and there is still time for marriage, though I am not sure I should have children. It’s been one of those times where you can get down, and when you do you might wonder if anyone will even show up at your funeral. Though I admit I want a wake to go with the funeral, so that if anyone does show up a good time is had by them all. I also still like the idea of a speaker for the dead…

I bring this up as this has been a day of answers and blessings for me. This morning, Sarah A. Hoyt wrote something at Instapundit that made it very dusty in here. The fact is, I had no idea about her reading me. When I began reading her, I didn’t have a clue she had already been reading me. Funny how things work out. Thanks to her, the fundraiser has taken off.

On top of that, it was a good day at Cardiac Rehab. I may not have had a heart attack, but my path back is much like that. We’ve had some things come up that are concerning, though some were not entirely unexpected. For example, it’s not unusual for your BP to go up as you start rehab. I was surprised and disappointed, however, at how high mine went. Not as bad as after the lightning strike, but bad enough. It’s been slow work getting it down, several medication changes. Today was the best BP in a while and while there is a long way to go it is coming down and I’m also starting to get a bit of stamina back (IMO).

There have also been some other issues that have come up. I won’t get into all of them, but will say that I was delighted when the cardiac monitor I have to wear for two weeks showed up today. It’s a cute little thing that has one part attached to my chest and a phone that pairs with it to monitor and record. Hopefully, it will help them figure out what else is going on and see what we can do about it. If it does not show any afib, whatever else it does show, it can help get me off one medicine — and getting off meds is a good thing.

A minor blessing of the day was waking up and not having some sinus issues as normal. Landlord put a humidifier in my room, and it has made a huge difference in breathing and in not shocking myself silly via static electricity. Small potatoes in some way, but it is a positive.

The other blessing of the day is getting all the prayers and messages of hope from people around the world. People who even if they could not donate, offered prayers for me. I very much believe that the prayers I got before the surgery are one reason I did so well.

It has been a day of answers and blessings, large and small. Thank you for them all. My thanks to higher have already gone out. May your day be blessed as well.

Russia, Two Reads

If you are wondering what is going on with Russia, the Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, have two reads for you.

First read is an excellent read that ties together a lot of information. HT to Amy Poindexter (non-blogger) for this one. We’ve talked about the buffers and how Russia (Putin) views the NGOs and NATO expansion before, and this lays out the case very well. Keep in mind Vladimir and the leaders of Belarus and other Collective Security Treaty Organization are desperate and scared. This is not the basis for good decision making. Oh, and if you are not familiar with NED, this read gives some pretty good info.

The second read is sadly one dimensional, but still worth a read for more detail on terrain and buffer zones.

The situation has not improved since the last time we discussed it here. In fact, it has gotten worse. Also, keep in mind that Putin has absolutely no trust in the current administration. That’s because of things that happened in the Obama administration (of which the current is take two with quite a few of the same players) that led to a perception by Putin of betrayal/lying/etc. This was made even worse by a major blunder by the W administration that only amplified the distrust.

Take a read, keep your eyes open, and find non-US news sources to keep an eye on both what happens in Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. Whatever happens is going to have far reaching consequences.

Update: Good, Mixed, WTF?

I like to start with the good, and the good news is that the fundraiser got off to a great start courtesy of an anonymous donor. Now, if more donations come in, things can get moving. Yes, a pun, couldn’t resist. Why a fundraiser? Here’s the post launching it that lays out what isn’t covered at the fundraiser itself. Again, if you don’t want to use the fundraising site but do want to help, hit the tipjar at the top of the page. All prayers appreciated.

On the mixed front, there may have been something good happen — but there’s no record of it. As I noted before, the insurance company denied all claims related to the ER and surgery. In short, the hospital filed the proper paperwork, but sent it to the wrong fax number. The next morning, the error was caught and corrected. However, it was the next morning and that broke the time limit they had to file. So, the insurance refused to cover anything. There are appeals in work, and I’m getting ready to file some appeals myself. However, the billing office of the one doctor who has billed me directly (so far) reports that they have been paid. Only problem is, I can’t find any record of it at the insurance company. Calling their customer disservice is useless 99 percent of the time, so wondering if they just haven’t updated things or just what is going on. Be nice to know before I file any appeals that may not be needed.

My WTF moment this week came from my visit to the Nurse Practitioner at the cardiologists office. As always, a ECG was run and glancing at part of it I thought it was off but didn’t get a good look and the NP didn’t say anything about it. She did talk to me about wearing a monitor for a few weeks, and if there was no afib, I could come off one of the meds I’m taking. That would be good. However, I do get all test results electronically and I’m thankful as the ECG was indeed abnormal and is likely the real reason for the monitor. I consider that a lie of ommission, and am not happy about it at all. At the same time, just hoping that this doesn’t indicate other problems that could keep me from returning to work/being able to work. Especially as we still have not gotten the BP back under control after it spiked when I started cardiac rehab.

That’s the week so far. Hope all of you are having a good one. So far so good on my goal of not getting hit by lightning again this year.

A New Life

As I wrote the other day, it is time to make some changes. I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to start anew as it were. It is not, however, without its challenges.

There were delays getting me into cardiac rehab, which in turn has impacted other things including my return to work. It will now be February before I can do that (we hope). I am slowly getting strength back, but stamina can still be an issue.

Rather than just try to get by until February, some friends have encouraged me to do a fundraiser and go for what will get me moved to the desert Southwest and make a truly fresh start in an area that will be much better for my health. So, I’ve started A New Life fundraiser on GiveSendGo to raise money to do three basic things:

One: Cover my basic expenses while I remain out of work;

Two: Cover the cost of traveling to the SW to follow-up on employment opportunities, determine which area is the best option for now; and, secure a place to live there;

Three: Cover the expenses of moving there, as I will not be able to lift, tote, or otherwise do the normal things of moving myself.

As of right now, I’ve exhausted my financial resources. With this fundraiser, I can use the time I know I will be out of work to take care of the things needed to start my life over again on the best possible footing, and to be prepared for being out of work longer than expected. It’s sort of the way things have been running.

The fundraiser has more details on what led me to this point, from decisions I made to little things like getting hit by lightning and needing open heart surgery. I will share that I’ve been looking hard at West Texas, South Central New Mexico, and Southern Arizona. Originally, I was looking hardest at West Texas but for some odd reason I’ve had to start factoring medical into the search on a much larger basis, both cardiac and for things related to potential long-term issues from the lightning strike. While I hope to avoid such, better to plan for them now than try to deal with them later. It has changed my focus a bit, as an area in the search zone really popped for medical. I need to check it out, and follow-up on some potential opportunities.

So, to get into what I would like to have happen. First, get the immediate bills covered. If you want to help with that, but are leary of the fundraiser, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right. Second, I need to travel out to the locations under consideration; follow-up on some opportunities and explore some new possibilities; and, if things click as hoped, secure lodging so I can move out there. I’m going to have to rent a car for the trip as my vehicle is not up to doing much more than getting me around town, and I’m scared it may stop doing that…

If all goes as hoped, I want to come back, hire a mover, and head out as fast as I can do so. Part of me hates the idea of having to hire a mover, but if I try to load a truck and drive it, a number of friends have indicated they would hurt me. At this point in my recovery, trying to do that would hurt me as well. I’m going to have to be wearing a monitor for 2-3 weeks here soon as it is, no need to give them something too interesting to watch.

I hate having to ask for (more) help. The overwhelming generosity of three months ago has gotten me this far; but, along with my savings and other funds, it is gone. So, I’m asking for prayers, and for the help that will help me get to where I need to be to make the most of this new life and the opportunity it presents. As I said above, you can feel free to hit the tip jar if you are more comfortable with that, or you can donate through the campaign and read a bit about what led to this point. Yes, I am asking for a good bit, but I’ve tried to ensure realistic amounts (in some cases worst-case amounts) so that there are as few unpleasant surprises as possible. The idea is to have as solid a foundation in place as possible, so I can concentrate on standing back up as rapidly as possible.

Thank you for your time, and for reading both here and at the fundraiser. I hope you may help with the immediate and with trying to build a truly new life. As always, prayers are very much appreciated.

Farewell 2021, Hello 2022

I come not to praise the year that was; yet, I shall not condemn. At least not completely.

On a purely personal level, one could see it as a flaming train wreck. Various automotive and other issues were there. I was hit by lightning in June and ended up having emergency open heart surgery in October, quite likely as a result of said lightning strike. There were cognitive issues that went with the lightning strike, and while those are dealt with for now, there are unfortunately good odds that there will be further cognitive and/or neurological issues. Then, there’s the whole being out of work since mid-October.

Looked at another way, however, it was a year of miracles large and small. In March, I switched jobs and found myself in a place where they actually liked me and were glad I was there; and, I got to make use of prior knowledge and experience to have fun and help our customers. So much fun that I even was made employee of the month at one point. When all the fun with my health started, they have been very good to me and have let me know that if possible they want me back.

I survived being hit by lightning. A secondary strike it is true, but it was an electrifying experience that had good odds of killing me. While it most likely led to the cardiac problems I’ve experienced, it may have been for the best. One of the theoreticals discussed is that it may have “activated” something dormant or building and forced it out into the open. Even if not, the fact that I was getting cardiac care allowed a suddenly rapidly deteriorating situation to be identified and care sought.

That care quite literally saved my life. My “quick” visit to the ER turned into an admission, a heart cath the next day, and open heart surgery the next. Again, while the odds were good, when you have multiple things going on it can and does change those odds. To my mind, it is another miracle that I survived and that I am healing as well as I am. For all I will complain about the slow pace, know that I do realize just how well and fast things are going. Compared to even five years ago, it is amazing.

So, while 2021 was in many ways a barely warm buffet of fat warty hairy suckitude leftover from 2020 — and that will NOT be missed — I have to look at it as the year I was in many ways reborn. The thing is, miracles and getting another chance do come with some obligations. I do feel there is something I am supposed to do, possibly more than one. I wish that such things were clearer, as I tend not to get subtle. Keep in mind, it took a lightning strike to start getting and holding my attention…

So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I’ve spent the last few years, quite a few in fact, trying to rebuild my life. 2021 saw an abrupt end to the life that was, and in many ways provides a clean start. I think that is one of the things I am supposed to take advantage of…

Before 2021, the major medical issue in my life, aside from allergies, was arthritis and related inflammation. Both shoulders are, eventually, going to need replacement or real regenerative medicine. Given all I’ve done, including jumping out of perfectly good airplanes a time or two, my hips and knees are in fair shape, though my lower back seems to be trying to make up for that. The cold and humidity up here are not good for me, and sudden pressure changes can be literally crippling.

I’ve been advised to move to a warmer climate for a year or two now — including by doctors — and I think it’s time to make that happen. The recent surgery and such has made me feel the cold like I never have before. Given all, the desert Southwest has been rather strongly recommended and I need to go visit for a bit to explore options and get things in place so I can move out there. It’s also time to quit with the ‘pain and suffering are good for the soul’ thing and get the orthopedic mattress also recommended a while back.

The financial issues that have been more than a minor impediment go back a number of years. Let’s just say that while parts of that were my fault for bad decisions (getting talked into helping start yet another charity was not a good one), having a false diagnosis of cancer followed a couple of years later by a botched colonoscopy made life far more interesting than it should have been. The former came from someone making a diagnosis on the basis of a visual exam, not pathology, but they were backed up by an oncologist who declared that the first person had the experience to make such a claim even before doing a cursory exam. Net result, I stepped down from a job to deal with this, and after getting to a real doctor who did a surgical procedure and proved via pathology that I did NOT have cancer, had to take a lower-level job to get by. That job went away in the aftermath of the botched colonoscopy (among other things, my manager had not wanted me to have the colonoscopy to start with), which resulted in something lower paying to get by yet again. It seemed like each time I got to a position where I could start to move up and/or rebuild, the stuffing got knocked out of me.

This time does not feel that way, despite the fact that I am still out of work and likely to be out into or through February. Why? I’m not sure of all the reasons. One is that I do feel guided. Another is the incredible generosity from people hitting the tip jar here and offering up prayers for me. I honestly feel that without both, I might not have made it this far. Just as it took me a while to accept that I needed help with my health, it has taken me a while to realize I need help to start over. Accepting help is not one of my strong points, but just as I had to accept the help of nurses and others to stand, walk, and do the basics of life in the hospital until I was able to do them on my own again, I need the help of others to stand back up and get into position to do all the things I am supposed to do with this new life. Not easy. Scary. On more levels that I want to admit. But, I think getting into a better place (on every level) is part of what is intended for me to do in 2022.

So, don’t be surprised to see a fundraiser started in the next few days. Contribute if you will; if you want to help but don’t want to do that, feel free to hit the tip jar at the top of the page. Also, as always, prayers are most welcome. I’m praying for that which is right to be, and I hope you will too.

Meantime, I will not mourn nor miss 2021. I simply hope that 2022 builds on the good that did happen in my life in 2021 to take me where I need to be, and to do that which I need to do. I wish I better understood what it is I’m supposed to do, but I also have faith that I will be shown. Hopefully without another lightning strike to get my attention.

The Story Behind The Insurance Denial

At least as it currently stands…

I’ve been talking to a variety of offices and people since finding out the insurance company denied all charges related to my visit to the ER and the emergency procedures and surgery. I’ve been more than a bit interested since first finding out that it was because of lack of prior authorization. There may have been a bit of intimation at one point that I should have called them for permission to go to the ER, but I’m told now that such was not/is not the case.

If the information I now have is accurate, the hospital did indeed file all the right paperwork with the insurance company in the appropriate time limit. However, they initially faxed it to an incorrect phone number. Once the wrong number was discovered, they resent it to the correct number. However, that was the next morning, and as such it was “late” and so the insurance company said no to all bills.

As for me, I am curious: did the hospital send it to a truly wrong number, or had there been a number change? Given the amount of business done with the insurance company, I have to wonder how they had a wrong number. If it was a change in numbers by the insurance company, had that been communicated to the hospital? The one thing I will say is that 99 out of 100 calling the number for the insurance company is about as useful as teats on a boar. Finding out that it’s not just my luck in calling and getting someone who doesn’t want to do a thing — they apparently are notorious for ignorant, ill-trained (or flat out untrained), unhelpful phone reps. If you do call them and are hitting walls, just try asking for a supervisor, as there is NEVER one on the floor/available at that time. Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to call back, either.

The good news is that several parties are appealing this denial. I’m holding up on my appeal until I talk with at least one more person, as what I may do is appeal (for now) just one particular denial if it can be coordinated to and help with the appeal by the provider.

For now, going to continue not naming the company. If all appeals are denied, however, the gloves likely will come off and I will do my best to call in the world. Meantime, at least some stress is off knowing that appeals are in process and others are working on their and my behalf on this. Hate that I’ve already got one bill as a result, but will talk with them next week and probably send a registered letter just to be safe. From what I’ve been hearing, even though one or more appeals have already been filed, it will likely be a month before we hear back on them.

Slow But Steady, And Very Frustrating

On some levels, the recovery from the surgery is not just amazing, but bordering on the miraculous. As I think I’ve noted before, there has been very little pain. The nerve blocks and drugs that blocked the nerves worked wonders, and long enough to get past the worst of the first. The plates in my chest are the other major factor, as they keep the breast bone together and make it where you have to work at it to have discomfort or pain. You can do it, but it takes effort — thank goodness.

Getting back to normal activities has been rapid in some cases, and incredibly slow in others. My ability to look after myself and do normal living things (bathroom, cooking, etc.) progressed very rapidly once I was out of the hospital. On the other hand, doing physical activity of any kind, is slow. Part of that is just I can’t do what I used to do. Part is because despite this there is a temptation to push and to try to do too much too soon. Part is that even when I should be clear to do more, it’s not happening so as to help prevent me from doing too much too soon.

That makes rehab and other exercise activities intensely frustrating on more than one level. That said, I’ve also experienced once before what pushing too hard too soon gets you, and have no desire to ever repeat that. So, catch myself having to pull back more often than I care for. That’s particularly true for walking, as I need to keep my pace down for now. And, yes, I’m actually coordinating my off-day walking with the good folk at rehab so that it complements what we are doing there (though I would just about kill to add some upper body work).

I will also be honest enough to admit that while I have bounced back a surprising amount, I’m not even close to where I need to be, much less want to be. I do great in the mornings, get things done, do my walks/rehab, maybe run some errands even. By mid-morning to noon, well, the charge starts to go out of the battery. By afternoon, well, I’m sorta toast. Six in the evening often finds me starting to head to bed, though I try to stay up until eight. This is why I wish the paperwork for rehab had not had issues — the more I rehab and exercise, the more I will bounce back. It just takes time, and it really does take sticking to the schedule I regard as slow. Me impatient? Never!

The drawback to all the activity is that, not unexpectedly, has kicked off a couple of things we need to deal with. Foremost among them are BP issues. Since BP issues were the first issue after the lightning strike, I really want to nip them in the bud. It looks like we have some progress starting on that, will take another week or three to see if we do have it dealt with. Until that is dealt with and I get some stamina back, I will remain out of work. Right now, given the path of rehab and such, looking more like February at the earliest. Anyone wants to hit the tip jar, feel free, but there is more news coming soon. And, yes, there are a few other things we are having to keep an eye on other than the BP. Surgery can, and has, done a lot. However, it can’t fix everything and one thing about lightening survivors is that both cardiac and neuro issues can crop on a long-term basis.

Which leads to some of the weirdest issues post surgery. First was a change in taste that continues to dog me a bit. Not long after surgery, ate and drank some things I normally like (in some cases, really like ALOT) and all but spit them out. A couple of drinks tasted like a mix between lighter fluid and washer fluid. A couple of meal items tasted like salty bitter decomposing leaves. Couple of other odd taste sensations, but those stood out. Some of that has moderated, but really notice bitter/salty tastes much more than I used to. Have even had to modify my coffee making to adjust to those changes.

Second, Mr-Never-Feel-The-Cold here is feeling the cold. Along with pressure changes and humidty changes, this new feeling of the cold has done a number on me and my arthritis. It also effects breathing and more. I’m very thankful that we’ve had a mild winter so far, as the few real cold days have been brutal. One reason I’m having to do as much mall walking as I’ve been doing is that I’m not supposed to walk outside if it is 45 or below. That can cause bronchial spasms, and those are unpleasant. Heck, if it’s 45 or below, I am not enjoying being outside period, and waiting for the car to warm up is less than fun (actually it can be miserable).

So, progress is being made. Just slower than I would like, though in many ways it is going better and faster than I have any right to expect. Meantime, need to look at some of the other issues going on and make some decisions. One thing I will not do is try to rush things, for that way lies madness and a much longer recovery. Crazy I may be, but stupid I do try to avoid.

More soon.

An Update

Sorry for the lack of posting, but it has been interesting. Some good, some, well…

On the good news front, I’m continuing to heal well and fairly rapidly. I’ve been remarkably pain free, and a good bit of that is because of the metal plates put in on my breastbone. They prevent a lot of movement and stress, which eliminates pain. There was a paperwork hangup with cardiac rehab, but we finally got that cleared and I did my first week of rehab last week. Going well, though slower than I would like. Of course. Days I’m not doing rehab, I’m going to a mall and walking before it opens. Accidentally got there after opening one day, won’t make that mistake again.

On the so-so front, blood pressure issues have returned along with a few odd sensations that we are monitoring. Want to get out in front of this to prevent any issues, and to avoid what happened the last time the BP did funny.

On the not-so-good front, my insurance company has just sent my BP through the roof. Last week, I called and spoke with a knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly representative about cardiac rehab and coverage of same. They had not received something they needed, so per her instructions I reached out to the doctor and then called back this week. The rep had put a note in the system on the issue that should have made things go smoothly. Sadly, I tend to get the good reps only about a quarter of the time, and this morning I hit the far more typical unhelpful, unfriendly, uninterested in doing anything. Apparently could not be bothered to read the note, told me that the rehab people would need to call them, and made clear that they could not and would not be bothered to actually provide help. When I asked to speak to a supervisor, was told that none were on the floor. When I pushed, was informed that if I gave her my name and number (both of which she already had) that a supervisor would call me “at their earliest convenience.” Now, add to this that I also found out that the have denied all claims related to the ER visit, the heart cath, and the open heart surgery because apparently there was no prior authorization before I went to the ER (and maybe I was supposed to call before each of the urgent/emergency procedures???). Very tempted that if I keep getting the run-around, will share the name of the company and anything else I can here. Figure if I’m going to be put on the hook for app. $350,000.00, that I should share the comedy gold that is trying to get customer service out of these people.

It’s Alive, It’s Alive!

It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago today I was technically dead. That my heart was stopped, my body put on a heart/lung bypass, and several things done while they had the chance. To my mind, they did three things: First, they replaced several arteries where the walls had become inflamed/thickened. Second, they put a metal clip on a spot on the back of my heart to prevent blood clots from forming. Third, they used both heat and cold on several spots to stop those areas as they were contributing to the atrial fibrilation.

They actually sent me home six days after the procedure, and while I do have a tendency to push and overdo things, I also have friends and a visiting physical therapist who cut me down to size very quickly on that. So, trying to follow the process, get in some good exercise without violating any restrictions, and slowly build back my strength and heal.

There has been very little pain involved in all of this. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how little pain there has been. After all, among other indignities, they cut my sternum in half, used a spreader on it, then glued/sutured/put on metal plates to put it all back together then. Indeed, some of the worst pain I had was where the ribs join the spine between the shoulder blades, as that area takes the brunt of the spreader. Some muscle relaxer and that was gone before I left the hospital. The worst part remains getting up in the morning, as the movement to get up and start getting out of bed without twisting everything is interesting, and you manage a bit of that anyway.

I don’t think anyone would have bet on my going home so soon. The first two or three days, everytime they stood me up/got me to stand up, my BP crashed. I suspect that if not for the external pacemaker attached to my heart, that it might have crashed as well. Things got figured out, and I rapidly went from a walker to no support at all. Right now, I’m home and while the physical therapist has limited the number of times I can go upstairs, I am mobile and as active as circumstances and guidelines allow. I do have a ways to go, but things are looking good right now.

The one thing I can’t emphasize enough right now is how gratefull I am for all the prayers and support that have come my way. I’m typing this post while sitting in a recliner that a number of my co-workers at the day job chipped in to get me when they found out I was going to buy one. The financial generosity of those who hit the tip jar has me covered for now in terms of bills and such while I don’t have a paycheck. Finally, the many prayers and good wishes have had an effect, and I don’t think I would be as far along as I am without them. God bless you all, and from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

More soon!