Monday, July 18, 2005

Born to Party!

Friday I got a call from the sitter – Duncan had spiked a temp of 103, apparently having a reaction to the vaccinations. Poor miserable little guy – we were up most of the night Friday. Saturday he was feeling much better so I took him to get the X-ray the pediatrician had ordered. Which was itself a major ordeal*. But that night? He sleeps through. 8-4am. Sunday, after another nice, long 3 hour nap the Happy Family goes to Grampa’s where he’s dropped off so Mom & Dad can enjoy a flick – Batman Begins (which was pretty damned good, if I do say so) and dinner. Before driving 10 blocks we get a call asking if Duncan can accompany his Auntie K. to the in-laws. Big Mexican family, and apparently a party is in progress where there will be lots of laps to sit on, hugs to be had and new faces to be seen. We give our blessing provided he learns to babble in Spanish by the time he returns and nobody spikes his bottle. He had a great time, but again missed his afternoon nap. By the time we pick him up I’ve got a crushing sinus headache and he’s in full-on Hyde mode. Managed to get him to nap a little after 5 with Daddy. A little after 7, Dr. Jeckyl has awakened – all smiles and babbling with a slight Spanish accent. He goes down for the count around 9, and once again sleeps through until 4 am.
It occurs to me that the few times he’s slept through the night have been following an exhausting day partying with strangers. His first night down at Gramma’s with their friends playing domino’s; our friend M ‘s birthday party. Partido at the in-laws. Our boy’s a party animal. That explains the late night wake-ups! Don’t all the cool kids know the party doesn’t start until 10:30? But seeing as how the authorities might frown on any attempt to leave him with strangers everyday (and I hear in about 4 more months the stranger fear/ separation anxiety should kick in anyway) I’m left thinking maybe a short late afternoon nap, some margarita’s (for us, not him) and a later bedtime might cue the sleep-through trigger and make us all much happier. Failing that, we may re-decorate the nursery in piñatas.

*I know I’m damned lucky to have any insurance at all and others would love this headache. But here’s a perfect example of how things that are supposed to make life easier (i.e. insurance and computers) end up having just the opposite effect when you throw an idiotic admin clerk into the equation. If you want the long boring account continue reading...

Saturday I go to the local small hospital to get the X-ray. Doctor’s order in hand. I give it to the admin clerk who tells me, after 30 minutes of hemming and hawing that she can’t find a freaking insurance diagnostic code in her manual for “birthmark on spine” to enter into the computer and therefore, cannot let me have the x-ray. I ask her how we're supposed to have something called a "diagnostic code" to get the x-ray when we need the x-ray to get a diagnosis, but she neighter grasps nor appreciates the catch-22-esque logic of my question.

My pediatrician's office is closed for the weekend. I’ve already taken off early two days in a row dealing with doctor’s visits and sick child. I’m not going to take more time off on Monday to deal with this shit. My frustration is compounded by the fact that I know my ped faxed the order over to them 2 days ago. You’d think that when they received it, they’d have checked it out, made sure they had everything they needed and you know, maybe called her when the office was open to straighten out the code problem? But no. That would be too damned proactive, I guess.

They have another office that’s opened limited hours on Saturday, so I defy the clerk's "begone frazzled mother with the grossly unkept hair" body language and insist she call over there to get a code. Their on-call doc tells her via his receptionist that he’s not willing to guess what it should be without having the charts on hand. She once again tries to dismiss me. But by now I'm determined that come hell of high water, I WILL get that fucking x-ray done today. So I call the office myself and proceed to make of myself a major pain in the ass. After being on interminable hold, the receptionist agrees to have the doc call me back “soon”. By this time I’ve been dinking around the hospital waiting room for over an hour. We’re both getting cranky, given our sleep-deprived status. I hate being one of those obnoxious parents my mother always complains about who come into the E.R. and make the staff’s life hell. But at this point, I’m not being given much of a choice, am I?

While waiting to hear back from the on-call ped I call dear old Mom to wallow in a teary, expletive-filled account of our dilemma, wondering if there’s some secret healthcare professional password phrase I could utilize to gain entry to the exalted hall of the diagnostic imaging room. Years ago, she used to work at this very hospital. I have fond memories of bringing her milkshakes from the diner down the street when I had a new driver’s license and she worked nights. I thought she might have a better solution than what I had in mind – namely committing the unpardonable sin of just walking the 50 feet across the hall to the emergency room and demanding a doctor look at what’s in all likelihood a totally benign, harmless, absolutely non-emergent patch of pigment on my baby’s ass. Or temporarily stashing Duncan with the kindly grandma in the waiting room while I go ram my car into a pole on the far side of the parking lot in frustration so maybe while they're x-raying me I could convince a kind-hearted tech to snap a few shots of him, too. But then again, there's probably not a diagnosis code for "crazy muthah" either.

She absolved me of guilt for my first inclination, and encouraged me to go with my second instead. Namely, that given the logic that if you’re going to be a pain in the ass, it’s generally more effective to do so in person I should just drive on over to the on-call doc’s office (not far) so he can take a quick peek at said birthmark and give us an appropriate code. After promising to call her back later to make sure I haven’t had a meltdown that’s landed me in rubber handcuffs, we head out – Duncan much happier driving than fussing in the waiting room.

My logic paid off as when I show up in person, the receptionist is oh so apologetic that the doc hasn’t called me back yet. Within 10 minutes the doc (actually a very nice man) pops out into the waiting room, takes a quick peek at the birthmark and the order and says “well, it says right here ‘reason for exam: birthmark on spine’ what’s the problem?” I take a deep breath to let off some steam before exploding into a bawling, frustrated mess and quite calmly say “well, apparently a “reason” isn’t good enough. There’s no computer code for that reason. Without a code, no exam”. “Oh, well then we’ll get you a code”. “That would be delightful, thank you”. 15 minutes later we have the magic diagnostic code 737.52 or some such for some kind of vascular something or other. The receptionist again apologizes, bemoans the fact that insurance just won’t pay without a proper diagnostic code, and off we go back to the hospital. Where we wait another hour before getting the x-ray, at which time the x-ray tech says “sorry about the wait – you came at a really busy time”. I couldn’t help but politely snark, “actually, when we were here the *first time* his morning it wasn’t busy at all”.

Sometimes I think the conservatives who claim introduction of market forces in healthcare make it more efficient must never get sick. Because just about every time I have the sorry luck to have to deal with the healthcare industry, it becomes patently obvious that the fucking requirements of insurance plan bureaucracy do more to muck up the works than any gov’t run system ever could.

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