Sunday, July 12, 2009

Go Shit In Your Hat !

Go shit in your hat!

Depending on who says it to you, it could be taken as a subtle way of saying "F**K OFF!"

But when a nurse said it to me, it meant "Come back Monday with three stool samples."

I suppose I could have been a smart ass and said something like, "Milking stool, bar stool or a kitchen stool?"

But I didn't. To be serious, I had to give a shit!

It seems to have been my lot the past two years to be coming up with leg problems. Two bouts of cellulitis was enough, thank you very much!

I'm afraid it's something different this time, however.

A few months ago I began experiencing swollen feet and ankles when I was getting home from work. Getting off my feet and soaking them was doing the trick for a few weeks. Not long after that my legs were achy before the end of the work day.

When I began having tired and sore legs I noticed I was especially struggling to climb stairs. Next, bending and stooping was becoming an effort. For that I was told to wear those over-the-knee support stockings. For a month or so, they did the trick as far as controlling the fatigue and soreness in the legs.

There was another red flag that should have caused me more alarm. Since September of 2008, until a couple of weeks ago, I have gained considerable weight. (Between 165-170 pounds in September to a current 204 pounds!)

You're probably thinking at this point, why hadn't I got off my ass and sought some medical attention?
Unfortunately, at the end of last year, 12/31/08, my work status was changed from full time to part-time. This was based largely on available State and Federal funds. It is tragic, but the state of the economy even has an impact on the services provided our elderly citizens.

Six of my long-time regular elderly clients either died, or were hospitalized, or placed in nursing homes. Because of the economic cutbacks, no new elder clients were accepted into the system. As such, there were no clients and hours available to fill my schedule.

As it was, my boss was generous and kept my status at full-time for three months. At the start of the new calendar year however, there was no choice but to make the change. The result of this was dramatic.

The loss of paid holidays, sick pay and paid vacations were a bitter pill to swallow after fourteen years of dedicated employment. The bitterest pill however, was being dropped from the company health insurance plan!

Oh, I had the option to remain on the company plan - at an out-of-pocket cost of $500 a month! At part time hours, it was too prohibitive. I couldn't afford to shell out that much and yet maintain my monthly expenses, let alone eat!
To make matters worse, last year the State of Massachusetts passed a law that every citizen must be enrolled in a health plan. Any citizen NOT having health insurance would be penalized when filing their state taxes. Part of the law stipulated that Insurers had to make available affordable health insurance for everyone.

As is usually the case when lawmakers pass laws, there are the inevitable loopholes and caveats hidden in the language of the bills by the time they are enacted. (Yes, somebody along the way had their palms greased.)

In my case, I was only too willing to apply for one of these affordable health plans. Hey, you have to have health insurance! Right? And they have to make it available to me! Right?

I ran headlong into a Catch-22 ! When filling out the enrollment paperwork of one Insurer, I was asked to state my income and that of my spouse! I was summarily denied enrollment because our combined income exceeded the maximum amount allowed for their "affordable" plan.

"Whoa! Wait a minute! Time out!" I protested. My wife has her own health insurance through her employer! (Her employer has employee insurance but no family insurance.) I was applying for myself, not her.

The same scenario played out when I applied at a half dozen other Insurers with so-called affordable health plans available for every citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In their own not so subtle ways the Insurance companies said to me, "Go shit in your hat!"

Oh yes, as for the question as to why I hadn't gotten off my ass and sought medical attention .....

Knowing that any and all medical treatment would be 100% out of my pocket, I kept putting off seeing a doctor ...

I forgot to mention that since I'd lost my health insurance - I was also dropped by my Primary Care Physician! It seems that the new Massachusetts law also gave the state's doctors the right to refuse patients without medical insurance. (Like I said above, a lot of somebodies along the way had their palms greased.) Yep, even my doctor of 15 years told me, "Go shit in your hat!"

Then I woke up and smelled the coffee!

Why did I devote four years of my life to the United States Navy and earn Veterans' benefits and not take advantage of them, especially the medical and hospitalization benefits?

Unable to find my Discharge Papers (DD-214), I googled the Veteran sites and was able to request a copy of that valuable and very necessary form. Finally, I got to see a doctor this past Thursday, 7/10.

By this time my condition had grown well beyond swollen ankles and legs. Tired and sore legs were the least of my worries. I guess the first doctor I saw said it best, "You should have been in here two months ago!"

The swelling had traveled up my legs - above the knees - well up my thighs - and into my stomach! Even my left arm was swollen almost to my shoulder and I couldn't bend it to touch my head. At this point, I couldn't bend my legs all the way either.

The doctors and nurses initial diagnoses were one that I assumed already. I was suffering from from a serious case of (edema) water retention! That was further evidenced by flaking dry skin and spots of water blisters on my shins.

It came as no surprise that I was put through a whole gamut of tests. These began with an EKG. That was immediately followed by a series of X-rays. Next was that dreaded command to drop my drawers, bend forward and spread them. Of course there was the obligatory offering of an urinalysis sample in the cup. Next, there was a battery of blood tests ordered up. Twelve separate vials were drawn for these tests, even though they had a hard time getting the veins to be cooperative due to the swelling in my arms.

I don't think I need to state that I was becoming very concerned about my fate with all of this taking place at such a hurried and urgent pace. I had visions of being held overnight with wires and tubes connected to me. Did I say I was concerned? Hell, I was afraid!
I'd be remiss not to mention my son-in-law, Scott. He drove me to the Veterans Hospital and stayed with me the whole day. They apparently thought he was my son, for they seemed to confide in him more so than with me. In any event, he was much appreciated company for those times I was in the waiting room and not being seen. We were able to have lunch together in the canteen.
In the end when all the blood work had been run, processed and read for results, the news was MUCH better than I had been dreading. Especially the part where I would be going home and wasn't going to be admitted.

My heart and lungs were good. My cholesterol counts were good. My potassium levels were okay. My blood sugar was okay. These were good news to me considering that I had not had a good medical exam in a long, long time.

I knew I wasn't going to walk away clean though! I was anemic, the iron count being very low. I had high blood pressure, 167 over 79.

I was given prescriptions for Iron pills, three to be taken every day. I was also given water/blood pressure pills to be taken once a day. From the supply I was issued, I'm going to be on those for a while!

I was told to come back on Monday, 7/13, at 10:30 AM, for more tests. They may have diagnosed edema, but they still had to discover what was causing it!

So it was as we were about to leave, that the nurse called out to me. She handed to me a large paper bag. ....And she told me in so many words to, "Go shit in my hat!"



Mike Golch said...


Hale McKay said...

Mike G.,

Succinctly put. Ouch is right!

Jack K. said...

What a bummer. Hope it all turns out well.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love our government! Sending prayers all is fine with you. Good luck with the iron pills, I too am anemic, even taking iron pills, and they can't find out why!

Thank-you for serving.


Duke_of_Earle said...


You said, "Did I say I was concerned? Hell, I was afraid!"

I was sure you were going to write, "Hell, I was scared shitless!"

Glad the news isn't as bad as you'd feared, but I hope they figure out the cause of the edema and get it fixed!


Hale McKay said...


Thankfully, as subsequent posts reveal, things took a turn for the better.

Hale McKay said...


Strange, how we can be iron deficient and they can't find it.

Hale McKay said...


I was definitely scared shitless!

Fortunately, while it seemed bad, it was manageable and I'll be on feet and back to my normal routines soon.

Phil Lashio said...

M7 98 yr old granny uses that all the time...Go shit in your hat!