Friday, April 03, 2009

Bloggin' Be My Life

The Hobo Philosopher

My Health Care Story

By Richard E. Noble

As a child the bulk of my health care came from public entities. I had a few physicals and eye exams that were provided by my grammar school and the Catholic Church. They were provided at no cost to my parents. If there was a charge, I wouldn’t have had them. There were a few health care experiences that I do remember my parents paying. I received some shots at a local doctor’s office and there were at least two occasions where a doctor visited our house because of me. I remember on one of those occasions overhearing the doctor speaking with my mother at the kitchen door.
“I don’t have any money right now,” she said.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Dr. Kerka. “There are better days coming and you will be able to catch up then.”
My mother was embarrassed. She thanked the doctor and I’m sure she felt that one day she would be able to pay the doctor for his services.
The second occasion was precipitated by a series of mishaps that I experienced in my first year of grammar school. I came down with chicken pocks, scarlet fever and the whooping cough one after the other. I missed time in school. Dr. Kerka came to the house once or twice. I don’t remember if my mother had money to pay for his services at that time or not.
I never went to a dentist or an eye doctor as a small child. I passed all the eye exams in grammar school by memorizing what the kids in front of me said as they read the eye chart. In the eighth grade the nun challenged me to read the blackboard from my usual seat in the last seat in a back row. When I failed this spontaneous pop quiz she moved me to a front seat and contacted my mother. My mother accused me of being jealous of my older brother and sister who both wore eye glasses. Her case was that I flunked the eye test on purpose so that I could also get a pair of glasses. The nun nevertheless insisted, and I got a pair of glasses. I kept them in my shirt pocket until the nun shamed me into wearing them.
As a working teenager I continued the family tradition of avoiding doctors. I did go to an eye doctor, though. I always worked as a teenager and I paid for any new glasses that I got.
One day in my middle twenties, my big toe swelled and it wouldn’t go away. I went to a local doctor and he put me on gout medicine. From that point on I had to make appointments with doctors in order to get my medicine. That became very challenging but I managed to get my medicine and avoid any and all other doctor suggestions.
In my thirties I started feeling peculiar and my wife insisted that I see a general practitioner. My blood pressure was 220 over 120. The doctor put me on blood pressure medicine. Periodically through my thirties and forties I made doctor appointments to renew prescriptions. I refused any other suggested tests or treatments. I never had a job that paid me enough to afford medical insurance. I had one job in management where a program was offered via a sharing of the expense. I wasn’t at that position long enough to get involved.
I had no medical insurance my entire life. As a consequence, I had no preventative care. I never got seriously sick. I never went to a hospital. I went to doctors as infrequently as possible.
My only health care plan was to stay healthy and avoid any treatment until I reached the age of sixty-five and was then covered by Medicare.
I had one close call in my early sixties. My right eye went coo-coo. I was seeing a double image. It was very distracting. It was difficult to read, write, watch TV or drive my car.
I went to a doctor at a local walk-in clinic. I was then sent to a specialist. The specialist began scheduling expensive tests. I told him that I had no money and could not afford such tests. He insisted. He said that my symptoms indicated that one possibility was a brain tumor. I could die without these tests he suggested. I told him that if I did have a brain tumor, I was dead anyway because I could not afford any operations or treatments. I asked him to presume that I had no brain tumor and go to the next level of inquiry. He said that he could not do that ethically. He insisted that I have these expensive tests done and fill out forms available for poor and indigent care.
I stopped going to see him and I went to the eye doctor where I had been buying my eyeglasses. I explained my situation to the eye doctor. He said that he would work with me but had me sign a paper acknowledging that I was aware that he had no malpractice insurance. I signed the paper.
He and another specialist at his office looked me over and made evaluations. They said that they had seen this type condition many times before. I had experienced a very minor stroke. It wasn’t even considered a stroke. A minor blood vessel in my eye had burst. They suggested that I wait and see. Other blood vessels would eventually take over, they suggested.
In the weeks that followed, I exercised my eye. I moved it constantly. I put a patch over my good eye and forced myself to read. It slowly got better and then one day it returned to normal.
That was it until I reached the age of sixty-five. At sixty-five I went for my free, one-time, full physical exam. I hadn’t had any such exam that I can remember. The doctor performed the prostrate exam (the finger up the butt) and sampled my stool in the office. The stool turned the wrong color indicating blood. I was then scheduled for a colonoscopy.
They found a cancerous growth in my colon. I was scheduled for surgery. The growth was removed. I had a million other related tests and scans – all paid for by Medicare and my Blue Cross Medigap supplemental policy.
In the hospital after my colon surgery, I had a heart attack. A triple bypass was recommended immediately. I refused. I went for a second opinion. I found an alternative program. It was called External Compression Theory. I have completed this program and I am awaiting a test to confirm any positive results. I feel very good and my wife and I are hoping for the best.
Next they found a nodule on my thyroid gland. We are currently waiting for the results from a needle biopsy to find out if I need another operation.
My teeth have never been cared for. I have rarely gone to a dentist. In the last few years my teeth have deteriorated rapidly. Many of them have now rotted and broken off. My plan is to have them all pulled and get dentures at Affordable Dentures. My worry is that I am on all these blood thinners and there will be problems. I will, of course, have to find three to four thousand dollars. Teeth are not covered by Medicare.
My wife’s health care story is similar to mine. She has just turned sixty-five and is afraid to go for her free Medicare once-in-a-lifetime check-up. She says that she doesn’t want to open that can of worms as I did. She has no symptoms – but neither did I. At present I am doing my best to get her to go and have her check-up. She has promised that she will – when she gets ready.
In some ways she is more stubborn than I am.
And that is my/our health care story.

Richard Edward Noble is a freelance writer. If you like this Hobo Philosopher column idea and would like to have it appear in your publication please contact me at