What Would You Do With $18,000?

Right now the total of my medical bills following my stroke, doctor’s appointments, tests, an ambulance ride, 2 ER visits and 2 nights in the neurology wing at Geisinger Medical Center (Hospital) is at $18,000. Granted, some of the tests have been denied by insurance totally and some do not seem to be covered completely when they should, so I am hoping that amount will come down quite a bit. But man, this medical crap is expensive! Especially for something that couldn’t be prevented! Right now my insurance has been billed a total of almost $100,000! And I haven’t even had my surgery yet! Last night when my husband looked up the grand total we started dreaming of what we would do with $18,000, other than paying for medical bills. What would you do with that kind of money? Go on an exotic trip? Take your kids on a cruise, first class style? Buy a new car? I can assure you that I wouldn’t use it for a two night hospital stay!

Tomorrow is our second meeting with the Program Director of the foster agency we like, and our first meeting with the Permanency Specialist. I read over the 100 page Orientation Manual since our last visit, so I have a bunch of questions for them! Hubby is all ready too, so it’s looking like we’ll be able to start training while I go through recovery! We had some good soul-searching over the weekend and we are both ready to go forward with matching an older sibling group. We figured out logistics and even bedroom layouts!

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A What?

So I have been gone almost two weeks from my blog. I missed everyone! The first week I didn’t have internet at the new house and was only there for a few days, unpacking and painting, before I drove down from PA to Charlotte, NC for my nephew’s baptism. So it was a crazy week! Then this week has been rather challenging so I apologize for dropping off the face of the planet. Monday I had a stroke. Yup, not what you expected to hear! I will turn 32 on Wednesday, so I didn’t even think a stroke was possible. Read on if you want all the details!

Monday I drove with my grandparents back from Charlotte to our new house in PA. Like the drive last Thursday, it was so nice to sit in the car for hours and not worry about packing or unpacking or cleaning or painting or what a mess the movers made of all of our nice things. Ugh. Until we were just out of Winchester, VA and I lost my eyesight. Or rather, part of my eyesight. I thought I lost everything in my right eye. Ten years ago, I got migraines on a regular basis. Migraines with visual disturbances. My doctors chalked it up to working under hideous fluorescent lights and stress. They went away. Monday felt like a migraine. It came on fast and I felt nauseous along with a headache. And I couldn’t see. That was totally normal for my previous migraines. My grandmother got us safely home and I went to bed early, hoping to sleep off the rest of the migraine and be ready for a full day of unpacking on Tuesday. 

I woke up Tuesday and couldn’t see any more. I was worried it was a prolonged migraine, and I called around for an emergency appointment with an opthamologist. Granted, I have lived in that home not even 24 hours and I hadn’t transferred any records, found a primary care doctor or even looked at the options! (I found a pediatrician first). I got an appointment for the afternoon with an opthamologist and took a nap. My husband drove me over to the office since I couldn’t see to read, write or drive and I met with the physician’s assistant. She administered a visual light test, with little lights blinking in sequence and I pushed a button when I saw them. It became evident to me at that point that I couldn’t see any of the lights blinking in the bottom right sides of both of my eyes, not just my right eye. After the light test the doctor came into my room and called in my husband. Uh oh. Not good news. He said that he was clearing the decks at the local hospital for me to get an emergency MRI. He was concerned not with my eyes but with my brain, and what was causing the vision loss. I may have lost it at that point, scared about what an MRI was and what it meant for my health. It’s very emotional to think of what could be wrong when you don’t have answers, and to have a doctor you don’t know send you in for an emergency MRI.

My husband and I drove across the street to a hospital for the MRI. Imagine having the worst headache of your life and lying completely still for 45 minutes with blaring headphones and the noisiest machine of your life!! It was hell. They said my results would be done in an hour and my doctor would call me. And he did, about 7:30 pm on Tuesday. He said I had a clot in my brain that was impairing the lower right quadrant of vision in both of my eyes. He and the cardiologist on duty at the hospital guess that I had what they called a PFO, or patent foramen ovale. When we are born, the right atrium of the heart is joined with the left atrium for speedy passage of oxygen in the womb. Once we are born, this little flap called the foramen ovale, closes up so that the atriums are separate. Sometimes, this little flap doesn’t close. Or partially closes. This is called patent foramen ovale. About 1 in 4 people have this condition, so it is actually quite normal. However, most people don’t find out about it ever, or if they do they are 70 and have a stroke and find out then. Most people do not have surgery to fix it, they just have to take aspirin to keep blood clots from forming. So my opthamologist ordered an echocardiogram and a duplex (ultrasound on my neck to see the carotid artery) to check if I have a flap and if that was the cause of the blood clot in my brain. I also started taking aspirin that evening.

Wednesday I had the duplex and the echocardiogram. They told me I wouldn’t hear until Thursday. After bugging my doctor around 11 on Thursday, I found out that not only do I have the patent foramen ovale, it seems my flap is pretty big. So he referred me to a general practitioner who would have more experience on prescriptions to take and could refer me to a cardiologist. I saw the general practitioner on Friday afternoon and he told me what I had guessed that the other doctors hadn’t wanted to tell me–I had a stroke! I am 31 years old and I had a stroke. It’s just amazing to me. He said not only did I have a stroke on Monday, it was a “sizable” one and he was concerned that I would need surgery to repair the flap. He called the cardiologist while I was in his office, and hopefully I will go in on Monday or Tuesday to schedule the next procedure. Then we will decide whether I need surgery. Now I am on aspirin and Plavix, and I am on antibiotics for a nasty cold I picked up along the way. No decongestants for me, they mess up the aspirin!

So I do not have my vision back and I don’t know if I need surgery. I can see out of the top left parts of my eyes but that strain makes them hurt so computer and tv are limited. I am so humbled by my experience and the realization of how much more could have gone wrong. With this condition, it can strike any time, any place. Mainly when you are under stress or straining, so something like child birth would be a time they would be concerned. The doctor recommended to me that I do not have any more children via natural childbirth or it will strain my heart. He also said that I could have another stroke or a heart attack, so we are under watch all day and I am resting. I am very thankful that we didn’t have a car crash on Monday and that I didn’t have any paralysis. The impaired eye sight is annoying and will hopefully return, but it could have been so much worse. I am glad that it has been caught by talented and efficient doctors before it could have been life-threatening. All of you women with migraines need to start an aspirin a day regimen, and make sure you keep it on hand!

When we sat in the doctor’s office, I looked at my husband. He said he was glad that we were already agreed upon adoption and fostering. I don’t know what this means for our journey, but all I could think of last night was whether they would even accept an application from someone with a heart defect. We know we aren’t finished creating our family, and we were already on the path towards adoption. This just gives us that extra kick in the pants.

Some information on strokes that I have found helpful:

Signs you could be at risk for a stroke!

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/heart/articles/2009/05/11/stroke-7-signs-you-could-be-at-risk-of-a-brain-attack

Stroke Organizations:

http://www.stroke.org/site/PageNavigator/HOME

http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/