Round one over

In at 10:00 AM out at 12:30 PM. 3/8 inch stone in left kidney blasted to bits. Now I need to strain pee for a week to catch pieces for analysis. A bit groggy from anesthetic and a little sore on left side. Follow-up X-ray and appointment in one week. If all is as it should be we will proceed with right kidney and gall bladder surgery on Oct 13th. Stay tuned.


So I did a little research on what this little adventure might cost. Did you ever try to read a government document? Anyway what I glean from the 300 page tome “Annual Notice of Changes” from AARP Medicare Complete is that my maximum out of pocket expense can’t exceed $6700. That’s encouraging. Not as bad as I thought it might be but of course I may not have read the fine print. So time will tell.

If this is true then the Advantage plan is the better choice if you don’t have any major health issues for two years. If a supplement plan cost ~$300 a month, $3600 per year then about 1.8 years is the break even point. I hope this is true.

Oh, upon leaving the hospital I quick had an appointment with my PCP as instructed was necessary before the surgery. I did that on the 10th. Well now that the surgery is scheduled for the 13th of October I have to have another ‘do nothing’ appointment with my PCP because to be a ‘valid’ pre op appointment it must fall within 30 days of the surgery. It’s just another $50 copay for nothing but a government paper mill.

Another little quirk. The doctor wanted to do a bone scan to check for spread of cancer. The insurance would not pay since I don’t have a history of cancer. I wonder what they think the lemon size thing hanging on my kidney is? Oh, they will pay after it is out and verified to be cancer.

A Week Out From Diagnosis

So here it is a week & a day since I left the hospital. Exit instructions were explicit about making appointments with my primary care doctor (PCP) and the two surgeons to get all things approve and scheduled.

Last Tuesday I saw my PCP and brought him up to speed. A $50 copay to tell him what was going on in my life. He offered a bit of encouragement and gave me a Flu shot while I was there. No tests, no stethoscope, no nothing. He just had to be told what was happening in order to keep all parties happy. No wonder medical costs are out of control.

Yesterday I met with the kidney doc who reiterated what he told me in the hospital with an added issue. By the way there is a stone in the left kidney that needs to be removed before we can remove the cancer from the left kidney. Get an X-ray and schedule an ultrasound destruction of stone. (Lithotripsy)

So I get the X-ray this morning and he says the stone has moved and the Lithotripsy may not be necessary before the surgery. My choice. Bah Humbug! I don’t need those kind of choices. Oh by the way I did a little research on the Litho thing and it can damage the kidney and cause kidney failure sometimes. On top of that it is not a inexpensive procedure.

I call my insurance company and they say I will be responsible for 20 percent of all Medicare approved charges. No one seems to be able to give me any dollar figure though.

I’m on the Medicare Advantage plan which does not require a monthly premium above the normal Medicare premium. Hannah has a supplemental plan that take approx. another $300 per month but in theory covers everything Medicare does not pay. This has been great with her with her heart issues over the years. When we went on Medicare I didn’t think I needed to pay the extra $300 a month since I have been very healthy most of my life.

Some quick math. I’ve saved an average of around $250 a month for the last 5 years on Medicare by taking the Advantage plan. So if my total cost of all these doctors, hospital, and drugs exceeds $75,000 I will wipe out all the premium savings for the last 5 years. My experience with Hannah’s medical costs is that I could easily exceed that. Stay tuned.

The next question is: “Should I switch plans?” in anticipation of having some other major issue crop up between now and “Death do us part”? Oh by the way we got to decide before mid December because you can only change your plan during the year end window. Don’t we just love government run medicine???

Who Cares?

Then I think “Who cares?” I can spend a lot of time writing about my minor medical issue when there are thousands out there, including some very close friends, with issues that make my bit of kidney and gall bladder malfunction look like a hangnail.

Then I get an email from a friend with this link: It basically says no matter what you write or how few people read it someone will be blessed. It is more complicated than that though. I think it also applies to art and making things too. I know my wood objects don’t appeal to everyone but eventually there is always someone that expresses a positive reaction to almost everything I make. Different strokes for different folks. It what makes life and people so interesting.

For those just joining this blog here is what I have posted elsewhere to bring you up to speed on how this whole thing started.

About 3:00pm Sunday Sept 7 at my booth at the Loveland Art Show I began to get a pretty serious bellyache. By the time the show was over and we got home and unloaded I knew I needed some relief. So off to the ER. After a CAT scan and a couple of hours waiting they confirmed a gall stone was the issue and gave me a couple doses of Morphine and the pain was gone. When I woke Monday morning the pain was still gone with no additional narcotic. The other not so good news was that the CAT scan showed a growth on my right kidney. Needed further investigation.

So Monday was filled with many trips up and down the halls of B-North Hospital on a gurney for mid section MRI, Ultrasound scan of kidney & gall bladder and chest x-ray to determine extent of issues and a course of action. Bone scan to follow. The gall bladder guy wanted to remove the offending stone that was no longer bothering me on Tuesday knowing the gall bladder will need to be removed later. Two general anesthetic procedures. I didn’t hit it off with him and it looked like a ‘make work’ project to me. I hit it off immediately with the kidney surgeon who is confident that the growth on the kidney is relatively small and treatable by laparoscopy and is not likely to have metastasized. He has vast experience and a very high success rate. We discussed options and decided that the best option would be to do both surgeries laparoscopically at the same time sometime later this month.

 So our ND trip has been cancelled. We have been assigned a different gall bladder surgeon at my request and I will spend the next couple of weeks seeing doctors, getting tests and setting up a dual surgery for later this month. 

I have been given a powerful pain killer to avoid another ER trip to use if the gall stone flares up in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully it won’t flare up. A gamble but I think worth it to get it all done at one time. Less risk, less expense, less everything. Our daughter Jenny dealt with her gall stone problem this way for most of a year before having it removed.

So continued prayers are still needed for no flare up, quick and easy coordination of surgery, successful uneventful surgery, no metastasis, no need for chemo and quick full recovery.

My take on it is that God gave me a bellyache so the cancer would be found early enough to be treated successfully. Praise the Lord. His will be done. I am at peace. Thanks for your prayers.

To Blog or not to blog?

I began an unexpected medical journey on Sunday 9-7-14. I initially thought if I blog about this then my friends can go to one place and keep up to speed. Then I thought that would be a lot of work to keep the blog up to date. Then I thought I’ll put it on Face Book and send a few emails that should do it. So that is what I did.

My Face Book entries and emails have generated a fair number of encouraging responses of which I am grateful. I appreciate that folks care about my well being and are taking the time to ‘like’ or comment.

Nevertheless as this medical plot thickens and my mind grapples with the issues I keep returning to the blog idea. I have a couple of web sites that don’t get much use or updating so why not?

Then I thought If I write about it it will be cathartic. I’m pretty low key and analytical but do find that if I express the bazillion thoughts that go through my little grey cells it helps me come to better decisions. Maybe not better but feeling more comfortable about them since they are processed to a greater degree. I’m very process oriented. Ask my wife.

So I guess this is the beginning of my Stomach Ache Blog. Stay tuned. See now I want to go back and reread this and polish and edit it which ends up taking forever. I need to learn how to just write what I feel/think and move on. So I’m going to post this without any edits. Doesn’t mean that I won’t edit it at some point in the future. UGH!