Monday, April 11, 2005

For the second time in less than a week, I woke up, got hubby off to work and then the kids off on their school bus, came back home, crawled into bed in my clothing and fell asleep until noon. I am blaming this on the newly increased dose of Buspar in the last week and a half. I slept well last night so I cannot say I was lacking sleep. Buspar is supposed to make me relax and hopefully feel better about life in general. These effects were put to the test in another way last Friday.

Because I turned 40 in February I became eligible for my first mammogram, a general screening covered by insurance at my age now once per calendar year. It went well and I shortly afterwards received a letter saying that all my films appeared fine, nothing to worry about. Last Friday afternoon, and let it be noted that these things always occur on Friday afternoons just after all responsible staff have left the office for a well-deserved weekend, I opened my mail to find a bill for my recent mammogram. Well, that shouldn't be as I am finally at the age where these things are not only necessary, but they are paid for.

I called up our insurance provider and after pushing umpteen million different buttons and listening to recorded menu after recorded menu, I got to the place where you can push '0' to talk to a live human being. Said human was very congenial and listened as I described my problem with the bill. She then said that my computer record did show a note by this date of service and she put me on hold to go and check out what the problem was. After a longer than usual wait, she returned to tell me cheerily that the claim had been improperly coded and had been sent through noted as 'possible malignancy or tumor' instead of 'annual screening' so she would just change that and have it resubmitted for payment by the insurance company. Well, what a relief, at least for those few initial moments when I knew I would no longer be responsible for the $178 charge. Then the thought struck me, oddly, that were I having symptoms or had I found a strange lump in my breast and had I therefore been prescribed a diagnostic mammogram, my insurance would then charge me for that? Is that what she meant? Something seems wrong with this interpretation, but I was too relieved at that initial moment, thinking of nothing more than money, so I said thank you and hung up.

Then another, more chilling thought occurred to me. What if the mistake was not with the billing code? What if the mistake was with Tiffany, the minimum wage office clerk at Mayfair Radiology who was having a bad day and messing things up all over the office? What if she was looking forward to the sound of her boyfriend's motorcycle coming to pick her up those few weeks ago on that first nice weekend of spring back when it was time to mail out my unfortunate letter telling me to please come back in and schedule another more intense screening for my 'possible malignancy or tumor?' What if that motorcycle came rumbling into the parking lot beneath her open window just as she reached into the dreaded file and she accidentally grabbed the letter from the happy file when she had meant in all sincerity to grab the black-death letter from the adjacent file instead? What if she was too preoccupied with her hair and lipstick at that fatal moment to take a really good look at which letter she was now folding into the preaddressed envelope with my name on it? What if all was said and done but these past three weeks since my happy letter arrived were really the only one true window left to me to get back into my doctor?s office, get some surgery or something and make the difference between a few tortured years of failed chemotherapy and a long and fulfilling life?

It was now about time to pick my kids up from the bus stop. I didn't move. I just sat there on the bottom step with the insurance statement still in my hand. Soon there was a knock at the door and the kids were piling into the living room, turning on the television and rummaging the kitchen for snacks. Arthur was starting, so that meant it was 4:00 pm already. I quickly went into the kitchen and looked up the phone number for Mayfair Radiology and gave them a call. The lady who answered the phone also listened to my story politely, then told me that my records were no longer kept there, but maybe the transcription department could help me. They, of course, were no longer here for the week, but if I left a message they could get back to me on Monday. Then she comfortingly said she didn't blame me for wanting to double check. I was transferred and left my message with transcription, trying to sound nonchalant and breezy, certain that it was just a simple billing mistake and not the fated phone call that would forever forward mark the disintegration of my trust in the system medical and young girls named Tiffany worldwide.

After waking up the second time this morning, around 12:02pm, I showered and got dressed to run down to work to pick up more typing. When I got home I brought in the mail and let out the dog. I found a bill, this time from Mayfair Radiology for $178.00. I was about to revisit my fears and pick up the phone, but then I noticed the flashing light on the answering machine. I pushed the button and heard Debbie from Mayfair Radiology assuring me that I had received the proper letter. She gave her apologies for the billing code error and that was that. I left the message on the machine so I could replay it whenever I needed it.

How did my Buspar handle this little test of my nerves? I don't think I can tell, but I lived. Were those two four-hour naps worth it? I enjoyed them, if guilt for lying in bed that long can be pushed aside. I have a good life. I also have a niece named Tiffany. I wonder how she's doing?

- posted by Ann @ 2:51 PM | | 0 rocks in pond


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