ADR Recovery

This blog chronicles my recovery from a new type of major back surgery, Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR). I injured my back at L5/S1 when I was 9 and have always struggled with back pain, but was unable to walk after a minor car accident in ‘05. Research became my second job and with the support of my family and friends, I decided go under the knife. My intention is to keep my friends updated while I recover and help others who are suffering with back pain understand the recovery process.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The $67,582.72 Bill

I woke up this morning with a lot of burning pain, nerve pain, but am still taking fewer OXY then prescribed. I’m down to about 7 a day, which I think is good considering I’m only 13 days post-op. It’s pouring rain in Houston so I haven’t made my daily walk and with the slick sidewalks I doubt I will. I get very nervous walking up and down stairs or slippery floors. From all my research I know that a fall this early in my recovery could have detrimental consequences. I’m constantly worried each time I go up the stairs in our house and when I accidentally twist a little, I agonize over it.

No one ever tells you how hard the first 6 weeks after surgery are. Try to get through an hour without twisting or bending while keeping your back straight and moving in a “unit”; it’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s a small price to pay for the ability to walk, but right now it’s tough.

I’m a little down today because I finally sat down and started looking at my medical bills….. Which in retrospect was a bad idea. I think I’ve broken into tears twice already; I used to be such a tough girl with this crap. The hospital bill for my surgery is $67,582.72!!!!! (This does not include any of the 7 doctors I saw during my surgery and hospital stay). My co-pay won’t be nearly that much, but numbers like that take my breath away. When I presented my parents with the bill they could only muster “you should have been a doctor”.

I expected some insane number like that for my back surgery, but I didn’t expect to have problems with my emergency surgery. In early April I was rushed into the OR with a large ovarian cyst that was causing internal bleeding. None of the doctors could understand how I hadn’t felt the warning signs for something so serious until they understood the amount of painkillers I was taking for my back. My insurance company considered the surgery “elective” which requires me to pay 10% of the nearly $20,000 in charges, where an emergency surgery only requires a $100 co-pay. I tried to explain to the insurance company that if I had “elected” not to have the surgery I would be dead, but it didn’t matter. I’m going to appeal it, which will take hours of phone calls and letters and listening to lousy elevator music while on hold…

As I listen to Kenny-G while on hold I often wonder if the hold music is really a companies secret weapon. Think about it; they are torturing you with music and annoying ads that repeat every 3 minutes… have you wondered if their real intention is to make you hang up and leave them alone? I know I’ve succumb to the pressure to slam down the receiver more than once when “I will always love you” repeated.