Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Long-Awaited Day

     A couple of weeks ago, we received a letter in the mail from the UIHC which served as not only a reminder of Heath's appointment but also as a checklist for how to prepare for it.  It mentioned that we were to obtain medical records from all previous appointments, and if we arrived without them at our appointment, we would need to cancel our appointment, and there would be a $50 rescheduling fee.  In an effort to take care of this for Heath, I took it upon myself to work on getting everything rounded up, but it soon became apparent that it becomes a lot more complicated when your child is a legal adult even though he still lives at home, is still under your care, and who is even listed on your insurance card.  After one snowy trip to one hospital and three separate trips to another over the span of a few days' time, we finally had everything secured about an hour before we were to leave for his appointment. 

     Another glitch we've been dealing with is the fact that our health insurance has a stipulation in it that only allows outpatient services up to $25,000 per person per year, and because of this, we learned that the hospital will not file Heath's claims on our behalf.  Our insurance company tells us that because they're in contract with them that they are required to do so, but no matter how many phone calls I make between the two, it's all been dumped in my lap to make sure everything will get paid by the insurance company. 

     We've also been encouraged by the hospital to file for Medicaid just in case we reach that limit, but because I know that we have not come close to that amount yet, that's been about the last thing on my list of priorities.  Our insurance company has been great at paying all the claims from everywhere else thus far, and I'm trusting they will continue paying out even if I have to file them myself.  The day before Heath's appointment, however, we got a phone call from the hospital saying that because we "don't have insurance," Heath will be required to sign a paper saying that he will be responsible for the approximately $4700 worth of charges that will be incurred for the next day's visit.  Comforting, right? 

     Combine all of that with the fact that in the midst of this, we got a letter stating that our health insurance premiums will be increasing by $160 every month in January.  It's a health savings account type of policy that's designed to keep our premiums "low," but it will now be more than our house payment every month.  Our insurance plan has a very high deductible that thankfully we don't typically come close to meeting, but this year we're definitely paying that on top of all the other things our insurance doesn't cover like chiro, braces, eye care, or dental work.  Let's just say our kids will attest to the fact that all of this has caused a little extra crabbiness in an already anxious mama, and my stress level has been a little higher than usual lately! 

     The big appointment day of December 7 finally arrived, and thankfully my morning could be spent by meeting together at church with my Bible study group.  One of the lessons we studied in the last week was all about joining God's activity in our children's lives, and one of the things I had underlined was "As much as we love our children, we can't begin to imagine all God has in His heart for them" with a reference to I Corinthians 2:9.

"However, as it is written, 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.'" 

     My mind has been consumed lately with what God has in store for each of our children, so it was such an appropriate and well-timed lesson for me.  Before our group dispersed for the day, these precious ladies prayed with me over not only Heath's appointment but over what God's doing in Haley's heart as well.  It's a whole other subject that will be shared on my other blog:  One of the gals even told me afterwards that her husband is a neuroradiologist and told me that he would be more than willing to take a second peak at the MRI results for us if we would like him to do so.  I love how the body of Christ works together!

     Haley asked if she could skip out on Office Aid and gym class so that she could make the trip to Iowa City with us, and that was just fine with me.  Even though Heath's MRI appointment was scheduled for 2:40, the check-in time was listed as 2:10, so we were pleasantly surprised when they whisked him into the imaging room by 2:25 already.  He had been a little anxious about this part of the day because he knew just how claustrophobic he felt and how loud it was when he had the first MRI in September.  Probably half an hour later, he came out and said that the machine was a little bigger than the first one, so it didn't seem quite as bad this time.  Praise God for that! 

     We made our way on over to the neurology clinic where he was supposed to meet with the head neurosurgeon at 3:20.  This wait ended up being a whole lot longer because the doctor had been called into the operating room and got behind schedule. 

     Now, I may look like I'm interested in that magazine, but honestly, my mind was just whirling with thoughts of what the doctor might tell us.  We came into this appointment anticipating any one of three distinct possibilities. 

     The first option was that we would witness a Christmas miracle!  How cool of a story would that be to share in my Christmas letter this year!  But would that really happen?  Could we really believe deep down that that was a possibility?  Even if that did happen, would my mind be able to trust that it was truly a miracle and be able to go on believing that all was well and that he didn't just miss seeing it? 

     Secondly, as the doctor had told us previously, it could just be a developmental abnormality, and no growth would be detected.  Would that be good news or just cause for another season of worry until the next MRI?  How long would we have to wait?  Then what about the seizure and the medication, and how would that diagnosis affect all of that? 

     Finally, the third option of the tumor having grown would have been the worst-case scenario.  Or would it?  Haley had asked us the night before if it was bad to pray that the tumor had grown so that we could just get it removed and be done thinking about it, and I had to concur with her that those thoughts have invaded my head many times too.  If it had grown, how much?  Would they take him to another part of the hospital yet that day to do a biopsy, or would we have to schedule that later since it was getting closer and closer to 5 p.m.?  Would he end up having brain surgery over Christmas break?  Would it be cancerous, and would we end up walking down the road of chemo and/or radiation?  How long would that take, and what were the chances of being completely healed?  What if there were no chances of being completely healed? 

     About the time my thoughts would get that carried away on the third option, I'd force myself to breathe deep, say a prayer, and go back to the first option and hope again for that Christmas miracle.  It was as though there was an infinite loop going round and round and round in my head, and the longer we were forced to wait, the harder the waiting got.  Finally at about 4:25 p.m., we were ushered into a room where they first took his vitals and then another room where we could wait for the doctor for yet another 20 to 30 minutes.  Haley brought a magazine with a crossword puzzle into the room with her, so we killed our time putting brain cells into that.  About the time it dawned on me that maybe we should have used that time to pray together one final time, the doctor appeared in the room. 

     He shook each of our hands, asked Heath how everything was, and then sat down on his little stool by the computer and said these words:  "The scan looks great, there's been no growth, which is a good sign for it being benign, and we'll do another MRI in a year.  The nurse will be in shortly to schedule that for you."  He got up from his stool and was ready to walk out the door just that fast.  There was an instant sense of relief in the room, but there was hardly any time to think.  We managed to ask a couple quick questions about the seizure and the possibility of getting off the Dilantin, and in response he just cringed a bit and told us that we would need to talk with the epileptologist about that.  If we got one whole minute of his time, I would be extremely surprised.  Once again, we left a little bit dumbfounded, but at least this time we could breathe a sigh of relief. 

     The original plan was not to see the epileptologist again until May, but we'll give those two doctors a chance to talk and then contact him in a few days to get his opinion on whether or not it would be wise to wean Heath off the Dilantin while he's not driving anyway until March.  The epileptologist had agreed with us at the first appointment that that might be a good option, but after seeing this neurosurgeon cringe at the thought, we are not so sure.  The fact remains that there is still a tumor there, so the question is do we want to take any chances on an additional seizure causing unnecessary complications.  We're just not sure. 

     It was a long afternoon, but we are thankful for the report we have been given.  We are thankful that we will not be spending the Christmas holiday season in a hospital.  We are thankful for all the prayers from our friends and family, and most of all, we are thankful for being able to continually give it all over to God and the firm foundation on which we can stand.  That IS a Christmas miracle!!

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