“Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” It’s a quote attributed to Bette Davis. Old is relative and lately I’ve felt relatively old. Relative to the ancient Romans I’m ancient, but their life expectancy was only 28 (including horrendous infant mortality) and was only 52 if they made it to their teen years. Hey, I’m 52! There’s another old quote, but I can’t find the attribution so I’ll paraphrase, “No illness, short life. Little illness, long life.” The idea is that a little illness inspires a person to pay attention to their body, which ultimately leads to better care. The issue of big illness is left unspoken. I’ve had some aches and pains that couldn’t be ignored. I hope the result is a longer, healthier life. The trick has been finding the right care, care that I am comfortable with.
I don’t like boring people with my pains. Instead I tend to mention that I’m taking it easy, or trying to tend to my blood pressure, or my back, or whatever. I’m not going to belabor the points here either. The consequence though has been a tour through various health care facilities. I’ve witnessed a range of costs, attitudes, and my reactions to my options.
Costs are definitely an issue. I miss the health care I had at Boeing, and know why folks with company provided benefits may not understand health care costs. I’m glad that I’m not one of the 50,000,000 uninsured Americans, but I can understand their situation. My monthly health insurance costs about as much my monthly food budget. That insurance has such a high deductible that I essentially pay out of pocket for the first few thousand dollars. It is a very uninsured feeling. My issues have involved cardiovascular and gastro-endocrinology (how is that spelled) so it made sense to sign up for treadmill tests and colonoscopies. It made sense until I asked for estimates. Each test was over $2,000. My potential total for three tests was almost $8,000, which might, but not necessarily, be partly covered by my insurance. The tests were mostly diagnostic. I didn’t want to ask how much it would cost to actually fix anything.
Costs like those did not help my blood pressure. I signed up for for the first test, showed up during a day when they were practicing emergency preparedness, went into a panic attack while waiting, which shot up my blood pressure and interrupted the test. I didn’t get my money back. Do they even have money back guarantees?
Some other incidents took me to the point that I associated western health care with stress, which has become an unfortunate cycle. There’s an old joke that’s also old advice. “Doctor, doctor. It hurts when I do this.” “Well, then. Don’t do that.” Doctor, doctor, it hurts to show up at your office. Well, then . . .
But the main hurts remain so I sought other solutions.
Whidbey Island is home to many alternative healing practices, though alternative is a relative notion. The Chinese probably don’t label acupuncture as “alternative”. It’s mainstream there, isn’t it? Many of my friends are healers, though they may call themselves practitioners, coaches, consultants, or counselors, probably to help better describe the benefits of their discipline. I have a lot to choose from.
For reasons that would fit a book, but are associated with my martial arts background, and also for convenience I decided to try acupuncture. Something felt out of balance and acupuncture is one of many ways to rebalance the body. It was worth a try and a highly recommended establishment (what do you call an acupuncture office – ah, there are so many pin puns that I’ll skip) was a just a long walk from my house. (Let’s keep in mind that I can walk a long way. Remember Scotland?) Oriental Healing Arts isn’t just an acupuncture office, which means they don’t always use needles. They understand and use a suite of techniques, many that I don’t understand, but my understanding was not required. Even western medicine tends to work with a great deal of uncertainty.
I’ve been there several times over the last few months. I’m feeling better, and I have a way to go before I’m back to feeling good and normal again. (Yeah, I know, normal ain’t normal; and folks have said that I’ve never been normal.) What’s worked and why? The scientist in me can’t draw conclusions because I am a clinical trial of one, which is a very small sample from which to draw statistics. Julie, the Msc.D., E.A.M.P., whatever that spells, could describe my diagnosis and prognosis, though I am sure that professional discretion means that you won’t hear those details unless I tell you. I haven’t asked for the whole story. Stay tuned. I can say though that I feel better.
After a few visits I realized that those details didn’t matter, at least not immediately. Visiting Julie’s place was a remarkable contrast to visiting my other doctors. I associate Oriental Healing with comfort, pleasant surroundings, quiet music, relaxed atmosphere, and no rush. I’ve come to associate Western offices and clinics with standing in line, proving insurance first, waiting while they run behind schedule, quick handling through multiple measurements, a hurried conversation, probably an expensive prescription, and a fear that I might be walking into the first of a long schedule of specialists. It’s easy to imagine open-ended costs running me into bankruptcy.
Allow me to emphasize that I like the people in both places. Health care providers are compassionate people. They smile well. But one group works in a much nicer setting. I have the choice of an organic garden or a hydroponics farm. I also have the choice of either feeling like I am being treated as a person or feeling like I’m a product on an assembly line. I’ve got a business and geek inclination. I understand assembly line efficiency. That efficiency drives down costs. Paradoxically, the assembly line version of health care costs more, isn’t as pleasant, and isn’t demonstrably more effective. Doctor, doctor, why would I do that? Most of my issues seem to stem from stress. I’m not the only stressed person out here. Which makes more sense with that in mind?
Oh, and the frugal finance geek in me was pleasantly surprised to learn that acupuncture qualifies as a health care income tax deduction. That too is a comforting thought. (Though not as comfortable as resting on the soft sheets with the music playing with my eyes closed. Besides, keeping my eyes closed keeps my brain from thinking too much. Relax dude. Does that feel good? Yeah. Then do more of that.)
So, some advice for you and me: Be comfortable. Take care.