It was the penultimate day before Christmas when the phone rang at 7 a.m. Good news seldom comes by phone that early in the morning. Form held.
I was staying with a good friend on Long Island, on my way to Highlands, New Jersey—where the Jersey Shore begins and the home of my daughter Jen, where the family was to celebrate Christmas day.
Toni already was in the land of Christie, up from South Florida to nurse-maid my oldest who recently underwent surgery. It was Jen on the phone, telling me that Toni had been taken by ambulance to the ER three hours earlier with chest pains.
I collected my clothes, and my thoughts, and made the drive from Deer Park, watching my speed, trying to stay focused, and positive.
Toni, with Jen alongside, was in Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, still in pain but very much alive. Morphine was insuring that the discomfort level remain manageable while she awaited a room upstairs.
The following day, Toni was administered a stress test, an echocardiogram and a sonogram of the carotid artery. Of course, the carotid is where strokes live.
Toni passed the stress test but it took over a day to get the other results. The hospital has a very good reputation and, in fact, Jon Bovi, whose house can be seen from Riverview on the east side the Navasink River, had his children delivered there, a fact I found somewhat comforting.
On Christmas Eve at noon, Jen and I were in Toni’s room awaiting her return from the testing area. Jen told me about a region above her left wrist where an I.V. was inserted that was tender to the touch. The red area appeared to be moving up her arm.
I looked at it and knew it was phlebitis, having dealt with it while in college. I told her to call her surgeon immediately. She described the symptoms and the doctor asked how far she was from Bayshore Community Hospital where he was making rounds.
We made the 25-minute drive from Riverview to Bayshore where her surgeon confirmed my suspicion. She was placed on antibiotics and was told that if there was no response, she would need intravenous antibiotics.
And if that didn’t work, it would back to Bayshore for surgery.
On Christmas morning at 9:30, the phone rang as I was having breaking at the Sheraton Eatontown, which happened to be the Breeders’ Cup media center the year Monmouth Park hosted the wettest event day on record.
“It’s a Christmas miracle, dad,” Jen said. “The infection stopped spreading and the redness is beginning to fade.”
One down, one to go; but, still, no word on Toni’s last two tests.
Shortly after I arrived at Jen’s, the phone rang. It was Toni saying that the cardiologist had been by to visit, that the last two tests were negative, and that she was “ready to blow this popcorn stand.”
The admitting doctor on staff followed the cardiologist’s visit, sounding like a college football analyst. “Not so fast,” he said. “That cardiologist is always doing those things. I need to talk with him. There’s something on the ‘echo’ that I want to check first.”
Prison break aborted.
Finally, about two hours later, I got a second call. “Get me out of here,” Toni said.
The emergency turned out to be an acid-reflux experience so bad that the chest pains sent Toni to the cardiac ward. She had a negative reaction from a generic replacement for Aciphex, the only medication that keeps her particular condition in check.
The generic drug that the supplementary-insurance company had recommended not only didn’t work but took Toni’s problem to the next level.
The following day, we spent two hours on the phone with the insurance firm after the doctor had written a new prescription for Aciphex with the initials d.a.w.—dispense as written.
The prescription could not be filled, however, because coding language between the drug provider and insurance company was in error. If it were not for CVS Pharmacist Judy Picinich taking mercy on us, intervening with Empire Mediblue, we still might be arguing our case.
Fortunately, the issue was resolved and I was never so relieved to purchase 30 pills, a 15-day supply, for the bargain price of $170.
For all the critics of the Affordable Care Act, I admit that there might be a reasonable case to be made. But one way or another, that issue will be resolved in the future. Until then, people will just need to deal with a badly broken healthcare system.
On Christmas Day, I received two of the best gifts ever, presents that only can be described as priceless. Sometimes, Christmas comes when least expected.