Monday, February 04, 2008

Hip, Hip Hooray!

It was a clear crisp day in Park Falls, Wisconsin. It was my birthday in fact. I was about half way through a six-mile run and going over some railroad tracks. I thought to myself that it seemed symbolic. Four years later in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin I was still a runner, but pulled what I thought was a muscle and woke up around another birthday feeling terrible pain. I thought I’d ripped up a muscle in my left leg.

Several months later I found out that my running days were over unless I wanted to hasten on hip surgery. I was informed I was too young for that, but would likely need it anyway within 10 years. Now 11 years later in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin it’s become a reality. Although some physicians still feel I’m too young for surgery.

I have my bad left hip to thank for a few new educational experiences. First of all I have learned how far you can go before you can no longer hide the pain from yourself. Others can see it, but you put on blinders. It’s also been a wonderful introduction to our health care system. I am beginning to see the frustration that people go through.

Working with insurance companies is strange. It’s almost like trying to speak a language you are nowhere near fluent in. Our insurance program at work isn’t bad, but unless you learn the short cuts you may just become lost. For instance the 1-800 number you call for all purposes isn’t very helpful. Neither is the website that’s supposed to supply instance answers. Of course part of this was my fault because I didn’t speak the language.

I was eventually able to get questions answered. The term “in-network” became essential to my cause. For instance going through my regular doctor and the orthopedist he recommended, both “in-network,” I was given the names of several specialists. It looked like one that I was referred to was also “in-network,” but the facility he does the surgery at isn’t. I have since been referred to another surgeon and facility that is.

The surgeon informed me that I would be in the hospital for 3-5 days. The insurance company sent me a notice that I was covered for 3 days. I’ve been told this is a game that the insurance companies and doctors play. Since I hadn’t had the surgery at the time that I wrote this no one really knows how long I’ll be required to be in the hospital.

Until I actually have surgery there are no certainties, but I know that when it does happen a whole chapter of my life is finished. Taking stock of the things I’ve missed out on the last few years I really wish I’d gotten the surgery done earlier. I took a trip to Lambeau Field with my brother John in the fall of 2006 and watched the Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions. It was a great trip and I enjoyed it immensely, but climbing through the stands was both painful and worrisome.

One of the wonderful things I’ve learned from this experience is just how wonderful your friends are. The people who volunteered to help me through it by giving me rides and best wishes have shown me that a person who has friends is truly blessed. I’m also thankful to those who have been through the procedure that put in their two cents worth.

If you’ve been told you need hip surgery and have put it off, a piece of advice. Don’t wait until a friend tells you I thought that was you I saw “gimping around.” That was six years ago and came from a friend. Doctors can tell you what’s what, but friends lend some honesty to the diagnosis.