How I Spend My Time. (Or, Round and Round and Round.)


A friend recently wondered aloud what I do with my time.  It wasn’t a mean directive, it just was.  I had no problem with it.  


But it was hard to answer.  Without a full time job, where does the time go?  


And when it comes down to it, doesn’t all of life come down to this one question:  how do I choose to spend my time?


Like other people, I spend a good deal of my time doing things I would not choose to do, given the fairy tale version of my life.  Not having a 9-5 job does not release me from this natural course of events.  


But I do feel my time is spent less - rewardingly. (I may have just made that word up.)  When you have a job you can spend time in unpleasant ways and at least be able to say at the end of the day, well, at least I got a paycheck.  Or you deal with your children’s runny noses and can say, well, at least they will recover.  Or you have a repair on your tech gear and while it’s frustrating, at the end you  can say, well whew!  That’s finally fixed!


Here’s my day so far (after the late sleeping and recovery from the muscle relaxanat of last night, showering and necessary post-shower lie down, and a morning smoothie of rice milk and hemp powder.)


My gallbladder isn’t working very well.  Any ejection fraction under 35 is considered abnormal; mine is 17%.  Clearly mine is a bit of an under-achiever.  And it hurts.  Used to be a little ache now and then, but lately...


So my GI doc, Dr. Tseng, wants me to see a Biliary specialist.  He recommended Dr. Lamert.  Dr. Lamert doesn’t take my insurance.  Last week Dr. Tseng’s office made the unprecedented action of texting me the names and numbers of two other dotors!  I was so happy!


So this “morning”  (1pm for me) I begin:


Check my insurance website:  Neither of the docs show up.


Just to be sure, call recommendation #1 : Long phone tree, does not take my insurance.


Call recommendation #2:  Does not take my insurance.


Call recommendation #1 and ask about the possibility we discussed last week, which is that perhaps I can private pay for the consult with Dr. Lamert, and then do the procedure (probably an EGD with ultrasound) at NYU, where it may be covered.  Receptionist says they will look into it, but I should call my insurance company.


This is not my first rodeo.  I’m petty sure my insurance company will not be able to differentiate between a GI doc and a biliary specialist.  But i’m a good girl.  So I call. 


Longest phone tree ever!  But for once I get a woman who sounds educated, yay!  She’s going to find me a hepatic specialist.  


Hepatic?  Um I don’t have a liver problem.  Oh, says she, but the liver and gallbladder share a duct.  Therefore anyone who deals with the liver will deal with the gall bladder.  OK, I sigh, hit me.


She gives me 1 location with 3 docs, and another doc with 3 locations.  Only one of those locations is in Brooklyn.  The others are wayyyy up north in Manhattan.  I’ll put those on the back burner.


Call location #1.  They have never heard of a Dr. Law.


Call Dr. Law’s location #2.  Same thing.


Call Dr. Law’s location #3.  After about 5 minutes on the phone with this person, figure out what she’s trying to say is my insurance covers the clinic and Dr. Law oversees the clinic, but I will see a resident.  That’s fine.  Does Dr. Law deal with the gall bladder?


Receptionist cannot tell me.  Can you find out?  No, you have to come for a consulation.  Really?  That’s ridiculous.  Can you please find out for me?  No, you have to come in, first.  Well, woulnd’t it be really stupid for me to come all the way up there, over an hour away, to find she only deals with the liver, when I have a gall bladder problem?  That’s a consultation.  Is there not a nurse or medical assistant at the clinic I can speak with who can answer this question?  Only for current patients - you are not a current patient.  I am a patient at Mt.  Sinai, does that help?  No, you have to come in.  Round and round and round.


That is ridiculous, I say, and hang up.


Time for the back burner.  Next 3 names, go.  First number Blue Cross gave me is the liver transplant department, but at least they have heard of Dr. Schiano and give me a number.  Second number is close, but no cigar.  3rd number bingo!  Clinic with 3 docs who take my plan.  In theory.


Can’t see me until November.  OK, I say, but is there a closer location?  Yes, at Cadman Plaza.  Dr. Im.


Why does that sound familair….?  Oh wait I just called Cadman Plaza!  They had never heard of Dr. Law! But Dr. Im, perhaps.


Made an appointment with Dr. Im, but they can’t confirm he takes my insurance.  I look on the insurance website and every doctor with “Im” anywhere in their name shows up.   Except one with only “Im”


I call Cadman Plaza.  Choose the branch for billing, just to be sure.  On hold for 15 minutes.


Yes, Dr. Im takes my insurance!  Right now.  But be sure to check again the DAY OF the appointment, because you never know.  It changes.  I ask for the info I need for the referral.  Got an NPI #.  OK.


But is he a biliary specialist?  No one knows, for sure.


Emailed my PCP with the NPI # asking for the referral.


Texted my gastro with the info, as well.


Wrote down the appt, and reminders to check on the referral and the insurance info a few days before the appt.


This may have taken 5 minutes to read (and if I were you I got the idea in the first few sentences and skimmed the rest) but over two hours to actually perform.  (OK I may or may not have taken a couple minutes off to make a bowl of oatmeal and take a couple bathroom breaks, and one to storm in the house, in tears and threatening ot crush someone’s head if Colin didn’t stop me.) 


 Multiply that by about 15 organs and body systems which are all not performing optimally, (and factor in that I really only have 3-5 hours  of productive time available most days.) and you may have an idea how I spend my time.  

I don’t completely resent every minute I take taking care of health care business.  But the vexing fact is that during these two hours I did not make any money, nor did I progress toward any personal, lifelong, fulfilling goals, deepen a personal relationship, make someone’s life better, fix anything, or, well, seem to do anything, really.


Next up:  Schedule an MRI and an MRA.  This is gonna be easy, right?






Photos by Emory Collinson        © Niki Naeve 2015