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Unexpected Scary Things

August 25th, 2019 at 09:47 pm

Early last week, I got some really scary news. My father, who was visiting my sister was taken to the Emergency Room with severe difficulty breathing. I won't go into health details, but the first day, the doctor talked with my sister (and me on the phone), and let us know that there was a high likelihood of death. I flew to the Midwest to my sister's immediately. He was in critical condition, was in the ICU for 5 days, and then moved off ICU but is still in the hospital. He will probably be released in the next few days time. He has had surgery, and is making a recovery for now. He will need to continue care for the rest of his life and make lots of medical and lifestyle changes. I thank God that he is better now.

However, this experience has taught me many things and had a considerable impact financially.

1. As I had mentioned before in the blog. I am not originally from the USA, although both my sister and I now reside here. My father was visiting, and does not live here. We come from a country where he has access to free or cheap healthcare (depending on whether he picks a government hospital or a private doctor). But, he does not have insurance in the US. We don't know what the bill for this hospital stay will be. It is very likely to be an enormous amount given how long he stayed in the ICU and the hospital and how many procedures he has had done. A social worker from the hospital came to talk with us about applying for a program that may cover at least a significant portion of the final bill. But, we don't know if our application will be approved, and we don't know how much of the bill will be covered. Quite honestly, we are all quite terrified of the bill. Last year, my sister was in the hospital for 5 days (not in ICU), and had one small procedure done, and her bill was $96,000. She had insurance, and so it ended up being only $2,000 out of pocket for her. I shudder to think how much my father's bill is going to be. I love this country and have made it my home, but I hate the fact that access to affordable healthcare is unavailable here. I won't get too political here, but it boggles the mind how people can think that something like health care isn't a basic human right. I work in the medical field, and benefit personally from the high costs of healthcare, and even I know that health care should not cost as much as it does here.

2. Traveling here and related expenses for me will end up being about $1000. About $800 of that is last-minute tickets. I didn't know how long I would have to stay, so this ended up being two one-way purchases. I had $237 left in my travel budget for the year, and made $500 more this month in SE income. Both those will go towards these expenses. The rest will be paid out of next month's budget. I hope that I sell my old car when I get back home, and that will help a bit also. It's a measly sum compared to being able to be with my father and sister at this time, but it is money that I would otherwise not have spent.

3. I got a really good sense of what it would be like were I to have to unexpectedly take time off work when I am fully self-employed. Taking 1.5 weeks off will mean that I will take home about $700-800 less next month than anticipated. And this is when I do part-time SE. I will of course, still get paid my salary from my full-time job. However, when I have to take time off once I quit, it will mean more income lost, and no salary to help. This is all the more reason for me to make sure that I have my $10K saved in EF before I quit, and another $10K in slush fund money before I get serious about mortgage repayment.

4. I recommit to taking good care of my health. The only major illness I have at the moment is diabetes. But, that and family history puts me at risk for a host of other diseases as I grow older. This week has been a blur since we've been living at the hospital and eating out, and also unfortunately eating for comfort. But, I don't want to be in the position my father is in one day. I don't want to have to pay horribly heavy healthcare costs as I grow older. When I quit, I will have to buy my own health insurance as it is, and I don't want to also rake up heavy medical bills apart from that. I don't want to be sick and lose income as a result. And I know that poor health leads to heavier financial burden over time. For all these reasons, I will have to go back to maintaining my diet and exercise when I return home.

5. This will mean more frequent trips to my home country to visit my father and mother. They are old, and my sister and I will be going there more frequently not only to see them more often, but also to help them settle some of their affairs, sell some property, and to figure out some financial aspects of their lives. My father was the one who took care of all this for most of their lives and now that he is so infirm, things need to be put in order soon.

6. I got four more calls from people wanting to buy my car, but I am here, and cannot sell it. Hopefully some of them will still be interested when I get back.

I return home on Wednesday night. I can't wait to be back home. Now that relief has sunk in that my father will not die, I can't wait to be back home, in my own bed, in my own home, in my own comfort zone. I have been holding it together, and can't wait to get back home so I can just relax and cry, and zone out, and just be.

8 Responses to “Unexpected Scary Things”

  1. CB in the City Says:

    I am so sorry about your father's health scare, and all the related stress. I hope he will continue to improve, and that you will figure out the cost in a way that won't devastate your budget. Hugs!!

  2. Carol Says:

    Boy, that was a hard, scary experience. I am so sorry.

  3. james.hendrickson Says:

    Woah, sounds like a tough situation. I agree the cost of health care is out of control here in the US.

  4. creditcardfree Says:

    So if I went to your father's country, I would get all my healthcare covered while visiting as a foreigner?

    I hope you can negotiate lower rates or check with home country to see if there is any international coverage. I know that when our daughter went to Europe with a tour group there was coverage for some health services included. I think this kind of thing can be purchased separately any time one travels outside of home country.

    And isn't it great he wasn't denied services? What a blessing he could be helped. I hope he is on the mend soon.

  5. Butterscotch Says:

    I’m so glad to hear your father is doing better. I agree that people in this country should have access to healthcare without having to risk bankruptcy or retirement. We spend so much of our tax dollars on ridiculous military spending, and meanwhile many will avoid going to the dr because they can not afford it. I work with a woman who is in incredible pain from her gallbladder, but she can’t afford to go to the dr, even with insurance. Everyday I see her sitting at her desk trying to hide her pain. But her deductible is 5k and with 3 children she doesn’t feel like taking on that debt is something she can manage. Unfortunately she will probably only get worse.

  6. fireandi Says:

    Thanks all for your well wishes. My father continues to recover and heal. This afternoon there was a relapse in his heart functioning, but they caught it quick and he responded to the medicine administered right away.

    CCF - I think travel insurance is a good idea and we will certainly be purchasing it every time he visits from now on. We've been kicking ourselves for not getting it this time around, but this came out of nowhere, and we had no way to know that he was sick until he all of a sudden stopped breathing and nearly died. It is good that medical treatment was not denied to him. But medical treatment is not denied almost anywhere in the world in cases of life threatening emergencies to anyone. If it is, then that’s heartless and barbaric practice. The question is whether the patient is then held responsible for the bills or not, and then this depends upon the national philosophy and laws re: healthcare coverage and availability. To answer your question, if you were to be visiting my country with no health insurance, you would receive treatment at no cost to you if you were in an emergency (e.g. cardiac arrest, stroke, coma, etc.) or urgent (e.g. broken bones, flesh wound from an accident, etc.) situation. It would just be given to you with no hoops to go through before or after. You would not be covered for optional, routine or non-emergency things such as plastic surgery, regular diabetes test strips or allergy medication. Citizens can go to a national health hospital and be covered at no charge for routine healthcare needs. Both citizens and non-citizens could go to privately run hospitals for routine affordable healthcare. So people do visit my country for “medical tourism”. National health is funded by the government and doctors and medical staff are paid salaries, hospital equipment is paid for by national health. So, they don’t depend upon insurance reimbursement to cover their costs. The good thing in my father’s situation is that in the US there also appears to be a program that covers emergency situations for visitors to the country. The thing that’s different is that it’s not assumed that emergencies will be covered and it’s not a given that the petition will be approved, and how much is approved is also reviewed case by case. If he was not admitted that evening, he would certainly have died. And it was touch and go for the next 5 days, so the hospital staff who is working with us on payment is hopeful that a significant portion of it may be covered since this was a case where there was genuine need for immediate medical intervention. We won’t know for the next 2-3 months what happens to the case.

  7. Jenn Says:

    I'm glad to hear that the doctors were able to save your father's life. What a terrible experience for you, but using it as a wake-up call as you are may put a silver lining on the cloud.

    Your story may serve as good advice to those on this site planning international travel. I think many of us plan trips without considering the availability and cost of emergency medical services. I have colleagues that routinely travel to Canada for projects and there have been a couple of situations requiring emergency medical services - neither as serious as your situation. But for US citizens the Canadian services were quite expensive. At least they were available though, and I think the guys' regular insurance may have covered the charges. (Or applied to deductible as we have a high deductible plan)

  8. Dido Says:

    I'm so sorry about your father's health scare, glad he is on the road to recovery, and I hope there can be some arrangements made for payment of the bills. The way we pay for healthcare in this country is unconscionable, tying it to employment and not considering it a basic human right.

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