Fri. Aug 13, 2010
Brain Matters, Part 2
I suppose it’s time for an update to my Brain Matters. When we last left off, I was just home from the hospital after having a minor stroke, with a referral to a neurosurgeon regarding the aneurysm they found.
Since Dr. Daniel Barrow is the chief of neurosurgery at Emory, it takes some time to get in to see him. But Susan & I met with him on Wednesday, Aug. 11. He reviewed my files and imaging, and spent about half an hour with us going over the basic “patient education” that is needed in a case like mine. Luckily I’d been doing my research, so his words served as confirmation and clarification of what I already had learned.
And the take away from the talk is that he does not yet have enough information to make a judgement or recommendation. One more test is required. Via angiogram (inserting a catheter into my groin and threading it up to my head to insert dye) they will be able to get higher resolution 3D images of my aneurysm, which will allow them to make a better call on how to repair it.
So I’m scheduled to have that procedure as an outpatient on Aug. 26. After that, I’m hoping things will move swiftly towards a resolution. There’s three options, depending on what they find.
One, wait and watch it through regular testing. This option is highly unlikely to be chosen, as my aneurysm is in a really bad place, if it bursts or leaks.
Two, an option nicknamed “coiling.” They again insert a catheter in your groin, and thread it all the way up right next to the neck of the aneurysm. They then pack the aneurysm with tiny platinum coils, which promote coagulation and push the blood out. This option is possible, but [a] Dr. barrow said the location is not one usually conducive to coiling, and [b] my amateur evaluation of my existing imaging is that the neck of the aneurysm is too big to keep the coils in.
Option three is to cut open my thick skull, and place a titanium clip directly on the aneurysm to close off any potential blood flow into it. The good news is that the aneurysm is relatively accessible, and doesn’t require too much dissection and jiggering with my brain. If I had to bet money, I’d place it on this option.
But the choice can’t be made until after the angiogram imaging is done and evaluated. So that’s the next step.
On another note, I got the bill for my 64 hour stay at Piedmont Hospital. I’d told Susan it had to top 30 grand, and I pretty well nailed it: $30,414. Nearly $18,000 of that was for MRIs, MRAs, and CT scans.
But here’s the kicker. I later get a letter from my insurance company, in which they dictate the “allowable amount” for those services is $7,938.00 (about $900 of that is my co-pay). That’s right, they told the hospital they will pay 26% of the original bill, and that will just have to do.
I’m glad I don’t have to run my business that way, or I’d be out of business.
But, at some level, that health care pricing battle is not my problem, and not my fight to wage. I got excellent care, and I will gladly pay whatever is determined to be my share. And I know the next hospital stay will make that bill look like buying a pack of gum. But this is one of those situations where money truly is not the object.
So, in summary, I remain a very lucky guy. I have some minor numbness remaining in my thumb and forefinger on my right hand, but otherwise have recovered from the stroke. Plus I’ve met the guy who will be handling my brains, and he’s a hugely impressive fellow.
But as Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part.