Monday, August 6, 2007


The Telephone 8" x 12 " watercolors
I don't like telephones. From the irritating noise they make, I know that it can only be something bad, if someone calls me. Or, even if it is something good, I sound like a blithering idiot, as the old saying goes, when I talk. I never can think of what to say, until long after I have hung up, so I just stumble around, saying nothing that is the least bit intelligible. And that doesn't even take into account my drawl and my croaky voice which I am embarrassed for people to hear.
As usual, the jangling ring of the telephone was an indication of something bad to come that day. The mail wasn't much better. The letter came first. A bill for almost $4,ooo from the specialist. I almost fainted! I thought insurance was going to pay for everything but the copay. Insurance, it seems, would only pay $125. Foundations would cover what insurance would pay, according to the doctor. Not to worry, I had been told. Just decide on which treatment I wanted and show up. My focus had been on my eye and recovering from the shot.
"Sorry. We only cover your out of pocket expenses for things like hotels, meals, and travel, once you have paid out $5,000." One foundation told me by phone. I didn't have any of that.
"So sorry," another foundation said over the phone. "We only help out with the $25 copay after you have paid $500. We can't help you."
When I applied, they assured me that I qualified and there was money to help me, if needed.
Now, over the phone, it seemed there was no help and I was shuffled out the back door.
I called the doctor's office about the bill. It had to be a mistake.
"Sorry, but your insurance didn't cover it so we will need the $3,000 amount, plus another $1800 to cover the office visit this afternoon, before you see the doctor," the office worker told me. "We require that all payments be made before patients see the doctor."
"I told you to begin with that I don't have that kind of money. I would never have gone if you had not told me that it would be paid for 100%. " I tried not to sound so concerned and excited.
"We won't make any future appointments until this is paid in full," she said coldly.
"Well, I guess I'll just have to cancel, " I said angrily. I was swelling with frustration and tears. "I won't be back until you all get this insurance business and foundations straightened out." I hung up.
I had been scheduled to go in and have my red eye checked after the shot. It was a struggle to scrape together the $25 for the copay. But, that was something that was possible. Thousands of dollars was not.
"You don't just have to have treatment," I recalled the doctor saying. "But, without it, you will lose your center vision. You won't go totally blind, but you won't be able to read, write, watch tv, cook, sew, drive (and, in my mind, I added draw or paint). "
My daughter left the house to go on an errand, and I was glad to just sit at my desk, crying and feeling angry, all afternoon.
I put my nightgown on and sat in my comfortable desk chair. I tried searching online for others who had similar experiences, and for possibilities for help. There was only similar information to what the doctor had given me and information that didn't apply to me. Everything was geared toward people who either had lots of money or good insurance.
Now, what was I supposed to do! Go blind, I guessed.
Sometimes, it feels like there is some giant above me with a big hammer, and, everytime I start feeling a little bit hopeful, that giant is right there to hammer me back down into a blob of nothing. A grease spot in my chair. The phone brought feelings that sweat and tears were pouring from me, into a big puddle on the floor. I gripped the chair arms with my hands, and wrapped my feet tightly around the bottom of the chair.
I couldn't take any more bad news.
"Well, I can't ever go back to that doctor, and I may as well give up and prepare to go blind,"I told myself. "All this reading and searching about Macular Degeneration, and having to go through that shot, was just a waste of time. Who cares anyway." I gathered up all the material that the doctor had given me to read and threw it in the trash. "That was a waste of paper," I said. Even the Amsler chart went in the trash. "What good is it to check and see if it is getting worse or changing, if I cant' do anything about it."
I moved my chair over to my drawing table, pulled out a block of watercolor paper, my watercolors and brushes. I filled a can and spray bottle with water, and started painting.
"I may not be able to do anything about this, but I can paint about what happened to me." I told myself. And, there are some interesting designs and unusual things that I have seen during all this. Maybe someone else might find them interesting, too. And, who knows, maybe my pictures will help someone else."
My eye didn't get checked and I felt betrayed and hopeless, beaten into that blob in my chair. I thought that the nice doctor didn't really care if my eye fell out of my head. He wasn't going to ever be bothered with me again. I felt that his sign in the window that said, "Don't come in if you're sick". Should have added to it, "And go home if you don't have a lot of cash and insurance." The door to care was closed to me,and my journey seemed to be on the road to darkness. Maybe I should just prepare to be a blind person. I couldn't believe it. This could not be happening. It had to all be a bad dream. I didn't want the phone to ever ring again. I knew that it could only bring more bad news.
I had already cut out so many things including going to doctors, buying medicine, some insurance, drinking water, food, clothes, entertainment, my car-everything that I could to cut expenses and still get by on my retirement. I wondered if one reason I was having the eye problem might be due to lack of blood pressure medicine. That is listed on the possible causes of AMD. But, I'm told that I make too much to get assistance, so I just have to do without things.
They say that depression, anger, confusion, and other things go along with AMD. I can see why those things happen.
It becomes very difficult to know that there is treatment that can help, but it isn't available due to money or the lack of.
There is an incident that has stuck in my mind for many years. A little boy was on the news, going around with a jar, collecting change so he could have an operation. He needed $30,000 to have that surgery. He died before he raised enough money. To me, that is just criminal, to let someone suffer and die when someone else has the ability to help that person. I know that we all have to make money, but to deny someone what you are able to give, is just wrong. I guess that is my school teacher mentality-to give and to help, and not expect a bunch of money in return. That's why doctors have money, I guess, and teachers remain poor.
I heard one presidential candidate speak a few months ago. Many of his remarks were greeted with silence from the audience after an initial enthusiastic and warm welcome. One thing he said was that "We are not going to just let anyone fall out on the sidewalk and die. After all, this is America!" I said a soft, "Ha!" No one clapped for him. He was answering a question about health care for illegal immigrants. I knew that I could fall out on the sidewalk and die, or my eye could fall out of my head, and I had better be able to take care of it myself. I won't be eligible for any help.
My journey continues.
The watercolor above was done on 140 # Strathmore watercolor paper, using Winsor Newton watercolors.

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