In case you’ve been following my little New Year’s resolution of daily adventures, you might have noticed that I didn’t post last night. That’s because yesterday’s First got a little out of control and caused me to break with habit in writing nightly.
So today you get a two for one special blog of Firsts.
Wednesday’s First had me super excited in a totally nerdy way. I took my first visit to the Dollar General!
I’ve been to a Family Dollar and I’m the Dollar Tree’s number 1 fan. I love going there, it makes me feel alive. I’ve also been to international versions of the dollar store overseas, like Poundland and such. Needless to say, I love love love a good discount, especially when it’s a dollar.
Anyways, I read an article a while ago about how the Dollar General is doing really well in the Midwest and when one opened up in my area, I always said I wanted to check it out. And I finally did. There’s no turning back now.
I don’t understand how they do it, but everything is so cheap. It’s not the Dollar Tree, but it’s now definitely my first stop before going to the supermarket and after the Dollar Tree.
The Dollar General is like a mini-Walmart. They sell pantry foods, refrigerated foods, coffee, cards, makeup, toiletries, shoes, clothes, cleaning supplies, car accessories, small furniture and organizational needs. I mean, I was floored. How did I not know of this place?
A lot of stuff is name brand and sold within the sell-by date, but they also have a lot of off brand stuff. On average, all the name brand stuff I would buy at a Walmart was at least $1 cheaper and in some cases $10 cheaper. That’s a big deal. That adds up.
That being said, this place is in my neighbourhood. It’s on my way to my pharmacy and supermarket, I’m not sure it would be worth it for someone to drive clear out of their way from five towns over to take advantage of the low prices. Afterall, gas is expensive these days. (I still remember when gas used to cost 99 cents a gallon!!)
The one thing that I found the most impressive at the Dollar General is the ethnic hair section, it’s just as big as the ethnic hair section at my local CVS or Walmart. That’s where I post up. That’s my spot.
Color me pleasantly surprised.
Ok. So now we get into yesterday’s First. Yesterday’s First was an inevitable disaster. You see, my doctor had been giving me samples of Advair to use for my asthma and when I ran out of refills, I asked my doctor to write me a prescription for it. Turns out my insurance doesn’t cover it.
At this point, I’ve been off the prednisone for a couple of weeks and off the inhaler for a week. I was out of any medication that could help me. I have my rescue inhaler, but I’m literally pumping/living on it about 20 times a day. And that’s not what a rescue inhaler is supposed to be, if you have to use a rescue inhaler that many times, then you need a longer-term action plan, which for me was the Advair.
I play along and call my insurance- United HealthCare. I spoke to a woman named Tracy, who was a little snippy with me, but she was coughing up a storm so let’s forgive that and assume she’s not having a good day. She goes through the list of meds and suggests I have my doctor write me a prescription for Breo Elipta. Tracy tries to call my doctor and of course, they’re closed.
At this point, I’m holding back tears because I can’t breathe and it’s exhausting. Tracy suggests I go to the hospital if it’s the bad. I told her that in the past, I have been to Urgent Care- which by the way is a nightmare trying to find an Urgent Care centre that takes Medicaid- and they help me for the time being, but then I go home and can’t breathe again. I need a solution, not a band-aid. I need my meds.
Not long after the call, my coughing and wheezing did start kicking off and I could feel an attack coming on. Ventolin was not doing it for me. So I got dressed and by the time I got the ER, my asthma attack was so bad that registration staff had me skip the line of patients and were calling in a Code Red.
They rushed me into a room and I must have been making a scene because everyone was staring at me and upon my leaving the hospital, so many people commented that I was sounding better. People that I hadn’t seen at all when I came in.
At that point I was so lightheaded, my hands were turning blue and tingling. My mouth and nose were tingling and everyone kept asking me if I had ever been intubated before for asthma. It was that bad, folks.
Everyone was nice or at least respectful until my doctor came in. She listened to my lungs and checked my stats/vitals and told me to take deep breaths. I was trying, but it’s tough. Then she says, I kid you not, word-for-word, “Anyone can make those sounds, just breathe.” She goes on to say that it’s just respiratory and that my lungs are little tight but fine.
I’m too breathless at the moment to have a sassy comeback, but what is that even supposed to mean? Does she think I’m faking this? How rude! I had a history of asthma and asthma attacks. This was not fake. If you truly thought it was fake and I was just making these sounds for attention, then the responsible doctor move would have been to call for a psych consult or recommend I get some therapy or something. Having a medical degree isn’t an excuse to be a dismissive and insulting jerk. Actually, no one has an excuse to be a dismissive and insulting jerk, period.
Another nurse came in to get my breathing treatment underway and she said that my lungs were working at 99% capacity which is good. Normal is between 90-100%, according to her. She thought that the attack was exacerbated by anxiety and as another neighbouring patient pointed out to me later on, as she was within earshot of it all and it’s impossible to not listen to another patients issues, it’s a cycle. You feel like you can’t breathe and you’re wheezing and struggling to get oxygen and it’s scary. It makes you feel like you’re dying, being strangled from the inside out. Yeah, I think anxiety is normal. Hyperventilating and panicking because you can’t get air to live is normal. It would actually be weird and rather worrisome if you weren’t panicking.
Eventually, with the breathing treatment, my breathing slowed down and the coughing slowed down. The wheezing was easing its way. I was moved to the observation area. At the observation area, a supervising doctor came by and asked how my stay was. I told him about my doctor’s comments and he was like, Wow, that shouldn’t have been said. Well, he didn’t say it like that, but that was what I gathered from the situation. Even some of the other nurses thought she was rude.
My mom chimed in that maybe the doctor thought it was just an anxiety attack. And I was like, nope, that’s not an excused. I don’t care if my asthma attack was induced by weather, stress or a zombie apocalypse, you don’t take to people that way. Even if it was an anxiety attack: 1) A doctor should be better equipped to handle an anxiety attack than being rude and 2) Anxiety attacks and mental health as a whole are serious conditions that shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. Healthcare is about your body and mind, you can’t exclude one or the other.
This supervising doctor was apologetic and appreciated the information. I do believe that he relayed the information to my doctor because when she came around to check on me her tone had changed.
But before my doctor came around the second time, another asthma attack came underway. I was coughing so much that the other patients in the observation room were complaining about my coughing and I had to have another breathing treatment. And this time, I was relaxed, reclined in a chair and colouring on the Pigment app on my phone. So this attack couldn’t be disputed as fake or exaggerated. Not “everyone could make those sounds” and this time I had a room full of witnesses there from the start to prove it.
Ther respiratory nurse let me keep my mask and told me I could use it at home with my nebulizer. In my head I’m thinking, come on, my insurance won’t cover an inhaler, they’re going to cover a nebulizer?
My doctor wrote me a prescription for Breo, because that what we were told by insurance would be covered. The thing with the Breo is that the dosage doesn’t go as high as the Advair and I was on the highest Advair dosage. They also had to give me a dose of steroids through an IV and some oral Prednisone to get me through the next 24 hours.
I was discharged and went directly to the pharmacy, only to be told that the insurance wasn’t going to cover the Breo. The pharmacy tech tried to help and make calls, but ultimately she said that insurance pulls this rubbish off all the time. They’re trying to save a few bucks here and there. Ultimately they don’t care about your health, they just care about their money. But the jokes on them because instead of coughing up $500 for an inhaler, now they literally have a $3,000+ ER hospital bill to the deal with.
What’s frustrating is that this could have been entirely prevented. What’s even more frustrating is the pharmacy having all these inhalers on display… my literal lifeline, and I can’t have. I can reach it. I can see it. I can almost touch it, but I can’t have it because I’m too poor to afford to breathe.
I made an Instagram post (@HebaVsReason) and tweeted my insurance about the experience. And let me tell you, I lost so many followers. That’s cool, I’m not in it for the followers, I’m just having a bit of fun. But it amazes me that as soon as you stop the whole “I’m cute, love life and like nice things” act, how many people will drop you. Not even a single “friend” checked in on me. Not even a like or a personal message. It tells you who is really there for you and who isn’t. And I literally don’t have the breath to waste on those who can’t be bothered to even fake a little concern. The whole experience made me very emotional by the end of the night, just thinking about all this energy I put into others and helping people advance in their lives and they’ve all been content to drop me. They’ve well surpassed my career and education wise and I never got so much as a thank you. I have a couple of good friends and my family and it’s in times like these that it’s clear- that is all you need. There’s no need for the fairweather “friends” and that’s ok with me.
So yesterday’s First was my first time in the hospital for an asthma attack. It was also a lesson in healthcare, hospitality, friendship, life, empathy and learning to not take for granted the little things. Very rarely did I ever feel thankful to breathe normally until I was faced with not being able to breathe.
Hopefully, my next post will be less of an emotional rollercoaster.
Peace and Pistachios,