The home-health telephone nurse from United HealthCare (motto, we put the Hell in HealthCare) calls to check on me and let me know all about their care options for my post-surgical needs.
The first thing she says, and I am not making this up: “To protect your privacy, this call may be monitored.”
Me: “Whoa, hold up. Let me get this right. To protect my privacy, you’re recording this call. [Emphasis accurate.] How is that protecting my privacy?”
She corrected her statement.
Then she explained that to comply with HIPPA regulations, I need to give her my address to confirm who I am.
Me again: “I’ve rejected HIPPA at all levels of treatment, from you guys (United HellthCare) to my doctors, hospitals and anyone else who would listen. I do not want HIPPA protections.”
HIPPA, by the way, is a federal law designed to protect patient privacy. In general, it’s not a horrible idea. It keeps hospitals from releasing information about you to callers unless you opt out. As a journalist, it gets in my way far too often when checking on gunshot victims or car-crash victims. So I remove that barrier for my friends just out of principle. When the hospital asks me who I authorize to call and ask about my condition, I always write "everyone." It's pretty simple. So simple, even bureaucrats and hospital wonks can understand it.
Nurse: “Well, I need this for HIPPA …”
I cut her off: “I don’t want HIPPA protection. I reject it. You don’t have to worry. It does not apply to me.”
She said it was company policy. I told her that her company gets in the way far too often for my liking and I don’t care about her company policy.
I also explained that she called me. To protect my privacy from ID theft, I don’t give out personal information to people who call me. If I call someone like a bank or an insurance company -- I know who I dialed, after all -- I will provide information to verify who I am.
Me: “You called me. You have my number. You know who I am. I am not giving you personal information”
Her: “Do you want me to add you to a do-not-call list?”
Me: “Yes, please.”
Somehow she was able to do that without verifying who I was.
She’s going to mail me the information she couldn’t talk about over the phone. I'll just toss it.
But to catch everyone up, the reason I received this call in the first place, after missing several over the past few months, is because I had surgeries in January, as noted earlier in the blog, and then again in March, which, oops, I haven’t updated.
The March surgery, again by Dr. Joseph Boyer -- the best thoracic surgeon in Central Florida in my oh-so-humble opinion -- was to repair an incisional hernia in my belly that developed at the site of my original surgery 2½ years ago. I’d been doing yard work and, well, my belly didn’t like that.
I did ask if he had a buy two get one free policy with surgeries. Nope, he doesn't.
So the doctor performed the operation in March and I was out of work for a week to recover. (Seriously, two weeks would have been best, but I didn’t want to blow all my vacation time.)
Still, I did recover, though I may need more work to have this incisional hernia fully repaired.
In the interim, I've had numerous tests.
- My CT scan of my neo-esophagus came back negative -- Dr. Lee Zehngebot says after one more scan in about a month I won't have to see him three to four times a year; it'll be about once every six months.
- An endoscopy came back negative -- Dr. Phil Styne said everything between my mouth and intestines looked good. No cancer, no problems, though no pylorus -- he couldn't spot my pyloric valve though he knew it's there. Go figure.
- A cardiac-stress test came back negative -- Dr. Egerton van den Berg said my heart had no clogs and everything looks good. Safe to do some workouts and work -- as long as I don't move anything heavy and damage the incisional hernia.
- A respiratory test came back negative -- Dr. Dennis Stevenson says my lungs are at the low end of normal after a chunk was removed in January, but still in the normal range. I don't need lung meds or respirators or inhalers. Whew!
- My cataract implants are all better -- they had some cells growing on them but a few laser zaps by Dr. Donald J. Centner cleaned them off and I see better than ever.
I was at the doctor so often that I just didn't have enough time to update this blog. Not that I didn't want to, but it was hectic.
Also in the interim, a few friends have had encounters with cancer. I won't name them to protect their identities until I know they'd want me to mention them. (See, I'm implementing HIPPA protections for these friends.)
One has the same type of cancer I did. He's seeing Dr. Z and already has gone through his chemo and radiation. He's kicked butt and is doing great. Surgery is next, and I think he'll be seeing Dr. Boyer. (I reminded him once to mention how great the Yankees are, which will get him on the good side of Dr. B, a major-league Yanks fan!)
A second is undergoing chemo and surviving the ordeal well.
Another is in wait-and-see mode as docs have uncovered potential for cancer but have him being checked regularly to see if it develops.
And a fourth recently had surgery between the ears and has recovered remarkably well.
To each of these guys, I offer my sighs of relief and best wishes that the worst is behind them.
Because I know each can kick this thing's ass. They're all strong men who have petty logical and positive attitudes. And that's one of the strongest assets someone needs as they fight to be CancerVivors.