Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Alien Extraction

Greetings from Suburbia readers. I am recovering with the parental units at the moment. Certainly was a long day for me today. My morning started at 4 after a fitful night of sleep. I had to be at Ben Taub at 6 for surgery. Maybe two or three years ago a lump on my face started growing, and I didn’t have as much of a problem with it as others did.
As it grew larger, people began to wonder what it was, and I did too. I wasn’t worried at first, but I thought I should at least find out what’s up. Back a couple of years ago, I went to my doctor and he diagnosed it as a lipoma, a fatty tumor basically. I was given a referral to an ear, nose, and throat doctor, and it promptly got sucked into the black hole that is my efficiency apartment. Another year passed and I realized in a picture just how large it had gotten and decided to get that referral again.
So I found myself in the waiting room of a plastic surgeon, and I was on my way again. I figured this is it I’m going to get this thing taken care of. Well, it wasn’t that easy. My doctor ordered a CT scan, but he wouldn’t tell me the cost. Then I got a call from the diagnostic clinic later in the week and when they quoted me the cost, I was floored. I had insurance at work, but being a PPO, they would pay only the deductable and the rest would come out of my pocket.
The amount wasn’t exactly astronomical, but on my budget, it was a lot. It was explained to me that they could bill me. Of course I already knew that they wanted that money up front, and not in increments, the only way I was able to pay. To be that close to getting that tumor removed only to be turned back like that was heartbreaking. I was upset, but I wasn’t deterred. There was always the Harris County Hospital District.
Even though I had insurance, it was at least worth a try. I couldn’t disappoint my friends and family and just give up like that. So began another journey for me. I called the hospital district and they sent me to the far north side of Houston to pick up my papers. Once the form was filled out, I had to make an appointment to turn in my paperwork and get registered in their system. Easier said than done when using public transportation.
I had to go to the far southeast side of Houston and be there at an appointed time. The first thing I learned about dealing with the hospital district is that just because the appointment is at a certain time doesn’t mean that I’ll be seen right then and there. So I arrived at the registration office with all the required paperwork and waited – and waited some more. Finally I was seen by a hospital district worker and turned in all my paperwork. I was worried that even though I had insurance I’d be denied.
Then surprise, surprise I was approved. I was now in the Harris County Hospital District system. I was now the proud owner of a HCHD Gold Card, and I was on my way again. After dragging my feet for a little bit, I finally called and made an appointment to be seen at the clinic back on the north side of Houston. I think I must have confused a lot of HCHD employees when they called my name in Spanish and I’d answer them in plain English. \
Being a patient in a public healthcare system means having to give over a lot of my secrets. Foremost my real weight and my real height. The doctor couldn’t understand why I was there until I showed her the mass on my face. She probed the surface with her finger and determined that yes it might just be a lipoma. I was given a referral to Ben Taub and see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
The doctors looked it over and ordered a CT scan. I thought, oh no here we go again, but no sweat. There was no give us your money or your life this time. I got the CT scan, met back with the doctors again. They determined that sebaceous cyst, and was probably benign. The next step was to have the cyst biopsied. I’m thinking big needles and heavy sedation, but no.
The needle used was smaller than the one used to draw blood, and there was no anesthetic necessary. At the pathologist’s office she took a very fine needle and probed it twice. When she said I might feel pressure, she wasn’t kidding. It hurt and my skin was red in that area. It was the first time that it ever really hurt. Most of the time the only pain I got from it was a shooting pain in the temple and jaw, or when it was exposed to extreme temperatures. The biopsy determined that indeed the cyst was benign, and the next step was to have it removed.
A quick meeting with the anesthesiologist determined that I’d be put under plus have a local applied as well. I was nervous and I had my apprehensions, but the docs assured me that it wouldn’t be that bad. So bright and early on the morning of the 9th, my parents took me up to Ben Taub hospital for the surgery. All my friends and family were pulling for me, and they were happy that I was finally having it taken out. I was probably the happiest though because I’d have peace of mind knowing that it was gone forever.
The surgery waiting room was chaos. Everyone was scheduled to be there at 6 in the morning, but the nurse had to explain that patients would be called according to the time that their doctors could see them. So finally around 8:30 I was sent into surgery. After struggling with the stupid hospital gown, I was sent to pre-op for screening and monitoring. Then the docs came, looked me over, and I was wheeled into the operating room after 10 in the morning.
The last thing I remember is looking up at the OR ceiling with a mask on my face. I woke up again and found myself with the mask still on in the recovery area. At first the nurses didn’t realize I was awake until I got their attention. They took off the mask because that hurt. Then I explained that I was feeling pressure in my sinuses. I was administered apple juice and a Vicodin tablet. The nurse assured me that it was safe to take the pill on an empty stomach.
After a while I felt nauseous and the pain hadn’t gone away. I still felt the pressure, so I was administered morphine. Still nothing, so I was given Ketamine. All that did was knock me out, but I was in so much pain, the nurse brought in the doctor. He loosened the bandage around my head and the pressure went away. I passed out, and when I came to, it was time to go.
Once the docs and nurses cleared me to go home, I was prescribed pain killers and an antibiotic. My parents took me to their house and I’m going to convalesce here the next couple of days. It’ll be a while before you see me out again, and if you shop at Disco Kroger over in the Montrose, you’ll have to wait ‘til Monday to see me slinging meat again. A big thanks to the ENT specialists at Ben Taub for the excellent job they’ve done. And thanks to all my friends and family for their thoughts, their concerns, and their prayers. It’s greatly appreciated and I look forward to seeing y’all again soon.

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