A+ For July: Soured By Emergency

DH = Dear Husband
DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

My summer school students all passed their course, and for those who just squeaked by 50%, it was cause for great jubilation.  Isaac, who ended up with 51%, was visibly relieved.  I asked him (again) why he hadn’t handed in a particular assignment; it would have raised his mark significantly.  “I figured I’d pass without it,” he said.  I challenged him on the risk he’d taken and on his willingness to compromise his potential.  He told me he had to go and meet his friends.  I said, “I’m preaching to you, Isaac.”  He mustered a humble, reflective demeanor, but I have doubts as to the life-changing impact of my words.

 Why we earned an A+ . . .

Three of my students achieved A level marks.  H and I earned an A+.  The goal we set for July was to pay $3,700 off of our debt, and that is what we’ve done.  This success was managed through big efforts, like my taking on a summer job, and small efforts, like H’s work to fix up a couple of old bicycles so that we wouldn’t need to purchase a new one for DD3.  It means that Debt #1, our car debt, which had a starting point at the beginning of June of $8,600, is now at $2,400.  I should feel happy about it.
Another big decision we made this month was that I would not accompany H to his annual convention.  His franchise, which is American-owned, holds a convention each summer in a U.S. city, and for both the 2010 and 2011 get-aways, I joined him.  This year I stayed home with the purpose of intensifying our debt repayment.  I would both earn money at work and not spend money on this trip.  Mission accomplished.  Sort of.

 . . . and why it might backfire

Twelve hours before his flight home, H experienced a gallstone attack.  He knew what it was because he’d suffered one in May.  At that time, he’d been advised to schedule surgery to have his gallbladder removed, and to avoid fat in the mean time.  A well-meaning (I’m sure) man subsequently told him that by eliminating fat from his diet, he could even keep his gallbladder – stones and all. Since he felt he couldn’t consider surgery until after he’d completed his big project from June, gone to the convention, and enjoyed our camping vacation, H maintained a very pristine regimen through May, June, and July.  No sign of gallstones.  And he became impressively trim into the bargain.  Even during his convention, he stuck to low-fat foods.  His gallbladder, however, had respect neither for his schedule nor his admirable diet.
The Canadian medical system is very different from the American medical system, and although H was aware of this fact, he was shocked by the $2,500 deposit he had to leave at the Emergency Department of the hospital closest to his hotel.  He was treated remarkably quickly though; his gallstone attack was confirmed, and his pain was eased by morphine.  H went straight from the hospital to the airport, just making his flight home.  Severely sleep deprived, slightly feverish, drugged but still suffering a lingering pain, worried about the $2,500 deposit, anxious about orders to be completed, and daunted by the work necessary to get ready for camping, H was in a prime-time foul mood when he arrived home Sunday evening. 
For two days, we all suffered.  I made phone calls and sent e-mails necessary to start the process of getting as much of that deposit back as possible through my work insurance.  H fulfilled his deadlines and dealt with customers, and while he managed to be perfectly charming with them, his wife and children were kept acutely aware of all physical and mental torments working on him.  But there was no question of actually doing anything about it because business was relentless.  Besides, he’d already taken care of scheduling an appointment with his surgeon for Wednesday evening.  I was walking a fine line, but part way through Tuesday morning, I told him I was going to phone his doctor.  Feeling increasingly miserable, he agreed to go to an appointment that afternoon – with the understanding that I would be home to serve a customer who was scheduled to come in.  His doctor told him to go to the hospital right away.  We went three hours later – after H had completed another order or two and set up his affairs for a holiday absence.  (He was still on track to go camping.)  Even as we were stepping out of the house to go to the hospital, his business phone rang.  Grunting in pain, he checked to see who was calling, noted it was not a current client, and in an act of sheer willpower, H did not answer the phone.
Emergency waits in Canadian hospitals can be punishing.  But not this time.  H shot up the ranks of priority to be admitted, pumped with morphine and antibiotics, within a couple of hours.  Another twenty-four hours of liquid-only diet saw him to his surgery.  His gallbladder had been severely infected, and he’s still in the hospital.  Needless to say, we won’t be camping this summer.

 Lessons learned

There is much to learn here.  First of all, don’t try to schedule gallbladder surgery conveniently into your day-planner; let it bump prior plans if you’ve suffered a gallstone attack.   And don’t count on the low-fat diet cure.  Secondly, be prepared with the proper medical insurance when traveling out of your country.  We are dealing with a more arduous and uncertain process because H didn’t have the all-important insurance card in hand.  (Somehow, that’s my fault.  But don’t get me started.)  Lastly, if you own a small business, make sure you have a way of shutting down quickly in the case of an emergency.  And keep your head about you so that you recognize an emergency when it happens.
I’m so glad that we didn’t wait another day to bring H to a doctor.  He’s going to be fine.  And despite (continuing) peak levels of irritation, I do have compassion for the suffering he has endured.  There is every possibility that I will be referring to him as DH (Dear Husband) again by the time of my next post – just no guarantee.
Thanks to Canada’s health care system, H’s stay in the hospital is not going to drain us financially.  There are expenses associated with it – like parking and the meals we buy during our visits – but those only make a minor dent in our small emergency reserve.  We decided to keep the $2,500 on our credit card, as we do all medical and dental expenses, with the hope of its being reimbursed by the time the VISA bill comes due at the end of August.  We’re in no position to prepare an August budget now.  We’ll have to let the dust settle a bit first.  At this point, I have the attitude of my student Isaac with his 51%.  Just let me get by.

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