16 September, 2017

living the life plastic

last weekend mr. monkey woke me up at 4am. he was grey-faced and sweating and in terrible pain. after spending minutes looking up our insurance information re: which emergency clinic* i could take him to, i got in the car and drove him to the closest one. despite fears of a heart attack, it ended up being gall stones. he got many meds which did little to alleviate pain, and was sent home to bed.

monday he saw his regular doc who set up a consultation with a surgeon.

tuesday at noon he saw the surgeon who told him the gallbladder needed to be out ASAP, so he went back into the hospital that same afternoon.

it was a lovely hospital. catholic, so it was liberally festooned with statues of a dead skinny middle-eastern man on a cross, which is evidently supposed to make you feel better about your own pathetic life. hey, at least i'm not hanging on a cross dressed in nothing more than a pair of embarrassingly saggy boxer shorts. the other thing the hospital had was an airy tastefully decorated lobby, complete with a soothing water feature and shiny granite and hardwood floors, where you waited until "check in." to those lucky fuckers who don't live in the greatest country* on earth, let me explain that by "check in" they mean "we will politely skin you alive to provide you with a service without which you will likely die and which ALL OTHER DEVELOPED NATIONS* provide for free to their citizens. we both went a little wide-eyed when we were presented with a bill for just under 4k. that's right. you heard it right. four thousand dollars which, as i learned after my gastroscopy whatsit, is just the tip of the iceberg, because what happens after* is that you get the other bills: a bill from the anesthesiologist, a bill from the nurse, a bill from the nurse's assistant, a bill from the physician's assistant, a bill from the cafeteria lady, a bill from the cafeteria lady's assistant, a bill from the people who maintain the machines that go beep, an hourly bill for the well appointed hospital room, a bill from the volunteer who pushes your wheelchair, a bill for the depreciation of said wheelchair during the ride, a bill for... well, you get the idea. the only thing that's free is parking, and believe me, i will never, EVER, NOT EVER EVER EVER again bitch about paying for parking in canadian hospitals. if you hear me bitching about paying for parking in canadian hospitals, you can smack me. hard.

back to the story: his belly gets shaved, he gets drugged, he gets poked, he gets some extra holes put into him, they pull out the offending gallbladder, they give him more drugs, and they put him to bed. he goes home the next day and now he's fine. so that's a happy ending and all that. until the bills start coming. and in an aside, let me wave my privilege around some more - we are able to afford to pay this bill without much pain. so what's the big deal, you ask? well, the big deal is that there are many many many people who cannot, or for whom this will mean a massive reduction in their living situation. and i'm not about to say, hey, this don't affect me, so it don't matter, because that is an asshole privilege cop-out and it is at the root of the problem* with this country's attitude. why should i pay for someone else's problems? why should i give a shit? oh, and by the way, praise jesus and my thoughts and prayers are with y'all in your time of need. ugh.

in the meantime, between the emergency visit and now, he's been pretty much sleeping all the time and wanting me to be near. (insert massive eye roll here) so i've been pretty much co-bedridden for a good few days and so when i went to the farmers' market today, i felt like someone had let me off my leash. i walked, i talked, i got eggs, i ate tacos - and lo, it was good. on the way home i decided to take advantage of my freedom and popped into a tjmaxx. and there it hit me again, the plasticity of our north american existence (this time i'm not just picking on the usa, but canada as well).

as soon as i started walking around, i got a sinking feeling in my stomach. this notion that shopping is a form of entertainment is as vile as it is insidious. i spent 20 minutes in there and it felt very much like that moment when you realise you're full and actually kinda sick, but the bowl of chips is still in front of you so you keep reaching for them and shoving them in your face. that notion that consumption for its own sake is a balm to salve our emotional wounds is a dangerous one. appealing and dangerous, and i'm so so sick of it. sick of crossing vast expanses of parking lots (sure, even if human-caused climate change had nothing to do with harvey's destruction, our love of paving the fuck outta every available bit of land does) to go through rooms filled with multiple iterations of shit i already own in triplicate (or worse) and do not need. but on and on i walked, looking at the pretties, the shinies, the fluffies. looking for something that would make me happy for at least a second, that would make me forget my own mortality for just a short while. and then i came home and looked around this goddamn big ass house and the (currently green and waiting for pump parts) pool, and i wanted to grab a duffel bag, throw some things into it, and run the hell away to some place where people live real lives, eat real food, have real relationships, read real books. i hope such places still exist. and yes, i am very much aware of this not being the first time i've written here on this topic, as well as the massive amount of privilege that underlies my whining.

it struck me that the most real thing i've been doing here since spring is writing books about imaginary people living imaginary lives and having imaginary sex and imaginary adventures in imaginary places. it's the only thing that feels like living right now. weird, huh?

* fuck you, united states! fuck you and your goddamn bullshit attitude towards people's health and lives. and again: FUCK. YOU. and in case you didn't hear me the first five times: fuck you. you are nowhere near the greatest nation on earth, unless you count embarrassingly high infant and maternal mortality rates, income inequality, gun ownership and gun violence, racial violence, and really really BIG meals.


Tom said...

What an appalling state of affairs, and one which is far beyond my understanding. Be sure to wish Mr. Monkey a full - and very rapid[!] - recovery from us.

polish chick said...

tom! how lovely to hear from you! i have missed your thoughtful comments and blog posts.

as for mr. monkey - he's doing well. thank you!

Sabine said...

As someone living in one of these other developed countries you mention, let me clarify that no, health care is not free here, never was and never will be. The difference is that it is statutory/compulsory for every person in employment, ie contribution is deducted from salary (currently 15% of gross salary) and that regardless of how healthy or ill you may be. But everything after that is "free" or rather included in that deduction for ever, more or less (there is a small copay for some stuff), incl. underage and non working family members. No questions asked, you will receive the necessary medical treatment anywhere and anytime.

The fundamental difference is that here health care is considered a social duty/right based on the principle of civil solidarity.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

polish chick said...

i'm canadian, so i'm well aware of the costs associated with "free" healthcare. i realise i oversimplified everything but in my defence, i was super duper pissed off.

and yes, the biggest difference is the responsibility that the government takes for its citizens, and therein lies the problem. america has had years and years of propaganda shoved down its throat and they are willing to yell "freedom" as they lie dying in a ditch. it's insane. that inability to think of a world bigger than oneself, of responsibilities to others, the idea that we are all in it together - it all hurts.

and the fact is, the US spends more on health care per capita than any of the other nations i mentioned. that alone should get them moving to a different way of thinking, but, hey, ideology!