Interviews, American Ambulance Costs, and Medical Reception

I always get nervous, applying for a new job. I think most people do; reaching out to a stranger and asking them to see your worth as an employee from a single resume, cover letter, and maybe an interview, is intimidating.

With my chronic illness, it can sometimes be even more intimidating because, while my illness rarely affects my work, (I’m very lucky, I know) telling a new employer about it is always a bit nerve wracking. I’m never sure if I should or not, but usually decide it would be better to be upfront. Why? Because if something did happen, they would know how to handle it and everyone would be less nervous.

My biggest risk is fainting, either due to vasovegal syncope, or exhaustion. Either way, I have a tendency to go into postural seizures (there are different kinds of seizures) which is, in my case, due to lack of oxygen to my brain from a blood pressure drop. For someone who isn’t educated about it, or doesn’t know me, it can be horribly terrifying. Everyone has heard that fainting, especially with seizures, needs an ambulance. Except, no, mine doesn’t. I, in every time it’s happened, have always needed a big glass of water, an apple (I really don’t know why that helps but it does, where other foods don’t), and a nap that lasts several hours. A thousands of dollars ambulance ride and a pointless ER stay have never been required.

In America, regardless of who calls them, the patient pays for the medical transport service and the ER bill, even if they don’t want it. If you’re unable to verbally refuse service and your medical ID doesn’t say “no ambulance”, there’s no way around footing the bill. It’s extremely frustrating, and why many epileptics risk a fatal seizure to avoid paramedics. It’s also why, even though I have a medical ID, I don’t like to go places without a friend or family member. My ID doesn’t have the ambulance ban because I don’t faint enough to risk turning down lifesaving help if another emergency arises.

Anyway, back to jobs. Wednesday, I had an interview for a position as a part-time receptionist in a post-acute care facility. I told them about my illness and, to my relief, it didn’t phase them (HOORAY!!). I got a second interview on Friday and GOT THE JOB!!

I don’t have much experience in the field but I’m very passionate about being a medical receptionist and maybe ending up as a doctor’s personal secretary some day (I need to learn more about what that job entails before I know for certain). I want to be one of the people helping to connect patients and their care team in a way that makes them feel comfortable and like they’re a priority.

As Spoonies, we know how big a difference it can make when your receptionist is knowledgeable and helpful vs. when they’re not. One recent experience I’ve had was of calling into a facility, asking for a specific specialty department for an office visit, and instead being connected to a procedure office with a similar sounding (but very different) name. Not only did it slow me down, it slowed down the procedure scheduler, and if she hadn’t caught it I would’ve been extremely angry to find I’d scheduled a procedure, and not an office visit, and would have to start the scheduling process all over again.

I want to be that receptionist who makes a patient or their family say “Wow, that was quick!”, “This was so much easier than I thought”, or “This facility cares about us” because so many times I’ve spoken to someone who wasn’t certain what I was asking, which department I needed, or what health condition I was talking about (or its subsequent urgency) and it made me feel like I was just an annoying voice on the phone instead of a human looking for medical care. I’m educated in a lot of kinds of conditions and since my mom is a nurse I’ve learned a lot about levels of urgency. This can be helpful when relaying to a nurse or doc in a message the urgency of a patient’s call. Attention to detail can help a patient feel welcome and like they matter to their care team.

Receptionists are the first person you interact with in a hospital or care facility, and they have the ability to make your subsequent interactions just a little bit easier. I’m so excited to start, so that hopefully I can make the patients more comfortable and help their families to know they’re a priority and being cared for properly. I hope this step into this field leads to even more opportunities to help build communication between patients and facilities. I think I’m going to really enjoy the job and am looking forward to starting.

Missing Work, Loyalty, and Determination

These past two weeks have been stressful, to say the least. My overall sense of calm, loyalty, judgement, and resilience were tested in ways I did not see coming.

First, I had a minor health complication that normally would have been a quick fix in the form of an outpatient procedure with minimal fuss. Unfortunately, my health insurance does not cover my doctors whom have been familiar with my personal history (even though the company said it would). This meant I could either tackle the problem with rest and an old medication which I was not fond of, or go to a doctor who doesn’t know me and certainly wouldn’t understand how my current problem tied in with my complex history. I chose to rest.

The American Medical System, everyone…..the one place you’ll find people choosing not to see a doctor to avoid bills for visits and procedures which may make them worse or that would not be helpful even though the prices make you think they would be the best in the world. (If you’re looking for a good YouTube channel about healthcare and insurance check out Healthcare Triage)

I had to take time off of work to heal, which isn’t ideal considering I can’t exactly afford that. Now, my much needed student loan refund is probably going to go towards supplementing that lost income.

On top of that, I took more time off to help a friend with their own personal health crisis. Which is where my patience was tested. My friend was not the problem. I will not get into details, for their privacy and general courtesy for all involved. I don’t see the point in publicly shaming someone in this particular situation.

Details aside, I learned things about myself and have found I’m quite proud of those discoveries. I found that I’m willing to stand up for a friend and protect their freedom to choose, and their basic autonomy. I found that I could withstand mental intimidation and childish retaliation and respond with maturity and a sense of calm and rationality. That’s not to say I didn’t feel anger, because I was beyond angry, but I didn’t act on it and I am glad I did not.

I was deeply invested in maintaining my friend’s freedom and autonomy, probably because it’s something many of us in the chronic illness community lose for many reasons. Sometimes, it can’t be helped. But when another person over-steps their bounds and threatens, needlessly, someone else’s freedoms that makes me extremely upset. I believe that people are healthiest when they’re given the chance to be responsible for their own lives, decisions, and bodies. I’ve seen people thrive once they had full control over these things.

Additionally, no one can grow or learn if they only take other people’s advice or orders; if you did not make the decision yourself there is always the question of “would it have turned out better if I’d done it my way?”. People typically learn better when they experience consequences for themselves, instead of listening to the consequences another experienced. This isn’t to say that we should all go and do things someone else has found to hold undesirable consequences; advice should be listened to and other people’s viewpoints taken into consideration. But don’t forget to form your own opinions. Trust your gut, your heart, and your mind, while also listening to the opinions of multiple people and sources to form your own opinions.

Whether it’s your healthcare, or your personal life, or your career or education, your decisions are your own and no one can (and no one should) take that away from you. The very few exceptions are if you are directly harming another person, or yourself, or if your own mental illness has made reality very…. cloudy. But even in these circumstances, there are people who have the training and the knowledge to assist and whom we give this authority to, and there are people who do not.

I know a lot of this depends on the situation and which person is trying to take away the free choice of another. In my own situation I asked for advice from multiple people and I stood by what I strongly felt was right. I will never regret that.

I’m back to work now and excited to start the new school year soon. I hope I’ll be able to bring you all more content and that we all have a low stress week. Thanks for reading!

Time, Energy, and Changing Plans

Sometimes I forget that I have chronic illnesses. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say that, but it can become a problem.

When I’ve put in the work, and planning, and gotten a good day (or few days if I’m lucky) with no health problems…. eating what I want without enzymes, doing what I want and not feeling tired, no dizziness or extreme fatigue, no stomach pains, no muscle or joint pain, no episodes of extreme hypersensitivity…. I forget. Being sick is my normal, so when it doesn’t happen my brain gets excited and forgets so that I can plan all of the wonderful things I want to do.

So I call/text friends and family and make plans. I offer to work extra days at my job; which is a highly physical job and fast paced so it takes a lot out of me while also keeping me healthy. I basically over-book myself. That’s what happened this past week.

Getting my YouTube channel started, making plans with friends, cleaning the apartment completely, all while it was a difficult week at work because the steam in the building was shut down and I work running a giant industrial washer sanitizing supplies like carts etc… proved to be too much.

The steam shut down took all of my extra spoons because I was working in freezing conditions and constantly covered in water or at least had soaked socks and shoes. Along with that, I misjudged the time needed to do some things and lost sleep.

Postponing and then, for another reason, having to reschedule plans with a friend was one consequence. I got lucky and another friend postponed plans which gave me time to rest. Even so, by the time I got to Saturday, a day to visit museums in Cleveland with my dad, I was feeling the week. It was a great day, I saw a lot, but not as much as I wanted. I had to head home early because my body was just done.

Luckily I have an understanding father who didn’t mind making plans to come back another time.

Something a lot of people respond to Spoonies postponing, canceling, or cutting short plans with is anger, or disappointment, or even questioning whether we really want to be there. It’s frustrating and can really make a person want to never make plans with anyone again just to avoid it.

The solution I’ve come up with is to just not give a damn. If I have to do something for my health, and I’ve been honest and upfront with my friend, family member, or boss about my inability to be there, then I have done what I can. There’s no sense in beating myself up when I’ve done nothing wrong.

As Spoonies it’s our job to advocate for ourselves because many times no one else will. It’s difficult, of course, because advocating takes energy. Sometimes the spoons to explain in detail that you don’t dislike a person, you’re just genuinely exhausted, just aren’t there. But here’s the cool thing: it’s a great way to find out who’s worth having in your life and who isn’t.

If someone doesn’t understand your needs, or isn’t compassionate towards you, then maybe they’re not someone who needs to be in your life. If you can’t cut them out for whatever reason then remember that you haven’t done anything wrong. Don’t apologize for doing what you need to be healthy. Apologize for any inconvenience, apologize for changing their plans or schedule, but don’t apologize or feel bad for making healthy choices.

We cannot expect, in a world full of people with no health problems, especially in a country that has a culture of “fix the symptom, take pills, postpone the bad feelings” instead of promoting true overall heath with lifestyle changes, that everyone is going to understand that you’re not jerking them around. That you genuinely need time off to sleep, even if it feels like all you do is sleep or sit.

No one can tell you what you need. You’re the only one living in your body and the only one who’s stuck with it for your whole life. You’re the only one who gets to make decisions about it.

Side note: If you are in a situation where you feel like someone has taken away your choices about your own body, please seek help. Hospitals are equipped with staff who are trained to handle that kind of thing. When they ask if you feel safe in the home or even if they don’t ask, in America it is a patient’s right to request a private meeting, without a family member present and that is a good time to say something. Police also can help and have access to other longterm resources.