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When It’s The Healthcare That Gives Us The Blood Pressure

, , , , | Healthy | April 30, 2019

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a medical nature. It is not intended as medical advice.

For an assortment of reasons, my husband has been unemployed for a while, outside of extremely short temp work and off-the-book odd jobs. For a while he has been having random symptoms: foot and ankle pain, shortness of breath after exertion — more than normal — and lower back pain. All together, they don’t seem to add up to anything aside from random aches and pains, they never stick around long, and without insurance, he can’t afford to see a doctor properly, so he just treats with aspirin and the like.

Finally, it happens: the Affordable Care Act is passed. He signs up and gets real health insurance for the first time in a decade. He’s assigned a primary care physician and we call to set up an appointment. No answer. We try again, and again, and again, at both the number listed on the insurance site and on their individual site. We never get an answer; we never even get voicemail. After a bit more than a month of this, he’s feeling ill; the local EMO doesn’t take the medicare-based version of his insurance, so we head to the hospital ER right down the street. He apologizes for coming for such a minor thing but we don’t have any other options at the time. They say it’s fine and after a wait, they take his vitals… and they immediately wheel him into the observation room. We’re trying desperately to get some actual information from the first nurse bringing him in, or the second nurse coming to hook him up to all their monitors.

Finally, a full doctor comes in and starts asking questions, but we interrupt and ask, specifically, why they are doing all this. She shows us the blood pressure monitor: 220/120. His BP has always been high, especially at the doctor’s/hospital because of “white coat syndrome,” but never that high! Somehow he never actually had a heart attack or stroke over the past several months, but that unrestrained pressure did a lot of damage to his kidneys. My husband is in the hospital for about ten days — although he was originally going to get out in six, one batch of test results gets messed up and they can’t run it again until the following Monday. When he leaves, he is on a prescription for about eight different heart and blood pressure medications, two of which are quickly dropped and two others cut in half once he gets home and can relax!

The bad news is that, because of the level of damage his kidneys have suffered, my husband’s on the verge of needing to go on the transplant list. The good news is that his heart has made a near-complete recovery, his prescriptions have been cut down further, and his kidney functions have actually improved to a point where he’s no longer hovering on the verge of failure!

And that’s why we say to this day, with no irony: thanks, Obama!

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