13 April 2009

I Passed Two Tests Today. Do I Get $4000 for That?

Today, like yesterday, was clear, breezy and cold for this time of year.

Unlike yesterday, however, today was a day of preparing for my surgery. So, I went to my doctor for an EKG and an HIV test.

My doctor insists that I, and everyone else, call him "Richie." Even if he wanted to be called Dr. Tran, he would seem no less accessible. He attended to me once before: Almost two years ago, I took a fall and Dr. Schwarz, my doctor at the time, wasn't in that day.

He's soft-spoken but not self-effacing. That's not to say that he's self-important; rather, he exudes a confidence that's completely un-selfconscious. And, people describe him as "sensitive," which is accurate. However, there's even more to him than that.

Lord Byron wrote of his cousin, Mrs. Wilmot: "She walks in beauty." (Now tell me, wouldn't you love to have someone write that about you?) Well, you can say that about Richie, but in a different way: He just has a beautiful spirit. He knows his stuff when it comes to medicine, but I get the feeling that he's channeling a kind of life energy that he walks in.

We talked a bit about ourselves. As a child, he left Vietnam with his family after the fall of Saigon. Yes, he was one of the "boat people." He and his family sailed to Malaysia before coming to the US: That was a common route for the refugees. Death was also common: "You had about a 50 percent chance of dying," he related. The boats were rickety, the seas were rough, and there were pirates, "just like Somalia" he said in a reference to the privateers who captured a ship on a relief mission to Africa.

He spoke with no self-aggrandizement or self-pity. However, I could not help to feel admiration for him, which isn't what he wanted. But he did not admonish me for it.

As warm, but more effusive, was the nurse who hooked me up for my EKG. If you ever need one, and go to the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, you may be fortunate enough to meet Emily Phipps. I had never before had an EKG and I was afraid that the test would reveal some ailment I didn't know I had and would prevent me from having my surgery. She knew this even though she didn't know my story. She also sensed, correctly, that I have had fear of being seen without clothes.

But I felt comfortable and safe with her. At every step she explained what she was doing; in between, she talked with me in a way that didn't merely soothe me; it guided me into the calm we needed. She didn't merely tell me to be calm; she talked with me into it.

So I passed two tests and had a great experience. Then I came home to....

A call from Dr. Bowers' office. Robin, her office manager, let me know that the worst-case scenario came to pass: The surgery will indeed cost $4000 more than they originally thought. The hospital in which Dr. Bowers performs the surgeries raised its fees by that amount; she spent the past few weeks trying to negotiate it down. No luck.

Well, if I had to choose, I'd naturally rather have the price increase than to be kept from having the surgery because of medical reasons. It's easier to do something about money than your EKG reading.

Now I'm recalling kids I knew in school whose parents or other relatives gave them money or othr gifts for "good" report cards. Sometimes they'd see mine and say, "Wow, my father would give me five bucks for that." In those days, you could go to a few movies on that amount of money.

Today I passed two tests with flying colors. Do I get $4000 for that? I know that might be a bit more than the adjusted-for-inflation report card rewards. But, hey, don't I deserve it?

Hopefully, after my surgery I'll get everything I want with my looks, charm, wit and erudition. Then I want to get rich.

Right now, all I really want is to do my surgery and to be safe. At least Richie and Emily helped me toward that today.

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