The nurse was unimpressed.
“He has a virus,” she said, “but he seems to be tolerating it really well. His lungs sound great, his Spirograph is textbook.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“So….unless he as a real fever, like 103, I wouldn’t come back in.”
It was the word “real” that got me. Kai’s had been 100.3. She gave me a look then, one that said “You’re wasting my time.”
I thought about reminding her that coming here had been her idea. She told me on Friday that Kai would be significantly better by Monday, but he wasn’t, and on Tuesday he’d gotten a fever and I had to pick him up at school.
This same woman who was in the process of dismissing me had told me to call the office if he got worse, which he did, the office told me to come in, which we did, and now I was being condescended to and made to feel like a dope.
I thought about saying all of this to her.
But instead I just collected Kai and left. If we hurried, we could make it to the grocery store before we had to pick up Ryan.
“It’s been a long week,” I told the nurse. “We haven’t gotten a lot of sleep because the Albuterol revs him up and keeps him awake.”
She cocked her head to the side and frowned slightly. “We should try Xopenex, then. It does the exact same thing in the exact same dose, but it doesn’t rev you up. It’s like a mirror image of Albuterol.”
I stared at her for several long seconds.
Kai’s had sleep problems from his first day on this earth. It was sleep problems that caused me to lose faith in the entire medical profession. I fired Kai’s doctor, I did an exhaustive search to find a new one that could help me. This office, the one that treats his allergies and asthma, knew all about it because I’d asked them to help me. One of the doctors there has a kid on the spectrum himself. They’ve been treating Kai for five years. Five years.
And in five years, no one suggested this other medicine, the rescue inhaler that wouldn’t cause his heart to race and his body to go a thousand miles a minute instead of his normal hundred-mile a minute pace.
I closed my eyes briefly.
Isn’t this their job? Shouldn’t they know? Oh, here’s a kid with ADHD and asthma and maybe we should find a medicine that won’t compound all of these problems so that this poor, exhausted woman with the bags under her eyes sitting in front of me can get a decent night sleep. Because I sure as shit don’t know these things. That’s why we go to the doctor.
“Yes,” I said evenly. “We should try that.”
“Is it going to be much longer?” I asked the receptionist at the neurologist’s office.
“It shouldn’t be,” she said.
The doctor was, at this point, running 45 minutes late.
The last time we’d gone there, I myself was 30 minutes late. They told me that I was too late, asked me to reschedule the appointment and go home.
I considered pointing this out and leaving, but I didn’t want to haul the kids all the way up to Skokie again, and the doctor called for us shortly afterward, so I ushered the kids into the exam room so we could talk about Kai’s brain.
The coordinator from an anesthetist’s office called me today. Kai has to have some teeth pulled and some cavities filled. The dentist and I decided this would all be way easier if we put him under anesthesia to do it, but before that can happen, some details need to be shored up.
She asked me about Kai’s medical history, which I gave her.
She asked me which insurance I had and I told her.
“Oh,” she said. “We don’t submit to them, because it’s too hard to collect the money.”
“So you would need to pay us and submit the claim. Sometimes they pay it, but you have to really be on them about it.”
She started talking about making an appointment with my pediatrician and I stopped her.
“How much?” I asked.
“How much do I have to pay you?”
“Oh, for this service it will be $5,375.”
“Including the dentist or just for your guy?”
“Just for the anesthesia.”
“And I’m just supposed to pay you five grand and hope that United decides to pay me back?”
“We’ve found that your best bet is just to submit the claim after the surgery. Like I said, sometimes they pay and sometimes they don’t. You’ll have to be on them about it.”
“And they might not pay at all.”
“Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. We’ve found that they throw the words ‘medical necessity’ around a lot and use it as a reason not to pay.”
I knew this about them already, but for once, it wasn’t my insurance company I was irritated with.
“You understand that five thousand dollars is a lot of money, right?”
The receptionist hesitated. “But for his time and—”
“Do you have five thousand dollars to spend that you might never see again?”
“I understand that—”
“Would you spend five thousand dollars with the idea that it might be reimbursed, but then again it might not?”
The receptionist didn’t have anything to say to that.
“I’m going to have to get back to you about all of this after I’ve called the insurance company and the dentist,” I said.
She turned icy then, as though I had disappointed her, as though I was making the wrong decision for Kai. “You have a week,” she said.
“I won’t need a week,” I replied, and hung up the phone.
I sat at the counter for a few long seconds with my head in my hands and did what moms do. I blamed myself for not being more vigilant about his dental hygiene, because if I’d made him brush his teeth better and with more gusto, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
And then I grabbed my keys and left to pick the kids up, because, in addition to all of my failings as a mother and a human being, I was going to be late.