All the Help I Need, Part 2

The Problem

The last several years have been agonizing and depressing. It started back in 2011, just before I went to work at Diamond Comics and not long after I had my appendix removed. A few years before I had also had my gall bladder extracted. Neither of those surgeons were able to perform the less invasive procedures, because the infections were “too big” (even though we caught the appendicitis early), so I have two three- to four-inch scars on my right side, approximately six inches or so apart. I was taking two classes in Fall 2010 and still managed to get As in both even after missing five weeks of class.

Back then, while it did get severe, it did not bother me as often. I had some days when it was a struggle to finish my work, sometimes two or three in a row, but usually I was fine. I finished that internship with well over the required hours, got an A in one class and an A- in the other. I had the same instructor for both classes, Professor Geoffrey Becker. He saw that I was sometimes in a lot of pain then, but I hadn’t missed too many classes and always turned in my work on time. That was the time that Towson accepted me into their Combined Degree for Professional Writing program, for which I had worked very hard.

I took two classes in the first five-week session that summer and received As in both. In fact, my poetry teacher, Clarinda Harriss, still wants me to intern for her at BrickHouse Books, and I very much want to do it. But the following semester, Fall 2011, everything changed. This time the pain came almost every day for two months. Since then it seems to have followed a very similar pattern, coming and going for a few days at most and then hitting real hard and staying for months at a time, nearly everyday at its worst. One thing I’ve had difficulty getting people to understand is just how bad it is: I’m not dying (as far as I know), I do not have muscles re-knitting themselves and making it hard to stand or walk, but the pain is just as bad as what I experienced with the gall bladder infection and the two surgeries; it’s just different.

Luckily, I had the same English professor I’d had the previous semester for one class and he remembered. He also saw how much pain I was in on the rare occasions I made it to class. My ASL instructor was very kind, too. They both allowed me to finish those classes although I had rarely been physically present. But I just barely made it. I had to drop two classes, one of them my first Master’s level course in the combined Degree program; I got a B in ASL 2 and a C- in Editing the Literary Magazine I–and I had to do extra work for the English class.

The next three semesters were worse. In Spring 2012 I’d made it through more than half the Literary Essay class, and was completely caught up on my work, and I had hoped I could get the same treatment I had the previous semester. Marlana Portolano was willing give me an “Incomplete” without looking at documentation; she could see, just like Professor Becker, that I was suffering. Professor Chester did things differently, but it wasn’t wrong. She made the decision she thought was best. She tried to work with me, but she wanted more documentation, something concrete.

Unfortunately, my doctor was unwilling to provide it. He kept asking me, “What do you want me to say?”

I had two problems: inadequate insurance (PAC did not want to pay for anything–not even what they were supposed to pay for) and no one could find what was wrong. I think they did not want to because I couldn’t pay. The first time I went to the ER, the surgeon who had performed the appendectomy was there. He told me he thought the pain was caused by internal scar tissue (adhesions, raw nerve endings) that developed when he removed my appendix. Apparently, this happens sometimes, but there is very little to be done about it. Dr. Fakhouri said the only way to treat it is more surgery, which, unfortunately, can cause more scar tissue. I suspect that scar tissue arose from both surgeries but did not become an issue until he removed my appendix. Since then, several more doctors have told me the same thing. The pain doctor treating me now says this, too, except that I also seem to have gastrointestinal problems that aggravate the scar tissue and make the pain worse.

So, after several visits to the ER and three CT scans in a year, the doctors could not find anything specific. I even paid $300 out of pocket to have Dr. Fakhouri do a colonoscopy. “Scar tissue and GI problems,” was about all I could get from that. Since PAC would not pay for a specialist, there was nothing I could do, and without a specific diagnosis my doctor was unwilling to provide the proper documentation to help me in school.

While I have high regard for the teachers at TU, I have been gradually accumulating resentment toward some doctors and our health care system. It isn’t good, or right, when an ER doctor sighs, shakes his head and says, “I guess you’ll have to save up some money and get into pain management.”

What money? I am a single father raising a teenager and I was living on financial aid. I had no money to spare and could not get a job (something I talked about in an earlier post). Since then I have given Franklin Square Hospital the nickname “Fascist Square.”

It’s even worse when you have the state insurance and your doctor can’t get them to pay. My primary care doctor stopped accepting PAC!

So Professor Chester felt she had no choice but to fail me because I had missed too many classes. I do not resent her for it. She’s a great teacher. They all are.

Eventually Professor Portolano had to fail me too, and I had to postpone my internship at BrickHouse Books. If not for all this, I would have graduated in December of 2012. I would be sitting on that long coveted degree and looking for a job as an editor right now.

As a result, I have two Fs in Masters level courses, too. I have been disqualified from the Combined Degree program and cannot retake them, so my only choice is to apply for a medical withdrawal–or those two Fs will remain on my transcript until I go to graduate school (if I go, now).

I have also decided that I’m wasting time and money by continuing to register for classes when I can’t do the work. So, for now, the plan is to somehow get this pain under control first. I’m an A student; I can’t stand having that C-, let alone two Fs. I sure as hell can’t stand the fact that all my plans and hard work have fallen through like this. But I will not give up. How can I, with only six classes to go?

(Next: Part 3 – Towson Teachers)


2 thoughts on “All the Help I Need, Part 2

  1. Wow, that is HORRIBLE!! I am so sorry to hear of the pain you are in so often!!! 😦 I agree with you on the resentment toward our doctors and health care system. While I and my family have been relatively lucky in not having any truly chronic issues, I constantly find myself perturbed at doctor’s constant diagnosis of “well, just take these drugs and it’ll go away”. They don’t even always bother to find out the real problem, or even what is causing the symptoms they prescribe the drugs to treat! It doesn’t help that the pharma companies are giving them kickbacks every time they prescribe their drug. My hubby just had another flare up of the herniated disc in his back, and all the doctors did was throw steroids and other pills at him. Nothing about actually fixing the problem long-term, they just want you to keep coming back and feeding the system. Have you looked into any alternative therapies yet? There’s a lot of stuff out there that I’ve found helpful for various ailments… of course you still have to weed through the wackos and the scammers, but there are still people out there who genuinely want you to get better! Maybe see if you can find a holistic doctor in your area? They often have good suggestions. Even just modifying your diet might give you some relief, esp if it’s digestive problems aggravating your scar tissue. Best of luck, hang in there! I’ll be sending positive vibes your way! 🙂

  2. Thank you, Jennie Rae. I certainly can’t help wanting to write. I love it. I’ll look into the holistic medicine, if I can afford it.

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