Jan 08

Slipping Out Of Detroit

1-8-2014 – Hello again, and a Happy New Year to you all!  My last year was great, and I expect the new one will be too!

Mom and I took another drive down to Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit a couple of days ago, on Monday, for my regularly scheduled appointment.  The roads were clear sailing all the way from home, through Indian River, and on down to about Pontiac, where things started to get bad; Snowy-bad.  The big early January ’14 snow storm that hit the Midwest with record lows and a pile of snow had hit down there, and things were getting pretty messed up by the time we got to the area.

The roads got slick, traffic got slower, people were off on the sides of the road, some stuck in snow or all the way down in ditches, and we saw several accidents.  The closer we got to Detroit, the worse it got, and of course, for every accident, there’s even more slowdown.  One of the accidents was on the other side of the road, and though we couldn’t see it all because of the barrier, we could see that there was a mangled car upside down on top of something else, and there were lots of emergency vehicles at the scene, including fire trucks, ambulances and police.  A lot of people were having a really bad day out there.

As soon as we got off I-75 at our exit, things got even worse.  It looked like there’d been no plowing or salting or sanding or any other measures taken to the streets of Detroit, and they were just horrible for driving, starting, stopping or steering.  It was a lot of deep snow on top of totally frozen solid ice, and the whole thing was a slippery mess.

We made it to Karmanos without any serious incidents, handed the car over to the valet service and went in.  Up to the second floor, as usual, signed in and got my Karmanos tracking badge, had a seat and checked the weather on my tablet, which said it was 4 degrees out, but that it felt like -25 with the humidity and wind chill.  I was wearing joggers under my jeans, plus the rest of my usual winter wear, and things weren’t too bad, though it was cold enough to freeze a witch’s toes when I stopped to fill up the gas tank and felt it stinging my face above where my scarf was wrapped.  I was glad not to be out in it for very long at a time, and felt bad for the few people I saw out there walking to wherever they were going.

Not long after we arrived, someone called me back for the usual routine; Up on the scale to get my weight, then a blood draw of several vials, then off to an exam room to wait for the doctors and staff.

We weren’t in exam room 27 long, when Colleen came in and said she was surprised to see us, considering all the cancellations they’d had that morning because of the winter storm.  She figured that, as far away as we were traveling from, we’d be sure to cancel.  We just laughed about it because we come from the deep-snow areas of Northern Michigan, so we’re a lot more used to dealing with that sort of thing and, besides, the roads were clear sailing for us all the way down to Pontiac, as I mentioned before.

Anyway, the next thing we talked about was Medicaid and how I’ve been cut off from it again for not having met my monthly $1482.00 spend-down for quite some time now, so I have no insurance to help me get the $10,000.00 per month drug I need (Ibrutinib).  Colleen asked about the company(s) that were going to contact me about “helping” me with that, and I let her know that I’m not getting any help at this time with it.  The bottom line is that I’m not going to be able to go down to Karmanos and get it for free anymore, since the study I was in that provided it is over now, and it’s gone commercial.

She went off to see what she could find out about all that, and we went back to waiting.  A little while later, she came back and said that the company she’d mentioned earlier had my information and would contact me again, and that I should contact them, and gave me the number on a sticky note.  She asked me to call her when I got it straightened out with them and on the right path to get the drug.

Another assistant/nurse came in and asked the basic questions about any drugs I’m currently taking, how I’m feeling overall, specific yes/no questions about coughing, appetite, bowel movements, etc., etc., etc.  I let her know that I feel fine and everything’s operating normally.

After that, doctor #1 came in and did the usual exam, checking for swollen lymph nodes (none swollen), listened to heart, lungs, gastric, and so forth, and seemed satisfied with it all.

We talked about the PET Scan results from last time I was there, and he said it was all clear and that I’m in full remission, which is always great news!  I asked about immunization, which we’d stopped when we started the study program, and he said we’d ask Dr. Ramchandren when he came in.  I also asked for clarification about the drug; From what I’d read, it was my impression that I’d take it basically forever, like a person with high blood pressure would take their high blood pressure meds every day forever.  He said that was right, and that the plan is for me to take it for as long as it works for me.

Dr. Ramchandren came in after that, and we had some of the same conversations, and they let me know that I shouldn’t have to come back down to Karmanos anymore, at least not every month, and that I should set an appointment with Dr. Bolmer in Petoskey when I get back home, and start seeing her again instead.  They said to get right on that, because she’ll need to get involved with ordering my special drug, which isn’t some run of the mill thing.  They also had me make one more appointment for 28 days from then at Karmanos, just in case there was some sort of snafu with Dr. Bolmer getting the drug in time, so that I could get it one last time from them, but only if I had to resort to that.  If everything goes well, I’ll simply cancel the appointment at Karmanos.  If it’s not all straight a week to 10 days before the scheduled appointment however, I should call to let them know, so they can prepare by getting the drugs for me.

Also, we could finish the immunizations, and that I’d get the 2nd of 3 sessions with that before I left for the day.

All in all, it was great news!

Colleen came in with another 28 days supply of my special drug, and then I got 5 immunization shots, and we were on our way.

Downstairs we went, headed for the ice and snow of Detroit, and as soon as the valet brought the car around, we were off and running or, more accurately, off and sliding, headed toward my ex-wife Bernita’s house to get some late Christmas presents for our granddaughter, Gracie.  The closer we got to her house, the more horrible the roads seemed to get, and I managed to get stuck on Southfield doing a Michigan U-Turn, with half the car out in traffic, and the other half in the median.  It took me 3 or 4 traffic light cycles to get it on the move again, while all the affected drivers around me patiently dealt with it.

Once we picked up the presents and got on the road again towards the highway, I was starving, so we stopped at the drive through of a White Castle and got 30 cheese sliders and a couple of cokes.  It took so long that the people behind the window thought I was the car behind me and tried to charge me for their order too, and I had to let them know that we still hadn’t gotten ours, and that the line hadn’t moved yet.

In any case, we finally got out of there, made our way to I-94, took it to I-75 and headed North toward home.  The further from Detroit we got, the better the roads got, and after about Pontiac things got a lot better.  Soon, we were clear sailing at full speed up I-75 again on dry pavement.  After Grayling, it started to get a bit dicey with enough powder blowing in gusts that at times we couldn’t see very far ahead at all, and that slowed us down some, but it was only here and there, and after we got off the highway at Indian River, there was no more trouble all the back to my home in Alanson.

So now, I’ll need to see what I can do with the problem with Medicaid, I’m still trying to get straight on the ACA (Obamacare) problem I’ve been having, I need to get with the company  that will “help” with the prescription through all this crappy Insurance scam business we have going on in this country, try to figure out what kind of insurance plan I can get away with using the ACA and the “help” that will be easiest for me to afford, and best to take care of the rest of my health care needs, call Dr. Bolmer and set up an appointment to get her help with filling out the doctor side of the paperwork for the company that will “help”, and probably some other stuff I’m not thinking of right now.

I’ve already called Medicaid and played the “Press 1, Press 2” game for an hour, and got nowhere closer to an actual answer or solution, so I guess I’ll have to get a ride to Petoskey and meet with my worker in person.  Of course, last time I tried that, she wasn’t available, she doesn’t return phone calls, there seems to be no way to actually make an appointment with her, and the folks who work there at the window don’t seem to have any actual answers or information worth spit either.  Personally, I think it’s all a Michigan government conspiracy to keep from paying, or from helping anyone like me figure out how to get them to pay.

I also called the company that will “help”.  First, I got transferred to a wrong number, and after a short talk with them and being told that they have no programs that can “help”, I called the original number back and got transferred again.  Well, they tried to transfer me, several times, and then finally managed to get me through to a lady who told me to go to the web site, download the four page application, have my doctor fill out two pages, fill out the other two pages myself, and submit it.  It will then take a few days for them to process.

So, I downloaded the application, filled out my portion and called Dr. Bolmer’s office to set up an appointment to go see her.  I got a recording telling me to leave my name and number and someone will get back to me, so I’m waiting for that to happen now.

Next, I think I’ll call the ACA back and see if I can get one of the mysterious “Resolution Specialists” to resolve that little snafu that’s been going on for about 2 months at this point.  What do you figure the odds are that they’ll fix me right up this time?  Put it this way, I’m not putting any bets on it, not with their track record so far.

But hey!  I’m in remission!  Woot!  :)
And I shouldn’t have to make those monthly trips to Karmanos anymore!  Woot!  :)
And I’ll go back to seeing a local oncologist again!  Woot!
And I’m sure to straighten out all this insurance hodge-podge, one way or the other, soon!  Woot!  :)

So, no complaints here!  It is indeed a happy new year!

Enjoy this stem cell cartoon I found online!


All the best to you and yours, and I’ll update again when there’s new info.