I wish lowering health care costs was as easy as “cost awareness,” but as one patient put it, “I never pay the first few bills, because the amount changes every time a new bill is sent.”  The payment system is so fragmented that it’s hard to know what will become an expense with any given illness.  Even the savviest of consumers of health care have difficulty with hospital payment systems.  ...

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Last year, I underwent a colectomy, a surgery that removed my entire colon. Afterwards, I had to wear a temporary waste-collecting pouch attached to my abdomen known as an ostomy. Until my next surgery, I was now an “ostomate.” One of the early side-effects of the surgery was that I was prone to bouts of severe dehydration that left me hospitalized for a few days. During one of my dehydration-related ...

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A patient story tonight, from Jackie: It was one of those days.  I had been to the gynecologist the week prior because I somehow knew the sporadic bleeding, which I had experienced, was not a simple urinary tract infection for which I had been treated three times.  My doctor did the scrapings and biopsies and had me run down the hall for an ultrasound.  I’d had lots of ultrasounds during my pregnancies -- ...

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It's tempting to blame it all on Henry Ford.  I was standing alone at the empty counter, waiting to order in a fast food joint at 9 p.m.  Off to my left, three or four carloads of customers had been served before anyone noticed me and came over to ask what I wanted.  After all, Henry gave us the mass-produced (and therefor affordable) automobile.  I wondered if the day ...

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On my voice mail is a message from Donald Wyatt. He doesn't often call, but every Monday morning he comes to see me at the Louisville, Kentucky, mental health clinic where I'm a social worker. His message is brief: "I'm not feeling well, and I am planning a trip to either St. Louis or Elizabethtown." I smile, wondering at the odd pairing. Elizabethtown is a small city of 50,000 people. And, well, ...

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My family and close friends have done so much for me since I became chronically ill in 2001, and I’m deeply grateful to them. I’ve written this piece because there are a few important things I want them to know about how I feel. Although this piece is personal in nature, I’ve been hanging out online for over a dozen years with other people who are chronically ill (which includes those ...

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She is a time traveler. She spends an hour with each patient, takes note of each symptom, listens to each emotional concern, takes every call from every worried patient, handles all emergency situations, fills every prescription, handles each every insurance concern, breaks bad news gently, does her hospital rounds, yet is never late to see those in the waiting room. She treats her patients as unique individuals with unique human emotions ...

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Being sick isn’t easy, but neither is being the sibling of someone who’s sick. We’ve shared many stories about children who are living with a serious illness. We’ve talked about their disease, what life is like for them, how they cope in such dire circumstances. But in all of these conversations, one thing we’ve overlooked is telling the stories of the brothers and sisters who sometimes feel that they live in ...

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Dr. Peterson, the radiation oncologist, gets right to the point. "The medical center's tumor board has concluded that your cancer is inoperable, incurable and untreatable," he says flatly. "Any chemotherapy or radiation treatments would be palliative in nature." He begins explaining the reasons behind the board's verdict, but everything he's saying washes out. My mind stopped working as soon as I heard the words "incurable" and "palliative." I am sliding into shock. Dr. ...

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It started with a mild case of nausea and got progressively worse. I became dizzy and shaky, but tried to ignore it. There was work to be done that afternoon. We were moving boxes into storage at my in-laws’ house in Michigan, and I needed to be strong. I carried boxes on unsteady feet, catching myself before bumping into walls. By early evening my legs were wobbly, and I felt ...

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