Health Update

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40 NASB)

Health Update

A number of you have been following me on my Facebook page in recent months following what had been good and not so good progress about my health. For those coming to my page for the first time, let me try to give you a synopsis of my health issues.

Diabetes: Both sides of my family have had a history of diabetes. I was diagnosed in December of 1987 after nearly dying of ketoacidosis. Since then I have been on a diet only, then diet and pill, and finally a diet and insulin regime. It means daily finger sticks to check my blood sugar, then factor how much insulin I need to inject to cover my activity, my exercise (even just walking), and what I eat. I take insulin two to three times, sometimes more, a day. Even though Type 2 PWDs (people with diabetes) generally do not have to take insulin, as we get older sometimes insulin is still necessary. I have been on insulin therapy since around 2003.

Kidney Disease: One of the most severe complications that a diabetic can have is chronic kidney disease (CKD). Since the kidneys work to filter out waste products from the bloodstream and from other bodily fluids, they are a vital organ in the body. In a diabetic, the effects of the disease and other factors can sometimes cause the kidneys to malfunction. Sometimes, with drug therapy and diet, someone can control the amount of damage. In my case I have had my kidney functions reduced almost to 50-65% of normal. By definition, this means I have Stage 3 CKD. That is a dramatic change in almost a year. My mother had full kidney failure before she died and had to do dialysis treatments at home so I have seen with my own eyes the impact of years of diabetes had on her. Not what I want at my age.

Eyes: As diabetics we often are prone to suffering eye damage. In my case I have the “triple crown” of damage as one ophthalmologist told me. I have diabetic retinopathy and macular edema in both of my eyes, which makes it difficult to see clearly. In addition I have developed a hole, a macular hole, in the vision of my right eye which has been difficult to treat. I can see relatively clear from my left eye; less so my right. I don’t drive right now because of it and it could very well at some point prohibit me from driving altogether.

Urological: In addition to the CKD disease as mentioned, I have also had to have had corrective surgery to fix a male reproductive issue which, for my age, is organic because of the diabetes but frankly is embarrassing to try to put into words here.

Neurological: In April 2011 I suffered from an episode of Bell’s Palsy. The only way I can simply explain this condition is that you feel like you have had a stroke but you haven’t. Parts of your face essentially go numb for a short period of time. For me, I had the mouth droop as if I had a left side stroke. But within about a month it cleared up on its own. It doesn’t mean however I will never have it happen again.

Peripheral Edema and Neuropathy: As a result of the kidney issues, and especially in the last couple of years, I have had moderate to severe swelling of mostly my legs and feet and occasionally my hands. In fact as a result of my feet being swollen, it has led to neuropathy (loss of nerves and feeling) in my feet and sometimes in my hands. The pain from moving around and, sometimes, the stinging and cramping in my legs and feet cause me to have to walk with a cane just to remain steady. It keeps me from sitting or standing for any great length of time.

Skeletal: A few years ago I had to have a discectomy to remove two discs from my neck, my C4-5 and C5-6, which were causing me intense pain. In addition, they had to perform a laminectomy, where they had to replace the lamina in my neck because of degeneration from the spinal stenosis. Although this improved my ability to move, more recent health problems have limited my activity and I will always be cautious of any pain in my spine out of fear of redeveloping stenosis.

Now that I have given you the litany, let me explain the real hard part right now

Paying for It All

Now as I mentioned before, I am considered “disabled,” even though in my mind and heart I am not nor want that label, but it is what it is. As a result I have been receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) and third-party long-term disability from my former employer. The combined amount is more than the average disability recipient receives. That money covers about 75-85% of my monthly living expenses – not counting medical care – and leaves me very little for any other expense. Which you also have to know up front that California has one of the highest costs of living in the contiguous United States, and unfortunately has seen much better days financially. So what about other programs?

I don’t qualify for Medicare just yet. Normally you have to be at least 65, or have a disabling condition at a younger age, or have end stage renal failure (ESRD), or be on SSDI for at least two years. I do qualify for, and just recently qualified for Medi-Cal, California’s version of the Medicaid program, after having had to fight for over a year to get. But that program also has restrictions which include a Share of Cost (SOC). Basically an SOC is a deductible. You have to pay that amount before Medi-Cal will cover your medical expenses, including prescriptions, hospital care and doctor visits. That cost is $1,900. Since what I make is about 400% of the federal poverty guideline, I have that SOC to deal with.

So every month it is a matter of deciding what gets paid. Do I pay the rent and utilities, or pay $350 for insulin, or no, I can’t do that and have to go to a dollar store or food pantry just to make sure I eat but forego getting any medication. It is unfortunately a vicious circle. One that on one, not even my worst enemy, should have to face.

Admittedly though, in my life, I have made many mistakes to ruin any opportunity to obtain credit, loans, whatever to help. So now as a result I have had to rely on my friends for whatever help they can give while I am also checking out other not for profit sources, especially for medical care, to help me through.

It is humbling to say I need help. I don’t like to make things melodramatic but this is reality. I don’t want to die young and have people come to my funeral early in my life, although many of my friends will probably toss around the blarney quite a bit about this Irishman.

So I am thankful for those of you whom I will call my “Guardians of the Heart” whom have come forward for helping me get the care I need. I cannot repay you enough or thank you enough for your kindness, your assistance, and your constant prayers.