Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Saga of My Ear

Well, it is incumbent upon me to write this blog post. I have been intending to for quite some time. But the true pressure is on. I sent out our Christmas letter this week briefly describing a monumental event in my life and then referenced everyone to my blog if they wanted to hear the full story.  So hello to all of you kind friends who were curious enough to look this up, and hello to anyone else perusing my story. I am beholden to telling the whole story from the start, filling in little details. So here’s to my ear saga that brought about answered prayers and walking down the road less traveled. A long standing favorite poem by Robert Frost entitled The Road Not Taken:

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Years past I did not take the road well traveled upon and it is has made all the difference, both in good ways and bad, frustrations and elations. So here’s to the road less traveled!

It is peculiar to recount, because for most of my life this is something I have rarely spoken of since it has always seemed so minor.  But the Lord is kind to even give answers to long standing frustrations and dead ends even if it seems minor. Ever since I was a child I have had ear problems, ear infections, ruptured ear drums etc.  The ENT put tubes in and from then on a fear of submerging under water was instilled in me. Fast forward to 4 years ago and random ear pain, bleeding from my ear, and being struck with something very wrong. After an infuriating experience with a local ENT’s office and staff, I subconsciously vowed never to visit another ENT Doctor again after being belittled, told that I’m the reason ObamaCare needs to exist (being a cash pay customer, really? Just because I choose not to have insurance does not mean I am incapable of paying for medical services, nor is it wrong to ask how much a surgery would cost before committing to a surgery!), told I need tubes again (and being poo-poohed for even thinking I still had tubes in there), and I basically knew nothing because I was the lowly patient and he the expert P.A. Right. No thank you. That began my journey into learning about taking care of my own health and finding out what I should do for my ear.

Another uneventful 3 years pass and then things escalated where I had severe ear pain, ear infection, and it was worse than it had been before. In hindsight, I think part of this was brought on due to the excessive amount of sugar I ate after my second baby, David, was born, as I am extremely strict not eating sugar during pregnancy, and had a binge of eating however much sugary chocolate I wanted the weeks following his birth. I think this was a breeding ground for infection. Out of avoidance of going to another ENT I decided to see if a Chiropractor would help, I had heard they could help with chronic ear infections, and though my preconceived notions of a Chiro was of a snap and crack adjusting after car wrecks, I scheduled to see one. Here I should note after asking some questions and reading a little bit, I found it was recommended that Chiropractors can help with chronic ear infections, though this was typically referenced to children. Cue the entrance of Dr. Traver, a person who’s importance to my health cannot be undervalued. At first it was just helping my back pain (unrelated) but later as I began to see improvements with his new technology called an Avazzia, a microcurrent device that helps with pain relief, cell regeneration, and healing the body., hope fluttered inside that maybe things could improve. I was using this primarily to help my ear at this point, but not having my own Avazzia, I opted to go over to my in laws house every day to borrow theirs. It kept my ear from worsening, but it didn’t seem to be improving it significantly either.  A huge low when I found I had a severe ear infection and one month to go until flying to Florida. Upon Dr. Traver’s recommendation I made huge overtures in my diet, cutting out all sugar (which feeds infection), all grains (worsens inflammation), and all dairy (can you hear my weeping?-oh sorry, this is very mucous forming, and when your ears can’t drain, more mucous builds the pressure resulting in: no bueno). When Dr. Traver let me borrow his Avazzia over the weekend I saw big improvements that diet and immune-boosting didn’t show alone. After that we made the decision to purchase our own. I was so scared flying with a weird device would get me in trouble with the TSA, but a simple “it’s a medical device” and scan worked out. My first experience with the invasive TSA was already annoying enough without the added stress of bringing a weird medical device, ha! But this only helped enough to keep my ears from bursting, bleeding, and inducing horrible pain on an airplane. So better, but not enough.

Upon arriving home I began to “cheat”, eating that delicious glutenous cheesy pie we all know and love as pizza. And donuts. If ever you wondered what my kryptonite was, that would be donuts. But that sank me to newer lows and I reached a point of despairing. Here is a picture of life: wake up, use avazzia, breakfast, take care of boys, read the bible with them, use avazzia while they played, various things whether errands, household things etc, then lunch and naptime, during naptime more avazzia, after the boys wake up different occupation as the day prescribed, spend several hours making weird healthy grain free, dairy free dinner, family time in the evening, then more avazzia before bed. Basically I felt like my entire life was devoted to just keeping my ear from getting worse by spending a lot of time making healthy food and using the Avazzia. It was so much better than before, but this infection just never went away no matter how much I tried!  I prayed and wondered if my life would consist of ear management health stuff, a thorn in my side like the Apostle Paul’s thorn, though I have cried out to the Lord he was not removing it. Perhaps it would remain all my life. This was very depressing to think of, constant ear pain that fluctuated from bearable to excruciating depending on how strict I was with what I consumed and how often I used the Avazzia. As I prayed I laid it all before the Lord saying not what I will but what He Wills with my life, even in this ear problem. This whole experience has given me a lot of empathy for those with chronic health issues without answers. Then the age old question came to mind once more, could I still have a tube in that problem ear? Samuel then encouraged me to look up medical terms and specialist language for my hypothetical tube still in my ear. Upon discovering this extremely rare and barely ever happens condition of a tube that intrudes (tube is pushed further in ear rather than pushed out where it falls out) or an ear drums growing around the tube, I felt that hope flutter once more. At my next appointment I brought this question to Dr. Traver and after looking in my ear very thoroughly he confirmed seeing something greenish in my ear. My tubes were neon green! A friend who is a Nurse Practitioner saw the same thing and she had been trekking with me on my health frustrations, she was convinced it had to be a tube or some other foreign body stuck in my ear. He recommended seeing a specialist, cue my inward turmoil of facing another ENT!

As I found the ENT, who will remain unnamed, I made the decision to just face it head on and go in there with my questions and my flicker of hope that he could help me and remove this tube. I am much more sure of myself and confident today than I was 4 years ago, with many emotional and relational problems that just shattered who I felt I was (another story for another day, maybe, I've never written about this one). No more, I would not let some medical professional push me around, I wanted answers and I was going to get them one way or another. My best friend Hannah offered to go with me, and I declined knowing I could face this alone, but after her kind insistence she met up with me to be my support. Over all the ENT was very kind and he listened to me as I condensed my ear (life) story in the span of a few minutes, summing up with my big question, do I have a tube in my ear? He took a quick look and confirmed the infection and was “shocked” my doctor didn't prescribe some prescription ear drops to clear up the infection.  He took some time to explain what he saw in my ear and even gave a head nod to the possibility of a tube in there, but until I used the drugs he couldn’t see anything. Which I found odd that two other medical professionals had looked in my ear and had seen something but he did not. I digress. After a frustrating decision to just take the drops, I stopped by the pharmacy on the way home. Give me the drugs... except finding out it cost $255 for a tiny little bottle! No. No no no. Why would I throw that money down the drain for an experimental hope that it would enable the ENT to see a tube that others already see? The Pharmacist recommended checking the manufacturers website for a rebate. I go home and look it up, and it only applies to those with insurance, not cash pay or on government medicine. Okay. So here I am in tears railing against the drug company game of how and when they manufacture drugs and the generic brand is not available. During this evening, I had fixed dinner and didn’t sit down to eat with Samuel and the boys as I did not feel hungry. This perplexed 2nd Samuel and he asked daddy what was wrong with mommy and he said I was sad. He comes over to me quietly and hugs me, for a long time patting my back. After that he tells me it’s time for dinner and I replied I wasn’t hungry I didn’t feel like eating. He then turns to me in the next room and says matter of factly, “Momma, you eat food, food will make you happy.” If only it were that simple! I love that boy with all my heart and find such joy that he is so perceptive and compassionate, even as a 2 1/2 year old. But... every time I eat a donut my ear gets worse unfortunately, ha. Well, I go back and am ready to just pay the price of the experiment and get another Pharmacist who suggests using a website called Good RX and I get a discount there and it acts like insurance so I get the manufacturer rebate and the Good RX discount making it only $71. Hmm. At any rate, I thanked the Lord for allowing us to save a big chunk of change! Well fast forward two weeks later and Dr. Traver and my Nurse Practitioner friend both confirm seeing something in my ear. After being a dutiful robot, er, patient, I returned. The ENT looked in my ear again, and said nothing about the tube, only the ear was improved but not totally cleared up yet. Only at the respectful pressing, prodding, and urging the Doctor to actually look in my ear because another Doctor and Nurse Practitioner saw something in my ear, did he look again (but no, not when the lowly patient asks, only when other medical professionals recommend, silly me). After looking a second time he still didn’t see anything, and when I pressed again that Dr. Traver saw something in the bottom part of my lower ear, he looked again and to his utter amazement there was something. We went to a separate room where he has his special equipment and was horrified by the horrendous damage inside my ear. What sweet relief lit my heart. Finally. Answers. He couldn’t pull it out, after trying and causing me enormous pain (trust me, after giving birth to two babies with out pain meds, I’m not one make light of pain), he scheduled me for surgery. Woohoo!

Alright, now we are at the exciting part of the story. I am ecstatic to finally have a definitive answer. Let’s get this tube out of my ear and let the healing begin! I wait patiently for the office to call and give me surgery details and pricing. They give me details and their pricing, but can’t tell me about the Anesthesiologist or Surgery Center. When I call the Surgery Center they tell me sorry but we don’t have any information on your surgery yet because it is in September (2 1/2 weeks away), on September 1st. And it is currently August and they only deal with August scheduling. OKAY so am I supposed to wait until September 1st to get details for my September surgery?? Headache.

Meanwhile we are preparing for a trip to the Providential History Festival in Nebraska, one I didn’t really want to travel to in the first place, and really considered canceling since I’d be getting home one day before my surgery. God, in His providence, moved a friend to text Samuel to invite us to stay in their home if we went to the conference. We weren’t planning on it, but this text prompted Samuel to look into travel arrangements. He decided he couldn’t take off work to drive up there, but if I drove with the boys and he flew, he would only miss one day of work instead of several. I was not in favor of this at all. Driving with a 2 year old and 1 year old for 13+ hours? No thank you. Well, we ended up arranging to have his sister ride with me to help with the boys. So the trip was on schedule. And I packed a lot of my healthy weird diet food. Driving up to Nebraska I get a call from the Surgery center less than one week prior to my surgery to find out their price for the surgery. On the drive back to Texas the anesthesiologist office called to give me their pricing days before my surgery. What kind of procrastination do I have to deal with just to know how much this 15 minute procedure to take a tube out will cost? Combining the billing from three separate entities cost upward to $4,000 for this short procedure. To say we were frustrated and annoyed at this delay in information is an understatement. So I stop in Oklahoma City for the night at a friends house. Originally we had planned to stay in Tulsa with a different friend but due to circumstances it worked out in OKC. Samuel calls me after I give him the surgery cost and suggests we look into the “Free Market” surgery center in OKC and their pricing. Their website listed the same surgery at a 1/4 of the cost! Well, it would have been nice to plan this while I am in OKC rather than passing through, except we couldn’t because all the delays in finding out how much my surgery would cost, we didn’t even have a chance to compare pricing elsewhere, because they wouldn’t give us any pricing. I am just ready to have this tube out, to have this driving with 2 little ones done, and I’m really uninterested in looking in the Oklohoma Surgery Center.  But in order to respect my husband I call in the morning we are due to leave. I ask about their regular scheduling time frame, and it’s usually within a week to set up, so I briefly explain I happen to be 10 minutes down the road traveling home from vacation and wondering how quickly they could schedule a foreign body removal from ear surgery. She says she would need to check with the surgeon and call me back. I honestly am not expecting a call back that day, and so we have everything packed and ready to load up if I don’t hear from here in the next two hours. 15 minutes later she calls back to tell me they can schedule me for a pre-op visit that day and surgery tomorrow, oh and the surgery costs less than listed because it is a tube removal. Surprise of all surprises!!! Faster answers, faster billing information, faster scheduling, and faster everything. Sign me up. Literally, in just a few hours. It is amazing how when the bureaucratic middle man is cut out how efficient things become.

Here’s the interesting part, if Joel had not texted Samuel inviting us to stay in their home, we would not have even considered going to the conference due to Samuel’s work schedule. If Samuel hadn’t bought tickets to fly and leave me to drive, he would have been driving with me intent to get home as soon as possible, no time to stay an extra day for surgery. If we had stayed in Tulsa instead of Oklahoma City, I wouldn’t have been as interested since it would have been a couple hours away instead of 10 minutes. Months before I even had seen the ENT all these little details were worked out so perfectly I couldn’t have even known to pray for such things!

And so I had my surgery done one day earlier, at 1/4 of the cost, with superior care in the surgery center, warm blankets brought to me, someone beside me upon waking up, thorough explanations of everything to be done, what to expect, and what was done. They offered me something to eat and drink upon waking as well. Excellent service, not to mention Dr. Jason Sigmon who listened to me, gave me exceptional care, and performed the surgery and was very informative during the post-op visit as well. If only all such Medical care looked this way, professional, timely, and hassle free.  With our “health care” we use (medical sharing ministry, not traditional insurance), this seems to be a big inconvenience for us, if our “insurance net” will foot the bill, why even bother? Because more than anything, we desire to live our lives in conformity to Christ Jesus and His word. We do not want to be those who profess with their mouth and live shockingly unlike the commands in God’s word. This requires sacrifice, this requires diligence, and even inconvenience. We are to be good stewards of our money.  We are not going expect other’s to pay for our needs, nor are we going to “milk” the system just because that’s what everyone else does. If we have to “pay twice” because we choose to eat well, pay more out of pocket to keep our bodies healthy, or even use different practices of medicine that may not be “covered” by conventional medicine and “insurance”, then so be it. We wanted to save money for those sharing our medical need rather than just have the mindset that because we have others to share the cost and we can get our medical care covered let’s just do whatever is set before us.  Instead we chose the road less travelled, not only in our health care, Doctors, and “insurance” choices, so in our overall medical care, in our searching out answers and even better pricing to save money, and in being diligent in whatever surfaced in this crazy struggle.

An overview would be to say that Dr. Traver Sopoci truly restored my confidence in medical professionals because he is a caring, understanding, and compassionate Doctor truly committed to helping people solve their underlying health problems and become well.  The Microcurrent Technology Dr. Traver uses (one of his many tools in his Doctor tools box) is called an Avazzia, an electrical stimulation device for pain relief, cosmetic enhancements and overall well-being, has exciting new research on a myriad of health problems it is helping. I can't even tell you all the things it does, but I can tell you it has helped me most specifically with pain relief for me. There are even instances of it helping with restoring hearing loss!  Dr Traver has restored my faith in Doctors and I owe a lot of hurdles I overcame due to his practice and his applying himself to research and continuing his learning and studying.  Also, the surgery center is called The Oklahoma Surgery Center. For those interested.  An interesting side note is that after my experience here some friends of ours ended up using OKC for a different surgery partially due to our highly positive review.

Suffice it to say, God is so faithful to hear our desperate cries, even after years of silent struggle. My ear is still not “normal” but post surgery of removing a 20 year old tube causing chronic infection, inflammation, and pain, my body now has a chance to begin healing. And eating a donut here and there is not quite so destructive. Shh, don’t tell Dr. Traver! :D

1 comment:

  1. Leah! Thank you for sharing your story!!! We also use a healthcare sharing ministry and I had to have an emergency appendectomy this year and have struggled to much with dealing with the financial offices that now have all my bills, it's frustrating how hard it is to just get answered from people.

    Your story encourages me, that praise God! They finally found the tube, and just your entire journey. I am praying God heals you 100% very soon!

    It's so funny to think back to high school, singing "enough" at a talent show with you, and so fun to see all the things God has been doing in us since then!

    I love and respect you for so many things. Thank you for sharing your experience!


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