Friday, January 12, 2018

Ambulance Bill Causes Heart Palpitations

Back in mid-December, I said to my wife, “So what are we going to get each other for Christmas, individual gifts or one big gift for the both of us?”

She replied, “Let’s go with one big gift for the both of us. And it will cost $1,200.”

“Whoa, that’s a lot,” I said. “We usually don’t spend that much, even if we can afford it, which I’m pretty sure is not the case this year.”

My wife then said, “Well, it’s not actually $1,200. The correct amount is $1,155.97.”

I said, “Oh, in that case, no prob — Wait, what?! How do you know the exact amount down to the penny?”

She held up a piece of paper and said, “Because this came in the mail today. It’s an invoice from the ambulance company, and it says your health insurance denied the claim. They’re looking for $1,155.97 from us by the end of the month.”

“Oh, I forgot all about that,” I said. “So, that five-minute ambulance ride cost 1200 bucks? Man, I’m in the wrong business.”

It’s funny how we can completely forget certain events, especially when they turn out to be false alarms. Back in the summer I thought I was having a heart attack. Wanting to be sure I could not afford a Christmas present for my wife in four months, I said, “Let’s take a five-minute van ride that costs more than round-trip airfare to Paris!” No, actually what I said was, in a barely audible voice, “This is not good, hon. I feel horrible.”

My darling bride, also wanting to make sure she could not afford a Christmas present for her spouse in four months, quickly called 9-1-1. In a matter of minutes, an ambulance raced up the street, and stopped in front of our neighbor’s house. My wife ran out and waved them over to our house, and then made a mental note to go to Home Depot and get larger numbers to affix to the wall next to our front door.

It turns out I did not have a heart attack, although my ticker definitely skipped a beat when I looked at that ambulance company invoice. What I had was an episode of something known as S.V.T., or as they call it down at the bowling alley, “Supra-ventricular Tachycardia.”

What this means is, my heart decided to go from 75 beats per minute to 200 beats per minute, and then just stay there, pounding like a jackhammer. Even though my heart was beating almost three times faster than normal, not a whole lot of blood was getting to my head. I only had enough blood flow to think about who I hoped would attend my funeral Mass, and which songs I wanted played. (On further review, I don’t think Fr. Michael will approve the recessional hymn being Springsteen’s “Born to Run.”)

The doctors told me S.V.T. is not a life-threatening condition, although it might be a “life-STYLE threatening condition.” To which I replied, “No kidding, doc. If I suddenly get so little blood to my head that I’m about to pass out, it probably will be a threat to my lifestyle if I happen to be cruising down I-84 at 70 mph or climbing a ladder at work.”

Anyway, after a battery of tests, my heart is in surprisingly good shape, especially for someone who should be attending Donut-aholic Anonymous meetings. 

Next week I will relate the saga of trying to get an explanation from the insurance company as to why the main ambulance service in my town happens to be “out of network” and therefore not covered. It’s a story that will make your heart skip a beat.

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