The Dentist and the Dragon

The Dragon

As many of my readers know, we have a good medical system in New Zealand.  It’s good, but it’s not great.

We also have a very different system when it comes to injuries and medical misadventures.  For a start, in New Zealand we don’t call them Medical Misadventure.  Oh, it’s an adventure.  For some, like Derek, it’s the ride of your life.

But it is, like a broken leg, classed as an injury.  For Derek, it’s a “Treatment” injury.  He was injured because of medical treatment.  But that’s history.  Or should that be “His Story”.

When you suffer at the hands of the medical community, and are injured because of it, you get to have an assessment by the Government’s “Independent” “Insurance” Company.

Set up in the 1970’s, it was designed to stop any form of Litigation.  Stop people having to pay crazy amounts of insurance just in case they suffer an injury.  But like anything new, the concept and the reality can be vastly different.

This great independent organization, that was there for the injured, were under some very strict Insurance type rules.  And like any good insurance company, they change the rules as often they change their pants.  So, you have an injury you don’t know if you will be adequately covered.

When you read back through my blog you will see that Derek was covered for his Treatment Injury.  This injury is his Adrenal Insufficiency.  This impacts all parts of his life.

He had to give up driving because, although there is no obvious brain damage, he can no longer multi-task (Yes!  I was lucky enough to marry a man that could multi-task).  He is also one of the most intelligent men I have ever met.  This is not me saying this, his School History (top 50 in the country) says this.  He has been assessed as being unable to focus on more than one thing, his short-term memory is now not what it was, his ability to manage his stress is nothing compared to what it was.

But we manage.  He still has his job.  That’s thanks to an amazing boss.

So, the New Zealand insurance system, known as the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC as we all know it) is our Dragon.

His treatment injury is permanent.  It affects many aspects of his life, and if we need help because of that, we have to go into the dragon’s cave, and convince that dragon to stop breathing flames, and let us past, to get to the help we need.

To this end, he has a “Case Manager”.  This is his direct contact in the dragon’s lair.  But this Dragon is very hard on their workers.  They are always being burned to the point the run, screaming from the lair, never to go back.

But on their way out, as the scream ENOUGH, they are supposed to contact all their “clients” and let them know they have reached boiling point, and they have run.

The Dentist

So why the back story?

Earlier this year Derek when for his normal checkup with the Dentist.  She checked his teeth.  They are ok.  He needs more work the longer he is on steroids, but it could also be the fact he has “reached a certain age”.   It comes to us all eventually.

She did x-rays, and then the bad news.  “You need to have your 2 remaining wisdom teeth out.”

“OK can you do it?”  Ah, the naivety of my darling husband.  Hell NO!  No way she will do it.  She doesn’t mind the fact he is on warfarin to stop him clotting.  He can even keep his INR within his designated range.  She isn’t even worried that he has suffered CAPS.  What she is terrified about is the stress it will cause him, and the very real, and high risk of an Adrenal Crisis.

“You need to see an orthodontist.  They will do it under anesthetic, in hospital, where they can keep an eye on you, and monitor you properly.

Here’s where it gets a bit real.  Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons cost money.  OK, not as much as in the US, but a lot for little old NZ.  And I sure as hell am NOT paying.

I don’t mind paying $1500 to have it done in the local surgery, under local anesthetic.  But an oral surgeon, anesthetist, a hospital bed for the day (or longer).  No way.  We would not have to pay that if he didn’t have AI, so no way am I paying.

Fighting the Dragon

Off to the Dragon’s Leir we go.  Putting on our bravest face.  Derek puts the words on paper, and I then writing them in a firm way.

Please Mr Dragon, can we have the money for the surgery.  We should be covered as it’s due to the treatment injury he needs the high-risk extraction.

I don’t know if it’s the words I use, but we were told “Please, who would you like to assess you.  We have Surgeons on our supplier list.  Use one of them”.

Well, this is going to be a battle then.  And the line has been drawn.  We have to use one of THEIR suppliers.  And anyone who has dealt with ACC know that their “authorized suppliers” are not there to spend ACC money, they are there to reduce that spend.

First blood to us.  The Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon we wanted to specifically use, is on THEIR list.  We get our choice.  But this is just stage one.  The visit to the Orthodontist to get an assessment.

Does Derek need the extractions: Absolutely, and soon, there is already jaw damage being caused by the teeth.  It will soon become painful, and there is a high risk of infection.

Does it need to be done by a specialist:  Absolutely yes.  These could be done in a standard dental surgery, but if something goes wrong, the teeth break or they are difficult extractions, then it would have to stop, and then it would become an emergency extraction.

Does Derek need General Anesthetic.  Yes.  Due to his complicated situation, a General, even though stressful on the body would be safer in case something goes wrong with the extraction.

We wait for the report to come back from the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon.  It didn’t come.  Oh, yes it did, it went to SPAM.

We then draft a very short email to Derek’s Case Manager and forward the report and the quote.

We decide that we will be willing to split the cost.  We pay what it would cost in a normal dental surgery, ACC pay the rest.  Now we wait to see what they decide.

Again, we waited.  The first thing we were expecting was a letter from the Case Manager saying “thanks for your email, I will forward it for decision”.  It never came.  So, a week later we sent it again.  Having fought battles with this Dragon before (and won) we did our usual.

“HI, you haven’t responded to our previous email.  Please tell us what is happening, we are reattaching the documents in case they were stopped at your gateway.”  We sent the email again 6 working days later.  Then we sent one without the attachment.  Still absolutely no response.  So we had one more go.  But this time we sent a copy to their “Complaints” department.  We have learned through the 6 years so far of battling ACC, that we need to do this to make things happen.

We received a very quick response, but NOT from our case manager.   The response included “ Ann has left ACC, this is why you wouldn’t have received a response yet.  We have sent your email to someone else”.  That was it.  Still no idea who.

Apparently, “Ann” ran so fast out the door of the Dragon’s Leir, she didn’t have time to let anyone know she was going.  We were put on to someone else.

We waited until “someone else” then responded to us.

So off to the complaints office we trot.  This time it was a “Formal” complaint, not just a CC.

We want to know who our case manager is, why have we not had a decision on the dental work, why were we not told our case manager had left, oh, and why, after making the first “complain” was his right to have what is called “Driving for Independence” looked at, and why was our GP being asked whether Derek was now able to drive safely, and therefore cancel the driving provided.

Suddenly a swathe of emails from the Dragon’s Leir.

  • SORRY! We have given you TWO case managers so this never happens again.
  • SORRY! Please resend the information and we will get it to our assessment team urgently.
  • SORRY!  I hadn’t read the case file fully, and just saw that your driving was renewed 6 monthly, and that hadn’t happened so was reassessing your need.  I now understand that it is a permanent (lifelong) Driving service we provide.

I guess, if you have to be given a sword to slay a dragon, it’s great when you get the RIGHT sword.

I have mentioned before, and if anyone fighting ACC reads this again, I will repeat.  YOU HAVE RIGHTS!  And for Derek, the key right is that they MUST take his injury into account whenever dealing with him. They had also failed to properly communicate with us, along with other violations.

For someone with a broken leg it’s easy.  They simply say, here, have some crutches and come on in for an assessment.  With a Mental disability due to an accident, it’s not as easy, and the sword they are given is NOT a strong one.  They are disadvantaged as they must fight with all the might of someone fully functional, but who is missing two arms.  And the sword can be taken at any time, just because they can.

But for Derek, they can’t do that.  His covered condition is Adrenal Insufficiency (although the regularly get that wrong, and are currently calling it Adrenal Sufficiency).   But as it is written everywhere that it is the lack of the stress response hormone, it’s a “Gotcha”.  They are not allowed to cause him stress because it will make him sick, and that is not taking his injury into account.

And they have come to the party.  Not quite with the best offer, but it’s a start, they have agreed to pay for the hospital, and the anesthesiologist.  We haven’t finished, but we have time.

So now the preparation begins for the 24 January 2020 (baring anything going wrong in the meantime). Derek is scheduled for the first appointment of the day, in a private hospital, for his tooth extraction, and a day’s monitoring to ensure he doesn’t get sick.

 

 

One Size Dose NOT Fit All

If there is one thing we have learned in the last 9 months it is that where Adrenal Insufficiency (Addison’s) is concerned, One Size Does NOT Fit All.

We have met other addisonian’s on line, from NZ and other countries.  They are all different in how they manage their condition, how much Hydrocortisone they take, or which other corticosteroids they take to replace their Cortisol.  It also varies on when they take it, when they “stress dose”, why they “stress dose” etc.

Derek is slowly learning what works for him.  We ask others with more experience what they do, and then work out if it could be of benefit, either by trialing, or by “assessing the benefits”.

One thing we have found out is that “Stress” is different for everyone.  Derek finds it stressful getting to work in the morning.  Since he has had a Taxi to work, he is feeling a lot better.

He also finds meetings where he is not the person with the knowledge and experience, can be extremely stressful.  When he is in a meeting at work, or with a client discussing their needs for individualised versions of  his Security software, he is in control, he knows what he is talking about, so he does not get as stressed and can normally manage such meetings without “stress dosing”.

When he is in a meeting with  someone where they “have the upper hand”, or they are controlling the meeting, it is a lot more stressful.  A Job interview, a phone call to make a complaint as a consumer etc, are all stress triggers for him and he needs to Stress Dose.  Others find just dealing with their Dr causes high stress levels.

We have also found that the standard “You are this height, take this dose” also doesn’t fit everyone.  In fact, it’s a shame the Dr’s don’t realise it doesn’t fit anyone.  There is no consideration for what you do for a living, what your home life is like, what other medical conditions you may have that your body is working hard to control.

And then, just for the heck of it.  Something happens (like you get older) and you have to change the amount you take because your circumstances have changed.  You no longer have to get yourself to work, your have moved into a house with no garden work to do, you get a pay rise so can get a house keeper, your kids leave home (one day please).  Any thing can change your routine to a point where you need to take extra, or, if you are lucky, can reduce what you take routinely.

Addison’s, like many, is a hidden condition. You don’t know someone has got it unless they tell you, or they collapse in front of you.  On a good day, they look “Normal”, on a rough day, they look tired, on a bad day you don’t see them because they haven’t got out of bed.

The only time you would notice it is if they are in a stressful situation or they have overdone things and they start to “crash” in front of you as their cortisol levels drop, their blood pressure drops, their ability to “function” drops.

I have watched this happen with Derek recently.  He was fine, talking, thinking, interacting, with life and zeal.  I turned to look at him and I could see him going down in front of me.  His speech had slowed, his eyes were a little sunken, he looked like he had been through the mill.  He decided to get up from his seat to get some more HC and found it hard to stand.  His blood pressure had dropped.

It can happen quickly.  The good news with this event is that when it happened, he took the extra HC and an hour later he was feeling better.  He woke up the next morning feeling well enough to go to work.

The speed an Addisonian recovers from stress is proportionate with how they are feeling pre-stress.  If they are unwell, it will take a lot longer to recover than if they were feeling good before hand.