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A healed bone (I hope)

20 May

It’s been six weeks to the day since my surgery. I’m going to see the oral surgeon this afternoon, and if all goes well, he’ll find that my bone has healed and tell me that I can start chewing softer foods again. I don’t know how he’ll determine whether the bone has healed, but my guess is that he’ll take an x-ray.

Regardless of what the surgeon might say later, my jaw feels ready. There’s still a little bit of numbness in the area, and I still can’t open it all the way, but it has acquired a feeling of strength that wasn’t there a couple of weeks ago. Three weeks ago, as I approached the moment of my unwiring, my excitement was gradually replaced by nervousness, but (at least so far) that isn’t happening this time.

A corollary and a question

14 May

This morning, when the person from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts told me that no claims had ever been submitted for me, it occurred to me that this meant that the oral surgeon’s office hadn’t yet submitted a claim. This isn’t a big deal, but if they were going to wait five weeks before submitting the claim, did they really need to call me for insurance information just two hours after the procedure, while I was still sleeping off the anesthesia?

The first bill

13 May

My accident was five and a half weeks ago, and I just received the first bill from the incident today. This bill, from American Medical Response, is just for the ten-mile ambulance ride, and it came out to $1,592.90. Most of this should be covered by my insurance, but the bill tells me,

No authorization has been provided for this claim. If you do not obtain an authorization you will be responsible for payment in full for this claim.

I’m surprised that they don’t have an authorization from my insurance because the EMT on the ambulance went through my wallet (with my permission), found my insurance cards, and told me that my insurance information was “going through.” Obviously, this isn’t the same as claiming to have an authorization, but I don’t know what else he could have meant.

This message was followed by a customer service number, which was closed for the evening when I dialed it. I followed up by attempting to call both of my insurance providers, but they were also closed for the day.

The due date on this bill is May 18, which is Monday of next week. The invoice is dated May 8, which was Friday of last week, but the bill didn’t arrive until today.  Fortunately, any payment that I owe will only have to travel as far as San Francisco, but that still means I’ll have to put a check in the mail on Saturday, so I need to resolve the insurance situation by Friday.

Even giving American Medical Response the benefit of the doubt and supposing that they actually mailed the bill on Friday, it took them twenty-five business days to get any billing information on its way to me, and I’ll have two business days to sort things out. I’m very lucky that I can afford to pay for it if I have to, but I can’t help but see this as symptomatic of a badly broken healthcare system.

New rubber band update

13 May

I awoke this morning to find that all three of the rubber bands in my mouth had broken during the night. This is definitely not looking promising.

The new rubber bands

12 May

After dinner, I tried putting in some of the new rubber bands. None of them broke while I was putting them in, so it may be that these new ones are of higher quality than the ones I’ve had in the past. I would appreciate this very much because I’d rather not have to worry about running out of rubber bands.

After I put the rubber bands in my mouth, I decided to see how far I could open my mouth. The answer, it turned out, was far enough to break the rubber band in the front of my mouth. When the band snapped, it hit my lip, and my lip stung for a little while. I replaced the band with another one, opened my mouth not quite as far as the last time, and the rubber band I had just put in broke. I replaced the broken band again, and decided to keep my mouth shut for a while. However, this apparently wasn’t good enough for the rubber band on the right side of my mouth, which snapped a few minutes later while my mouth was closed.

I guess I’d say that what I’ve seen from these rubber bands isn’t particularly promising so far, but I’m doing my best to be cautiously optimistic.

Checking in with the oral surgeon

12 May

Today was my two-week check-in with the oral surgeon, although I’ll actually only have been wireless for two weeks as of tomorrow. I went in to the appointment not expecting much to happen, and the appointment pretty much lived up to expectations. The surgeon asked if I had any problems or questions, and I mentioned to him that I’d need more rubber bands. He looked at my mouth and observed that I had done a good job putting rubber bands in. He asked if I had any more questions, and I mentioned that I had noticed that my mouth seemed to be opening a little bit further on the right side than on the left side. He had me open my mouth and close it a few times, and he told me that it looked pretty straight, but he could see what I was talking about, and that the exercises I’ll start next week will help with that.

The oral surgeon gave me some more rubber bands, “a whole bunch of them”, as he put it. These rubber bands came in a sealed plastic bag, which stood in contrast to the white paper envelopes I had received previously. I’m usually not a fan of plastics, but in this case I appreciated the difference of materials because the small paper envelopes have tended to fall apart in my pocket. The rubber bands inside were different, too. While the old ones were a yellowish color, the new ones were almost transparent. As I left, I hoped that these new rubber bands would be better quality than the ones that had been breaking so frequently over the last two weeks.

I made an appointment to return to the oral surgeon next Wednesday. After that appointment, I will no longer need to wear rubber bands, but the arch bars will remain in my mouth. If all goes well, the arch bars won’t actually be needed, but in case something should go wrong and need rubber bands again, it will be easier if the arch bars haven’t been removed. Also, I expect that after my next appointment, I’ll be able to start chewing soft foods again.

Another rubber band shortage

10 May

My next appointment with the oral surgeon is on Tuesday, and I have only one rubber band left (excluding the three that are in my mouth). The fact that the oral surgeon has twice given me only one envelope of rubber bands when the quality of the product is so low suggests, I think, that he doesn’t see many patients with injuries like mine.

Minor updates

4 May

Today was a relatively uneventful day. I can only really think of a few things to comment on:

  • I tried dunking some Joe Joe’s sandwich cookies in water, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they softened very quickly. I then proceeded to eat an inordinate number of the cookies.
  • My meals were almost exactly the same as yesterday’s. The only change was substituting hummus for refried beans at lunch. In the morning, I worried that I was packing too much food for my lunch in the office, but I ended up finishing it at 10:20AM and needing to have half a serving of Vega to make it through the day.
  • The oral surgeon returned my call this morning, leaving a voicemail while I was in class. He told me that some discomfort was normal, but he didn’t answer the question of whether I should ice it. People ignoring half of my questions is a pet peeve of mine, but in this case I was less bothered by it because the discomfort had gone away already.

Rubber bands

3 May

For the three week period following the removal of my wires, I have to have rubber bands in my mouth to keep my teeth returning to the right position. Now that I’ve been wearing them for a few days, there are a few things that seem to be worth mentioning:

  • Unlike the rubber bands that I wore on my orthodontic braces in junior high, these go right at the front of my mouth. They’re probably pretty visible to people when I talk to them, although I’m not really one to be too bothered by that. Most of the people I talk to in the course of a day have some idea of what I’ve been through over the last few weeks, anyway.
  • When I first put in new rubber bands, they taste (unsurprisingly) like rubber. In case you’re wondering, I’m familiar with the taste of rubber from licking an eraser in second grade.
  • Fortunately, I am allowed to remove the rubber bands to eat. It takes some restraint on my part not to eat all the time as an excuse to leave the rubber bands out.
  • For the first day or two, after a meal I’d find that I was having trouble figuring out where my teeth should be resting, and the rubber bands were helpful in straightening things out. By now, my jaw is finding its resting position even before I get the rubber bands back in.
  • These rubber bands are very prone to breaking. I had two break in the first section I taught on Thursday and one in the last section. Often, rubber bands will break when I try to put them in for the first time. The oral surgeon only gave me a small envelope of rubber bands, and I’ll be surprised if it lasts until my next appointment (which is Tuesday of next week).
  • Yesterday, I noticed the rubber bands making some squeaking sounds when I opened my mouth wide. I wondered if this was a sign that I’m able to open my mouth further than I previously.
  • Sometimes when I’m walking around, I’ll notice that I’m clenching my teeth. I don’t know if this is because of the pressure applied by the rubber bands or because I’m used to having my jaw wired shut. I also don’t know why this only happens when I’m walking around.

Not a bill

2 May

Neglected (but not forgotten) in the excitement over opening my mouth for the first time in three weeks was the arrival on Wednesday of a statement for my treatment in the emergency room. It stated in big letters that it was not a bill, and that the hospital was in the process of billing my insurance company. Unfortunately, it appears that (in spite of the EMT in the ambulance telling me that he had submitted information for both insurances) they have only my student insurance information, which is secondary to the plan I have through my father’s job. I’ll have to get that corrected, and it will almost surely be more trouble than it needs to be.

Fortunately, the charges are less than I thought they might be (although still a substantial sum of money for a stay of less than four hours). I’m surprised, though, by a charge of $157.10 for “Pharmacy”. The only things I can think of that this might have covered are the hospital robe, the stuff they used to clean my abrasions, the needle and thread to stitch my wounds, the tube of bacitracin ointment they gave me, and the shirt I left the hospital in. They didn’t even bandage my wounds, so there would have been no charge for bandages. I’ve listed a lot of possibilities, obviously, but it’s still hard for me to believe it would add up to that much, and some of it I would have expected to be included under “Emergency treatment” instead. Luckily, my insurance should cover almost all of the charges (once I get the correct information to the hospital), but I have to feel bad for the uninsured patient who has to pay the whole bill.

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