Friday, June 29, 2007

The helmet is in - but you can't have it.

I am positively FED UP with this woman in Orthotics & Prosthetics.

First, we find out that he needs a helmet and they spring on us AT the appointment that we need to pay $1500 out of pocket just to get him casted for the helmet. (Like they can't MENTION that when you schedule your appointment???? Days, if not WEEKS, ahead of time?) They KNOW that. Why not just say "Can I get your insurance? Oh, by the way, your carrier typically doesn't cover this, so you may want to be prepared to pay for it yourself."

So, we get there, are not in a position to pay that right that moment, so we have to leave and come back another day. He had been casted for his back brace a week before that and they said it would be 7-10 days, so we thought three more days, tops. Another week beyond that goes by, with us calling her to check and see if it was in (time is precious when a spine is pressing on your baby's heart and he has progressive scoliosis).

John pressed - caling her and explaining that we needed to get this done ASAP saying that they told us 7-10 days and it was now 15, then called our doctor's office. They said the plastic surgery department needed to call and really put the pressure on them to get him in. The O&P lady actually said to John, "Well you should have come over to do it THAT day - we had openings that day." Oh - did you also have $1500 you could give us THAT DAY?!!!?!? Because we had NO WARNING that we'd need $500 down at least - could YOU write a check for $500 with a moment's notice? We didn't even have a checkbook WITH us.

Miraculously, his brace was ready midday. But, of course, they couldn't get him IN that day - and then we had to begin the literally three hour process of getting TO the hospital's lab (by the time we arrange for the kids to go somewhere and drive over there).

So, we finally get in 15 days after he's been casted for his back brace and they do his helmet casting. Again, we're told 7-10 days. Today is day 10 and she calls this morning to say that it's in. BUT - she wants to schedule it for Monday afternoon - well, we have another appointment Monday afternoon. Okay, how about Tuesday afternoon? NO, we see the surgeon on Tuesday. Fine - well, Wednesday is a holiday so I guess the earliest we could get you in is Thursday.

Thursday is almost a month since we were told to get him casted - she said, "Oh - you mean since it was PRESCRIBED?" Whatever! YES.

She proceeds to tell me how the whole day is booked up because they do fittings and adjustments on other patients AND the plastic surgery department sends over walk-ins for castings - because Fridays are supposedly the only day they see patients (Funny - we weren't there on a Friday!).

I explained that his head is going to stop being nearly as flexible as time goes by and we've already lost an entire MONTH in this process. She puts me on hold and says they can squeeze me in at 10:30 on monday, but that they have another helmet fitting and it will be tight - so, great - we'll be lucky if we can RUSH out the door and get to the next appointment!

So, now I'm in tears from having to deal with this woman. Emotions are running high as it is - everything feels like we're running out of time as his skull hardens and his spine gets worse and NOTHING can impress upon this woman how urgent it is when it's YOUR BABY!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* UPDATE*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I called the hospital to file a complaint. They paged the head of hospital relations, and, lucky for me, he was a gentle older man who was very understanding and compassionate. He's going to make the call today to get them informing parents when they call for the appointment for helmeting with plastic surgery that they'll be responsible for such a large sum up front. It doesn't change my experience, but if it helps the hundreds, if not thousands, of parents behind us then our frustration hasn't been in vain.

He also took note of this woman in Orthotics and we talked about how she should be in another field. They are providing a service here, and failing to meet our needs, so we will no longer be customers of this lab. From now on, we'll do all of his orthotics through Shriner's. I explained that while Jack's issues are lifelong, they're not nearly as devastating as, perhaps, the loss of your child's limb or the other issues children come in for. I pointed out that when a parent comes into the hospital for their child, they are in as much pain as that child - and this is as difficult for them, if not moreso. Someone who cannot comprehend that and cannot be compassionate about the urgency or concern a parent has, should not be in that profession dealing with the parents on a daily basis. He agreed wholeheartedly and said they not only treat children, but parents, grandparents, and even aunts and uncles there - when parents have to return to work or whatever their situation is.

So, I hope that my constructive criticism of our encounters at least helps someone else coming down this path in the future.

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