Spilled Medicine

A wave of anxiety washed over me as I walked into the examination room. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I knew something just didn’t feel right. For days I had an overwhelming desire to just stay in bed. I lost the energy to leave the house or even move around inside of it. I felt the utter lethargy of the flu without any other flu-like symptoms. I wasn’t feverish. I had no cough and my nose wasn’t runny.

I sat in front of the doctor and calmly listed out my symptoms. I told her my back, arm and shoulder were aching and most importantly that I was physically worn out. I was exhausted by a simple day of work, which involved little to no activity. I was unable to draw in a deep breath and it felt like a heavy weight was pressed against my chest. The doctor sent me for a chest x-ray, but the tests revealed nothing out of the ordinary. I was told a clear x-ray meant I had “absolutely nothing to worry about.”

No further tests were ordered. No follow-up appointments were scheduled. Despite the doctor’s reassurance my health quickly took a turn for the worse. I returned to that same office two days later and begged that same doctor to help me. As she began to dismiss my symptoms I pulled off my shirt and revealed the bright blue veins that traversed my chest. “This is not normal,” I said in a shaky voice. She looked me in the eye and said, “You are only twenty-seven, I’m sure this is nothing.” Again she sent me off with a wave of her hand and a referral to see a specialist. The specialist didn’t have an appointment available for over three weeks, but it turns out I couldn’t wait that long for an answer.

Early the next morning I walked to the basement to wash clothes and found myself unable to climb back upstairs. I sat down unable to catch my breath and sobbed. Something was most definitely wrong. My husband drove me to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with a life threatening condition that required immediate medical attention. I learned three lessons from that experience:

  1. Always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
  2. Illness and medical conditions can strike anyone at any time. Unfortunately age will not make you immune to them.
  3. If a doctor dismisses the urgency of your symptoms find another doctor or go to the emergency room (that trip to the ER saved my life!).

Within a week of my ER visit the first medical bill arrived in the mail. Luckily I had amazing health insurance, but even with insurance I owed over $8,000 for doctors visits and medical treatment that spanned a six-month period.

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It’s easy to see how one unexpected injury or illness can wipe out your savings and land you in a sea of unpaid medical bills. You’ll spend whatever it takes to get better, but without solid financial planning debts can easily mount around you.

What if you fall unexpectedly ill? Do you have an emergency fund large enough to cover a medical crisis? If not, where would you turn for money if an emergency occurs?

Many people use credit cards, home equity loans and even get help from friends and family, but what if none of these are available when you find yourself in need? What do you do when you don’t have the money to pay your bills? Where do you go in emergencies?

Are you financially prepared for an unexpected medical crisis or other emergency?