Friday, March 15, 2013

Age, Gelt, Neck Surgery & A New Haircut

Grey curls fell one after another onto the black nylon cloth covering me from neck to knees as the little Thai man applied a pair of clippers to the back of my neck.  I was appalled at how profoundly silver my undercoat had become—was this all coming from my head, or was someone playing a practical joke on me by sprinkling hair from some old lady over my shoulder into my lap?  Perhaps age sneaks up on everybody like this—one day they are fresh out of college, looking forward to buying furniture for their first apartment, and the next they are faced with the prospect of total hip replacement and the quandary of which grandchild will be available to drive them to the weekly Bingo game.  Myself, I am facing neck surgery on Tuesday and having no relatives handy am relying on friends to drive me to the hospital early that morning (the procedure is scheduled for 7:45) and then fetch me away afterwards.  Leah and her husband are taking me to the OR, and once I am stitched back up and in a neck brace Mary and little Faith are whisking me to Rockville to stay in their first-floor guest bedroom. 

I told the surgeon he’d better not sneeze while rooting around in my neck—he was briskly honking into a Kleenex when I went back to the examining room this morning.  He laughed and assured me he wouldn’t.  I saw the neurosurgeon for a second opinion yesterday.  She looked over my MRI images and ran some basic function tests and told me that not only did I need one level fused, she’d recommend going ahead and fusing two.  So I rescheduled the postponed surgery, got the preoperative blood work redone this afternoon, and then went out and had eleven inches cut from my hair, and the remainder shaped into a shroom-like bob.  Given that I won’t be able to wash my hair after surgery for several days, I wanted something low-maintenance.  And light—my sister had speculated that my neck problems might have been exacerbated by the fact that for most of my life I had very long, heavy hair.  Too, I was starting to look sort of scraggly, skanky even, with my (shorter) longer hair: greying wisps flying out all over, and thinning at the ends.  Getting a chin-length cut was my concession to the fact of middle age and middling health.  I feel much bouncier already, and responses of friends and family to my new look have been entirely positive.

I got a horrifyingly large bill from the Virginia Hospital Center for my Valentine’s Day MRI—over $3500, after the insurance-negotiated discount.  I am going to see if I can get some financial help with this, as paying that would wipe out my whole several years of savings in one go, not to mention the other, smaller bills that are coming due to the urgent care clinic, the pre-op center, the orthopedic surgeon, the neurosurgeon and the hospital (never mind the anesthesiologist and other people involved in the surgery)!  I had decided on a $5000 deductible for my health insurance a couple of years ago because I knew I was basically healthy, poor (so I couldn’t afford to pay much more out of pocket for the premium), and if something happened to me it would probably be catastrophic and then $5000 would be the least of my payment worries (I was betting on a car accident).  Well, I didn’t figure on being mildly disabled for no external reason, out of work for three weeks at a stretch, still having the usual living expenses of rent and groceries and electricity and life in addition to the challenge of coming up with $5000 in cash for the medical expenses.  It’s a challenge. 

The little hairs at the back of my neck where it was shaved are itching. It feels like horsehair upholstery.

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