Volume 79, Number 39 | March 3 - 9, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Among the walking wounded

By Dottie Wilson

Nowhere on this planet except for Cambodia have I ever seen more humans hobbling around on canes and crutches and walkers than in the East Village. Some days you’d swear this neighborhood had once been riddled with land mines.

And to think I used to make inappropriate jokes about this large population of unfortunate humanity. (What do you expect from someone who as a child once made prank phone calls to a hearing-aid store?)

Presently, however — laugh all you want — I’ve become a grim, physically challenged (yet still politically incorrect) observer of street-side minutiae, healthcare reform and world economy. Moving along in slow motion (crippled, in pain and on crutches), I have also come to the conclusion that even the most mundane details of day-to-day existence are horrible.

Forget earthquakes, massive unemployment, childhood obesity, the underpants bomber, the former governor of Alaska and the controversial equivalent in New York. 

In January, I had a totally spastic accident while standing on my kitchen counter putting up supposedly festive and red, chili-pepper lights. After this insane/spectacular event, I could only crawl around on my hands and knees, yet eventually discovered I could use an office chair to get from point A to B. I also turned a small plant stand with wheels into a ramp, and did a lot of scooting. When a neighbor bearing crutches came by to visit (Hi, Bonnie), I did the most awesome impression of Eddie Murphy from the movie “Trading Places: “‘I HAVE LEGS!!! This is beautiful. Glory be to God. Praise Jesus! WHAT A HAPPY DAY!’”

Later, I exchanged messages with a “friend” who had a similar injury, which escalated into a sick and twisted discussion about today’s crazy healthcare system. She’d gone to the E.R., while I waited to see a primary-care physician (P.C.P.). My medical condition was physical, but I felt like a major mental patient. I wanted to commit a hate crime.

I am damaged, people are broke and broken. It’s like the Special Olympics out there! Despite the economy, there are now five banks within a two-block radius of my apartment; the neighborhood “shop local” concept is practically impossible. 

Even though my foot was hurt (Doh!), I’m just about ready for brain surgery — provided it’s covered by my truly offensive and dysfunctional health insurance company — which words alone cannot begin to describe.  

Lynn is appalled by how much her little accident is going to end up costing. The bills have just started rolling in. My insurance will cover it all, but it highlights once again how truly screwed people without insurance are.

A sick and twisted discussion about today’s crazy healthcare system: 
Hal: It’s no wonder that over 50% of bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. I’m glad you’ve got good insurance. The cost of private insurance is outrageous.

Lynn: $1,500 for initial ER visit for which I limped in under my own steam. This cost does not include the doctor, radiologist, crutches, or ankle brace. It does include the Motrin ($1). Never mind the charges I’ve incurred since then. Yipe!

Ray: That’s why you should never go to the ER for anything less than a REAL emergency...you need a PCP.

Lynn: I have a PCP, but my first instinct was to go to Emergency. Guess that’ll learn me.

Wilson: My 1st instinct was to go to the ER, but it was a late Friday afternoon, freezing cold & snowing, I couldn’t walk at all, live in six-floor walk-up. I didn’t want to overreact, as I heard it often best w/ foot injuries to take a “wait and see” course of action. And I didn’t WANT to spend 12 hours in ER getting swine-staph something or other. I figured I’d just need to get an X ray to make sure nothing was broken/serious. So I hibernated over the weekend, put it on ice, and took Ibuprofen...a friend brought over crutches. 

Getting an appointment w/ my PCP the following Monday (which I was forced to do if I wanted to get a
“referral” for X rays) was NOT EASY. I had to throw a small tantrum because at first “they” said to go to the ER, get “hospital transit” (and waste a huge amount of TIME AND MONEY). Even the co-pay for the PCP is cheaper than the ER... 

But in the end, I received NONE of the special “treatment” I would have gotten in ER (foot wrapping, a “special” boot, which my friend also had but I never could use, etc). I felt like maybe I was stupid for NOT going to the ER, by trying to err on the side of caution, thinking all I needed was an X ray (and that if there was a serious problem I’d deal with it later, w/ a specialist). Again, I didn’t even want to see the PCP, like what were THEY going to do? They’re not set up for that kind of stuff! NOTHING MADE SENSE. 

Lynn: I think I ended up getting better service than I would have gotten otherwise. Dunno. In hindsight I should at least have called my PCP and got her opinion on what I should do. Obviously I wasn’t dying or anything... Just hurting and not really thinking things through. Sounds like it’s going to take a while. Ouchy.

Wilson: Can we talk about something else? Sarah Palin, PC issues, death and taxes?



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