With all the talk about budgets and necessary cuts, I thought I would share my story about Planned Parenthood.
When I first moved away from my parents after college, I found myself at a temp job and then eventually in the restaurant business. Neither offered benefits right away. I believed then, and still believe now in preventative medicine. Since I found myself waiting for paperwork to go through, without insurance and in need of my yearly pap smear, I went to Planned Parenthood.
At that visit, they discovered my blood pressure was a bit high. (150/110) We determined that my diet that day of Diet Pepsi and potato chips might have had something to do with it, but they urged me to have it checked again within a few weeks. (They also urged me to eat a vegetable, for crying out loud.)
A few weeks later, as I visited my mother back in Chicago at the hospital she worked at, I mentioned that I needed my blood pressure checked. Her office mate and friend offered to do it while my mom tied up a few things before we left for lunch.
She took it twice. And looked a little troubled.
She then had my mom take it. My mom looked very troubled. At this point neither of them were telling me the numbers they got, only staring at each other in disbelief.
They thought I was going to stroke out at any moment.
I headed back to Nashville with an appointment lined up to get a referral to Vanderbilt. (Remember, this is all without insurance.)
I got the referral and headed over to Vanderbilt to see the head of the Renal Department. I was by far the youngest and skinniest person in the waiting room. In fact, there were a great number of questions raised as to whether I was abusing diuretics. (Which, ewww.) Or if I was bulimic (Which, bigger ewww. They obviously didn’t get my phobia of vomit.)
I went back every day for three weeks to give blood. I did countless resting blood pressure checks, and as many standing blood pressure checks.
The “House” of Vanderbilt was having a hard time coming up with answers.
Then a potassium deficiency was discovered. (That one time I ate four bananas right before giving blood kinda messed up the first potassium test. Ooops.)
After a few more months of blood pressure lowering meds, potassium supplements, and restricted activities they found the answer. A CT scan confirmed I had a hyperaldosterone secreting tumor. Surgery was scheduled for a few days later and it was removed.
And within a few hours of surgery my blood pressure and potassium levels were back to normal. In fact, I now have fairly low blood pressure.
I could go on and on about how the surgery was almost cancelled because I didn’t have insurance and how stressful that was. (You know, stress that could raise my already high blood pressure and kill me.) And how the surgeon was my hero and told me he would do the surgery no matter what as long as I showed up.
I could go on about the friend who convinced me to approach the company I worked for who had misplaced my health insurance application therefore making this all out of pocket and how the head of the company fixed it all and backdated my coverage.
But what I really want to emphasize today, what I want to remind everyone is that I went to Planned Parenthood for a pap smear. Preventative care that saved my life. If that kind nurse hadn’t checked my blood pressure and urged me to stay on top of it, I wouldn’t be here today.