In recognition of Big Pharma…

I’m not going to lie here, I was a bit skeptical when I was given a link that promised a “significant rebate” on one of the more expensive meds that are currently keeping me alive. Sure it was all nice and official and came to me by way of bitching at my doctor about the ridiculous cost of this new pill, but the claims of being rebated almost 95% of my out of pocket expenses seemed outlandish and unrealistic.

After getting my second check back from the nice folks at Merck, though, I had to admit to being pleasantly surprised. Sure, they make they process convoluted and require a fair deal of bureaucracy, but in the end what would otherwise be an obnoxious monthly expense ends up costing a total of $5.00 out of pocket. I’m just going to ignore for the time being the small fortune I’m sure to be costing Blue Cross for all this, of course. I just think of myself as an insurance industry loss leader. They an feel free to use me as an example of someone who’s wildly pleased with their products and services.

As much as I like to bitch and complain, I think it’s worth doling out credit where and when it’s due. From my perch, kudos to Big Pharma for the solid work at delivering new and effective medication and for having a means and method to help offset costs for he end user. Well done.

New drugs…

One of the many exciting parts of my recent run of days off was a visit with my frighteningly Teutonic primary care doctor. I actually like the guy – Not just because he’s instrumental in keeping me alive despite my best efforts to the contrary, but also because he’s not a pushover. I’ve had docs in the past who were probably a bit too willing to give way in the face of a strong personality. This guy, well, he’s not a pushover. Even when I’m blatantly ignoring his advice, I appreciate his frank and direct approach.

This most recent visit resulted in a few tweaks to the daily chemical cocktail that’s doing its best to keep me from dropping dead. Although I’m feeling fine, we added a fairly new drug to the mix because some of the underlying numbers were starting to creep off target. Yeah, it’s another hundred bucks a month out of pocket, but when weighed against the previously mentioned dropping dead option, I suppose it’s really a bargain.

As a responsible drug user, I try to be at least minimally informed about what I’m swallowing down with my morning coffee. Reading the list of potential side effects checked off most of the usual unpleasant check boxes: May cause runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, irritability, back pain, joint or muscle pain, nausea, stomach pain, or diarrhea. Basically what the helpful information packet told me is that the side effects are a subset of conditions I already expect to experience on a regular basis. Super.

Better living through chemistry, indeed.

Pain management…

I got a call today from a number I didn’t recognize. Usually I (not so) cheerfully ignore those, but since I was working from home today, I accepted the call… at which point I started down the rabbit hole.

Them: Hi, Mr. Tharp. I’m Casey from Whatever-the-Hell-Company. I’d like to talk to you today about your prescription pain management program?

Me: Uhhh. My what now?

Them: I’m Casey from Whatever-the-Hell-Company and I’d like to talk to you today about your prescription pain management program?

Me: Yeah, I don’t have one of those.

Them: Well, Mr. Tharp, I’d like to talk to you about…”

Me: *Ends call and wishes hanging up a cell phone felt any bit as good as slamming down the receiver of an old fashioned rotary telephone*

Now this was a live person who I’m assuming was working off a script based on my three days as an inbound tele-marketing center employee. Cold calls are fine and all and since she had a pleasant voice and didn’t immediately try to sell me on Amway I was trying to be cordial… but when I’ve told you for the second time that whatever information you have is incorrect, it’s best not to keep telling me that I do, in fact, have a prescription pain management program. Frankly I feel like that’s something I’d know about.

I’ll be reinstating my policy of letting all unknown numbers ring through to voicemail immediately. I should have known better.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Brain fog. Perhaps worse than actually being sick is the pharmacologically induced brain fog that comes from trying to stave off the more obnoxious effects of the human condition. It makes everything happen just a little bit slower and makes it well near impossible to craft well formed and coherent sentences. Don’t even ask how badly it tends to mangle spelling and grammar usage, which isn’t a particularly strength of mine to begin with. Despite the annoyance, I’ve got a few more days of self medicating left before letting the stuff work its way out of my system. Until then I’ll continue to be the poster boy for short attention spans.

2. Two months. We’re still two months from the 2016 presidential election. I usually like this stuff, but I think at this point I’d rather take a jackhammer to the side of the head than listen to another day of the back and forth.

3. Afternoon television. It’s something I only notice the once a year or so that I find myself home and otherwise unengaged between the hours of noon and 4:00 pm, but there really is absolutely nothing on television on a typical weekday afternoon. Which makes perfect sense when you consider that most of the people who have jobs to earn disposable income are at their jobs earning disposable income instead of home watching television. Still, I’d like to note how wonderful it is to live in an age of Netflix and Amazon Prime. They saved me from endless hours of crap programming on the networks and cable providers this week.

Doctor’s orders…

After spending the better part of an hour this morning with the orthopedic surgeon, he basically confirmed what was a foregone conclusion. Winston has a complete tear in his cranial cruciate ligament (CrCL). The only interesting bit I gleaned from the appointment was that the tear most likely occurred long before he started showing signs of it two weeks ago. His knee is already showing signs of scar tissue filling in and trying to stabilize the joint. That’s the good news.

For the moment, as long as he’s taking anti-inflammatory and not putting any undue strain on his leg, he’s getting along without any real sign of trouble. The bad news is that he can’t stay on the anti-inflammatory indefinitely. When that prescription runs out in a few weeks, we’ll have to make a judgment call on how severely his range of motion is effected, how much pain he’s in, and how much his quality of life is disturbed. For the moment, we keep him medicated and keep him relatively calm (which isn’t particularly hard with a bulldog).

For now, all options remain on the table – from basic medication and plenty of rest to the repeat of the TPLO surgery he had on the opposite leg three years ago. I wish there was something more definitive to report this evening. As you can probably well imagine, I’m not at my best when dealing with the vagaries of time and a whole lot of “maybe.”

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Side effects. We all know I’m a fan of better living through chemistry. The problem, of course is that in addition to what various chemicals do to keep you alive, they all come with some kind of side effect – an unintended consequence if you will. The side effect of Flexeril, apparently, is that it it keeps my eyes from focusing on fine details (such as words typed on a computer screen) and leaves me feeling in a constant state of “about to fall asleep.” Neither of these things lead to a happy or productive Jeff, and that’s not a recipe for better living. Still it’s a step up from some of the side effects I’ve read about like anal seepage, stroke, and death. Clearly with these things there’s a very, very fine line between medicine and poison.

2. The reward for good work. I’ve never understood why the reward for doing good work is getting the opportunity to do more work. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say something like “Hey, you did a bang up job on that last thing, so go ahead and take a knee and we’ll let some other schlub carry the water this time.” Of course that’s not how it works at all. It’s easier to find a good horse, ride it until it falters, and then beat it because it stopped. I might not have attended a big fancy ivy covered school of business, but I learned enough from my studies to know that personnel management model is rarely successful in the long run.

3. Guilt. I make a point not to bring the work home with me. Eight hours a day is bad enough without letting it bleed over into the rest of the day. By extension, I try to offer the job the same respect by keeping my personal issues at home. There’s some inevitable bleed over, though. Like today, for instance, when I feel an unreasonable sense of guilt for sitting here with the heating pad on and my feet up at a time of day when I would usually be at the office. Intellectually I get that I wouldn’t really be doing anyone any good sitting at my desk today when I can’t concentrate on anything that requires more than four or five consecutive minutes of thought. I’d be lying if I said I was going to enjoy this time off, but I’ll be doing my level best to get past the idea of feeling guilty for burning off my sick leave on a day when I’m not hacking and sneezing all over the room.

Relax(er)ed…

The last time I was on muscle relaxers, I remember sitting at my desk listening to a phone ringing… and ringing… and ringing… and ringing and looking around in frustration wondering why someone wasn’t picking the damned thing up. Of course it was my phone. Sitting three feet away from me on the desk. Ringing off the hook while I was busy being blissfully unaware of pretty much anything going on around me. It’s a good time, but it’s safe to say that productivity levels suffer as a result.

The hardest thing I do on any given day is keeping the thoughts that pop into my head from simultaneously popping out of my mouth. I suspect for the next week or two that task is going to become even more difficult. If anyone catches me with a look on my face like I’m about to say something ragingly inappropriate for whatever environment we happen to be in, please give me the benefit of a jab in the ribs instead of just sitting there waiting for the punchline. There’s a very, very good chance that I’m going to be far too relax(er)ed to judge that sort of thing on my own.