Monday, February 15, 2010

Learning the hard way.

So right around Labor Day I got pneumonia. Big nasty 'right lower lobe infiltrate with temps of 104, shaking chills, and hypoxia if I walked up the steps' pneumonia. I didn't leave my bed for four days, except to go to the ER and get xrayed. My mom took me. So its clear that I was Really Sick.
Now during this illness, once I was no longer solely focused on breathing, and after i finished all four Twilight books, I had some time to think, about many things related to healthcare, my job, and my life. Examples include the fact that despite a prescription plan, antibiotics are very costly; and the fact that I opted to have some of my testing done at the outpatient lab rather than while I was in the ER, because my insurance covers it at a higher rate if it is done at an outpatient facility, even though it was a participating hospital.
But I learned something more important while I was sick, and much more unexpected. I learned that somehow, in the last 18 months, I have started to develop some balance. Five years ago, when my daughter was born, I was back in the office when she was 5 days old, and I was getting called by the office while I was in labor. When I was sick in September, I was out of the office for an unprecedented 8 consecutive days. Five years ago, it took me about a year to make up financially for my maternity leave. When I came back from being sick in September, I was able to pay my staff paychecks that day and rent when it was due the following week. I didn't pay myself much for that week, but I didn't pay any bills late. I had enough buffer spaces in my schedule to fill in the people that I had to cancel while I was out, and still to work lighter days while I was recovering.
No one died, I don't even think anyone left the practice. And many many of the phone messages I got while I was out of the office were expressions of concerns and well wishes. I even got get well cards from my patients.

Being sick is a little scary. Not just the mortal fear of lack of oxygen, but there is a significant dread from loss of business, loss of income, and overwhelming medical expenses. But to come back to work, still recovering, and have a practice that is still viable, and patients that are still loyal, and a schedule that allows for emergency, and a small financial buffer that allows the bills to get paid close to on time, is huge. If I hadn't made the changes in my practice that I made back in October of 2008, I am certain I would have still been in the mill of overbooked and underpaid, scraping by to pay bills late and cramming as many patients as possible into a day.

So, the two most important things that I learned:
1. I can take a day off without losing my livelihood.
2. It really does take four to six weeks to recover from pneumonia.

After about a month, I walked up my steps one day and didn't get short of breath. I felt like I got my life back, and even better than before, because I am now a little wiser. I went back to the gym, and since then have run in two 5k runs. I've taken a short vacation and at least one personal day a month. (not including snow days). I am in the office less than two Saturdays a month. I took a day off to go to New York City with my mom before Christmas. We didn't have to hire anyone to do our leaves this fall. We painted the outside of the house ourselves.
I'd write more, but its a school holiday, so the kids and I are going skating...