Healthcare by Groupon

Back in June of 2011, I broke my left heel (the calcaneus) and had surgery to insert two screws that pulled the pieces back together. I was on crutches for almost three months, much of that time not putting any weight at all on my left leg. Once I did start to use it to bear weight, it took a number of weeks before it could support all of my weight and even then, I was still walking “cock-eyed” due to the mandatory orthopedic boot. All of this was preceded by almost two years of pain as the stress fracture, that eventually led to the break, was … fracturing. You might imagine, this drastically cut down on my mobility, particularly “extracurricular mobility” (i.e. exercise!) but more importantly, for this story, it caused a gradual change in my posture and gait as I unconsciously tried to alleviate that pain. The end result (also painful, ironically) is that my right hip area (RHA) has been causing me problems ever since.

I’ve never been someone who went to the doctor much. Most things work themselves out on their own without an expensive doctor’s bill so why not just suck it up and ride it out for free? That was basically the philosophy in our house growing up and it certainly remained my philosophy when I was responsible for paying those bills myself. And ever since I became a freelancer it’s been a philosophy of necessity.

One of the first challenges I faced back in the summer of 1997, when I started this new freelance chapter of my life, was what to do about healthcare. Being young and healthy I considered taking my chances with no coverage. But I knew the longer I waited the more expensive (and perhaps difficult) it would be to get it, which I would have to do eventually. Besides, what if I got hit by a Mack truck? (It could happen!) So I decided on “Mack truck” insurance that would cover me if something catastrophic occurred. Initially, it only cost $67/month … and carried a $10,000 deductible! (I didn’t have $10,000 but figured I’d cross that bridge if and when I ever needed to – which I finally did, due to the post-heel-surgery blood-clot-induced five-night-hospital-stay … and boy am I grateful for the world’s most generous friends!!)

But back to the RHA … once I got my heel healed (after a slight delay last spring when the arches in that foot fell—causing tremendous pain!—and, after the several months it took to figure out that fallen arches were the actual problem, got straightened out with orthotics) I still had to contend with an RHA that hurt whenever it was in motion. My remedy was healthcare by Groupon.  

Since the RHA problem, while annoying and painful, wasn’t catastrophic I not only didn’t want to deal with insurance, I didn’t even particularly want to go to the doctor. After all, it would probably “straighten itself out” (!) eventually on its own, right? But thanks to Groupon (and Living Social and Eversave and Daily Deals) my email inbox was getting bombarded every day with, among other things, tempting alternative medicine offers. So starting in the fall of 2011, I began treating myself to massage, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, chiropractic, reflexology, yoga, massage, tai chi, Salsa, massage, ionic detox, reiki, Nia and (have I mentioned) massage. I never felt so good and cared for – the rest of my body, that is – the RHA was still a problem.

Not only that, but it got way worse this past August. The walking pain was constant and uncomfortable but it wasn’t debilitating. Suddenly, however, walking got much more painful and stairs became almost unbearable. I had to grab hold of the railing and pull myself up each step just to manage the climb. I live on the third floor of a walk-up so this latest wrinkle was particularly problematic. I finally realized I needed to bite the bullet and go see an orthopedist. He took x-rays of both hips and determined that I had arthritis in my RHA.

This didn’t come as a complete surprise. My various joints, and especially my crappy knees, have acted up, on and off, for years. But none of those issues had ever prevented me from climbing stairs. I asked the good doctor about this.

“Don’t climb stairs.”

That’s easier said than done; I live on the third floor of a walk-up.

“Well … it might be time … you know … to start thinking about … maybe … moving to a place where there aren’t any steps.”

OK … I realize that I’m not 27 anymore, but neither am I 87 or 77 or 67 or even 57. I’m only 47 years old! I don’t think I’m ready for the assisted living home quite yet!! So I told him moving wasn’t an option at this time. Were there any exercises or stretches that might help?

“Y-e-a-a-a-a-h … no.”

Supplements or vitamins that I should take?

“Y-e-a-a-a-a-h … no.”

Foods I should eat or avoid?

“Y-e-a-a-a-a-h … no.”

I felt like asking if he knew what the hell he was talking about.

“Y-e-a-a-a-a-h … no.”

Finally, I mentioned that a year earlier, when I had gotten physical therapy for my heel, I’d had the guys pull my right leg (no kidding!) because the hip was already hurting then, feeling like the leg was jammed up in the socket from having to bear all the weight for so long, and that had actually made it feel better. He perked up and said, “Oh, well if you think physical therapy would help, I’d be happy to write you a prescription for that.”

If *I* think it would help?? YOU’RE the doctor!! I rarely go to doctors (gee, wonder why?!) so it’s kind of a big deal that I’m here today. I came because I wanted to get an expert’s opinion on the best way to get rid of this pain. I don’t know if physical therapy will help. Would you have suggested it if I hadn’t brought it up? I’d be paying for this out-of-pocket so I want to be confident that this is a direction that makes sense to go.

That’s what I wanted to say. What I did say was, “Fine, write me a prescription.” I actually had another plan (but thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a prescription as a back up).

That week I had redeemed another Groupon for a different chiropractor … one who used “The Rack” (think medieval torture chambers). For years I’d had lower back problems and what made it feel better was curling up in the fetal position (while on my back) in order to decompress the spine. Well, that’s exactly what this machine does, but much more powerfully and effectively. (I gotta say, “The Rack” is a little uncomfortable but it’s a good kind of discomfort; I can tell in the midst of being stretched that it’s doing its job.) This chiropractor also took x-rays of my spine and it turns out my right hip is noticeably higher than my left AND there’s a fairly significant curve at the bottom of my spine. So I opted to give him a go twice a week for six weeks and if that didn’t do anything for my RHA, I’d think about getting physical therapy.

Well, I’m happy to report that after two (count ‘em … TWO) treatments I was running up and down stairs. And by the end of the six weeks, 95% of the RHA pain was gone. Hallelujah! (I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely pain free as long as I’ve got arthritis there … or as long as I have my original hip! But that’s a story for another time.) The chiropractor took another x-ray and both the elevation of the right hip and the spinal curve were half of what they had been. Amazing! (See, things had “straightened themselves out” — sure am glad I didn’t take the orthopedist’s advice and move into an assisted living home!!) So I signed on for six more treatments, which I finished at Christmas, and now we’re probably just going to do monthly or so maintenance.

So, that’s how I fixed my RHA. And the resulting lack of pain has made it much more pleasant to get off my butt and move. After a couple years of being a couch potato it feels really good, not just physically but psychologically, to be able to move without pain. It also means—after a couple years of being a couch potato—I really have my work cut out for me. Which is why I’ll continue to pamper myself with true healthCARE … by Groupon!

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