Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pain in the neck

One of the worst things my dad has had to deal with is not a symptom of Waldenstroms. Several years ago, he noticed an annoying rash and after a couple of days he contacted his doctor. It turned out to be shingles and the pain has not let up for six years. He has suffered untold misery and tried everything from lidocaine patches to acupuncture. The pain has eased but it has never gone away. He doesn’t complain, but I see him rubbing his neck and shoulder and I know he is suffering.

I was pretty sure that I would not be able to handle that. I asked my oncologist about the shingles vaccine, Zostavax. I explained about my dad and about my dread of contracting shingles. He said I should ask my primary care physician. My PCP pointed out that no one with a compromised immune system should take the vaccine. I told him that the oncologist said my immune system was uncompromised, so my PCP agreed. He suggested I contact my insurance company and confirm they would pay it since I am not yet 60 years old. He provided an Rx; the vaccine is not given in the clinic but by the pharmacist.

The insurance company confirmed they would pay 100% if ordered by the doctor. I told them I had the order and just had to go to the pharmacy to receive the shot. Oops. No, they would not pay at all if the shot is given by a pharmacist. I contacted the clinic and was told that one of their locations had nurses giving the shots one day a week and would bill them as medical (not Rx). When I called for an appointment they said they had been out of Zostavax for a month and it was still backordered.

My gynecologist practices in a different clinic, so I called them and found that they give Zostavax in the doctor’s office. Hurray! I explained that I had an order from my PCP, but that he did not work for their organization. They told me, no problem, a doctor’s order is all you need. I said it is actually an Rx and they said that will work fine. I made an appointment to come in to the shot clinic.

Meanwhile, I’m reading all the information I can find online and continue to see warnings, including that you can still get shingles after receiving the vaccine. I kept thinking, I don’t really want this vaccination, but I want shingles even less. I’m starting to have second thoughts, but then I think about my dad. I feel that I must do it before I lose my immune system and no longer have the option. The closer I got to the appointment the less courage I felt. It took everything I had to show up that day.

In the waiting room, my turmoil had plenty of time to multiply. When I am finally able to hand over the Rx, the nurse says, “This doctor doesn’t work here. I can’t give you this shot.” I explained how I had called in and I was told there would be no problem, but she was unmoved. I asked to speak to the head nurse; I had to wait, again. When I began to tell her my story, I burst into tears. Nothing would avail but an order from one of their own doctors. I gave them the name of my gynecologist but she was out of the office so I left.

My gynecologist wrote an order and I went back the next week and did it all again. This time I received the vaccination. I went out to the car and cried. I guess there’s just no pleasing some people.

Scripture reference: Psalm 94: 18-19

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