I was in the middle of filing a claim for medical reimbursement when the phone rang. My youngest son had been so proud of his nice white shirt, tie, and black pants for his first ever violin concert today. But, he tripped in a puddle and splattered his shirt. The school secretary whispered into the phone that the shirt looked absolutely fine. She said she could barely tell that any muddy water had touched it.
But my son was embarrassed, and wanted to change.
It was frustrating to be pulled away from what I was doing, but my son wanted to look sparkly white for the concert; the slightly-visible dirty brown marks from the puddle just wouldn't do. And so, I drove to the school with another shirt (slightly wrinkled - no time to iron it!) and a few extra ties from which he could choose in case his current one had been affected.
While he changed in the nurse's office, I saw the huge posters of those kids who require serious medical intervention. These are mainly peanut allergies, although there are others on their "urgent" board as well. I whispered a little prayer under my breath, glad that my sons aren't on that board. I get knots in my stomach when I think about how another mom at preschool refused to stop packing PB&J sandwiches for her child because she figured the peanut-allergic kids could "just wash their hands." I am so thankful that my sons don't have a life-threatening allergy. (My oldest had some food sensitivities when he was younger; and dealing with "other parent" opinions on that was tough enough. I cannot imagine handling a situation in which the irritant in question is a fatal allergen.)
Back at home, I continued work on the "supporting documentation" for a medical claim that had initially been rejected. The target services were performed back in 2005-2007, so I'm dredging up receipts from the past. (The opportunity for reimbursement was unexpected, so my records weren't as clean as if I had anticipated this possibility.) I no longer have checkbook registers from that time, my online banking doesn't go back that far, and most things were done via paper not online, so it isn't easy to just "find" what I need.
But more so, the pain in going through my old files is reminding myself of past struggles I'd rather forget. At the same time, I'm grateful for the resolution. The difficulties we had back then have evaporated. And, if this claim is approved, I might even recoup some of the major cash that we spent seeking medical care beyond what our HMO was willing to provide. But what is important is that our problem was solved. And for that, I am grateful. Beyond grateful.
Soon, it was back to the school to actually watch my son's concert. How exciting!
Climbing the bleachers, my back did a little "ping!" I hate it when people ask me "How's your back?" because the answer is usually a mumbled, "Uh... okay?" because I don't want to tell them that the spinal surgery I had didn't solve the original pain, and actually gave me some additional places of discomfort. It may be that the surgery prevented some additional things from going wrong, but it isn't super-clear to me that I made the right decision to agree to the surgery. I miss being able to move without fear of pain.
Two years ago, another mother (I'll call her "Joan") was mentioning how she was going in for her monthly cortisone injection to deal with major back pain. I hadn't yet tried an injection, but when I did it was clear it wasn't going to do anything for me. The various professionals told me that my particular spinal arrangement didn't respond to traditional treatment.
I saw "Joan" with a cane later that year, and overheard her tell people that her back was really driving her crazy.
Then last year, I was absent for the initial chunk of the school year. I couldn't drive post-surgery, and even so, I had enough pain that I didn't particularly want to show up at school often to volunteer. I wasn't allowed to lift things, so I could no longer be a library helper.
I didn't see "Joan" that year, but didn't really think anything of it, because I wasn't really "present" either.
Back to the concert today: the chorus sang, the strings played, and the band performed. I enjoyed watching these kids that I've known since Kindergarten. I looked around the auditorium, finding familiar faces.
And then I saw "Joan."
In a high-backed wheelchair.
When her daughter performed, she lifted a couple fingers off her lap to "clap" but it appeared that she has very little movement in her arms.
I was stunned.
I know nothing of her particular condition, course of treatment, or anything of that nature. I had only met her a couple times, and knew she was experiencing back pain. That's it. So, I don't know whether her paralysis was "expected" or not.
Two years ago, I thought we were very similar. But as I sat on the bleachers, suddenly my discomfort went away. I climbed the bleachers. My back pain is nothing in comparison to not having actual mobility. It was quite the reminder that although I am frustrated with my physical body, it could be much, much worse.
I am grateful.