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Money is important.  I don't focus this blog exclusively on money or finance related articles, because I've been doing it for quite a few years now.  I just don't have it in me to crank out post after post about why everybody needs an emergency fund or how to get a mortgage.  Those are great topics.  But, there's so much more, including some hard looks about money and health.

Sometimes it takes life to remind you that while money is certainly important, it isn't your number one focus in life.

The Phone Call

A week ago Sunday, the family was out for breakfast when my phone rang.  I looked and saw it was my parents.  I sensed something was odd because we typically don't talk during the daytime hours.  We usually reserve our chats for the evening so that it's a good chance that everybody is home and settled in.

I answered and when talking to my dad immediately knew that something was wrong.  It turns out that my step-mom had been taken by ambulance to the hospital.  She had developed sudden shortness of breath and had a hard time breathing or talking.

mb-2016-03-ambulanceI talked to my dad for a couple of minutes to find out if her breathing had been better when they took her (it was), if she was responsive and coherent (she was), whether my dad wanted me to come get him (he didn't) and what hospital she was being taken to.

Shortly later, I dropped the family back at the house and drove to the hospital.

The Tests

When I got to the hospital, they directed me where to go and once I got there, they were running the first test of the day, a chest X-ray.

I was able to say hi and see that she was breathing but definitely shaken up by what was going on.  My stepmom is not one to complain, so we knew that this needed to be checked out.

I found a little bit more info as to what had happened, and around this time, they took her for her second test, a doppler scan on her legs.  She had developed blood clots about two years ago, and was on medication for about six months afterward, and it seemed that was the suspicion that they were leaning toward.

After she got back, an ultrasound tech came in and did a detailed scan of her heart.  You could tell that she was quite interested in several areas as they can take ‘snapshots' and she was there for quite some time.

After this, they came in and told us that they suspected that she had blood clots and that they think some had traveled to her lungs.  They wanted to do a CT scan to test, and she was taken away for that.

When she came back, we talked to them about family history where my stepmoms sister had a similar situation, but had bleeding on the brain that was not diagnosed, and she ended up not making it when they treated the clot and the brain bleeding worsened.  (Different hospital, FYI)  After hearing this, they took her for a second CT scan to check out her head.

Treatment: The First Hours

The diagnosis was confirmed with all of the tests.  She had lots and lots of blood clots on her lungs.  Because the lungs weren't able to take as much oxygen as needed into the blood, the heart was overcompensating.  Her blood pressure was 170/120 and the resting heart rate was around 130.  This was dangerous to heart.

The treatment option was to insert a catheter into her body and have it go through her body to her lungs.  She would be infused with clot busting medication that would basically be administered at its source.  It's an aggressive treatment plan with quite a few risks that basically tie back to that if you have bleeding anywhere on or inside your body, it's going to get worse.  But, the scans and such showed that this risk was minimal, so they advised this to avoid potential damage to her heart.

The importance of doing this sunk in when they told us that they had to page the team to come in to do this procedure, as it was a Sunday and the staff was not there.  I think it home for me at that point just how close of a call this was.

But, the procedure took about two hours and everything went as expected.

Treatment: Night 1 through Day 3 

She was moved to the ICU and we were allowed to see her.  At this point it was around 7pm, roughly 9 hours after she got to the hospital.  Almost right away, you could see that the numbers were improving.  Still, they had her on the infusion medicine as well as regular liquids and also other blood thinning medicine.  She had at least six different machines all clicking and thumping and beeping, and it didn't allow for much rest.

Early the next afternoon, the administration of the infusion meds was complete.  As the doctor said, the numbers told the story that it was working, as her heart rate and blood pressure were completely normal.  The catheter was taken out, and about 2/3 of the machines were taken out.

They kept her in the ICU for another day until she was moved to another room.

Treatment: Day 3 – Day 5

At this point, they began stepping down her treatment.  By Day 4 they switched her blood thinning medication from an IV administered medicine to a pill.  She'll be on that indefinitely.

One complicationdeveloped that may have extended her stay by a day or two.  It was bruising.  She's been susceptible to bruising, and with the blood thinners, it caused bruising at many places on her body.  She had bruises anywhere where pressure had been applied during the course of her stay.  Her entire left upper arm was bruised almost from elbow to shoulder.  Since that was where everything had been done, blood pressure and such, it was very bruised.

So, they spent some time making sure that the bruising wasn't spreading, but by Thursday morning they were pretty sure that she would be able to leave, and by Thursday afternoon she was back at home.

Money And Health: What Matters

In all this, did money matter?  No.  She's got great insurance, having worked for a government agency for many years, and having retired with great insurance.  So, hopefully the time spent will not cost much out of pocket, but it wasn't like my dad was even checking or it was discussed.  The goal was just to get her healthy again.

In the end, money is a priority and a very important one.  When it's all said and done, money doesn't matter compared to health.  You want to see your loved ones healthy.  That's what's important.  If we're not healthy, all the money in the world doesn't make a single bit of difference.  Not a penny can be enjoyed in life if we don't have health.

This was a trying week.  My stepmom has been told that she's not allowed to scare us like that again.  She used up her quota for a good long while!

Now the goal ist to take this as a reminder to make sure to cherish what's really important.  Each other.