I almost needed a transfusion

Vials of blood for testing
Twenty-four vials of blood for testing, some of which had to be kept in a little vial-cozy (behind the trays) so they would stay warm until they could be processed.

| After months of waiting, I finally got an appointment with a rheumatologist to look after my right hand. After an extensive head-to-toe examination, he declared that he would order some blood tests and sent me off to the lab.

After I found the lab — not easy on the sprawling Eisenhower Medical Center campus — it turned out that I was too late to complete the tests that afternoon. Could I do them at the lab in Palm Springs? Probably not, since some of the blood samples have to be kept warm until processed, and the Palm Springs lab probably didn't have that capability. Fine, I would come back the next day. 

The good news is that the same person I had talked to the night before was at the registration desk, and she scooped me up to process my forms, of which there were many. Then the same lab technician (phlebotomist) came to fetch me to draw my blood. I knew there were a lot of tests, for I had seen the list. What made that concept real was seeing the pile of twenty-four vials that would have to be filled with my precious bodily fluid (not to mention a little plastic cup for another precious bodily fluid).

It takes a while to fill twenty-four vials of blood, so I had a nice chat with the technician who had managed to find my vein on the first go (I have elusive veins that usually require several assaults before one is found). She was amazed to learn that Eisenhower bills a separate charge just for sticking the needle in (procedure code 36415), and when I told her how much Eisenhower bills Medicare for the needle poke, she declared that she wanted to be paid by the stick, since she would make more money! We speculated about how much all these tests would cost; based on what I know Eisenhower has billed for other lab work, my guess is that the bill will be over $4000.

To be sure, when you have Medicare there is a lot of funny money floating around and while Eisenhower may bill $400 or more for a test, Medicare chops that down to size and Eisenhower may end up having to be satisfied with, say $40. I love Medicare.

For those wondering What in the world is wrong with his right hand? I can only say that that is to be determined. The most likely diagnosis is some sort of arthritis, probably psoriatic arthritis, definitely not osteoarthritis since the characteristic bumps are missing. The soft tissue is obviously inflamed, the joints are thickened, the fingers are starting to curve to the side, and I have "sausage fingers" which, believe it or not, seems to be a medical term of art. The fingers and wrist no longer bend as they should and the best I can do is form an open claw with that hand.

Hopefully all that blood will confirm a diagnosis and lead to treatment because having an essentially useless hand, the dominant one, is not fun at all. Stay tuned.

Last updated on Dec 24, 2016

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