Some lessons come easy. Other life lessons come the hard way, hammered out between the hammer and anvil of some of life’s most painful experiences.
It’s a tough nut to swallow when you look back and realize with stunning clarity that the very quality of day-to-day life after a TBI is largely determined by how well insured you are.
My injury was back in November 2010. Nothing good comes to pass when a sixteen- year-old driver careens into a cyclist. I should know better than most – I was the cyclist.
Our health insurance at the time carried a $10,000.00 deductible. It was more of a catastrophic plan than any meaningful health insurance plan. When the calendar turned to January, a few weeks after my accident, our deductible reset. The timing couldn’t have been worse.
Like many who are affected by traumatic brain injury, my symptoms took some time to manifest. My body, broken and bruised from the force of the accident, continued to heal. And as I healed, it became painfully clear that all was not well.
My wife Sarah and I had to make some tough choices, the types of choices no one wants to make. But such is the nature of life. Do we pay the mortgage or pay for ongoing health care? Do I get that sleep study, or do we buy groceries this week so that the children can eat? How about speech therapy? Sorry, folks, we have an electric bill that is overdue.
It’s not as if we were looking at a few hundred dollars here. A sleep study alone can cost over $5,000—money we simply did not have.
Our situation is not unique. Over the years since everything changed, I’ve met others who faced the same tough choices. It’s pretty fair to say that much-needed, doctor ordered healthcare had to be passed by because of our insufficient insurance coverage.
Brain injury recovery lasts a lifetime. So does the possibility of new TBI challenges. A couple of months ago, well into year five, some unexpected changes came my way. The “ice pick headaches,” common during my first year, came back with a vengeance. The volume of my tinnitus doubled overnight – and stayed that way. New symptoms began to appear. It became clear that it was time again to reach into the medical community to have a fresh set of eyes look at me.
And now, at five-and-a-half years out, I am finally in a position to get the medical care that could have made the last few years easier. We have a new insurance plan now, one that includes a $750 per person deductible. That alone can make me giggle.
Last month, I saw a new neurologist, one who specializes in concussion treatment. In two ticks of a clock, we were back to square one. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a new MRI, a new EEG and by the time this article is published, a new sleep study.
Looking back with the perspective of time, I see that there is nothing we could have done differently. We were under-insured at the time of my accident and did the best we could with what life threw at us. There are no regrets, no sadness, and no bitterness. Just the realization that the quality of life can be correlated directly to insurance coverage.
My new neurologist has said that he can and will be able to bring a measure of relief to many of the challenges that I face. His words alone bring me both great hope as well as a dash of fear. I don’t want to get my hopes too high lest the crash back to reality ends with a thud.
But it’s hard not to be excited about this. Years of living with overwhelming brain fog, speech challenges, no meaningful memory, and so many other TBI challenges does get weary – not only for me but for those close to me. Just ask my wife, Sarah.
Life indeed goes on. Like I’ve done for the past few years, I’ll remain transparent in my journey, knowing that others might learn from our experiences. And who knows, life might be about ready to get much easier. I can only hope.