Thankful for TRICARE?

I know I’m usually kind of sarcastic about some of Army life. I love it, or at least appreciate it, most of the time. Over the summer I struggled to be funny or very appreciative of this life, but this month I celebrate with Thanksgiving all that this life has given us, especially medically and financially.

This past summer was rough for our family. I will try to keep it brief, but it is a long story…

My soldier was leaving for YTC (Yakama Training Center) for the month of June. Upon finding out his schedule, I booked my boys and myself for a month visiting family on the east coast. While the dates of his time at YTC and my dates for the trip didn’t line up exactly, they were close.

Soldier left a week before we did. Generous friends took us to the airport and we arrived in DC to start our east coast adventure. Everything went as planned for the first two weeks. We saw family, traveled, went to Hershey Park, the boys started their camp, and then it happened.

Child #2 got sick. Tummy bug, I thought. No fever, just tired and not able to keep anything down. I figured it would pass in 24 hours.

Nope. Twenty-four hours came and went and he still was not able to keep anything down. After 30 hours and my fear that he might be getting dehydrated, on to urgent care we went. They diagnosed him with constipation. The x-ray showed constipation. We treated him for constipation.

The results of treating for constipation weren’t fun, but we were able to keep things together enough to visit the other grandparent about three hours away. We were supposed to head on to another relative’s home two days later, but instead Child #2 was no better and we headed to the ER.

Constipated? We had to go to the ER. Still diagnosed as constipation. Poor guy. He feels yucky, the treatment is awful, and we will be in the car for another three hours the next day. Onward we went.

We got back to my parents’ (our home-base) and started thinking about next steps if he didn’t seem better soon. The next day when he awoke he acted almost normal! (Hallelujah!) Sick kiddos on vacation are no fun. (I didn’t even know yet.) By the end of the day he didn’t seem normal any more and the next two days was a steady decline.

Finally, eight full days had passed, and Child #2 was still sick. Mama’s intuition (and my very loving, supportive mama) told me to take him back to urgent care. We saw the doctor almost immediately when we walked in the door. She asked one question: “Does it hurt when you go over a bump in the car?” “YES!” we all said in unison. She sent us straight to the ER.

At this point I still didn’t know what was going on, but on we went to the ER.

From the time we got to the ER to the time Child #2 was in emergency surgery was no more than four hours.

He had a ruptured appendix.

It ruptured on the morning he felt well. The appendix was inflamed starting almost a full week before.

How could we not know? Why didn’t the doctors catch it? Why didn’t I insist that they look more closely at the ER the week before? Mother’s regret. It will drive you nuts. Do not do it… I digress.

In the next few days Child #2 got better, but he wasn’t turning a corner. A few-day recovery turned into a week. Meanwhile, Husband finished at YTC and was climbing the walls not being with the family in the hospital. While I did have family to help with Child #1, Child #2 wanted me at the hospital 24-7. It was exhausting for everyone.

We were scheduled to go on a family vacation after the 4th of July, but instead of us going home on the 3rd, Husband came to see us. He took over half of the parent-duty time in the hospital (so thankful). Still, sweet boy was not improving greatly. In the course of the next week he had three cat scans, four x-rays and two other surgeries.

Finally, we were able to have a catheter for antibiotic treatment placed in his shoulder so we could return home to the Pacific Northwest. Our boy had finally improved enough that we could return home as a family, even if he wasn’t 100 percent yet.

The rest of his treatments resumed the next day and we were able to do out-patient treatments through Madigan Army Hospital. The final treatments ran about 10 more days with a final surgical follow-up a week later. We are elated that Child #2 is 100 percent and back to his happy, active self.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you about all of this now–four months later? Why should you care? What does this have to do with Army life? Why, if my child wasn’t in a military hospital, am I so appreciative of Army medical care?

TRICARE.

Our insurance gets a bad rap. It has its problems. There are people who make mistakes. However, at the time I am writing this I have just gotten off the phone with TRICARE customer service about the final claims that were listed as “denied” on our account online. “No patient responsibility” was the response. Those “denied” claims were duplicates or coded improperly. No patient responsibility=music to my ears.

Not once did I EVER have to wonder how we were going to pay for one more day in the hospital. Never did I need to worry about whether doing what was best for our child would put us in the poor house.

We had two urgent care visits, two ER visits, more than 14 days in the hospital, three surgeries, three CT scans, and four x-rays, plus 10 more days of antibiotic treatment at a military installation once home. That’s a lot of money. Oh…and there is a charge for every time a provider walks into the hospital room. We had pediatrics, surgery, infectious disease, and a radiology provider in and out of the room several times a day.

A LOT of money.

In this month of Thanksgiving, I am so thankful that the military provides our soldiers’ families with medical care. I am thankful that we can each make choices for our families for what that medical care looks like. I am thankful that the military never makes us choose between the care of families or finances, and I am thankful that the medical care that we received on both coasts was outstanding.

So, I ask, the next time you get frustrated with our healthcare system, that you remember a few things:

1.) You have choices. Find the TRICARE option that suits your family and sign up for that. You will have a chance to do so soon.

2.) You don’t have to wonder if the next medical emergency will put you in the poor house. Our family lived a civilian life a long time before we were an Army family. Civilian medical emergencies can be very hard on the finances.

3.) It is an organization made of people. People have off days. People make mistakes. Computers are stupid. Phone calls are necessary.

Look for the good and be thankful!

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About Ande Flagg

Ande is a wife of almost 16 years to her soldier, Tim. They are a later-in-life Army family, after several years in the civilian world post-college. Prior to children and Army life, Ande was a college administrator. Now she is a homeschool mom to Hunter and Jon, both of whom keep her busy in their own way. Additional ways she occupies her time include unit duties, chapel Bible groups, cooking and baking, and performing HH6 duties.

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