Once I had proven to Denver Health Medical Center that I indeed had been able to acquire health insurance there were several more glitches, like the time I had been given a few days of rest at a beautiful cabin on Grand Lake by friends and family to help with the stress of having fought for over five months to save my life and Denver Health Medical Center Administrative staff called and told me no surgery would take place unless I coughed up $8,950.00 when I arrived at the hospital the next day. The actual amount was supposed to be $5,950.00, but it took most of the day of making call, after call, after call, after call, to get the insurance company to realize that there would be no surgery until they proved to the administrative staff at DHMC the amount demanded was $3,000.00 too much. Boy was I relieved of stress after that day in paradise!
As I write about Denver Health Medical Center I am discussing two seemingly different entities. First there is the Administrative Offices that include the doctor whose sole job is to refuse service to sick and dieing people, then there are the high level administrators who first agree to pricing for surgeries only to change their minds and delegate some poor employee to call sick people and tell them the hospital will not treat them, on down to the many employees who’s job it is to get as much money as they can however they can from patients and hopefully soon to be patients. It seems to be the over-riding job description for all of these people to get money, reduce expenses and to seriously not care about the human conditions they are dealing with. Now I say this is their job. This does not mean that personally they don’t care. When asked their personal opinions, one would find they care very much.
As an example of this personal compassion I want to tell you about two Administrative Directors who were charged with literally kicking me out of the hospital after higher ups had changed their mind about accepting my cash for surgery, even after a verbal contract had been reached , mutually agreed to and the written contract had been printed. They did their job politely and firmly and indeed Kay and I were given the boot. Months later when I finally was about to be operated on, these same two administrators found I was getting my life saving surgery. They dropped what they were doing, hiked across the sprawling hospital campus, located me in pre-op and came up to wish me the best and tell me how excited they were I had finally found a way in. Sitting in a hospital gown with Kay at my side, hooked up to an IV and seriously scared, it meant a huge amount to me to see and hear these two people I had not thought well of for several months gushing about how happy they were for me. It was only then I realized the system was separate from the people who are forced to administer the system.
The other entity that is Denver Health Medical Center could not be more opposite in its attitude and its mission. Here again are some quotes from the DHMC website:
Welcome to Denver Health. Denver Health is Colorado's primary “safety net” institution, providing billions of care for the uninsured.”
“Provide access to the highest quality health care, whether for prevention, or acute and chronic diseases regardless of ability to pay;Provide life-saving emergency medicine and trauma services to Denver and the Rocky Mountain region; “
“Giving Level One Care For All”
So for five months I did not believe much if any of the above, but then I became a patient and it all changed.
Why did I fight so hard to be accepted by a hospital that did not want to treat me, you ask? Simple---Dr, Fernando Kim. Not only is his resume’ awesome, and he has the ability and experience to execute the delicate, and not often performed surgery called Cryo-ablation- he called me back.
Remember how I wrote earlier that Dr. Kim had taken a personal interest in my case. That personal interest, his obvious razor sharp intellect and his attitude that I categorize as being that of an artist were the reasons I fought so hard to be accepted at DHMC. If I was ever going to live through this I had to have a surgeon who looked on his craft as an art and cared about whether I lived or died.
I say Cryo-ablation is not often performed. Well how can that be? Along with fighting to be accepted by DHMC I hedged my bets and went after every other doctor who I could conceivably find who would do the surgery. For affordability we contacted five different medical tourism companies, told them what we were looking for and waited. Cindy took on three and Kay and I followed the other two. One company is owned by a close friend of a close friend so they took the search personally. We looked in Central and South America, Indonesia, Spain and India. A couple of times we thought we were getting close but in the end no one would approach the problem with the same logical brilliance as Dr. Kim. We looked close by and found one urologist who said he did Cryo- but was so flippant and unfocused, as well as refusing to remove my lymph nodes, that I would not recommend him to wash my car.
So there I was – in pre-op with Kay, both of us looking scared, brave, lost, yet determined with friendly and competent staff all around us when an anesthesiologist arrives to give me a little something to smooth out the wrinkles---lights out for me.
Dr. Kim and his surgical team froze my prostate using probes that remind me of knitting needles. They are hollow and hooked up to argon. The argon is inserted as small ice balls through out the prostate. These are 40 degrees below zero. Warm water was kept flowing through my urethra. The team was very aggressive and had no intention of leaving any cancer alive. They worked all around the prostate and included the outside of the organ. They froze the neurovascular bundles that help create erections. I was warned this was going to happen. It was believed the cancer was in the bundles too. This means my days of sexual enthusiasm are over for the short term and if I am lucky will slowly re-grow - maybe. There will be things like Viagra I will be able to take in the future that will also help. (a little aside for you guys out there – Remember being a sex stud is not particularly important if you are dead.) The entire freezing process was then repeated, making it very unlikely cancer cells remained.
The next procedure (all accomplished in the one operation) was to laproscopically remove the lymph nodes that surround my prostate. I think they found thirteen of the little guys, cut them out and sent them to a lab to be biopsied. There were five holes in my abdomen for cameras and surgical tools and one extra added that housed a tube coming directly from my bladder. This was cool, as it had a little nozzle on the end. As I healed I would still be able to write my name in the snow while giving my penis time to heal at its own speed.
As I came out of the operation there were some complications getting control of the pain. It seems that even under anesthesia I am a pain wimp. Once they got that under control I was taken to recovery and then to a room. Dr. Kim came out and gave Kay who was a little stressed a big hug. She thanked him for saving my life, but he said, “Don’t thank me yet. In five years, then you can thank me.”
It was a long night for us. The hospital room was superb. I had my own room and it included a little alcove with a couch/bed for Kay. As I was being transferred from gurney to bed a nurse inquired as to who Kay was and how was she, "related to the patient?" I was barely conscious enough to mutter, “She’s my out of work sex goddess.” before drifting back off.