About a month ago, I started experiencing some annoying irritation in my left eye.  A few days later, I noticed that I could not close my left eye without also closing my right one.  Then I realized that the left side of my face was slightly numb.  Fearing a possible stroke, I drove myself to the Emergency Room, because my wife was knocked out from pain killers following oral surgery earlier in the day.  When it rains it pours.

When I described my symptoms to the ER receptionist, I was whisked straight into a room without even stopping at the triage desk…not a good sign.  Mind you, as the father of five children, I’m no stranger to emergency rooms.  However, I’m very much a stranger to playing the patient role within them.  This bizarre role reversal was not lost on my two oldest sons who showed up with puzzled looks on their faces asking, “What’s going on, Pop?”  I muttered something about my face being frozen and told them there was nothing to worry about.  But, they were clearly worried, as was I.

Five hours later I went home with an inconclusive diagnosis, but quite relieved that stroke had been ruled out.  The ER doctor mentioned the possibility of something called Bell’s Palsy and referred me to a neurologist.  Things were really looking up until he mentioned a suspicious shadow on my CAT-scan.  He was sure the neurologist would want to take a closer look at that.  Until he did, I was left to wonder just how suspicious that pesky shadow really was.

I am pleased to report that the pesky shadow must have been a few run-away brain cells headed for the door to premature memory loss.  The MRI showed nothing to be concerned about.  The preliminary diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy was spot on and, the best news of all, 98% of the symptoms are already gone.  But, the entire experience has left me with some lingering thoughts perhaps worthy of rumination.

Having never lost any bodily function in my fifty years, I must say that my brief and extremely mild handicap pulled me up short in several ways.  I was humbled and mildly embarrassed that I could no longer wink, whistle, smile, kiss, brush my teeth, eat, drink, read or even swim in a normal manner, if at all.  As I’m writing this, I have just realized that my whistler has been fully restored.  Oh the joy of puckering!  I can’t wait to get home to see if I still have to hold my lips together when rinsing my mouth out after brushing my teeth, lest the water uncontrollably spurt out.  I was amazed at how many every day activities were impeded by one little malfunctioning facial nerve.

I was also amazed at the wonder of the human body…”how marvelous are they works”.  Who but the creator God could have imagined, much less created, such awe-inspiring creatures?  There will never be a more amazing invention than that of the human body.  From our DNA to our hang nails, our bodies are so gloriously complex that even the slightest malfunction can wreak havoc until we’ve either healed or adjusted…both of which we have equally amazing capacities to do.

The Old Testament character, Job, understood something of what I’m trying to say.  This from the Book of Job, chapter 12:

 7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
       or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
       or let the fish of the sea inform you.
 9 Which of all these does not know
       that the hand of the LORD has done this?
 10 In his hand is the life of every creature
       and the breath of all mankind.

 

My touch of the palsy also got me thinking about the state of our healthcare system.  Had I shown up in a doctor’s office twenty years ago, the doctor would have given me a quick Bell’s Palsy diagnosis and told me to come back in three months if it didn’t go away.  No tests.  No scans.  No prescriptions.  Nothing but time to heal a condition that, even today, no one truly knows the cause of.

In my case, the total bill will exceed $7,000 primarily due to the precautionary CAT-scan and MRI.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for a healthcare system that is second to none.  And, I’m certainly relieved to know that I’m tumor free, shadows be danged.  I’m just wondering where we draw the line on precautionary medical procedures.  MRI’s have been a particular pet peeve of mine over the years, having seen so many of these expensive procedures performed for questionable reasons.

What do you think?  Is human life truly priceless and therefore there’s no such thing as a budget when it comes to preserving it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

BREAKING NEWS!  I guess the guys at Wellpoint had the same pet peeve I did.  This article is about a company they just bought to help them control patient imaging expenses.