Winter 2013 – Death bed, Obamacare, don’t get sick in December

In the fall of 2013, I decided to enroll in an Affordable Care Act health insurance policy. Everyone was written a letter by their health insurance companies giving policy holders a little time before then end of the year when all insurance plans expire.

Little did I know how close all those would be to home until I enrolled under ACA and was also a recipient of more than my fair share of medical care during the hectic Obamacare transition period.

For most people, there wasn’t much of a transition if covered on the job or some other public program.

I don’t think most people who have real jobs and a personnel office that annually negotiates group insurance realize that insurance actually lapses at the end of each year keeping coverage, apparently, seamless.

Nor do I think most people in insurance groups bother to read their coverage fine print.

Back when I had a real job, I was surprised to learn that as a single guy, in my group plan, I was covered for maternity care.

But when it was explained to me that to spread around the risk, I am obliged to pay to help cover my colleagues who have families or may want to start one. I viewed it as being a good community member.

This was in the 1970s – 1990s and it has been that way since. Now that I’m self employed, I’ve had to annually negotiate m y policy.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) began to point out what they considered to be unnecessary coverage, like maternity care for single guys.

As a quick primer, the ACA was proposed by President Barrack Obama approved by the US Congress and signed into law March 23, 2010. It set up centralized health insurance exchanges where users who weren’t covered by their employer, the Veteran’s Administration, Medicaid, Medicare, or some other program could sign up for health insurance.

Of the US population in 2015, 49% are covered by their employers, and 43% by some other form of coverage leaving around 8% needing health insurance coverage including self employed people like me.

Other than mandating health insurance for all as a means of diversifying the national insurance pool, there are provisions like not being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions and young people being covered under their parents’ policies until they are 26.

I’m one of the self-employed people who has had the same insurance carrier for the past several years. My insurance is routinely “cancelled” when the company annually changed the terms and conditions, deductibles and more times than not raised the premium prices at the end of the year.

I could either take the new plan or be cancelled. I always opted to stick with my carrier, but had to call up every year to see what options I had. Generally, I settled for higher deductibles to keep my payment close to what it was before. In my estimation the insurance industry is a big legal ponzi scheme, if you ask me, but thank God I have health insurance!

… and I knew I wasn’t going to get dinged for a preexisting condition.

People who are shocked or surprised that their policies are routinely changed tossed out letters from their insurance carriers as junk mail.  In March of 2012, I was informed that my insurance would be grandfathered under the ACA if I wanted to go that route – keep my doctor and everything in tact.

Pioneer that I am, I set up an account on the Connect for Colorado Health exchange website and after a few delays and glitches, was a approved for a way better plan from my existing carrier for less price.

So I was “double-covered” with my existing policy and my new ACA policy because I didn’t quite trust the new system.

I finally gained confidence in the ACA and canceled my higher deductible plan which was a good thing.

Politicians have been trying to “Repeal and Replace” Obamacare since its approval. I chuckle when I see the political action committees running ads on TV about the small group of folks who claim to have fallen through the cracks when they didn’t take personal responsibility to take care of their health insurance business during the one-year window during which they had a chance.

Rather than be accountable for their irresponsibility, Obama and all the other socialists are to blame for their current misfortunes.

You know what?

Obamacare, socialism, public / private partnership – whatever you want to call ACA, have nothing to do with reality. Health care reform only has to to do with people like me who were flat on their backs pushing the hospital room call light hoping a nurse’s assistant will come by to empty the urinal or patch a bed sore.

Truth is, Trump, McConnell, Ryan or any other politician can’t help anyone, let alone improving advice individual patients get from their doctors and their staffs. Anyone who disfavors ACA hasn’t been sick lately.

Before I get into the gory details, I have to tip my hat to health care workers in the trenches, namely nurses and certified nurse assistants. The world wouldn’t turn without them. I’ll jump ahead a bit and say that I’d never really had a hospital stay before and after being flat on my back for six weeks.

I couldn’t walk, stand, wipe my butt. The nurses and CNA’s were there to meet my every need, particularly when I got very low and bummed out.

This raises another big topic of self advocacy. Being flat on my back, I was complacent and didn’t advocate for myself as much as I should have. My partner in crime, Diana, was a big advocate. She questioned what was happening and kept on the nurses and doctors, to their annoyance.

She brought over a couple friends and neighbors, Nicki and Evie who also had experience advocating and helped particularly early on when I was first admitted.

I can’t say enough about having a strong advocate. I’m pretty sure, my doctors weren’t waking up in the morning wondering how I was doing.

Over the course of the fall and summer, I was being treated for various types of pneumonia and eventually went to the hospital. I was quite out of it because I had lost a lot of weight – eventually 30 pounds – had no energy or stamina, and no appetite.

What happened next is a bit of a blur, but, my lung doctor did a biopsy to figure out about my pneumonia.

Did I mention the morphine pump?

Meanwhile, I was on steroids which led to a perforated ulcer and stomach contents were leaking into my body cavity causing sepsis. I don’t know this as a fact, but I’ve been told that I was not given much chance of making it through the emergency surgery to patch up the ulcer – mostly because of the lack of eating and general indifference, translated into “failure to thrive.”

I read through my medical record and I was also classified as anorexic. That sounds worse than it is. It means I was very skinny.

So I have this emergency surgery and am being fed pablum through a tube bypassing my stomach and intestines while the ulcer patch heals. This causes me to lose weight and strength. I’m flat on my back between ICU and a regular hospital room and rehab for six weeks.

Since my parents died a few years ago, celebrating the winter holidays have been different every year. I wrote a stage play about this which was produced by Hitching Post Theater a few years back – I’ll have to dig out that story.

This was no different being being in a hospital with the second tier help on duty.

This stint in the hospital was good in that when the biopsy results came back from the University of Michigan, the results figured out about my lung condition as being an auto immune pneumonia now being treated by steroids, which is a good thing – particularly for those of you who had to deal with my hacking and coughing over the summer and fall.

Not so good with the ulcer recovery, I still had a rubber tube sticking out of my stomach that was. removed after a week. So getting to the bottom of my pneumonia was good, the state of my physique, not so good. Then I was kicked out of the hospital.

Meanwhile, I can’t stand, walk or otherwise take care of myself and I’m lifted into a wheel chair and strapped into an ambulance to go to rehab at this place in Denver.

Unable to move on my own, I start sliding out of the wheel chair and bouncing around like a rag doll. I felt like the dead guy, Bernie, in that bad movie “Weekend at Bernies”. The driver pulled over at the cooking school on Quebec and got me repositioned before getting to the rehab center in Glendale, which is a neighborhood in Denver.

The rehab center was an hour from Boulder, served mostly geriatric patients and I was the youngest one there. It was good meeting some folks from Denver.

This rehab center has it figured out. Everybody there gets about an hour or two of rehab each day and the other 22 hours, they feed everyone high protein and lots of carbos. It got a little monotonous plotting out the day based on meal time.

I am totally amazed that I received enough physical and occupational therapy after two weeks to walk out – albeit with a walker, compared to when I arrived as a total invalid.

My diet was simple – eat anything, particularly high protein and sweet stuff – a lot of rare steak and ice cream floats. It takes a long time to gain back wright. I was up 15 pounds during rehab and stabilized after getting 30 pounds chubbier.

After being out of captivity since the first week in February 2014 and getting stronger every day I was getting back in to the swing of things. Being self-employed, I had many ongoing projects.

I think it’s also an Asian thing to be totally self reliant – but this experience has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help. Many thanks to Michael and Barbara for keeping mud in my entrepreneurial cracks over the past couple months of my recovery.

After being out of rehab for a week, I attended the Boulder International Film Festival over President’s Day weekend – I’m on the BIFF Board of Directors. It was my first outing “off campus” since Dec. 16th – prior to this, I was in an ambulance, hospital, ambulance, rehab center, in my condo.

I’m also back in the editing booth – I cut together a tribute to Shirley MacLaine that screened Saturday night at the BIFF.

It’s been a big wake up call for me, particularly about big picture issues – mostly around downsizing and relationships with people.

Small picture issues, I’m now more serious about plotting out some exit strategies for projects I head up and handing off projects to others and getting ready to “retire”.

Even though I’m mostly recovered, I’m still planning for a long road ahead, I still consider myself “disabled” and will likely be recovering for awhile. I may be out and about, but I anticipate plenty of limitations.

I still encounter steps and small inclines and places without banisters or elevators that I didn’t notice before.

My message to the politicians? Keep muddling through the ACA because here’s no turning back.




Now that I’m 64 … getting untethered

I’ve been contemplating writing a memoir, and mulling over a number of angles that might be of interest. I’m pretty sure, folks won’t be interested in the blow-by-blow description of the past 64 years. To start, I’ll impart some insights about what I’ve learned about my 2013 attitude-altering death-bed experience.

“I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride,
Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four” – Lennon and McCartney

Get Un-tethered

ssv at coors 2017

Neighbors at Coors Field

Over the weekend, my next door neighbor and avid baseball fan organized a community trip to see if the Rockies could sweep the Giants.

His buddy, an even bigger Giants fan, came out from San Francisco to see watch the four-game home stand.

He’s a 75-year old guy, and constantly tethered to his iPad and iPhone, particularly when it comes to following the latest about baseball and the Giants.

He’s in fantasy baseball, which is a partial explanation.

I was in a fantasy league for a few years in Wyoming when all the statistics were figured out by hand. Being terrible at math, I think I kept myself out of the running by not figuring out ERA, WHIP and other obscure baseball numbers correctly. Back then, the most current baseball news was in the morning paper the next day.

Flash forward to the 1990s, I joined a fantasy league in Boulder following the voter approval of the no smoking indoors law. The treasurer of the local PAC and one of the main volunteers also happened to be big baseball fans.

Their league, the Baseball Buttheads, needed another team and I agreed to join.

Early on, the league was very social with an annual ‘live’ draft of players. My team was called the “Yangs.” The name was derived from Star Trek episode #52 – The Omega Glory.

The league met weekly at Potter’s Bar, then Dolan’s. Team owners traded players, talked baseball while enjoying each other’s company. The league organized field trips to Las Vegas which also were fun for sports fans since we spent quite a bit of time in the sports book watching games on the huge TV screens.

Eventually, technology took over fantasy sports and the league became disconnected. People, died, moved or generally lost interest since the core group had dissipated.

The league folded.

Anyway, this San Francisco guy watches the game live and listens to the play-by-play from announcer Jon Miller. This particular day, it was hot, no clouds or breeze. Most of us in our party had to take a break and get out of the sun. At the end of the game, our Giants fanatic is no place to be found.

His phone was dead and he dropped off the face of the earth, only to resurface in Boulder after a missing person report filed.

Moral of the story?

If you can’t get disconnected, generate some hard copy. As for myself, I’m one of the tethered old guys. Travel schedules are in apps, boarding passes are in apps.

I’ll be writing down basic information and keep a few phone numbers in my wallet. There are no pay phones around anymore, but most everyone has a cell phone. I haven’t asked anyone if could use their phone before. My guess there would be push back for one reason or another. I’ve been asked to make a phone call for a stranger and obliged.

Junk of the not so rich and famous

I've been sorting through my stuff and it's more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I used to think hard copy would clutter up the world and everything would be digitized by now.

I’ve been sorting through my stuff and it’s more like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I used to think hard copy would clutter up the world and everything would be digitized by now. Turns out, that’s not really the case. There will be plenty of hard copy carrying forth into the future.

Lot’s of history is “preserved” that way. I’m testament to that and sorting through boxes of papers and artifacts from my previous lives. I don’t know why I’ve held on to this stuff for so long.

Don’t be surprised if you get a mysterious envelope filled with some tangible tie between us.

Literal shared memories.

The main reason I like making historic documentaries is the research. I’ve gotten to know my way around the state of Wyoming archives, on three projects, most recently one about modern expressionism in Wyoming.

I like handling old photographs and learning about things past and assembling it all into a story about how the past informs the present.

I have an iPod with 80GB of memory. It will soon be out of date.

I had the huge 80gb iPod. It will soon be a relic.

A few years ago when iPods came out, I early-adopted one of the huge 80 gigabyte models.

Back in the days of cassettes, the rage was compiling a variety of music mixes on tape from LP vinyl records.We used to borrow each others albums and copy them for our own collections. Not only had I accumulated vinyl, cassette tape music mixes, but also started buying CDs.

The iPod was supposed to revolutionize music storage. That it did, but they also sterilized memory making.

Hard copy.

A friend of mine posted on facebook recently about some problem he was having with his iPod hard drive – we have the same model – about cracking the case to get at it and the battery.

Backing up information continues to be a headache, not to mention batteries going dead. There’s a company that makes an adapter to replace the hard drives with high capacity SD cards, which is a pretty good idea.

I’m looking into bumping mine up to 256GB.My turntable still plays records, but I got rid of all of them in favor of CDs. My neighbor still has some discs to spin. My turntable still plays records, but I got rid of all of them in favor of CDs. My neighbor still has some discs to spin. Gone are the days of turntables, memorable scratches on certain songs, beer-stained 8-track labels, the residual aroma of pot on double album jackets.

They take up space, but no fear of loss due to battery failure of out-of-date operating systems.

Kids must be learning different things in school. Metaphors must be changing, too, with way fewer industrial references.

I don’t think talkative people sound like broken records, or those with disagreements are not on the same wavelength.

Carhartt jeans are still inspected by people, including these three in a factory in Mexico. They add that personal touch.

There are still some items that have the human touch, including my Carhartts made in Mexico.

Carhartt jeans are still inspected by people, including these three in a factory in Mexico. They add that personal touch.

I put on a new pair of jeans the other day and there were these paper inspection labels in the pockets.

We’re led to believe that everything is automated and made by high tech machines.

Not only were my trousers inspected three times, but one of the inspectors saved on paper by changing their ID number using a Magic Marker.

I don’t know what I expected the future to be like by now.

The Jetsons TV family was the view of a typical 1960s family if portrayed in the distant future.

When I was a kid there was the Hanna Barbera cartoon sit-com “The Jetson

The Jetsons TV family was the view of a typical 1960s family if portrayed in the distant future.

The family traveled around in hover craft, their house was cleaned by a robot named Rosie. George worked at the Spacely Sprockets office, Jane puttered around the house, Judy was in high school and Elroy was in elementary school.

Middle class and All-American for the future as envisioned in the early 1960s, which was the same present portrayed in Leave it to Beaver.

For 99 percent of us, we did become mass society – most everyone has a TV, microwave oven, internal combustion engine car.

Regardless, it’s good to know there are humans involved in the manufacturing quality control.

There’s plenty of esoteria that goes into making smart refrigerators and smart coffee pots, but the basic purposes remain the same – keep food cold and water hot.

After the Star Ship Enterprise blew up, Picard was able to retrieve his family album as he took over the Star Fleet command.

Picard manages to save his hard copy family album.

After the Star Ship Enterprise blew up, Picard was able to retrieve his family album as he took over the Star Fleet command.

Remember “Star Trek Generations”, the movie set in the 25th century when the Star Ship Enterprise is destroyed? Captain Kirk turns the keys over to Jean Luc Picard.

Some of the photos and papers dated back to the 18th century. If it was digitized, the electromagnetic pulse would have wiped the disc clean.

Hard copy isn’t safe from disaster. The library at Alexandria was the book repository for the world at that time and it was supposedly destroyed by a big fire – no copies left of any of that.

Grocery store plastic bags cost a dime in Boulder, Colorado. The hope is to reduce the amount of trash that will be preserved for future generations to find and learn about our culture.

Grocery store plastic bags cost a dime in Boulder, Colorado.

I tossed out the trash today. It was in a plastic bag. I always dump it out so the organics will deteriorate and not leave any evidence of my diet in the landfill.

My neighbors use those nuclear war-proof bags with the draw strings. Archaeologists and paleontologists of the future will have a pretty good idea about our 21st century culture.

Our ancestors will determine that we inhabitants revered our detritus as evidenced by the stockpiles of leftover food, old papers and various containers hidden in large altars excavated into hill sides surrounding urban areas.

I hope they have fun looking through my boxes. After visiting Graceland a couple times, I’m convinced that the only people who have any business holding on to their keepsakes are famous people.

I’m more forgetful and proud of it

I still know the difference between coming and going but have to work harder on names.

I still know the difference between coming and going but have to work harder on names.

The actor Alan Arkin came to the Boulder International Film Festival a few years ago. During his interview, he said that he was becoming more forgetful, and proud of it, which got a laugh from the largely Baby Boomer audience.

I, too, have noticed that I have to think harder.

Not because I can’t solve problems, but because I remember the wrong stuff.

I’ve always been a trivia buff and sometimes wish I could dump some of that gunk out of my head.

I can remember that card #1 of the 1952 Topps baseball card set is Andy Pafko, but I have to keep repeating to myself that I need to buy a new flapper for the toilet tank.

My long term memory is still sharp, but I wish I could purge my brain of some of it.

My long term memory is still sharp, but I wish I could purge my brain of some of it.

Add to that, no less than 20 flapper choices ranging in price from $6 to $20! I spent way too much time at the hardware store today.

I settled on the TOTO for $15 – made in the USA, USA, USA.

Alvin Toffler wrote “Future Shock” in 1970. The book is about personal perceptions of “too much change in too short a period of time”.

Alvin Toffler's

Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” came out when I was in high school. It was quite prophetic.

Ain’t that the truth.

My too-many-flappers conundrum is future shock come to pass and I notice I spend too much brain power on cluttered decisions like this.

“There have been a lot of advancements over the years,” the green – vested McGuckin plumbing department guy said of his collection of rubber plugs to keep toilet tanks full of water until the next flush.

toto flapper

I had too many flapper choices, but the one I bought, did the trick.

Add unexpected flapperology lessons to my lack of motivation and general lethargy arising from my illness recovery over the past few months and it’s a double whammy.

As a hedge against my future shock, folks encouraged me to arrange the clutter by writing lists for this and that.

I began to jot things down in a calendar book like meetings and dentist appointments appointments, but write a list?


Will someone find me a pen?

My first batch of green chili turned out, thanks to the readily available fresh veggies.

My first batch of green chili turned out, thanks to the readily available fresh veggies.

I started cooking more food from scratch and use recipes from mostly because the mobile phone app works pretty well in the food store, with or without WiFi.

The parts list is at my fingertips.

Tonight, I tried my hand at a pot of green chili. In the olden days – 10 years ago, even – it was not possible to cook dishes like this because of the limited number of oddball ingredients that were available in the average grocery store. For instance, I needed:
– jalapeño peppers
– anaheim peppers
– tomatillos

While reading recipes, I could tell the older ones because they called for x-number of cans – Ortega green chiles.

The food stores stock lots of product that didn't used to be offered.

The food stores stock lots of product that didn’t used to be offered.

Safeway now offers peppers galore – pablano, habanero, banana, orange ones, yellow ones, red ones, those long slender ones you get on Chicago dogs.

The chili was good, but turned out a little spicier than I thought and I’ll tweak the recipe for the faint of heart. I used to improvise a lot, but have since learned that there’s a lot of chemistry involved in cooking, and not everything has to have tomato sauce in it.

I’ve not only started keeping a virtual recipe box, I keep my contact list up to date to help me remember people. I’m still pretty good with names, but I have to repeat them to myself more than in the past.

When I see people after a year, I can remember when we met, where we met, what they do for work. Sometimes, sometimes not, the name will come to me.

It’s very frustrating.

I learned from my nonprofit development director days that there are very expensive computer programs written to keep track of donors and prospects. I use my phone contact list to remind me about people.

I started keeping a hard copy record after I heard a couple nightmares about losing contact info in the “cloud.”

When I go places now, I have to study who may be there. I could just ask people their name, but that’s no fun.

My neighbor, Henry, says that proper name memory is the first to go – something to do with the hippocampus. That’s a bit reassuring.

Jerry Seinfeld had trouble remembering his girl friend's name that rhymes with a female body part.

Jerry Seinfeld had trouble remembering his girl friend’s name that rhymes with a female body part.

This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry can’t remember his girlfriend’s name that rhymes with a part of the female anatomy.

There’s an Alzheimer’s disease ad playing on TV about a husband that finds his wife’s car keys in the fridge.

So far, I haven’t done anything like that, but then again, I’ve been misplacing things for years like my wallet, phone, coats. I always have gotten everything back, though.

When that luck runs out, I should start worrying.

In the meantime, I’ll just go with my future shock flow and keep absorbing baseball trivia, keep my choices simple and remember names by way of mnemonic devices.