So, there was Broke-Ass, in the E.R. for the second time that week, effusing uncontrollably out of every conceivable orifice and making the kind of personal mess one associates with the general populace of 14th Century Europe. Luckily, health care in 2011 has improved to the extent that–even though city ERs are about as sanitary as 14th Century Europe, and poor people still die because they can’t afford private rooms–there are things, such as drugs, that actually work.
So, after the intravenous Zofran worked its magic–which is preventing “nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery”–and Broke-Ass could actually use her mouth for something other than puking, she had an utterly enlightening exchange with quite possibly the coolest person she has ever met, Mr. James McCrae. But you have to read about all that on Grist.
Now, back to our story. Within a period of 48 hours, Broke-Ass had had tubes and needles inserted into–or electrodes affixed to–every part of her body. As she was emerging from the anesthesia black-out accompanying a final, double-probe procedure, Broke-Ass had a kind of post-excretory Kubla Khan type hallucination in the recovery room.
She was in Los Angeles. Big Daddy and his mom had Vespa-ed over to the next doctor’s appointment, and Broke-Ass was supposed to take the car and meet them there. As the nurse scrolled out a floor-sized map of L.A. and started tracing her fingers along a gigantic hairball of routes that went “there” from “here,” Broke-Ass convulsed awake. At the same exact moment, Big Daddy actually came striding into the room, hugged her, and assured her that no one would allow her to drive from Santa Monica to Eagle Rock in her condition. Broke-Ass wept with relief: Thank God because she really couldn’t deal with the 10, during rush hour in a hospital gown! Plus, it would worry her that people were on Vespas.
Then, Broke-Ass began to sober up. As she gazed upon her fellow be-gowned miserables and heard a male nurse utter “fugettaboutit” while flipping through a giant deck of X-Rays, she came to realize that she was, in fact, deposited at Long Island Community Hospital right here in Brooklyn. And as Big Daddy’s look of concern began to morph into his signature expression–a “we’re doomed because we’re broke” hangdog–Broke-Ass began to dread the bill even more than the diagnosis.
And the diagnosis was: a bout of gastritis that had escalated for “undetermined reasons.” As the extremely thorough and competent Dr. Irwin Grossman elaborated on Broke-Ass’ mystery condition, he asked about her stress levels. Broke-Ass replied that she was, ordinarily, the heavyweight champion of stress: She was born to stress, worked as a journalist and writer for her entire adult life, had three children. Stress was her hometown, her first love, the ocean she swam in–hell, she’d dive into yours and come out ready to make lunch for everyone!
But stress derived from having no money was not “stress”: It was an eviscerator. There were no stress “levels,” only buttes as far as the eye could see–and they were all rutted out by glacial insufficient funds.
Dr. Grossman nodded. Then, he did something that no other ordinary doctor Broke-Ass has ever known does: He recommended that she go to a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. The head of Gastroenterology at a major New York hospital, ladies and gentlemen. You heard it here.
Then, came the bill: $23,000.
Next up: Holy Shit and Dr. Li.