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To Urgi-Med or Not…The Holistic Mom’s Dilemma

By Susan Schiff, DOM, FABORM on Jul 22, 2013

We have a catastrophic healthcare policy. What I mean is that we have a reasonable monthly premium with a very high deductible just in case we ever do need to use our insurance. My annual EOB (Explanation of Benefits) of out-of-pocket expenses over the past 6 years tells me that we average about $300 per year. Between this and the monthly premium, we’re looking at an expense of $5700 annually.

So that brings me to our current trip to Colorado. On our first day in the mile high city, I ended up in the Urgi-med for the onset of my altitude sickness.  I experienced the sort of symptoms that never leave your memory once you have had them… unbearable headache that won’t subside plus stiff neck and nausea. Brain swell is not a fun experience so I have blocked it out like a mother birthing her 2nd and 3rd child.  I decided that the mountain golf, skateboard parks, and cool air would make it all worthwhile.

I usually try everything in my bag of tricks to stave off the brain swell holistically, but on this trip, it was all to no avail. I needed help.  Give me steroids, oxygen and 800 mg of ibuprofen.  PLEASE!

And so it was time to pay the bill.

Me: “And how much will that be, kind sir at Urgi-med?”
Urgi-Med: “Don’t worry; we are billing your insurance. “

I can only imagine what that means!

On day 3 of our Colorado adventure, still in the mile high city of Denver, we were packing up to climb (not literally…it’s  a 2 to 3 hour drive up to Vail)  the mountain to our summer retreat and our little man Tiger starts running a very high fever--somewhere in the neighborhood of 104 give or take a degree.  Do you think I travel with a thermometer? Do you think I even own a thermometer? My thermometer is my lips and hands. He was HOT! Delirious and lethargic would fit the bill as well.  What to do? Well, pack him in the car and head to the mountains and see if he burns it off.  Fortunately, he did sleep for over two hours on our ride up. When we arrived at the townhouse, we carried our rag doll of a 6 year old into the living room and settled him on the couch to rest some more.  He woke up from sleep and his fever seemed to have subsided a bit and then his appetite kicked in.  He requested pancakes and we were on it in no time! We were so hopeful that this episode was fleeting and a part of history. I was envisioning a new start to our vacation. 

Not so fast mama. Within a few hours, the exhaustion hit him hard and so did the fever. His lips were chapped, so we were making him drink as much liquids as he possibly could. I was of course very concerned and googling mountain tick fever, meningitis, and lyme disease like a fiend. I am a mother first so worrying overtly is part of the territory.  I was icing down his neck and head and keeping him bundled up while his teeth chattered and his ears burned up. I was trying my best to be calm and compassionate instead of FREAKED OUT and worried about my next move. He fell asleep and within an hour or so then after that his fever broke and he was resting peacefully. OK…maybe we were done. I am sure we were on the mend. 

4:30 a.m. is the witching hour…I heard him moaning and went into his room. He was burning up, he said his legs were achy and he had a headache. He cried that wanted to go home. And so we went through the same motions which by now were becoming routine; ice packs, cuddles, blankets to keep him warm and lots of reassurance that he will feel better soon. We promise. As soon as he was past the worst of this fever surge I started googling the nearest Urgi-med. I needed help, again.

As much as I know that there will most likely be nothing they can do for my little man I needed to surrender and get some peace of mind. The nurse could not have been nicer and more attentive. The place was efficient, clean and we were the only ones there because it is the middle of July at a ski resort in Vail, Colorado.  Lucky us. They ruled out strep. They gave him a little oxygen, not that he needed it, but the tank was right there. Fever is not part of the altitude sickness picture so it was clearly a random virus that would burn itself out over time.  We played with the exam gloves, took all of our oxygen levels and made the best of our Urgi-med outing. It was another two to three days before Tiger got his “sea legs” back. We were lucky because according to the doctor it could’ve dragged on for 2 weeks.

When we checked out of this Urgi-med we were told for the second time this trip, “No charge, we are billing your insurance.” The peace of mind I received leaving the second Urgi-med was seriously priceless.

My feeling this year is that my out of pocket expense will be a lot higher than the average $300 I have traditionally spent in addition to my premiums over the past 6 years. Although the doctors there told me nothing I didn’t know already, it was still a  huge relief to get help. Sometimes the fear that overwhelms a mama bear supersedes all knowledge and logic. It’s just not possible to quantify a mom’s peace of mind.

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