Saturday, October 09, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #381

Nancy White Kelly

My Mama taught me that proper people don’t discuss their finances in public. I’m not feeling very proper today.

After rocking from Buddy’s very recent root canal to the tune of $1000, we were completely blown off our feet at what happened yesterday.
We have a darling miniature, ten-month-old dachshund with unusual pie-bald coloring. Except for his size, he could be mistaken for a Jersey cow. Patch is such a joy, full of life and kisses.

On Tuesday afternoon Patch came through the doggie door yelping non-stop doggy opera. Buddy held him while I tried to look for the problem. He had about a two inch cut on his side. He wasn’t bleeding badly, but I bundled him up in a beach towel to hold him more comfortably. He was obviously in pain and that pathetic crying drove us to quick action.

Because we were noted as a “walk-in”, our wait to be seen by the closest veterinarian seemed unusually long. We didn’t complain. Patch did. Everybody in the building knew that he was present and not happy.

When our turn came to see the veterinarian, a technician appeared. We were told he would need stitches and should stay over-night for observation. The tech checked off a long list of blood tests which we declined, including the CBC. This wasn’t major surgery, just a clean cut that needed repair.

The vet called that night and reported that the stitching went fine with no complications. We could pick up our “beagle” the next morning.

On the way to the office the following day, I asked Buddy what was his estimate of the bill. He guessed $200, most of which he jokingly said would probably go to the loan principle for that fairly new, post-modern building. I assured Buddy he was wrong. The charges shouldn’t amount to more than $100. After-all, we were only talking about a straight cut and a few stitches.

Buddy doesn’t hear well and stood quietly aside while I took care of business at the counter.

“Are you ready?” the receptionist asked. I should have known that this was a preliminary warning statement.

“Six-hundred and sixty-five dollars and thirty cents,” she said. I repeated what I thought she must have said, “Sixty-five dollars and thirty cents?”

“No, $665.30,” the lady replied nonchalantly as the invoice hummed through the printer. I turned to Buddy in shock and repeated the amount. His response was appropriate.

“What?” he asked. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

When it became clear that we weren’t leaving with Patch until we paid the bill, I wrote out the check. Buddy suggested we leave the dog, but, of course, we couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. Patch wasn’t to blame for this legal robbery. Buddy suggested out loud that wearing a mask was certainly appropriate for the vet.

Patch was as excited to see us as we were to be leaving the scene of what we now refer to as our “665- Aggravated Larceny.” Maybe we watch too many crime shows.

Buddy and I have examined the itemized bill several times. There were eighteen charges, most of which were ridiculously exaggerated and highly over-billed.

For example, “wound debridement: $38.05” and “Wound cleaning, $29.29.” As if that wasn’t redundant enough, there was a related charge of “wound flushing, $14.77.” Four shots were given, each costing about $30 each. There was even a charge for IV fluids with surgery.” Certainly we couldn’t have dehydration during that ten-minute sewing job and a line needed to be available for immediate access in case something went terribly wrong.

The absurd bill continued with charges for “surgical pack autoclave/ postoperative nursing” and “anesthesia monitoring.” Lots of things can happen in ten minutes. What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall.

Back home in familiar surroundings, Patch was his old self by the end of the day.
Us? We are trying not to laugh at the irony of the last line printed on the bill: “Your invoice was discounted as much as possible to reduce financial burden.”

Sorry, Mama. Proper or not, some stories just must be told.

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