Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Being Powerless Provides Perspective

We were powerless. In more ways than one.

Like many local residents and readers of this newspaper, we lost power in the high-wind storm early last Friday morning. That was a loss of electrical power. But we also felt powerless recently when dealing with the bureaucracy of the medical and insurance industries.

Both losses of power have given us perspective.

First we lost the house power at 3 a.m. I was awake for the wind and noticed when the power went out. I was hopeful it would be back on by morning.

That’s part of the trouble of being powerless: uncertainty. We received a range of updates from Consumers Power that went back and forth from our power would be restored at 8 a.m. Friday, to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, to 10 a.m. Saturday, and back to 11:30 p.m. Sunday. If we only had one anticipated time for restoration of power it would have been easier. The raising and dashing of hopes is what is so frustrating.

As it turned out, the power came back on at our house at 1 p.m. Saturday. This was directly after we had moved our refrigerator and freezer foods to an undisclosed (and powered) location for safekeeping. So we ended up defrosting and cleaning them, and then did the laborious restocking job.

Being without power puts you at the whim of others and makes it hard to plan. We had to make various adaptions also—such as how to cook, disconnecting the garage door from the automatic opener so we could come and go, and of course placing lanterns about the house. I know, first-world problems. But it was frustrating nonetheless.

All of this was compounded by the fact that my wife had to go in to Grand Rapids for several medical appointments, and her car had a flat tire. I told her to take my car and started to work on hers by pulling out my air compressor and an extension cord....and then realized I had no power to plug into. So I used an old cigarette lighter air compressor, which took longer. I then left the car to see if the air was leaking slow or fast so I could know if I could drive it to the tire store for repair. But I left the key on. So when I went to move it, the battery was dead.

A neighbor came over to jump me with his jump box, but it was dead. And he couldn’t recharge it because, you guessed it. Finally, old fashioned cables and his truck did the job.

But this compounded feelings of being powerless.

I mentioned my wife had medical appointments. That leads to the other type of powerlessness. That of being up against the medical industry and insurance companies. We are grateful for insurance, and the care my wife receives. But often we feel like a number in an overwhelming system. And we feel powerless.

Insurance companies have been increasingly denying treatments. The recently denied my wife getting a PET-CT scan to monitor if her cancer has come back. This has been standard practice. But now the insurance company denied the doctors order and said she could have a CT scan and a bone scan instead. These are less precise and require two trips into Grand Rapids instead of one. If either scan shows anything, the will likely call for a PET-CT which she could have had in the first place.

Meanwhile, the doctor has changed the protocol for how she gets her regular infusion to keep cancer at bay. He has made the process more cumbersome and seemingly unnecessarily so, given the process for the past five years. There is no explanation for the change, just a new order to the nurses, who are confounded. They even asked if he was sure he was talking about the same patient. Again, she was powerless.

In the end, with our house and our medical battles, we have gained perspective from not having power. We need to adapt. We need to be patient. We need to accept the fact that we are dependent on others. But ultimately, that’s a good reminder. To be reliant not on ourselves or even a power company, but on God who is all-powerful.

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