Monday, February 06, 2023

Dealing With Insurance Companies

I've been told more than once that if you stay with an insurance company for a few years, then even if you haven't submitted any claims, eventually they'll increase your premiums significantly, assuming that you'd rather just pay the difference than go to the trouble of shopping around. Apparently that's true, because when I opened the new quotes for my car, condo, and umbrella policies (which are bundled) for the coming year, I discovered my car insurance premium has gone up by a whopping 44%. I spent the next 20 minutes entering specifics about my driving habits and coverage and shopping around online to see what other companies would charge me if I were to switch, all of which convinced me I should contact my current company to protest this unwarranted increase. 

I also spent some time looking up things that can affect your insurance rate other than accidents or tickets, including age, number of miles driven per year, and credit rating. Today, with all my ducks in a row, I called my agent and reported:

·      I drive under 4,000 miles per year, which can be confirmed by checking the   odometer readings on my annual inspection reports

·      I've never submitted a single claim to this company on any of my policies

·      No moving violations EVER and not so much as a parking ticket

·      My credit score is 824

·      I’m 73, so 2 years younger than the age of 75, at which age I’m aware some companies increase the premiums

I also said I’m not paying the 44% increase on my policy, because I’ve already checked around online and know I can get the same coverage that I have right now for the same price I’m currently paying. It’s been assigned to someone named Mike who will provide a requote. Fingers crossed.


Thursday, January 13, 2022

Old Age is Not for Sissies...

Shortly after Christmas, sitting in my living room late one night, I reached over the back of the couch trying to find the switch to turn off the tree lights. The switch was just out of my reach, so I stretched a little further, with my ribcage pressed against the hard frame of the back of the couch, and just as my fingers made contact with the light switch, I heard a loud "pop" and had the unsettling sensation of what felt to me like massive movement inside my body. There was no pain, just this noise and this distinct sensation of movement where there shouldn't be movement. I sat down on the couch and everything seemed fine. I stood up, and everything continued to seem fine. But WTH had just happened? 

I Googled "popping sound and feeling of movement in ribs" and after reading this description: "a popped rib happens when the cartilage attached to any or your 'false ribs' breaks, resulting in abnormal movement. It's this slipping out of normal position that causes pain" I decided that even though I wasn't feeling pain, in all likelihood I'd probably popped a rib. Years ago, in my old house, bending over the back of that same couch and resting my ribcage against the hard top of the frame to pick  something up from the floor, I'd done the same thing. There'd been no apparent consequences then, so I wasn't too worried about it now. The last time it happened was pre-internet, so I didn't know what I'd done that time, but reading about popped ribs this time convinced me that's what I'd done both times. 

The thing is, I'm 72 now, so if I had any sense, I'd have taken it easy after doing this. But since I hadn't had any problems the last time, I assumed this time would be the same, and so the day after popping the rib, I took down and packed away my 9' artificial tree by myself, and then for good measure I went to Lowe's and bought six more 30-pound bags of rocks for my patio, which I loaded onto a cart and then into my car at Lowe's, and which I unloaded and carried from my car to my patio once I got home, where I opened the bags and finished laying the rocks where I wanted them, all without giving my rib a second thought. Big mistake.

That night the pain began. Not a lot of pain but constant pain: sort of a dull ache that starts directly beneath my right breast and then runs around to the side, toward my back. It hurts when I laugh and it hurts when I breathe. Lying on my back, or even reclining is impossible. It hurts enough when I lie down that the first night I finally gave up and tried to sleep on my chaise lounge, but that didn't work because even sitting up, leaning back leaves me in pain.

I have not called my doctor about this because my doctor is very much of the "Well, you're old, what do you expect?" camp, and there's no treatment other than time to heal the cartilage anyway. Re the pain, I can't take NSAIDs, so I'm pretty much stuck with it. I discovered I can get some sleep if I sleep on the offending couch though. If I remove the back cushions, the couch is quite deep, and if I prop pillows of various sizes against the back of the couch I have enough support to be able to actually lie on my side. 2 days into this, I began to feel as if my lower back might go out. I'd guess that was due to strain from trying to compensate for the rib pain. 

So I went to the drug store and picked up some large heating patches. I applied one of those to my ribcage in an attempt to get some relief. It didn't really help with the pain, and somehow the patch managed to rub raw a spot about the size of my thumbnail on the side of my body. I was going in for my annual skin check, and didn't want to get into a conversation about my popped rib with the dermatologist, so I just put a bandaid over the raw patch. When she saw it, the dermatologist asked, "Anything there I need to know about?" I said no and she moved on with the rest of the exam, at the end of which, 4 AKs (actinic keratoses) on my face and 4 more on my shoulders were removed by freezing, and one suspicious mole on the back of my neck was biopsied. All well and good, but that night, after I stepped out the shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and saw a red bandaid on my side, around the raw patch. Except that I'd removed the bandaid as soon as I came home: it only looked like a red bandaid in the mirror, because the bandaid itself had caused a raised red rash everywhere it came into contact with my skin. Damn!

What's next? Will I start growing a second head inside my nose? A few years ago I would have said, "Don't be ridiculous!" but these days, I'm thinking, "I dunno, seems possible, maybe..."

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

I Can See Clearly Now...

 8 years ago, due to a congenital defect, I had surgery on the retina of my left eye. I had an excellent surgeon, and I'm confident that he did nothing wrong. Nevertheless, as he had cautioned me might happen following such an invasive procedure, shortly after the surgery I developed a fast-growing cataract on my left eye. Within just a few months of having the surgery, which was otherwise successful, the vision in my left eye had deteriorated to the point that I was unable to read the letter "E" on the eye chart.

Accordingly, 10 months to the day after the first surgery, I had a second procedure, performed by a different surgeon, to remove the cataract and implant an IOL (intra-ocular lens). For several years after that second surgery, I had enviable distance vision in my left eye, but eventually, I developed something called PCO, or Posterior Capsular Opacification.  As a result, the vision in my left eye deteriorated. I had difficulty focusing, and in the past couple of years I'd developed something called "ghosting", which occurs when you eyes see two slightly different images transposed next to each other. This meant that if I was looking at someone seated 8 to 10 feet away, instead of seeing their face I'd see 2 faces, one in front of the other, which was annoying to say the least, but also, due to this I was now finding it impossible to read road signs. 

PCO is the most common complication of cataract surgery, occuring in approximately 20% of patients. It's caused by a cloudy layer of scar tissue growing behind the implanted lens. This happens because when a cataract is removed, a small amount of tissue covering the lens, or capsule, is left behind to help hold the IOL in place. A PCO forms when the eye attempts to make a new lens using the material left behind. Different types of cells can cause the opacification, including migrating epithelial cells and residual lens cortex cells, but no matter what type of cell is causing it, when PCO occurs, although it's a natural part of wound-healing in the eyes,  it causes problems with vision.

In addition to everything else, I also have glaucoma in both eyes, so I see my ophthalmologist every 6 months for a thorough eye exam. He had noticed the increasing PCO over the new lens, and asked me about my vision. When I told him about the ghosting (by far the worst effect for me) he encouraged me to schedule a procedure to restore the vision in my left eye. This procedure is called YAG laser capsulotomy. YAG is short for yttrium aluminum garnet, which is the type of crystal located within the laser used for the capsulotomy. It dates back to 1982, and it's considered very safe and low risk for complications.

I considered going back to the surgeon who had removed the cataract and implanted the IOL, but when I learned that my ophthalmologist was one of the first doctors trained to do YAG laser in Texas, and has been doing this procedure weekly for almost 40 years, I decided to have him do it. 

From a patient standpoint, YAG laser capsulotomy is a simple, outpatient procedure. I went to my doctor's regular office. When I arrived, drops were instilled in my left eye to lower the pressure, and also to dilate my eye. It took about 10 or 15 minutes for the drops to take effect. I then walked down the hall to a different suite, where the laser was located. It's important to remain still during this procedure, so to help immobilize my head, after being seated, my head was positioned in the chinrest of a slit lamp microscope to which the laser was attached. A slit-lamp microscope is the thing where you sit in a special chair and then lean forward to rest your chin and your forehead on the device to position your eyes so they can be examined. When you go for your annual eye exam, your optometrist almost certainly uses a slit lamp microscope to examine the back of your eyes.

An assistant instilled numbing drops in my eye. She then placed a special contact lens filled with a gel-like substance on the front of my eye. Due to the numbing drops, I didn't feel anything. My ophthalmologist then performed the capsulotomy. Focusing on the posterior capsule, he "zapped" the PCO formation with the laser, which uses a wavelength to break up the tissue, first forming a hole in the central area of the lens and then moving in a circular manner around it. The zapped tissue falls off the posterior capsule and into the vitreous. The entire procedure lasted for just a few minutes, and there was no pain involved. 

Most patients experience increased intraocular pressure (IOP) as a result of this procedure, so afterward, another pressure-lowering eyedrop was instilled as a preventative. I then walked back to the inner office waiting room, where I sat for about 20 minutes before my IOP was again checked. It was at a healthy 18, so I was discharged.

Immediately after the procedure, my vision was blurred and I had some horrendous floaters, both of which are normal. It’s not unusual to see floaters for up to 3 weeks after this procedure. However, just 9 hours later, at 10 PM, although I still have some floaters, my vision is crystal clear.

General Info

You shouldn’t drive for the first 24 hours after having this done, so you need to arrange for transportation to and from the facility.


Financial Considerations

Medicare Part B covers YAG laser capsulotomy if it’s deemed medically necessary due to complications from cataracts and cataract surgery, but you’ll generally need a diagnosis of posterior capsular opacification for it to be covered.

Also, if you’re having YAG done, be sure to ask ahead of time if your surgeon charges a facility fee. Facility fees can range from modest to exorbitant, and you’re responsible for 20% of the facility fee even if Medicare covers the procedure, so be sure to ask about this ahead of time. My ophthalmologist didn’t charge a separate facility fee because he has a laser on site, but if I used the surgeon who removed the original cataract and implanted the lens, I would have had to pay a separate facility fee.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Old Friends...


Old friends, old friends

Sat on their park bench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes of the old friends
Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust on the shoulders of the old friends
Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy
Old friends, memory brushes the same years
Silently sharing the same fears

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, 
A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, 
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; 
They're all that's left you
Paul Simon

I'd been thinking of a friend of mine, whom I hadn't heard from since BC (before Covid). I was feeling a little irritated at his not staying in touch, and thinking of calling him, but for some reason I decided to Google him first and when I did, my heart sank, because there it was: his obituary. He died, apparently peacefully and at home, perhaps in his sleep, late this past February. Not from Covid. This makes 4 friends who've died in the space of 16 months: none of them from Covid, but dead nevertheless. They ranged in age from 66 to 72. My 72-year-old friend had been sick, with Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia, but the other 3 deaths were totally unexpected, happening as they did to people who were relatively fit, with no known health issues. I remember my father (who lived to be 91) telling me it was so hard to outlive all friends and many family members. It's a weird feeling, to know these friends are gone. I miss each of them, and life suddenly seems much more precarious than it did 2 years ago, before this started happening.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Can You Hear Me Now?

I loathe and despise corporate America, and especially Big Banks, so after a recent fiasco with Bank of America, where I've banked for more than 30 years, I decided enough is enough and began the arduous process of switching to a smaller, friendlier, less expensive institution. If you live in a house, where you have a unique street number address, congratulations, because you've automatically saved yourself hours of work. But if, like me, you live in a condo (or an apartment or a co-op), where although your apartment or unit number is unique, you share the actual street address with many other people, plan to spend a couple of weeks downloading paper application forms which you'll have to complete the old-fashioned way and submit via snail mail before you're allowed to open an online account. When I asked why there's no provision to apply online unless you live in a house, I was repeatedly told this is a provision of The Patriot Act, "to prevent terrorism". I didn't realize terrorists only operate out of apartments or condos, but hey, what do I know? 

So today, approximately a month after I submitted the initial paperwork via snail mail, having jumped through all the initial hoops, I went online to activate my new checking and savings accounts. I'm retired and my only income is my Social Security check, so the first thing I did was go online to change that deposit from Bank of America to the new place. Today is June 8th; that change will go into effect in late August (!!!). I spent several hours online, attempting to update auto-pay sources. I use AT&T for my cellphone, and Spectrum for internet, and I was unable to change the info at either of those websites due to problems with the websites. Neither website provided any information that they were having problems. Instead, both websites allowed me to enter all of my information, including account and routing numbers, but after I hit submit a pop-up appeared with a message saying they were "unable to complete your request at this time, but please do try again later". Eventually, I was successful with AT&T but not with Spectrum. Tomorrow I'll try once more and if Spectrum still can't process my request, I'll phone customer service and try to get help that way. I find it ironic that the website that gave me the most trouble is my internet provider website. First world problems, I know, but I do have to solve this.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

These Foolish Things...

Last night I went on my walk, but late. The day had been stiflingly sticky and hot, but once the sun went down, the air was pleasant, almost cool, so I decided to go further than I had planned. I followed one of my regular routes, which takes me through residential streets in my neighborhood, far removed from heavy traffic. 

Eventually, this route took me to one of my favorite streets, Glen Heather. This is a street with huge (for Texas) well-established trees, many of which reach from either side of the street to almost meet overhead, forming a beautiful green bower. I'd guess the houses on this street were built in the late 70s or early 80s. Every house is MCM (mid-century modern), with lots of wonderful sharp angles and big, floor to ceiling windows. Most of these houses are just one story tall, with a few exceptions, but whether one-story or two, every house on either side of the street is a duplex. I don't know what possessed the builders to construct an entire street of nothing but duplexes here in Dallas, where the soil is so abysmally bad that sooner or later, every house ends up with foundation problems, which I'd think would be horrendously complicated, legally, if you're sharing a slab with a neighbor. But foundation problems aside, the other unusual feature of this street of houses is that without exception, every one has a lovely enclosed patio. 

All of the patios are huge. Some run across the front of each house and then turn to go run along the sides as well. Each patio is enclosed by a brick wall of varying heights: some are just 3 or 4 feet tall, so that from the street one gets a glimpse of who or what's inside, but others are 5 or even 6 feet tall, providing complete privacy. I am so intrigued by these wonderful patios, that every time I walk down this street, I imagine different scenarios: I imagine having breakfast on these patios on beautiful days, sitting in a comfortable chair at a tempered glass table set with eggs and bacon and toast; a tray with croissants and jam and butter; glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice; cups of hot coffee with cream, hearing the softly rustling pages of a newspaper as it's held to be read, back in the days when newspapers were actually made of paper and delivered to one's door. I imagine lively cocktail parties, back when people still had cocktail parties, in the 50s and 60s. That was before these houses were even built, of course, and yet these enclosed patios beg for the presence of cocktail parties. If I close my eyes I can almost hear the laughter and soft tinkle of ice in glasses that need regular refills. I imagine having dinner parties on these patios. When I was a bride, in the early 70s, we and all of our friends had regular dinner parties for 6 or 8. I can imagine hosting dinner parties on these beautiful patios, drifting in and out of the house to bring more food and refresh drinks, the night air perfumed with the scents of the jasmine and honeysuckle and gardenias that grow freely along the patio walls. 

But in the entire 3 years I've been walking down this street, I've never seen a single soul out on any of the patios. Not in the daytime, and not at night. A handful of houses have strung lights which make the patios look festive at night, but despite the lights, the patios are empty. Instead, the windows of the houses occasionally flash blue, evidence of someone deep inside the house, watching television instead of hosting a cocktail party or dinner party on their lovely patio. 

The times we live in.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Happy Endings

On Sunday night, as I was cleaning up downstairs, I decided to clean the filter pump on my LG washer. My washer and dryer are located in a small laundry closet in my kitchen, and I try to clean the washer pump filter out as recommended, about once a month. I got a small basin and sat down on the floor and first drained the hose, then replaced that and removed the filter, which, as usual, needed cleaning, mostly because Chili has a heavy coat and sheds a lot. I removed what I could by hand, then rinsed the filter out in the sink until it was perfectly clean. Then, rather than sitting down on the floor again to carefully screw it back into place, I just reached down and put it into the slot and turned it a few times, to secure it.


Late Monday morning, I did a load of wash. An hour or so later, when I walked into my kitchen, I discovered the kitchen floor was completely flooded. I have 5' x 7' woolen area rugs with heavy felt pads in both the kitchen and the breakfast nook, and the rugs and pads were soaked, as were the wooden floors beneath. The rugs and pads weighed a ton soaking wet, so I dragged them one at a time out onto my patio, where it was raining heavily, but not having a garage, that was my only option. Inside, I first put towels all over the floor to soak up the water, and then spent some time figuring out what had happened. Once I was sitting on the floor directly in front of the pump filter slot, I could see that it wasn't all the way in, so most of the water used when the machine was on had ended up being pumped out onto the floor. On the plus side, front load machines use considerably less water than top loaders, but it was still a lot of water on wooden floors. I removed and re-inserted and secured the pump filter, then spent the rest of the afternoon moving everything I could out of the kitchen so the floor could dry thoroughly.


I don't think the rug pads can be saved, so I ordered new ones. The rugs are both inexpensive. The one in the pic is from IKEA. But I like them and wasn't sure I could easily replace them, so I decided to take both rugs to a laundromat with commercial sized machines. I was worried the rugs would be too big and heavy for those machines, but I needn't have worried: those machines are so big it was almost like washing potholders in a regular machine. I washed each rug separately, in hot water, and then dried each rug separately, which took forever. When I brought them home they were both still a bit damp, so I laid them out on my seagrass rugs in the living room to finish drying.


Both rugs were several inches too big for the areas where I was using them, which was a real pain because it meant I had to fold the edges under to the size they should be. So this morning I decided that since both rugs were now as clean as when they were new, I might as well take them to get them cut down to the right size. But when I laid them out on the floor to see how much needed to be trimmed, I discovered to my delight that both rugs had shrunk to the point that I no longer need to have them cut down. So there really was a silver lining to this mishap.