Thursday, June 16, 2011

The perfect storm

Everyone has staph growing on their skin. Our bodies repel the stuff and normally we just happily fight infection and continue. I was exposed to carbon monoxide in a boiler room. The CO bound up my hemoglobin and didn't allow any white blood cells to replicate to fight the simple staph bacteria. I got terribly ill with the Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Later, the doctors discovered that I was born with a bicuspid ventral which really isn't a big deal but it does cause turbulence in my heart. That turbulence is where infection likes to collect. The staph infection seized the opportunity when nothing was fighting it. It went septic literally overnight. The common staph settled in my left Ventricle and severed a cord to my Mitral valve. These cords keep the valve from prolapsing. Now my heart doesn't work properly and back pressure to my lungs causes my lungs to fill with plasma easily. The doctors have me on high blood pressure medicine--even though my blood pressure is normal. I get tired easily because of my heart and this is exacerbated by the blood pressure medicine. They don't want my heart to work too hard.

Now in five weeks I must go have open heart surgery to replace the prolapsed valve and while they are in there they will replace the bicuspid ventricle.

The perfect storm continues...
As you know we have only moved here six months ago. I was hired back at my old company but under a trial period. This trial period was cut short and they hired me in a permanent fashion roughly five months ago. My company offers subsidized health insurance but I never got my three month review. My decision at open enrollment (after being hired three months) to decline health insurance wasn't really a decision at all. Given my introductory pay scale and no three month review to offer any hope of a raise we simply couldn't afford our half of the premiums. We opted to wait until January (normal open enrollment).

So here we sit without health insurance. Healthcare facilities that take the uninsured are so over crowed that getting simple blood work takes an entire day. Most of that day is spent processing analog records and confirming that I do indeed qualify for the services that they will render. Every doctor that I have seen has been top notch but the callousness of the general staff is degraded to the lowest form of apathy and feels like it is sucking the life out of you as you talk to them.  Of course they must develop burnout and callous themselves to it otherwise they would surely go crazy because the need is so great.

So you might ask why not file a workers comp claim. First we are going to get this all paid for, albeit with excruciating hours of waiting. Your tax dollars already pay for this kind of stuff. But you might also know that your tax dollars are paying for incredible waste the magnitude is unimaginable until you actually live it. Best case, workers comp would only pay a percentage of my final bill. That worker comp insurance company would fight me tooth and nail into legal oblivion trying to prove that the liability isn't theirs. Furthermore, I cannot ruin a wonderful company (sun light and power) with a 500,000 insurance claim that would skyrocket their workers comp premiums to a level that the company cannot sustain--even if my claim were bullet-proof.

Instead I will sit for hours on end waiting in the most awful waiting rooms to get the care that I need. My wonderful wife has sat by my side and endured the soul wrenching onslaught of apathetic waste and waiting. These systems aren't broken and degraded because of incompetence or intended waste. They are stuck in this awful place between huge oppressive insurance companies which debilitate them and the trickle of over bureaucratically tangled funds from Uncle Sam.

Our friends have been wonderfully supportive and we have genuinely needed their help. I am so appreciative of them it makes my heart swell with pride for humanity and the village that we enjoy the full support of. Thank you, thank you our great friends we appreciate you in ways that go beyond simple words.

Love, peace and blessings to you all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More Karl Update

Karl will probably be coming home today! Having him home be such a relief.

He will be at home with us for 3-4 weeks if all goes well. We'll be administering the IV antibiotics during that time. Doctors will keep a close watch on his heart health. Then he will return to the hospital for open heart surgery which will replace the heart valves (mitral and aortic) that were damaged by the sepsis. The surgery is very serious and will last about 5 hours. He will be on a heart/ lung bypass machine and general anesthesia. Afterwards, he will be in the hospital again for a week, then home for 3 months of recovery before he can return to work.

Right now we are struggling with a decision about which kind of valves. We are so early in the decision making process that we are not even sure we have a choice between the two. But if we do, it would be an important one. It seems like every day has an important development like this.

We are so appreciative of all who have helped us so far. It has allowed me to visit Karl, the kids to visit, us to eat and life to go on for the last week. The kids love the company of this 'village' atmosphere and so do I. We are excited for Karl's homecoming but frankly we may need more help for the first week with him back than when he was in the hospital.

Our friend Patricia Scott continues to organize the care calendar. She is adjusting it occasionally so that it best fits our needs. Your meals have been delightful and nothing has gone to waste. Please feel free to call Patricia or myself about the calendar if you have questions, or go to the page and just sign up.

Your prayers are always welcome and appreciated.

To contact us, Facebook is probably the best option. Just make sure you leave a note when you add me as a friend so I know who you are. 

Tabitha O'Melay | Create your badge

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Update from Tabitha

Some of you may already know from reading my blog or following along on Facebook:

Karl O'Melay is hospitalized with a septic blood infection. It is not contagious, but has infected his heart valves and he will need valve replacement surgery. The surgery can't be done until the infection is completely eradicated. He is very, very ill. The good news is that the antibiotics are working well and Karl is already looking so much better. He has great doctors. He's at Summit in Oakland which is a great heart health hospital.

Our family physician feels that probable Carbon Monoxide exposure on Wednesday of last week, which alone would not have debilitated Karl for more than a couple of days, suppressed Karl's system and at home a common bacteria that rarely is dangerous bloomed in his system and took over. The bacteria proliferated in his heart valves and damaged them. The infection thus was circulated through his body with every beat of his heart. The functionality of Karl's heart valves is greatly impaired and he will require valve replacement. In the past two days we have learned that the mitral and Aortic valves must be replaced through open heart surgery, which will be done after 4 weeks of IV antibiotics to completely clear the sepsis.

We appreciate your prayers, thoughts, and offers of help. As you can imagine this has not been easy on our four young children or myself. We are not able to be by Karl's side very much, and I can't leave the kids for too long to visit alone. Karl, naturally, is the worst off and he needs to not be worrying too much about the future or us right now.

To that end our close friends the Scotts have set up an online care calendar for people who wish to sign up for meals, groceries, housework, rides to and from the hospital, errands or child care. You can bring personal meals or offer take out, etc. Any offer of help is welcome. If the calendar doesn't have a spot for what you'd like to offer please call Patricia Scott (the coordinator) to offer it. She can be reached at 510 913 3151. Below is the calendar information:

Patricia McMahon Scott has set up a helpful calendar for people who wish to help us by donating time or meals. Some things can be donated long distance. Contact Patricia if you have questions. Thank you so much.

Enter the following info for our calendar:


CareCalendar - Filling the needs
Web based system to organize meals and other help for families during a time of illness or life changing event, such as the birth of a baby or death of a family member
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