It’s been approximately one month since I last had up-close-and-personal dealings with the Irish health care system, and nothing has come of it. Literally. OK, well, that’s not entirely true, seeing as I have been denied by the HSE for a medical card once again. This time the excuse is that our income is too high. The problem is that most of our debt and obligations are in the US, including the child support obligation (which is quite substantial). But the only debts they count in Ireland are car loans and mortgages, of which we have neither. I have proven the child support obligation but apparently that still wasn’t enough. Our deliberate debt reduction plan has backfired on me as far as health care is concerned. Yet another case of ‘best laid plans.’
But beyond that I still haven’t even heard from the hospital or MS nurse or neurologist or whoever is responsible for getting me scheduled in for the testing and treatment I was told I needed a month ago! A message left for the nurse 3 days ago has not yet been returned. I can’t imagine how difficult this situation must be for people who are in pain or suffering every day because of the delays in the public health system.
To add to the whole bizarre nature of this health limbo I am in, I’ve developed a cough. But not just any cough, one I believe I can directly associate to the MS. One I mentioned to the neuro doc and the MS nurse a month ago and was promptly dismissed. Allow me, now, a moment to digress: 7 and one-half years ago I quit smoking mainly due to the fact that I could no longer breathe at night and was losing sleep to the coughing. I was taking medication daily that was only meant to treat short-term illness in order to simply sleep through the night. It was tough but I managed to do it and reaped the benefits of a clear, deep breath when it was all said and done. Fast forward to about 3 years ago when the big guy and I moved into our townhouse in Denver. I began coughing again, this time for a couple of weeks at a time, always particularly bad when I laid down to sleep at night and when I awoke in the morning. Eventually it would go away and I would jokingly blame it on our dirty little dump of a townhome. Since our emigration to Ireland the cough has become much worse, sometimes to the point where I cannot catch my breath at all – talk about a frightening experience. It happens when I’ve been walking and then sit down (typically on the bus to ride home) or when I’ve made any physical effort such as climbing stairs. I have taken to carrying lozenges with me wherever I go, something to ease the tickle and perhaps avert the coughing fit. They come at random times for no reason, and some have been really embarrassing; people shy away from me as if I’m Typhoid Mary. The coughing now – again – interrupts my sleep, especially since I caught a cold last week and the cough just won’t let go. I know I’m not crazy because I’ve done some research and found information about difficulty in swallowing as a symptom of MS, as well as MS discussion groups in which other people have complained of the coughing and gasping and of also being ignored or blown off by their physicians.
So I have broken down and made an appointment with the GP guy I first saw when I got here, in the hopes of getting some sort of relief for the cough, or at least a measure of sympathy and corroboration of my condition. I’m also hoping that he will champion my cause with the HSE and help me to at least get a drugs scheme card to help pay for prescriptions. They have a long-term illness scheme here and I should at least qualify for that – but my repeated inquiries to the medical card people fall on deaf ears.
In the meantime I do what I can to take care of myself. I walk out of necessity; every Wednesday when I go into the city to do my volunteer job I try to get in as many errands as I can. I’ve developed a vitamin regimen that includes all the elements of all the research and recommendations. I avoid situations that are likely to tire me out or make me overheat. I try not to self-diagnose but at this point the only person who seems to be interested in helping me figure out the limitations and effects of my condition is ME. Say what you will about “Obamacare” but at least under that system I might actually be getting active health care!
I know other countries have socialized medicine systems that are not as nearly as flawed and faulty as the Irish health care system. I know that the economic downturn, the failed bank bailouts, the Eurozone difficulties are part and parcel of Ireland’s problem. I know that not being an Irish citizen is a huge reason I can’t get into the system, especially considering the fleeting nature of our current association with this beautiful land. But I still cannot help wondering how long I have to be floating around in this singular boat before someone notices me adrift…