This is the personal story of a 28-year-old woman who was struck down with a serious injury and plunged into the health system. She tells us what she’s learned about how services work and why taking control of your own health is so important.
There I was, mid-week, mid-game when I went up for a ball and the goal defence fighting me for it pushed me to the ground. It was a split second, but the crunch I heard on the way down told me somewhere inside my left leg there was damage to a bone. The searing pain was just the beginning of a trip down a road I’m told will eventually lead to recovery.
My injury was this: a fracture to my left tibial plateau requiring fixation.
Basically, my knee flexed the wrong way, forcing my thigh bone to crush down into my leg bone. I sustained a fracture to the tibial plateau which sits inside the knee joint. It is now held together by a plate and five screws (with the help of a little synthetic bone). Rehabilitation has begun but I’m still to hear a date for when this might all be over.
The injury itself was overwhelming but what was even more complex was the onslaught of hospital forms, fees and jargon. In the moment you have the least capacity, you are required to concentrate more than ever.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far.
Be proactive in finding a surgeon or specialist
If, like me, you are taken to a public emergency department and are required to return to a specialist clinic, take some time to do your research. Once you know what your injury or ailment is, find out who in your area is available and most-suitable to look after you.
If you have private health cover, talk to your fund about what hospitals you’re covered for and go to your specialist clinic with a clear plan. If you need surgery, but don’t have insurance, it’s often possible for a private surgeon to perform your surgery in a public hospital so ask the question.
Public hospitals are furiously busy places. We’re fortunate to have the services we do but in reality, there will be times when they are stretched and you’ll need to be the champion of your own care.
Be prepared to bear costs but keep the receipts
I complained to a friend that my injury was proving to be very expensive. She turned to me and said: “were you saving for a rainy day? Because darling, it’s pouring”.
Initially it will feel like you are haemorrhaging money but take some time to really take stock of each transaction, write it down, start a spreadsheet, make notes about what rebates you need to get and stay on top of making the claims. You can claim the Medicare rebate on most services through the app so if you’ve got some time to kill, start there.
It’s important to remember that everything in the medical world is billed separately. Surgeon, anaesthetist, x-ray, medications, everything has a separate invoice. Keep the receipts and make sure you don’t miss a rebate. If you have private cover, make sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to and if you’ve been involved in an accident, check for any relevant cover that could include a refund on your excess.
Seek advice every step of the way
Ask questions until you understand what is happening to your body and what your doctors are planning on doing. Ask about expected side effects, typical complications and how the timeline of your recovery might change.
I felt completely powerless until I had the information I needed. Part of my healing process to this point has been having a calm and clear mind and the information I’ve gained from experts has gone a long way to help. Reach out to your network and gather people around you until you know enough to feel comfortable with your treatment.
Emily Clark is a Brisbane-based writer and journalist and a friend of House Call Doctor.