Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Uterus vs. The Economy

I was surprised at how many delighted women are walking around out there without uteruses and ovaries. This realization came about when I had a hysterectomy this past June. The surgery was definitely necessary. I am 59 years old, and although those parts of my anatomy had served me well – producing three bright, beautiful children -- they were now malfunctioning. I will spare you the gory details. Still I wasn’t all that excited about having my lower abdomen slit open and body parts cut out. But as word leaked to co-workers and friends that I would be out of the office for at least three weeks for surgery and recovery, women began sidling up and whispering, “I had one too. Best thing that ever happened to me. You’ll feel like a new woman in six months.”

An artist friend told me that since she had the operation, she has not had a cold or the flu – and that was 20 years ago. A 68-year-old co-worker, who has been
sans-uterus three years, said she feels sexy again. One said I would wake up one
not-too-distant morning feeling as energetic as a teenager. Another said that after hers she lost 50 pounds – the diet she had been on forever finally worked! These miracles seemed practically biblical. I even began believing that the surgery would cure my arthritic knees. (While in the hospital I actually thought it had. The first time I stepped out of bed, my legs felt young and bouncy. I would have jumped with delight except for the stitches and staples in my belly. I imagined running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Then as I stepped toward the bathroom, I heard the rattle of the metal pole that was attached to my arm administering a morphine drip. Oops -- just a medicinal miracle.)

I am now two months out from surgery with just four more before the miracles supposedly begin. I am well aware that there is still arthritis in my knees and Mt. Everest is not in my future, but a lot of other nasty symptoms are gone. But -- if not for my good health insurance -- the miracle I would be hoping for is staying out of bankruptcy. My surgery and three-day hospital stay cost $25,432.65 or two-thirds of my yearly salary. I cannot imagine paying that out-of-pocket. It was hard enough writing a check for the $1,751 deductible.

According to a Harvard Law/Medical study published in 2005, illness and medical bills were the leading factor of personal bankruptcies, causing 50 percent of them. Most of the bankruptcy filers were middle class; 56 percent owned a home and the same number attended college. In today’s economy of job loss, over-extended debt and market slides, I suspect these figures hold true or are worse.

Without my health insurance, I would not have had a hysterectomy in June. I would have continued living with those unmentionable gory details -- feeling constantly tired, not the least bit sexy and dieting to no avail. I would have put off treatment until perhaps the situation became life threatening. And actually, without health insurance, many women put surgery off even then. It is more important than ever that our (well-insured) government leaders come up with a universal healthcare plan. If not, there will be a lot more women walking around out there with malfunctioning uteruses and ovaries – with little hope for miracles.


  1. Jessie,
    This is a great post. There is a vicious cycle between health care providers and the insurance companies. Insurance companies only want to pay a certain amount for certain procedures. Health care providers then raise their pricing to offset the reduced rate the insurance company will pay. You are right... if you are without good insurance, you cannot afford needed procedures. In my opinion, this is where the current bill is missing the mark... They need to concentrate on this cycle and how to break it.

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