Losing Weeks of My Life

The last weeks have been a blur of pain, puking, tears, moments of relief, then times of wondering if I’d be on this Earth in the next few hours. Northera didn’t work out for me.

First, in order for me to get the medication for $10, my insurance company had to pay just a small portion of the copay. They refused. I shouldn’t be surprised. They refuse to pay for my migraine medication. I pay $455 a month for insurance with a $3,000 deductible, and my insurance company refuses to pay for several medications I need. They will pay for opioids for migraine relief but not pay for the migraine medications I actually need that are NOT addictive. So, Ambetter refused to pay a portion of Northera, knocking me off the $10 plan AFTER I went through the titration schedule of that powerful drug.

When I say powerful, I mean powerful. It was bringing up my blood pressure…a first for me. However, I have gastroparesis. Northera was killing my stomach. I don’t know if the medication interacts that way with ALL gastroparesis patients, but I could not even tolerate a Step 1 gastroparesis diet by the time I was at the recommended dose. I took the medication with food. The nausea graduated up to vomiting and a stabbing feeling in my stomach and abdomen. Those are normal feelings for gastroparesis, but the pains were multiplied ten times.

But I wanted to keep taking Northera! I was seeing blood pressure readings I’d never seen before! They were NORMAL! Not in the basement! NORMAL! To me, it was worth the pain…the puking…the weight loss…because in my mind, maybe just MAYBE all of my symptoms were leftover from the bacterial infection floating around in my blood. Maybe it wasn’t Northera’s fault.

Then last Friday, or a Friday, I am not kidding about losing days, I get a letter in the mail from my joke of an insurance company informing me they refuse to pay for Northera. I burst into tears. I informed my husband. He’s upset, but he also brings up something that’s been in the back of my mind as well.

“Maybe it’s for the best.” At that point though, I’m on a high dose of a strong, expensive medication without a way to pay for more. I’m scared. My body is worn out from fighting multiple battles including runs of tachycardia for absolutely no good reason. I had to titrate UP, so how do I get OFF this drug in a short amount of time? It’s $6,000 a month. We don’t have that kind of money. I’ll not lie. I panicked.

I called Caremark, the pharmacy in charge of supplying Northera to me, and talked to the pharmacist. She told me how to safely wean off the medication. She also told me to contact my neurologist ASAP. It was early on the West Coast but not here in Arkansas. My neurologist closes at noon on Fridays. I was out of luck.

Then, I called Ambetter. I knew it would do me absolutely no good to file an appeal or to give them a piece of my mind. I had done both when they refused to pay for the only migraine medication that does not affect my tachycardia. They still told me they would only pay for sumatriptans which make me vomit and cause me to faint. However, I still made the call. I told them I was paying a large monthly payment to a health insurance company only to keep getting told they would not pay for medications. I also told them I felt one reason our country had an Opioid Crisis was because insurance companies easily paid for cheap opioids but refused alternatives such as my migraine medication that my husband and I were paying for out of pocket. Of course, the woman who listened to me is simply a worker on the end of the line. I was not rude to her. I’ve been in her shoes as an educator simply doing my job based on laws enacted by politicians who’ve not been in a classroom since they were students themselves. I just wanted on record as protesting the decision.

Right after hanging up, I began vomiting. It was as if I had my answer. I’d not run a fever in days. This wasn’t the leftover bacterial infection. My body was expelling Northera. I couldn’t handle it. My paralyzed stomach couldn’t process it. I started cutting the dose immediately.

During that time period of lost days, I had one cardiologist appointment to be hooked up to a holter monitor. I barely remember the trip. I’ve had text and phone conversations with my daughter and Mom. I’ve paid some bills. I hope I’ve not missed any. I’ve mainly stayed off social media and stayed at home only seeing my husband because I haven’t been myself at all. We didn’t celebrate the 4th of July. He was actually called in to work, and I was alone. That was okay. While I was lonely, I spent the day reading in bed.

My body is still very weak. The good news is I’m back to eating my level of normal again. My gastroparesis vomiting is controllable for the most part again by phenergan. I’ve awakened from a nightmare.

My husband’s boss and supervisor were so supportive and understanding during our time of chaos. We’re beyond blessed that he works for great men who know what I have and how stressed he is over having to leave me alone during the day. They offered to give him time off, but with two new ER trips to pay for and an insurance company who refuses to pay for needed medications, our finances won’t allow for time off.

I told my husband the other day, “We might’ve made it through this crisis, baby.” He said, “Maybe.”

I have hope.

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