Monday, August 31, 2009

No assurance from insurance

Remember about 3 months ago when I had to go to the hospital because I was hit by a car while riding my bike? Well, I'm STILL receiving payment notices, requests for information, and other annoyances from our insurance company.

We have a policy through our school which is a very low-cost insurance policy (which, as we all know, means that it is a very low-benefit insurance policy). I knew we didn't have great benefits, but I was a little caught off-guard by the rather large bill I received from the hospital today.

I had thought we were finished with the bills because we had already paid for the CT scans I had and for the doctor's fee. Little did I know that the whopper would be the charge from the hospital itself. And for what treatment, you ask?

They gave me three bags of IV saline and observed me for 5 hours. Cost to the patient--let's just say Jeffrey and I will be choosing our favorite child, and that one will get to go to college. The others will have to work off mommy's debt as janitors in the hospital.

The bill also showed that the insurance company needed to be contacted because they required more information to process the claim on this bill. I called. This is what happened:

(Series of number pushing on my part to reach a real person)

Clarence: Hello, this is Clarence, how can I help you?
Me: Hi, Clarence. I've just received a bill and it states that your company needs more information from me to process my claim. What exactly is it that you need?
Clarence: (Asks me various questions about things I already entered in with my keypad.)
Me: So...what information do you need?
Clarence: We need to know what insurance you had before this insurance.
Me: I had insurance with my mom and dad, but that was over a year ago...why do you need that?
Clarence: Oh, we're just trying to determine if the old insurance should pay because you had a pre-existing condition.
Me: I was riding my bike and got hit by a car. There was no pre-existing condition.
Clarence: Right, but we just need to know if there was one because if there was a pre-existing condition, the old insurance would need to pay.
Me: Clarence--how could there be a pre-existing condition? It was an accident. I got run over. No condition required.
Clarence: Yeah, that actually doesn't make sense.

I feel so reassured/insured.

President Obama, we need a little health care reform over here!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Content May Be Graphic

Contrary to popular belief, Jeffrey and I do not study ALL the time. What do we do when we're not studying, you ask? We do what any self-respecting, highly educated, introspective, efficient, time-conscious student would do... the internet for funny pictures, of course!

Show and tell:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Three Ring Circus

Sorry, blog readers--it's been quite a while since I've written anything for you. School has been a little demanding lately, and when school hasn't been demanding my time, I've been catching up on some much-needed shut-eye.

While most people in colleges and public schools around the country had their first day of school today, Jeffrey and I have both been in school now for over a month. Over the past month, I've been thinking about the differences between last year and this year of school.

My best explanation is that last year of dental school was like a marathon. Page after page of book after book felt like the monotonous footfalls of a runner--each step was difficult, but with each one I became more familiar with the motions of the exercise, and more able to take one more step.

This year of dental school seems to be less about endurance and more about multi-tasking. The second year of dental school is like juggling. We have daily reading quizzes in almost every one of our classes, and more practicals and tests than we ever dreamed of last year. The object of the game is just to make sure you don't "drop the ball" and completely forget about one of your assignments until it's too late.

Unfortunately last week I dropped the ball. I had computer issues with a comprehensive review document for my test on Friday. My document kept shutting down so often that I couldn't even highlight something without the program crashing. My only choice of study materials in lieu of the comprehensive review document was the gargantuan manual our professors gave us.

I started reading this manual at 10 pm on Thursday night--less than 24 hours before the test.

I did not finish.

Luckily, I read enough, I think. The test seemed to be fairly straightforward and I felt good about it when I left. (Although I still haven't gotten my grade back, so keep those fingers and toes crossed!)

In more exciting news, I found out that it is illegal to repossess dentures even if the patient refuses to pay. Shouldn't that count as shoplifting? Or denturelifting?

Can you imagine if we could, though? There would be dentists all over America, armed with their explorers, hunting down delinquint denture-wearers and wrestling their contraband away. Messy business.

Also, while I was doing some of my reading for school, I came across the most interesting sentence I've ever read in a dental textbook. The material was talking about taking impressions of the teeth--which can be a messy and unpredictable procedure. The impression material is goopy and hardens in the mouth to create an image of the teeth. Once it hardens, it can be difficult to remove. Most textbooks recommend that the dentist remove impressions "with a snap" in order to maintain the proper image of the teeth on the material. The only problem is that removing an impression tray with a snap is vitually impossible. What does my manual say? "Only a silverback highland gorilla could remove a polyvinylsiloxane impression with a snap!"

Colorful language for a dry dental textbook, don't you think?

P. S. My sweet husband brought lillies home to me this weekend for no reason. They're just about to bloom! I love that man.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Incident Report

Those of you who read my blog often might remember the posting I made a few weeks ago about my minor injuries obtained during lab time at dental school. I knew that I wasn't alone in my misfortune (since one of our teachers brazenly announced on the first day of school that every year one student from his lab has to go to the emergency room for a deep cut sustained during class time).

With statistics like those being thrown at me, I was determined not to injure myself in the lab because it hurts and is avoidable if you are paying attention (and because our health insurance stinks). Nevertheless, I've already gotten quite a number of small cuts and bruises from various activities in the lab when instruments or drills got away from me.

One day, as I was lamenting the loss of several layers of skin off my hand from the time last week that I burned my hand with an alcohol torch, some of my classmates began to join in with their own stories of blood and gore. My friend Amy showed me a badly blistered finger that had been scorched when she dropped molten plastic compound on it. My favorite story of lab misfortune came from my friend, Steven. Steven said, "Well, I wasn't going to tell people this, but since we're all sharing--last week I drilled through my scrubs and into my leg with a 169L bur."

(For those of you who are much less dorky than I am, let me show you what a 169L bur is...) OUCH! That does not feel good. (Not to mention, a good pair of scrubs were lost in this bur v. Steven exchange!)

I'm thinking of posting one of those signs in our lab that tracks how many accident-free days go by, but I'm afraid it would perpetually be stuck at 0.Dental school...the most dangerous place on Earth???

Who would have thought?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Piece of Cake

Perhaps the new movie "Julie and Julia" that's coming out soon has influenced me, but I've been in the mood to cook lately! One night last week I decided to try a new tilapia recipe, which is strange for me because I don't even like fish. We had been taking a nutrition class at school, though, and I was feeling like I should be eating fish instead of just the old standby: chicken, beef, repeat.

Luckily, I loved the fish! It was a pan-fried spicy tilapia, and it tastes delicious and only took about 15 minutes from getting out ingredients to putting the first savory bite into my mouth. This recipe, like most of my current favorites, comes out of the Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition Cookbook. My mom gave me this cookbook at one of my bridal showers and it has been a lifesaver for me in the first year of being the "head chef."
After my foray into fish, I decided to do a little baking. My parents and Jeffrey's grandmother were coming to visit us for a couple of days last week, so I thought I'd make a cherry pie to eat with them. The idea struck me that it would be a great idea to make the top crust of the pie extra cute by using my cookie gun attachment that looks like a flower to make little daisy shapes to cover the top of the pie.

It was only after I had crammed all the dough into the cookie gun that I realized that the consistency of the dough would not, in fact, work in the cookie gun. Instead, the cookie gun just pushed the dough out in a big blob and gave me four more things to clean up after I was done cooking the pie.

Fortunately, I remembered that I had a little cookie cutter in the shape of a star that might work for the top of my pie. I used that instead and I think the pie turned out to be pretty cute!
I know for sure that my dad liked it...he literally licked his plate clean the night that we had it for dessert, and the next morning he had cherry pie and Dr. Pepper for breakfast. (Clearly, he did not have a nutrition class recently.)

The baking continued as I decided to try making a cake with fondant icing for my friend Maegan for her birthday. I made a white cake with raspberry filling, crumb-coated it with homemade butter cream icing, and covered and decorated it with fondant. Typically I don't even eat fondant icing, but I found a recipe online for a marshmallow fondant that sounded too good to pass up. In the end, I loved how the cake turned out, and I even enjoyed the fondant. I think everyone else liked it, too, although no one exactly licked the plate, so I couldn't be sure!

In other events, Jeffrey and I have decided (in our never-ending quest to become the cheapest couple in America) to stop drying our clothes in the dryer. Jeffrey prefers that many of his clothes be hung to dry anyway, and many shirts of mine have been ruined by the dryer when certain people don't check the labels to see if they are supposed to be hung or laid flat to dry. I bought a clothesline at the store last week and we decided to see if our new plan made much of a difference on our electricity bill. When we told our parents about this, they responded by telling us that we're crazy.

While we were at school on Thursday, Mom washed all the sheets and our clothes. So nice of her, right? You know what she did, though--she used the dryer. We found out when we came home from school that afternoon and found the following note and three dollars on our kitchen table:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Two Stories

Let me tell you a story…

In 1941 Poland had become somewhat of a holding pen for Jews. They had been corralled into overcrowded ghettos, forced to sew the Star of David on every item of clothing they owned, and were forbidden to use the same water fountains, stores, or streets as the so-called “superior race.” After several months of progressively stripping them of their liberties, the Nazi Secret Police began to take their lives, as well. After their parents lives were taken in this way, four young men named Tuvia, Zus, Asael, and Aron fled to the forest with a few other relatives. Over the next few years, Tuvia, the most compassionate of the Bielski boys, continually brought other Jews who were in danger into their makeshift camp, even at the cost of his own meager rations of food.

Tuvia became the Moses of his generation of Jewish people. He led them in circles in the forests of Poland, running for three years to avoid confrontation with the Nazi forces. At certain low points in his life, he became a murderer in the name of justice, killing those who struck down the Jews (just as his forefather Moses had done in Egypt). There came a point, however, when Tuvia realized that the Torah’s “eye-for-an-eye” decrees were not the example he was to follow as the leader of this despairing but hopeful group of people. Instead he insisted that this group’s act of defiance against the Nazi regime simply be to survive.

And survive they did. From a group of about 40 people in the beginning, the forest refugees numbered over 1200 by the summer of 1944, when they marched out of the woods and into a free Poland. During their time in the forest, they had developed a virtual metropolis among the trees, with schools, hospitals, mills, kitchens, nurseries, ranch land, and synagogues. They had lived through bitterly cold winters, epidemics of typhus, and attacks from the Nazi soldiers. Perhaps more incredibly, their faith was not shattered, but strengthened by the idea that once again God’s chosen people were running for their lives, and wandering in the wilderness.

Because of the Bielski brothers, the 1200 who walked out of the forest with them in 1944 have become tens of thousands over the last five generations, somewhat filling the gaping hole left by the 6 million Jews killed by Hitler.
A picture of the Bielski clan in the forest

Let me tell you another story…

In 1995 Dr. Kelly Hamby, Dr. John Estes, Jr. (my great uncle) and a few others made a trip to a country called Zambia in Africa. They had access to only one vehicle while they were there and treated about 500 Zambians in need of medical or dental care. For Dr. Estes, these 500 treatments were not even close to sufficient. In his heart he felt a stirring to provide for this country, and in his soul he knew he would find a way.

Over the last fourteen years, Dr. Estes (among others) has worked tirelessly to recruit doctors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, nurses, and evangelists to go on the Zambian Medical Mission each summer for three weeks. Through countless speaking engagements he has steadily helped to raise money for a hospital to be built in Namwianga, Zambia, brick by brick. I had the pleasure of standing by him in 2004 and 2006 as he administered injections to the hundreds of patients seen at the makeshift clinic those weeks. I stood by my Uncle Gary those summers in Zambia and aimed a flashlight into the patient’s mouth so that he could (vaguely) see to extract painful, infected teeth. Gary goes to Zambia every 2 years and stands for 8 hours a day, bent over in the only cramped position that allows a man over six feet tall to reach a small Zambian child’s mouth. This work is not for the faint of heart or the weak. It is back-breaking labor in tiny buildings with less than ideal supplies—truly a labor of love.

Uncle John’s little trip to Zambia in 1995 began a miracle. Last year alone, over 200 volunteers went on the Zambia Medical Mission. These 200 saw over 9,000 patients in the medical clinic, over 2,000 patients in the optical clinic, over 1,700 patients in the dental clinic, and 143 baptisms were performed. New facets of the project have sprung from Uncle John’s original ideas. The ZMM personnel have begun counseling Zambian citizens about AIDS, and providing free HIV testing. They are also supplying the women with “Clean Birth Kits” that consist of several antiseptic necessities for labor and delivery of babies that make it 13 times more likely that the mother will survive the birthing process, which often occurs on a dirt floor.
Because of Dr. Estes, Dr. Hamby, Dr. Linn, and the others involved with the Zambia Medical Mission, tens of thousands of people in Zambia sleep at night without bodily pain. Because of the evangelists who go with them and share the good news, thousands will join us in Heaven someday.

These men—Tuvia Bielski, John Estes, Gary Linn—these men all share something in common: they did something ordinary. Tuvia just wanted to live; he wanted to live as a free man. John just wanted people who were sick to be seen by a doctor. Gary just wanted to help someone feel better. Ordinary expectations, but somehow in providing these basic needs to those who did not have them, they have done something decidedly extraordinary. None of them would ever dream of asking for recognition for their valorous actions, in fact, they probably think of their service as quite ordinary, but to me they will always rise far above the rest. Their stories must be told--to teach our hearts how to do the "ordinary extraordinary" things that we are given opportunities for every day.

These men—Tuvia Bielski, John Estes, Gary Linn—these are my heroes.
Jeffrey and me in Zambia in 2006

For more information about the Bielski brothers, see the book Defiance, by Nechama Tec or the recently released movie Defiance on DVD.

For more information on the Zambia Medical Mission or to donate, go to

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stopping at the Grass Station

On Friday Jeffrey and I left immediately after class to drive to Dallas for some college friends' wedding. The wedding was beautiful and the reception was lots of fun. Chris and Amanda have suffered all the trials and tribulations of a long-distance, long-term relationship, so we are so happy to see them finally living in the same city and in the same house as man and wife!

Unfortunately we had to drive home early Saturday morning for various reasons (a surprise birthday party for one of our dental school friends and to study for the ridiculous number of quizzes I have next week). The drive home would have been much faster, but I am a spoiled little girl. Allow me to explain.

Growing up, my parents always let us (my brother, my sister, and me) pick out a little surprise at each gas station stop on our car trips. Usually just a candy bar or a drink, although in his later years Greg somehow always managed to finagle his way into two items per stop. So now, as a "big girl," I feel completely entitled to still get a little prize for myself. Spoiled, I know.

Sadly, at our first stop on the way home I chose to buy a humongous Dr. Pepper. Why is this sad? Because it meant that one hour later, I was begging Jeffrey to stop for a bathroom break. I know--I'm a girl and I have a little girly bladder.

I persuaded Jeffrey to stop in the sleepy town of Jarrell, Texas. We stopped at the gas station and I ran in to use the facilities. I entered the bathroom stall, being very careful not to touch any of the door handles or walls with my hands (gross). Inside the stall, I found all the usual suspects of a gas station bathroom. Toilet paper on the floor, candy wrappers strewn about, "Bobby + Jenny = Luv 4 Ever" written in sharpie on the wall, and various other signs of humanity.

One item in the bathroom stall caught me off-guard, however. I noticed a little baggie on the floor with some green stuff in it and thought to myself, "Hmm...that looks a lot like marijuana."

It looked like marijuana because it WAS marijuana! I had unknowingly stumbled into a Jarrell, TX drug-drop area. Awesome.

As I left the bathroom, I heard a woman who had been in there before telling the manager about the illegal substance. The manager promised to "take care of it," whatever that means!

And so, forever more, Jeffrey and I will refer to that particular gas station as "The Grass Station."