I got the call at work today. The young lady on the phone said she was ringing from Professor Kalman's rooms. They had had a cancellation and she knew it was short notice but a spot had opened up on Monday the 15th. (Holy crap that was this Monday!) And she was sorry it was such short notice but did I think I could make it. Yes, yes most definitely. (Are you kidding my whole life has been focussed on getting this surgery.) She went on to describe in detail the course of events necessary over the next few days: Chest CT at Royal Melbourne tomorrow at 12:30, come into the rooms and pick up some forms, take them to pre-admissions over at the Private Hospital, stop my Flecainide, fast from 6:00am, be there by 8am. I was scribbling madly and my head was spinning. At last a step forward after so many sideways and backwards. I hung up reeling. A couple of the ladies I work with were standing beside me and worked out pretty fast what the call was about. One of them wanted to hug me, they knew how much this meant to me. They told me to go and organise and they would cover for me.
I was overwhelmed, emotions welled up from dark depths. Relief, excitement, fear. I went and found my wife so she could organise some time off. I texted Jane who had been offering to find me an alternate specialist with a shorter waitlist: I am on for Monday. The text came back: I have lost all my phone numbers....please let this b from Andy! I found my boss and told him I would be off for the next fortnight. I went outside to try to settle as I was on an emotional roller coaster. The nice lady rang me again from Kalman's rooms. Can I come to them first tomorrow for the forms and they will take me to the CT. Yep, no worries. I started thinking about life after AF, knowing that this wouldn't guarantee me a cure and that I would likely need it done again in 4-6 months time. But it could cure it. Or at least it improve it. I texted my mates and got a couple of congratulatory responses and the inevitable one asking for all my running shoes if I died during the procedure. No prizes for guessing who that was. I reassured him they were in my will.
I went back to work, and tried to be helpful. Within the hour my phone was buzzing silently in my pocket again. I pulled it out and now recognized the number from the rooms again. It was the same lovely lady. "I have some bad news. We sent your private health insurance details to the hospital admissions and they always run a check and turns out your cover doesn't include heart surgery. I am terribly sorry but we have had to cancel you. You have been placed on the Public waiting list, which as you can imagine is considerably longer than ours." I was speechless. My mind reeled as I started processing it. How can that be? I have had insurance for 30 years and recently had cause to increase it. I vaguely remember now being offered specific exclusions: do you want obstetric cover? No. Likely to need a hip replacement? No. You want heart surgery cover? There it was. At 45 and as fit and healthy as most 25 year olds why would I want cover for heart surgery? Gone.
The poor young lady was hanging on the phone. I said, oh, I'm sorry I should have checked. She said, no, no she was sorry, and sorry to be the one who had to tell me. She could hear my shattered response down the line. She explained that the check was routine as the out-of-pocket for the uninsured was hugely expensive. I asked how hugely? Don't expect any change from ten thousand dollars. Oh. That was it. I had held the chance of some salvation in my hand, only to feel it slip through my fingers, like so much fine sand. I was numb.
I found my wife again and told her. She asked but how? I explained. She said we will pay for it. I said you sure? Yes. I rang the poor lady at the rooms again. "Can I pay myself to have it done?" "Oh, I'm not sure how that works can you hold on?" A lengthy piece of terrible on-hold music while I could feel every heart beat in my chest. She came back on "sorry Professor Kalman is uncomfortable operating on full fee paying patients and besides it couldn't be organised in time now (presumably I would need to pay up front)." "But I can pay." "His PA is back on Tuesday I will talk to her. What he can do is work out a quote for you and we can take it from there." She could hear the desperation in my voice and I knew if she could, she would help me. It was over. To be so near and now so much further away with the thought of a public waitlist or a massive bill was such a cruel twist. I was in shock. I went home and curled up with the dogs in front of the heater totally numb. I couldn't even face going out for a run.