My $100,000 Appendectomy.

Posted by joe rigs on Saturday, August 30, 2014
A year ago this month I had one of the scariest events of my life. It was a Wednesday. I was in the bank talking to my account representative and getting things ready for my first big product launch (The Primal Cooking Workshop). I was excited and nervous. As usual, whenever I'm in that state, my gut let me know. I always get that "nervous stomach." At least, that’s what I chalked the pain in my abdomen up to–nerves.

As the day went on and the pain grew, I began to suspect this had nothing to do with nerves and perhaps something was actually wrong. Did I eat something funky? Did I get glutened? Even when I did get glutened, it felt nothing like this. This pain radiated across my entire abdomen.

I arrived at my office just in time for my twelve o'clock appointment. Luckily it was a phone appointment so the client couldn’t see me lying in the fetal position during most of the call. I’m not sure how I got through it and I’m not even sure I was making sense. A couple of times I had to put her on hold because I though I was going to scream or cry or both. This wasn’t the kind of pain that came and went in waves. It was constant and progressive.

When the appointment was over, I had the daunting task of driving home. I drive a five-speed to boot, which made the journey that much more uncomfortable. I specifically didn’t drive too fast for fear of getting pulled over and having to explain to the police officer why I just threw up on his pants.

When I got home my wife Marissa said I was white as a ghost as I made a beeline for the bathroom where I spent the better part of two hours lying on the cool tile floor. I remember thinking that this is the sole reason people put tile in a bathroom. This and for when you drink too much.

At this point I had come to terms with the fact that it was my appendix. I had suspected this but didn’t want to believe it. I finally did what I had been reluctant to do for the last couple of hours–I applied light pressure to my lower right abdomen. The pain was like nothing I had ever experienced, and this is coming from someone who has passed more than a couple of kidney stones and saw Vanilla Ice in concert.

With my suspicions all but confirmed, I yelled to Marissa, “Call your mom to watch Mason. I need to go to the hospital.” I’ll never forget her response, and I’ll never let her forget it either. Knowing we didn’t have insurance, she asked, “Can’t we just go to the walk-in clinic at CVS?” I actually laughed a little which was really painful and replied, “Hospital now. It’s my appendix.”

It felt like hours for her mom to arrive even though it was probably no more than 15 minutes. As soon as she got there I remember getting in the car to drive to the hospital which was hilarious as I was on the verge of passing out. My wife called me on my BS,helped me get in the passenger seat, and drove to the emergency room.

Once there, they took one look at me and got me a wheel chair. It actually felt slightly better to stand for some reason so I did for a while in an awkward sort of side hunch, holding my stomach. Before long they found me a bed to lie in.  A couple of doctors or nurses or, who knows, were poking and prodding and asking questions. At this point I could barely see. It could have been the janitor for all I knew. What was worse was that they couldn’t give me anything for the pain because they weren’t sure what they were dealing with yet.

Another nurse brought me two massive containers of “iced tea” for me to drink to get me ready for my MRI, or CAT scan, or whatever it was. Honestly, I was barely able to pay attention at this point. It tasted awful and I could tell it had artificial sweetener. I proceeded to tell the doctor how bad artificial sweetener was. What can I say, even in that situation, I’m still the Wellness Punk. I managed to force down just enough of the terrible liquid and they wheeled me in for my scan.

I have no idea how much time had passed before the young doctor came out to tell me the results. I’ll never forget the odd smile she had on her face as she told me the “good news.”

“It’s appendicitis” she said. “We’ll schedule your surgery right away.” It occurred to me how difficult their job must be if telling someone they need an appendectomy was the GOOD news. The actual good news was that they could finally give me pain medication. And so the party began.

My surgery was scheduled for the next morning. Wednesday, July 31, 2013, would be the first time I would not kiss my son goodnight since he was born a year and a half earlier. The painkillers might have taken the edge off of that too, but not much.

The next morning, surrounded by my wife and my parents, I was wheeled into the surgery department where I met the doctor that would pluck my misbehaving appendix from my gut. He was a tough-looking man with a thick Ukrainian accent but he was surprisingly charming. Maybe it was the Percocet talking but I felt immediately calmed by his demeanor and kindness. I felt safe. I remember him giving Marissa very specific instructions on how to care for me after the operation. “For at least a month post-op,” he said, “he is to relax and get breakfast in bed every day.” We laughed and he smiled, patted me on the leg and said, “Well, I tried.”

This was my first surgery but it was exactly like everyone says: they put a mask over your face and tell you to count down from ten to one. I don’t think I made it to five. The next thing I knew I was waking up for a moment of bleary-eyed, incoherent post-op mumbling. The only thing I remember saying was, “Let me see it.” The doctor picked up a clear plastic container and shook my gruesome, worm-like, formerly problematic appendix in front of my face and I was out cold again.

I would spend the next couple of days recovering in the hospital. Mind you, this whole time, I still had a huge product launch happening. I was literally launching this thing to more than 15,000 people from my hospital bed. I thought, great, I’m going to make all this money and have to spend every dime on the surgery. Well, fortunately  or unfortunately, I didn’t make all that much on the cooking workshop. I did, however, get to connect with thousands of amazing people.

As the days and weeks went by, I was recovering not only from the surgery, but also the fact that my big launch didn’t go as planned. I learned a lot. I learned that the value of building relationships with so many great people is far more valuable than having a “successful” product launch. That in and of itself made it tremendously successful.

I also learned the value of an appendectomy in New York when you don’t have insurance. Apparently it’s almost $100,000. Yep, that's right. An insane amount of money. The bills kept coming in but I was oddly calm about it. I think it was because it didn’t even seem like real money. It was almost comical how much it was. I negotiated with the hospital and they even helped me acquire insurance that, surprisingly, covered a portion of the hospital bill. The hospital soaked up most the rest of its bill but there was still the outstanding debt of the surgery, anesthesiologist, and a few other bills for medication and lab work.



The surgeon was charging me over $46,000 and the anesthesiologist was $2,700. Now things started to get real. While I was able to take care of some of the bills, I couldn’t touch these last two. The surgeon sent the bill each month but was surprisingly not aggressive. They simply sent the bill with no threat of collections or judgment. The anesthesiologist on the other hand was quick to send the matter to collections and beyond.

After further negotiations with the surgeon's office and explaining my situation (switching your career to Internet entrepreneur isn’t always profitable right away) something surprising happened just this morning. I received a letter in the mail stating that they reviewed my account and, as promise, they extended me a “courtesy.” I honestly expected them to tell me to pay half, which would still be astronomical. Not that I didn’t think it was worth it to tell the truth. I mean hey, my appendix was about to burst so the alternative to having the surgery was, well, not something I want to think about. That said, having to pay a bill of $23,000 was still going to be difficult seeing as I was about $23,000 short.

Like I said, the letter I got today was indeed surprising. It said they reviewed my account and extended me a courtesy of not half, but over $44,000. I now owe them exactly $1,100. That’s it. And it said I can pay it whenever I can afford to do so. I literally cried reading it, not because it’s obviously a tremendous relief, which it is, but because it renewed my faith in humanity. Sometimes we’re reminded that there are still really good people in this world. When you hear stories of corporations like PepsiCo pumping water from the ground for unreasonable profit while there’s historic drought happening in California, it’s nice to know that there are still people in the world that put other people before their bottom line. I’d like to think that my friendly Ukrainian doctor had something to do with this.

So, I’d like to pay this wonderful surgeon, as well as the anesthesiologist, as quickly as possible. The good news for you is, that means I’m pretty much giving away all the products I have for whatever you want to pay.

That includes:
• The Primal Cooking Workshop

All of my books:
• The Definitive Way to go Gluten Free
• Sow: Planting The Seeds For Health, Well-Being and a Super Hero Life
• The Paleo BBQ Menu Plan
• Seasonal Paleo: Spring Edition
• And my 21-Day Real Food Meal Plan.

Suggested donation is just 20 bucks but you can give anything from $5 to whatever you want.

If you donate $100 or more, I’ll add  two coaching sessions as well. (just email me to make an appointment.)

We’ll call it the “One-Year Anniversary of my Surgery Sale.”

If you’d like to take advantage of the offer and help me finally pay off this medical debt, please click below. This is about $100 worth or ebooks and the Primal Cooking Workshop.

The shopping cart is set for $5. If you'd like to pay a different amount, please update the quantity in your cart. For example, if you'd like to pay $20, make the 'Qty' 4 and then Click UPDATE. If you'd like to pay $100, make the 'Qty' 20 and Click Update.

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*Note: This is a digital product and ebooks. No physical items will be shipped to you.


Tags: appendectomy  surgery 

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About Me


Joe Rignola, HHC, FDN Joe Rignola is an author, Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist and Health Counselor. More importantly, I hate talking in the 3rd person. I'm really just a guy who took control of my own health and overcame several ailments including metabolic disorders, digestive issues, depression and ADD. Actually, my recovery from ADD however is questionable.