Recently I had a Cardiac CT Scan (aka Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring), prescribed by my cardiologist since my fasting blood work showed high cholesterol and triglycerides. I was warned by the doctor as well as the receptionist that it isn't a covered procedure by my health insurance company, despite it being in-network and diagnostic.
The facility was located in some godforsaken maze of roads and numbers that made little sense. I had three different maps to get there. The one I chose went through towns and back roads. What usually takes five minutes to go around the square in Morristown, took almost thirty minutes. We were all stuck on Market Street, one side of the road still sporting a neon Jesus Saves sign; the other side a new pedestrian mall. I thought about George Washington and his troops marching this same path long ago. I asked a trucker next to me if I was going the right way to Route 53. He nodded yes. It seemed there was an inordinate number of men walking with purpose in varied yarmulkes until I remembered this was Rosh Hashanah.
Luckily, I had allowed extra time and turned into a sketchy looking parking lot that had a sign for Urology, but was number 282, which was what I wanted. Sat in my car, feeling hopelessly lost, until I noticed a very small sign for Medical Imaging, lower level. I went inside and was told I had to pay $100 out-of-pocket, even though I had checked with my insurance, who said it was covered. Whatever. I needed the test.
As I sat down, I asked if anyone else had gotten lost. Every other person in the waiting room had gotten lost as well. None of us laughed. Despite it being the simplest, non-invasive procedure to determine if there is calcium where it shouldn't be, most insurance plans, including Medicare, do not cover Cardiac CT Scans. "Normally, the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, do not contain calcium deposits. Calcium in the coronary arteries is a sign of coronary artery disease (CAD)," according to the informative pamphlet, which also stated, "A Cardiac CT Scan may be recommended by your doctor if you are a male over the age of 45 or a female over the age of 55 and have risk factors for CAD, but have no clinical symptoms such as chest discomfort or shortness of breath. Major risk factors for CAD are: Family history of heart disease, Abnormally high blood cholesterol levels, Diabetes, Overweight or obese, High blood pressure, Smoking, Physical inactivity.
The cardiologist had told me that unlike many tests in life, this was one on which getting a zero was good. Before the technician slid me through the machine, she asked why I was there. "Family history of heart disease, plus bad numbers on bloodwork." I had written this on the forms, but have had enough medical tests in my life to know saying or writing your information once is not enough. Then she paused, told me her family history of pancreatic cancer, how she had been her mother's caregiver, and about how when she went for her first colonoscopy, it couldn't be completed since they discovered stage three colon cancer. All this in a cheerful voice.
The test took ten minutes. I was barely dressed when the technician returned with a big smile, "You got a zero!" she bubbled over, "Want to see?" She probably broke a few HIPAA laws, as she showed me someone else's bad results versus my results. I told her it was really nice to see someone working at a job and really loving it. Before I left, I asked for the easiest way to get home. She wrote in large script, using as landmarks four major fast food places, then the highway.
Later, I sat in my back yard, surrounded by green. A young woodpecker went up and down the dying apple tree. Train whistles punctuated the high tree top sounds of cicadas and the low sound of crickets. I felt tired, but okay. One more test to go.