Collection calls…

I arrived home to a message on the answering machine  from NCO.  Generic.  They didn’t even leave a name of whom they were calling for.  I almost didn’t even bother returning it.  Estate is closed.  I’m not responsible for anything that doesn’t have my name on it.

The collection calls make me angry and upset me.  I can just feel my blood pressure raise and the anger pulsate through my body when I have to deal with them.  I had been having a good day and wasn’t in the mood to have it ruined.

I think I get upset because John and I worked so hard to have excellent credit.  While the news was busy reporting about the terrible economy and  how credit wasn’t being given we had taken out a home equity loan with no problems whatsoever.  John and I always had fun seeing which of us had the higher FICO usually we both were between 790s and low 800s.  It was usually a toss up as to which of us was higher.  Usually it was, John since he had more credit and a longer history.  Funny, how having less credit owed and fewer accounts can lower a score.

I HATE to think of him getting collection calls.  I would hate to see what his FICO would look like now.  But he’s dead.  FICO’s don’t matter anymore.  If I was terribly bothered I could have paid the bills, but I’m not responsible.  His debts died with him.  I have a large mortgage and a son to raise.

The register of wills had warned me and I already knew that credit card companies would be more than happy to let me assume the debt.  She had let me know that I was NOT responsible.

Chase asked me up front.

NO!!!  NO!!! NO!!!

I wonder how many people in their moments of grief or confusion, say yes.  I hate when people try to take advantage of widows and I’ve already had a few occasions that I’ve felt that way.  Being a young widow sucks- a long lonely life ahead of me and having to be a single parent- but at least I have all of my senses with me- I’m not confused or gullible (or no more so than I was when I had John around) or senile.

The first collection agency call that I returned was from Chase.  I was rather abrupt with the lady.  I told her that I’d already notified Chase and they had the information.  I had told them that the estate was closed.  I told her that I knew it was not my responsibility.  I told her I’d lost my husband- the love of my life- to cancer and how terrible that was.  Nathaniel wasn’t happy and was screaming in the background.  I think she just wanted me off of her line.  She told me that she’d take care of it and I confirmed that I would not receive any more calls.  Thus far, I have not.

Today, while I was feeding I returned the call to NCO.  My policy has been that if the company can’t bother enough to leave a name- I can’t be bothered enough to return a call, but; I figured if I didn’t, they’d keep calling and I need my sleep.  I also figured that I had horses to feed and if I could multitask it would be done and over with before grain was dispensed.

The first lady that answered the phone asked for the reference number.  I told her I didn’t have it.  She looked up the account by the phone number.  She said she was calling for John Smith.  I said, “He’s dead.”  The line went dead.  I assume she hung up as I was on the land line.

I called back and the next gentleman, Frank, saw instantly that John had passed away and said that it would be taken care of and I would not receive any calls.  I asked where the bill was from.  It was a co-pay from Hopkins.

It felt greedy to me that they would bother sending a co-pay to a collection agency after all of the thousands of dollars that they got from Care First.  John’s IL2 treatments were about 100,000 alone.

Dr. S. gave up on John months ago and wanted him in hospice.  He didn’t even care enough to call with condolences, come to the services, send flowers, or send a card.  Instead all I got- like 6 weeks after John had died- was a form letter that wasn’t even folded straight.

I pictured the death notification getting put in a pile on somebody’s desk and it getting handled when there was time.  Of course, why would John’s death be important to Dr. S.?  His life certainly wasn’t.

I feel like there was a lot of John’s care with Dr. S. at Hopkins that was “put in some pile.”  It was known that John had cancer in his bones, but they never put him on medication to combat that (the orthopedic doctor was surprised and surprised that John didn’t have an orthopedic doctor as part of his care team).  John also got one treatment to boost his blood count and was supposed to get it with every chemo, but he didn’t (it was painful and I knew John didn’t want it, so I never pushed the issue.)  Then there was the time that I practically had to throw a fit to get a damn x-ray of his hip that was causing John constant pain.  That hospital doctor irritated me to no end- standing there watching John writhe in pain, but doing nothing for it.

The most important lesson that I learned through John’s illness is that you have to stand up for your own care… nobody else is going to stand up for you.  You are your own health care advocate.  The doctors and nurses have other rooms to go to, other patients to visit.  The patient has one life and it is his/hers alone to live.  The patient must cope with pain, with disabilities, etc and find a way to continue living.  The doctors- they move on- it’s not his/her body or his/her pain.  (I certainly don’t want to slam the medical community because there are excellent doctors and nurses out there- we had some.  Dr. S. was just not the right doctor for us.  He is known for being a whiz at IL2 and does come  highly regarded.  I also do know that we aren’t alone in our dissatisfaction.)

I know there are probably critics out there that would say, you just don’t like the man because your husband died.  I would beg to differ.  I realize that everybody can’t be saved.  We were fighting a losing battle, we knew the odds were stacked against us.  A little compassion goes a long way and we needed a doctor who was realistic, but willing to support us and be our commander for our battle.

We still respected Dr. Khatri after Ann died.

Although I’d admit, I wouldn’t send my worst enemy (if I had a worst enemy) to Dr. Thresher after he misdiagnosed Ann (sinus infection was diagnosed as sinus cancer), Dave (I was told that John’s father also had the same misdiagnosis sinus infection was later correctly diagnosed as  lung cancer), & myself (I was basically told that my pain that was later diagnosed as interstitial cystitis was all in my head and that I should swim to help my muscles).

In my experiences, Dr. Foster, our cat vet, did the best job of handling impending death.  We had taken Stray Grey (Toby) to him after he had been attacked by something.  Dr. Foster examined him and found his injuries to be life ending.  He called and compassionately explained the extend of the injures.  Dr. Foster explained the injuries without belittling my intelligence and simultaneously not speaking over my head.  His professional opinion was that he recommended euthanasia.  He offered the option that we could send him to a specialist at Penn State, but that it was highly unlikely that he’d survive and given the fact that Toby was a stray and not used to human handling it would terrify him and he would probably fight any efforts to heal him.  He thought about the patient and didn’t want Toby to experience fear or terror since he already distrusted humans.  I gave him the okay to euthanize and felt confident knowing I’d made the right decision.

More about Toby later…

I know that Hopkins was just doing business.  Writing off and clearing their bad debts.  It breaks my heart to think of John as a “bad debt.”

But, I guess in a way, I’m just doing business too.  The law says I’m not responsible.  Somebody else can take the loss… I’ve had enough.

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About Mary K. Smith

I was widowed in July 2009, when I lost my beloved husband, John, to melanoma. Cancer SUCKS. We have a young son who was just a year old when his father died. I live on a small farm in Maryland which is home to horses, cats, and a dog. I started this blog as a way for me to heal, a way to remember my husband, and eventually I'd like to share it with our son so he can see the love that his father had for him, the love that we had for each other, what a great person his father was, and how hard his father fought to live.
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