Friday, August 26, 2016


In the matter of writing, exclamation points are used for varying degrees of expressions. Sometime we mean, “look how horrible!” and other times we think, “Can you believe it!” But each exclamation point has a story to tell. Some saucy, some sticky, some plain vanilla wonderful. Sometime with exclamation points, we want to invite the attention of another to come in and enter our thoughts - a difficult proposition indeed. But what about the curly exclamation point that we call the question mark? Where does that take us? And therein lies a tale…

“What will it take?” The answer to that question is not easily available. The answer seems hidden in the last missing page of a well worn mystery novel. Conjuring up ideas of how to answer a question like that one takes skill and wading into an ocean of emotions. Indeed what would it take to fix a problem like Joe’s?

Joe, you see has a medical riddle. He carries a truant gene that seems to create the mischief in his cells. Joe is painfully aware of this for he has been told of the same after three surgeries and countless therapeutic endeavors to salvage his life. He is safe for now. Content at working his daily dose of living as a salesperson in a shoe store. He is on a constant follow up with his oncologist and each visit is marked with the growing fear of the inevitable. He has learned to avoid the downer thoughts but the fog of uncertainty keeps visiting him in times of repose. He is a truly wonderful gentleman. His once blond hair is now gone replaced by a shaved head. his physique is equally diminished after many bouts under the scalpel and chemicals. A once brawny physique, which he claimed he had, is now replaced with the scrawny shadow of the former self that I see. Yet he claims he sees life in a better light now. He walks daily, communes with nature and has a smile that would brighten any dull cloudy day. Faced with the prospects of a hazy future, he has learned the art of living and the wonders of the limits of survival that each one of us take for granted. He is working on a doctorate in psychology. He already has one in physics.

“What will it take?” he asks again. “We shall see Joe, we are working on it.”

“Sorry Sir, but Joe’s plan does not approve the PET/MRI scan without further information and a certified letter from the oncologist.” The tinny voice speaks from the Insurer never-never-land. “But I am the oncologist!”

“We still need documentation Sir.”

“We have received the documentation, but the test is still denied.” a different de-empathized voice responds a week later.

“But I certified the reasoning for the test.”

“Would you like to speak with the supervisor?”


After the click and the muzak that invites frustration another click and a human voice arrives, “May I help you?”

I am looking for an approval for a PET/MRI scan based on the certified documentation I sent earlier.”

“Could you briefly explain the issue. That will help greatly.”

A ten minute explanation later, we are running in circles.

“Are you a physician?”

“No sir, I am a Registered Nurse.”

“May I speak with physician in your department.”

“Surely.” And the shifting sounds on the telephone cease momentarily and then the infernal muzak comes back to haunt.

“Hello, may I help you?”

“Are you a doctor?”

“Yes, my name is Jane Blah, Blah.”

“I am looking for an approval for a PET/MRI scan.”

“Um, I looked at the records you provided and I am sorry but based on the data, I cannot approve the test.”

“Are you an oncologist?”

“No, I am a pediatrician.”

“Do you have any training in oncology?”


“Then how can you deny this request?”

“We have criteria for best practices based on the Choosing Wisely programs and we adhere to that. Besides, we are constantly reviewing the established criteria.”

“Oh! Okay. Do you mind giving me your full name, your position at this Insurance company and your official phone number?”

“Sure, why?

“I will send that information to my attorney and ask the patient to hire an attorney as well so that the future is not as murky for his survival or for an unnecessary litigation. While you adhere to your criteria, a patient's future is at stake that your have promised to help mitigate their financial health needs through premiums. I am sure you will prevail!” The sarcasm and irony was not lost on the receiver.

“There is no need for that!” The voice on the other end has some degree of angst now.

“There is a need for this, when you arbitrarily try to make decisions based on your esteemed guidelines without consideration of your client’s needs.”

“Let me see what I can do.”

The phone goes dead.

And therein lies a tale to ponder upon! This exclamation point has many meanings but only a few very clear expressions!

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