Gluten Free and On The Dole

The hospital gave us 2 cans of Neocate and the remaining pre-mixed formula they had ready for Mr. Happy when we left the hospital.  This only provided, by my estimation, enough food for Mr. Happy to last until Monday or Tuesday of the following week.  Not a lot of time to figure out how to procure more formula.

While still in the hospital, I called our insurance company, both health and prescription.  Health insurance said they would cover it…after we met our deductible.  Since we’re hoping he’ll only be on the Neocate for 1-2 months, we could outright buy it for longer than that before the deductible is met.  (I know the hospital bills will surely meet that deductible, but with the delay in billing it wouldn’t necessarily help us right now.)  Prescription coverage informed me that our co-pay for this formula was 100%.  Not helpful at all!

Then the lady told me I could ask my doctor to call and request they give us a “co-pay exemption”, but that it wasn’t guaranteed, and it might only reduce the co-pay to 70 or 80%.  Still, it was something.  So I asked the doctor there in the hospital, and he said that usually in those circumstances the insurance company wants the requesting doctor to be the general practitioner/usual pediatrician.

So, the next day, when we were home, I called our pediatricians’ office to set up Mr. Happy’s follow-up appointment and ask if they would make the request for us.  They set up his appointment for Friday afternoon, and the new receptionist had no idea what I was talking about when I asked if they would call the insurance company for us.  Instead of asking someone, or looking into it for us, she just shrugged it off saying “You can talk to Dr. A about that on Friday.”  I was busy thinking, ‘Look, lady, I only have enough food for my baby to last until Monday.  I don’t have time to wait until Friday to ask Dr. A!’  I sounded exasperated, I’m sure, so she said she would ask the doctor for me and call me back.  She never did.

Instead, I sucked in my pride and called the County Health Services Office to request an appointment with WIC.  Thursday morning the two kids and I trudged off to officially find out if we could get ‘on the dole’.

Amazingly enough, we qualified by the skin of our teeth.  With me out on leave and not earning a paycheck, the Geek earned $2,000 less annually than is maximum allowed for qualification.  Thank God!

So after answering a barrage of questions, Mr. Charm, Mr. Happy and I headed back to be examined by the nurse.

She weighed and measured both children.  Then she took blood from both Mr. Charm and I to check for anemia.  Then we had to sit in her office and go through incredibly invasive and detailed information about everything we eat, our environment, daily habits, etc.

In the end, we left with “coupons”, which are highly specific shopping lists to use at the grocery store (example: 2 each – 2%, 1%, or fat free Milk; 2 each – 64 ounce juice, etc.), $30 to use at any local farmer’s market andmost importantly, the promise of Neocate delivery on Monday or Tuesday – at no charge to us.

Whew.  I can feed my child!  Thank you, God!

Friday we went to see Dr. A for the follow-up appointment.  Even though two nurse friends of ours pointed out that a first year nursing student should have been able to identify respiratory distress and possible chest infection in a baby, and this doctor missed it, she never once made any comment one way or the other about her lack of diagnostic skills.  I like Dr. A.  She’s a very nice lady and she is very kind and good to my boys.  But I’m very concerned about the way her office is being run now, as several of the people I usually deal with are suddenly gone and a revolving door of new people are working there.   Everyone has been nice, but I haven’t been able to get to know them or feel that they’ve gotten to know us the same way I did with the prior employees.

Add to that the fact that while she did initially diagnose Mr. Charm with MPI and recommend the correct follow-up specialist, she herself knew little about it that was helpful to me.  Compound the current misdiagnosis that very well could have killed our son, and, well, we’ll be looking for a new pediatrician soon.  I’m just afraid I won’t find better.  (Mr. Happy checked out 100% to her, though she didn’t check his stools for blood.)

I decided to take the kids grocery shopping after the doctors’ appointment.  While I was at it, I figured I may as well use some of the WIC coupons.

Wow – what a challenge!

They provide a booklet for you that is very specific about what brands are acceptable for each food category, and on top of that, you must determine the least expensive of the acceptable brands every time you go.  It took an extra 50 minutes of grocery shopping for me to figure all of this out.  However, I took home between $50-60 of groceries that I didn’t have to pay for, so I suppose it’s worth it.  Especially since I had three full bags of fresh fruits and vegetables as part of my WIC food shopping.

I must admit, though, to a certain sense of…shame or embarrassment while I was checking out.  I’ve never used public assistance of any kind before, not even when my take home pay as a Flight Attendant in New Jersey was $963 per month.  I KNOW I qualified for Food Stamps and who knows what else at that time.  But it never crossed my mind to even apply.  I’ve always been a ‘stand on my own two feet, I’ll take care of myself’ kind of person.  Children can teach you a lot about life…I never would have gone on WIC (or any public assistance) for myself, but I am willing to do it for my kids.  So, pride goeth before the fall.  I admit it: I need help to provide for my children.  It stings every time I have to say it.

(shaking it off…)

In the meantime, Mr. Charm and Mr. happy were doing great.  Mr. Charm seemed to have no physical complications from his hospital experience, though the stress of the week seemed to be coming out a bit in behavior issues.  Mr. Happy looked perky and alert again, and was right back on his regular routine: eat like a pig all day and sleep for long stretches at night.  Besides his health, an added plus to him being on formula was my sudden realization that now I did not have to be the only one doing middle of the night feedings!  The Geek could pitch in, too!  You don’t need boobies to hold a bottle, after all!  So he’s getting less sleep, but I’m getting a LOT more, and that makes me happy.  Which makes him happy, of course!

Mr. Happy’s poop was really gross and smelly, which is always a shock after breastfeeding for so long.  The Neocate, by all reports, typically does this to babies poo.  It’s greenish-black and sticky, and very, very stinky.  But other than being disgusting it looked like it was supposed to look, and that’s all that really matters to us.

I spent every single spare moment that week online looking up recipes for going gluten-free.  We didn’t have to be gluten-free precisely; but gluten-free means wheat free, and we needed to be wheat free ASAP.  It was just easier to look for a ‘gluten-free’ label than to find out how to eliminate wheat, believe it or not.  As time goes by, I was sure I could split those hairs and expand our diet some.  But for now, this was fastest and easiest.

I found a TON of recipes!  Most even sounded edible!  I learned so much about cooking and baking from reading the varied websites out there and I completely delved into a whole new world of functional allergy/intolerance sufferers.  It was an education, let me tell you!

In the end, I was left feeling burdened but capable of handling making the changes necessary to feed Mr. Happy nourishing, non-poisonous breast milk in a few weeks.  It was good.

And…it was false.


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