After the third appointment with Dr. Ni I wasn’t sure if I was improving. I was past the allergic reaction to the plaquenil, but rashes were still popping up on my body in their various forms and I was losing my hair. I wasn’t sure how long it would take before I would see tangible results. I was still diligently taking the suspicious black gel like pills in between the appointments as she recommended. My energy level and my hope in feeling better were at an all time low. I found myself at church more frequently than I had ever been before. I was pleading with God to heal me and alleviate the pain and emotional stress all of this was causing me. I would attend church on Sundays, prayer meeting on Tuesdays and a Bible study on Wednesdays. It was a group of young women with an older, 40ish woman who lead the study. I found some solace and peace in the group and had many breakdowns about what I was going through at the time. I was telling them about my day trips to D.C. and the treatment with the toxin machine that didn’t seem to be working. After Bible Study one girl asked if she could talk to me as I walked to the grocery store a few blocks away. I welcomed her company and she began to tell me about her friend’s past health issues. How she had experienced some of the same things I was going through with the fatigue, hair loss, and some organ damage.
At this point I had heard so many people tell me about family members, friends, neighbors, and a cousin’s friend’s husband who had “something like Lupus” and had found some unknown cure or it just went away one day randomly. As much as I wanted this diagnosis to just fall off of me like some unwanted weight, I didn’t think it was going to happen like that. I was still hopeful. She said that she had gone to a place in Manhattan that combined both Eastern and Western practices. She told me that it helped her friend a lot when other traditional doctors and treatments weren’t able to. I was very hopeful at the idea of this place and wanted to hear more. She then crushed my hopeful spirit by warning me that it could be pricey, very pricey. My heart sank as I wondered how I was going to be able to afford this as a graduate student who was not working. I had some savings and credit cards but I was living on a budget in order to afford my rent, food and surviving life in NYC. She asked me if she could pray for me. I was a little hesitant but I thought, “Why not?!” Who am I to turn down any help or encouragement? So we prayed about God allowing me to go to this place and for some financial assistance to come, we prayed out loud right there in the middle of a Brooklyn street and then we parted ways. She told me that she would get the info to me as soon as she could.
After we parted ways I didn’t even go to the grocery store I just picked up three slices of pizza, one of the slices was for the next day or really later that night, and went home. Before I got off the train I got a text from my Bible study friend with the name Patients Medical. While stuffing my face with my pizza I looked up Patients Medical and all that it had to offer. The website looked very pristine and serene. The pictures of the facility looked inviting but sterile and I couldn’t wait to call them the next day to inquire about an appointment. I ended up eating that third slice of pizza a few hours later. Who am I kidding, it was never meant for the next day. I went to sleep with the assistance of Benadryl and slept relatively well.
I woke up the next morning around 11am and could barely wait to call them to inquire about how they could help me. I rushed through my morning routine and went straight to my cell. I called and a pleasant sounding man answered the phone. After very short greeting from him, I got straight to the point. I asked him if they treated people with Lupus. He said that they treat people with every kind of illness from Cancer to infertility. He continued and said that they had an array of different treatment that would be decided by the doctor after a full assessment and blood work up. Ok, I thought, if you can treat cancer, lupus should be a cinch. I asked how quickly I could get in and if they accepted my health insurance plan. With one simple sentence he popped my hopeful bubble. “We don’t accept health insurance hear ma’am”, he said. “You pay upfront and then you we give you paperwork to send to your health insurance company and then they reimburse you based on your plan”, he finished. WTF? Where do they do that? I thought but said nothing.
I didn’t realize how long I had said nothing because as I became aware of the fact that I was still on the phone I heard a couple of hellos from his end. “Yeah, ok so how much does it cost to see a doctor?” I asked, afraid of what his response would be. “The initial first time fee is $400,” he answered. I almost dropped the phone. I just responded with a weak, “ok”. He told me that it doesn’t include any cost of any blood work, treatments or supplements that the doctor may prescribe or recommend. I asked him for a rundown of the costs of these things and he told me that that would be discussed at my appointment but the prices range. “Would you like to go ahead and book an appointment, was there a specific doctor you wanted to see?” He asked this so casually as if he did not just bust but blow up my hopeful bubble. Yeah, I would like to see the doctor that doesn’t cost $400, I thought to myself. He added that it’s only the initial visit that is $400 dollars the follow-ups were $250. Great because that’s any better. I thanked him for his time and hung the phone. I was completely defeated and frustrated at my inability to have been born an heiress. The prospect of going there just seemed impossible and far beyond what I could afford. I was back at square one and only had the option of scheduling another day trip to see Dr. Ni. So I did what I did best, I retreated back into myself and became a hermit. I would remain in this state of limbo over what to do for the next few weeks.