For many months after I left television, I languished in despair. What was to become of me now that my health had knocked me off the air? My back was still injured and although I was relentlessly pursuing physical therapy, it was becoming apparent that I might never recover my former strength. I might never again anchor the nightly news. The axis of my world had shifted. And I had no idea what I would do going forward.
Not long after, I received a call from a friend who lived several states away. She was in the middle of a medical emergency. She needed a hysterectomy and her insurance company had referred her to a local doctor to do the procedure. She knew I had been a medical reporter and was hoping I could “check him out.” I gently told her I had access to the same information that she did and reminded her I was far away from where she lived and not currently working in a newsroom. She pleaded with me to help her and I finally agreed to try to find out something about him on the Internet. Good thing I did. After spending about twenty minutes online, I was able to discover that this particular doctor was not allowed to perform surgery without a State-appointed monitor being in the operating room with him. This was because he had botched several procedures in his specialty and had so many legal actions against him that for him to continue to practice, he had to consent to several years of this monitoring. Oh, and his specialty? He was a urologist by training, but his specialty was penis implants. Not hysterectomies. When I called my friend with the news, she burst into tears, telling me this was the only local doctor “in the network” the insurance company gave her. I asked for her insurance information and made a call. When I told them about this doctor’s record, they were shocked. They claimed they were unaware of his history (and the monitoring) and told me he was in the network because he had agreed to their reimbursement rates. I asked if they would allow my friend to travel out of the network for her procedure. They agreed. I called a surgeon at an acclaimed medical center a few hours away from where she lived, told him the story and he agreed to take her case and accept her insurance. My friend had her surgery and went on to full recovery.
A few months after that, my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was terminal. After operating to take as much of the tumor as they could, we were told he would live maybe a few months. He was being treated at a community hospital south of Boston. Because of connections we had, my husband and I were able to get him into a clinical trial at Mass General for a new drug that might prolong his life. I began flying back and forth from Wisconsin, doing what I could to help spot my brother, who lived more than 50 miles away from my father and who was trying his best to help him while raising a family of his own. I would arrive to set up appointments, meet with my father’s doctors, advocate for his care and assist him and my stepmother any way I could. The drug ended up extending his life a year and a half, which was a blessing, but sadly we lost him anyway. Nonetheless, by becoming immersed in his care, I was once again utilizing my skills as a journalist, but instead of working on behalf of strangers, I was helping those I loved most.