taking a jab at health care cost looking at two unfortunate events in my life

Knives, Turtles and the cost of stitches


When I was 17 I was stabbed in the leg with a very sharp knife. Don’t worry it didn’t hurt and I wasn’t a hardened criminal. Just a bunch of young kids in school fooling around with a knife. Now, in today’s world I could take this story in so many different directions

(like schools and knifes, zero tolerance policies, criminal record for the stabber, expulsion, etc, etc) and yes times have changed.

Back to the stabbing incident though; the first aid, applied by my friends in the school’s bathroom, using toilet paper and a band aid didn’t do the trick. Blood kept flowing and it would be hard to hide the blood soaked jeans from the teachers. So before getting caught I retreated home on my bike, skillfully paddling home using only one leg (yes it can be done).

Arriving home my father takes on look at my wound and determines it needs more attention than just some toilet paper. Off to the emergency room it is. As the attending doctor (back then we still saw the doctor) looks at my leg and remarks how clean the cut is, I tell him I dropped a scalpel in biology class to spare my stabbing buddy from any further trouble.

Btw, it’s true what they say about getting stabbed. It doesn’t always hurt. That is until they start stitching it. It took only two stitches and we were sent on our way home. My dad asks if my classmate is going to get me a new pair of jeans.

Move forward 20 years. Being from a country and city that was mostly pavement and concrete, I wasn’t familiar with most wildlife here in the US. So when my wife and I would hike near the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, I was always impressed with the wildlife that is still to be found here.

I was very impressed when we encountered this very large turtle right next to the trail (the picture you see is the one). KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERANaturally all animals aren’t evil, so I’m compelled to feed it some greens, I pluck from the side of the road. Little did I know back then, this was a snapping turtle. I never heard of a snapping turtle in my life. You can see it coming right? Well, I didn’t, SNAP, WTF.

As if getting snapped in the index finger by a massive snapping turtle isn’t bad enough, I instinctively react and pull back my hand and along with it a very heavy turtle. The turtle lets go mid-air, but not before turning my finger into a Pez dispenser.

So here we are 2 miles into the trail and a long way away from the car. Again blood is flowing. I’m pretty much screwed and don’t think I can make it back. I can handle the blood but the way that finger looked was turning my stomach. I felt like blacking out all the way.

“Luck” had it that someone on the trail had suffered a heart attack some time ago and half way back to the car we encounter an ambulance with fully trained staff (I swear I’m not making this up).

I was hoping to hitch a ride back with the ambulance to the parking lot and from there my wife would drive me to the hospital. That wasn’t happening. They were busy doing other stuff (like saving a mans life). They were kind enough to wrap my finger in some gauze but didn’t see anything life threatening so they sent me on my way.

My wife gets me safe and sound to the emergency room and while the nurse is stitching up my finger, she is showing off the pictures of the turtle to the other staff. So three stitches later, we’re sent on our way home.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Alright, funny (yet all to true) stories aside . The reason I bring up these stories is the stitches. I just read this story by Elizabeth Rosenthal on the cost of stitches. According to her article in the New York times As Hospital Prices Soar, a Stitch Tops $500,  stitches are now like everything else exorbitantly expensive.

The first (knife) incident occurred in the Netherlands where Universal insurance has been a reality for a long time but, before you go shouting “Socialists”, my dad was a teacher and made enough to actually have private insurance (I know self-contradictory statement: teacher making enough to have to buy his own insurance). We never got a single bill for any treatment in the hospital. The cost of the entire incident was well, a new pair of jeans.

The turtle incident was a whole different story. I was lucky enough to be insured at the time and would have been stuck with a copayment at most. I wish I could dig up the bills for that one. Considering I currently have a $6,500 deductible I would have had to have paid full price in today’s world. That turtle bite could have easily cost me $1,500 and maybe even more than that.

Cost of a knife stabbing circa 1987 (2 stitches): new pair of jeans (which my friend never got me)

Cost of a turtle bite circa 2015 (3 stitches): $1,500 to $2,500

Lessons on American wildlife: priceless.

Good luck reaching your financial goals.


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About Maarten van Lier

Maarten came to this country with a suitcase and a diploma. He created a financial plan and goal to become a millionaire in 10 years. He successfully turned his financial goals into reality, wrote a book about it and now blogs actively in hope of inspiring other to do the same.