Oh-oh-oh, Miss International Love…and Fees!

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Oh-oh-oh, Miss International Love…and Fees!

You’ve finally gotten all of the proceeds together to follow through with your HSCT here in Moscow.  You’ve made all of your financial arrangements with all of your banks and credit cards.  You’ve let them know the timeframe in which you will be moving the funds around, the approximate amount of funds that they can anticipate being transacted and that it will be for hospital payment, lodging, etc.  Well, it sounds like you really have your act together.  You should be so relieved to have that taken care of.  I know I was.  You see, I had already been warned that basically every single international patient to date that has tried to make their first payment to the hospital using a credit and/or debit card, was declined for some unidentified reason that varied from patient to patient.  So, there was no way that Brooke was going to fall into that trap.  No way!  Huh-uh!

Admission day arrives, and one of the first tasks at hand is heading to the administrative/financial offices, accompanied by Dr. Fedorenko so that he can act as translator.  On this day, you will make your first payment of $1,000, which covers the cost of your initial week of testing.  MRIs, ultrasounds, bloodwork, xrays, urinalysis and CTs, if necessary.  All of the paperwork is properly filled out with your home address, etc., and, finally the credit card transaction is put into motion.  I remember sitting there so excited to see that machine spit out that little piece of paper for me to sign…not so much!  DECLINED!  They try it again…DECLINED!  Trying to remain calm, when all the while I’m thinking “BASTARDS!”, I whip out my Target card.  Target specifically told me that they no longer charge any additional fees for international transactions, so they were first on my hit list.  The transaction goes through seamlessly.  Thank you, Target.  I’ll be seeing you again, soon.  I immediately texted my husband and put him, his mom (a former banker) and my local bank staff on the case.  Ultimately, they rocked it.  But, don’t think anyone made it easy for them.

With that all taken care of, I breathe a sigh of relief and I am made aware that the next payment will be due after my official acceptance/agreement to obtain HSCT at Pirogov.  That payment will be approximately $23,000.  then, the final payment will be approximately $16,000.  No problem.  I got this!

I’m accepted!  I’m moving forward with stimulation shots, new meds and the works.  I am on my way.  Now, it’s time for that next chunk of change to be paid.   This time, in order to avoid having to wheel me through the underground tunnel to the other side of the hospital, they have one of their financial people come to my room with a portable credit card machine.  How considerate of them.  I bet they were thrilled to be getting their money.  But they didn’t.  DECLINED!!!  I was mortified, crushed, embarrassed and incredibly stressed, all at the same time.  I thought, wait a minute, let me at least show them that I have the funds in the account. I pulled up my bank account and there was no question that the money was sitting right there,waiting for the transaction.  Please note, that at no time, did they make me feel uncomfortable or pressured, and, I think when they actually saw the funds in the account, it went a long way to relieving their fears and mine.

How could this possibly be happening?  Me!  The planner, organizer, one-step-ahead at all times person.  The entire scenario turns out to be marred with twists, turns, miscommunications, lack of communication and way too many levels of fraud security for my own good.  First, even though my bank was told the timeframe that I would be here, I was not told that I had to tell them a specific time and date that I would be making the transaction.  We finally did nail that down, and, once again…DECLINED!  This time the culprit was not my bank.  It was VISA.  My bank card is a VISA debit card, which means that I can use it at any location that accepts VISA, just like a credit card.  It turns out that my bank was allowing it to go through and VISA was blocking it due to possible fraud.  My local bank, God love them, put the hammer down on VISA and now they have cleared my cards for the entire length of my stay.  My bank’s good.  VISA is good.  Sighhhhhhh!   And, on the eve of my transplant, no less.

I am now paid in full.  I owe not another cent!  Oh, wouldn’t that be a fabulous dream?  I, of course, feel compelled to review my bank account online to make sure that everything has gone through and I can finally get a good night’s sleep before this life-changing transplant, on the next day.  Sure enough, the transactions had all gone through…IN ADDITION TO $2,000 IN “INTERNATIONAL FEES”!!!!  WHAT!!!??  Yet another small detail that the corporate headquarters of my bank failed to tell me when I was arranging my pre-trip finances.  I immediately start making mental comparisons to the things that I could have done with that $2,000.  Mainly, paying it forward when I return home…a top priority of mine.  Then I get to thinking about the fact that we have been paying our hotel bill with that card, and taking cash out of the ATM with that card.  My head starts reeling.  I pop back into my bank account and don’t you know it.  We are being charged “international fees” to do so, and at this point, they add up to several hundred dollars.  Each ATM transaction is $8.00.  The fee for the hotel was about $200.

What had to follow was the dreaded text to my husband.  “Oh, gee, honey. You know that $40,000 stem cell transplant plus extra expenses that we have to pay?”  “Well, it’s going to be a boatload more than that!”  “Love you.  Kisses.”    No amount of smiley icons is going to make up for that text.  Well, I’m married to a saint, and he took it much better than expected.  I’ve been really lucky that my mom has become quite savvy with our finances on the outside.  She finds the best deals on food, etc., in the most unlikely places, and she takes great care to be frugal.  We are very mindful that a large marjority of this money that got me here was donated and we want to honor that generosity.

To all of you future Moscow HSCTrs.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!  Even the best-laid plans can be de-railed.  Have a Plan A, B & C in place. Or, just pay for everything in Rubles (cash).  Not exactly convenient, but I suppose it could be done.

TODAY’S MEDICAL NEWS…

I woke up with much more energy than yesterday.  In the shower at 6:00 a.m. and ready to face another beautiful Moscow day.  Albeit, through my room’s picture window.  As far as symptoms go, during this period of time, they all worsen.  Don’t have a panic.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t changes being seen.  They are just currently thwarted by the inflammation caused by chemo and the lowering of leukocytes and platelet counts.   All completely normal.  The patient and the MS must heal from the chemo, the transplant and all peripheral treatment.  My appetite remains hearty, though I was warned by the doc today, that I can eat all I want, but I will be losing weight because of the energy that the body is burning to compensate for the lack of WBC, etc.  Forget the technical stuff.  I feel great…happy…peaceful.

MY NUMBERS ARE IN…

My leukocyte level has dropped to 0.13.  He predicts that they will bottom out over the next two days and then begin to rise.   That is right on schedule and I couldn’t be happier.  He seems to be genuinely pleased with my body’s resilience, and I must say that I agree.

Today's hemoglobin, leukocyte & platelet counts.

Today’s hemoglobin, leukocyte & platelet counts.

WISP WATCH!  NO MORE HAIR IS FALLING…YET!

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