“Wow. Those are some great benefits! I work for a hospital and your benefits are better than mine!” said the ER desk clerk as he collected my roommate’s health insurance information. My roommate, like me, also works at Intel. And we both had selected the same benefits package too. But she was the patient and I was there for support.
You see, my roommate was suffering from a nasty sinus infection and had been sick all week. Earlier that day she went to the doctor who gave her some new meds. It was a pretty low-key Friday night with her being sick and me wanting to lounge around on the couch after a fun, but exhausting, trip home for the holidays. But about 20 minutes before I went to bed, she started coughing and her voice went from normal to 11-year-old boy going through puberty. I was about to fall asleep when she asked me to stay up with her for a few minutes because she wasn’t feeling well. So we made some small talk for a few minutes before I suggested we go watch some TV to distract her from her cough. (Note: How I Met Your Mother streaming on Netflix is the best news I have heard in a long time. And the show is truly so good that you will forget about everything else (including possibly dying) while you watch it. Just ask my roommate.)
I managed to doze off (I tend to do that if I’ve already seen the episode) but woke up 10 minutes later to a Netflix menu screen and my roomie reading her prescription info. She wasn’t feeling worse but she didn’t think she was feeling better either. Her voice had gotten more raspy though. Getting concerned, I suggested we call the 24 Hour Nurse Hotline to get their advice. As part of our health insurance, we have access to a 24 hour hotline that connects us directly with a nurse who can provide a recommendation based on our symptoms. (I’m a big fan and have used it in the past when I wasn’t sure if I should go to the doctor or not after getting food poisoning or a sprained ankle.) After sharing the symptoms (coughing, raspy voice, difficulty breathing, tightness in throat), the nurse on call was not messing around with her recommendation: call 911.
Umm, what? We exchanged bewildered looks and hung up with the nurse. (We weren’t going to call 911 when we lived 3 blocks from the hospital. We could get to the hospital faster then 911 could get to us.) At this point, my roommate didn’t think she needed to go to the ER so we talked it through. The first point that came to mind was our benefits. (My roommate works in the Compensation and Benefits group so she REALLY knows our benefits! She even volunteered at the Intel roadshows. What are roadshows you ask? There are open houses where employees can ask questions about the available plans and learn more about their benefits so that they can pick the best plan for themselves. They are held right before and even during the Annual Enrollment period which is when employees need to make their health care elections for the following year.) There is no doubt about it: we have solid benefits. Even with an emergency room visit and care, Intel had invested in a plan that would take care of most of the expenses so as employees we can focus on our health and staying well. Knowing that our benefits are comprehensive and cover a lot of expenses, including unexpected ones, really did help in making the decision to go to the ER. (That, plus the fact that we live close to the hospital and the thinking that if it’s nothing, they’ll just send us back home, but at least then we know what’s wrong.) So off to the ER we went.
It’s kind of crazy how quickly you’re seen at the ER when your key symptoms are shortness of breath, wheezing and tightening of your throat. Within minutes there were 2 nurses and a doctor taking us to a room and starting their diagnosis. Long story short, she was having anaphylactic reaction to a medication she had taken for the first time that night but we got to the hospital at the right time to combat the reaction. (More people are allergic to penicillin then the medicine she took so there was no way of knowing she’d have this reaction!) After an IV, some meds and a nebulizer treatment, all we could do was wait. So we did. Around 3am, things were looking better. My roommate’s voice went from a squeak to hoarse whisper, her Jay-Z-esque lips were returning to normal size and she was looking less sunburnt and more Lithuanian-Italian than when we got to the hospital. The meds were working, the nurses and doctors at the hospital were great, and our spirits were high as we were cracking jokes and passing time.
We later found out that if we hadn’t come into the ER, the results would have been fatal. (And I’m not talking still wheezy in the morning fatal, I mean fatal, fatal.) We are so thankful that they weren’t. There were several things that we were grateful for that night and a few lessons we learned—not too surprising considering what a close call the entire situation was. It was a wakeup call for me with regard to my attitude towards benefits. I, like many, joined Intel as a College Graduate (CG), and as an CG, I appreciated good benefits but for the most part, I didn’t have many health concerns so benefits wasn’t at the top of my priority list when I was evaluating employers. I’m a little embarassed that it took a major incident to help me see the light, but I’m glad I did. I say it loud and I’ll say it proud: THANK YOU INTEL FOR YOUR GREAT BENEFITS!
As for my roommate: she was admitted for observation for a few hours but was back home the next day and on a new antibiotic that she isn’t allergic to. Today, she’s feeling much better and is grateful for great benefits, great providers, a great employer and great friends.
Me too roomie, me too.