Stripper Juice: My Run-In With The US Healthcare System
The specialist had a serious look on his face. “I don’t want to alarm you, but this could be Multiple Sclerosis.”
Rewind a couple months and I was in Yanchep, a sleepy coastal Western Australian suburb with ten mates for my buck’s party. I was actually already a married man - myself and K had eloped a year earlier in New York. But we decided to throw a 1-year anniversary party in Perth so that we could celebrate the nuptials with our family and friends. The party was on Saturday, so on Thursday morning I headed up to Yanchep for a 24 hour drinking competition.
Me and the lads spent the entire day crushing cans, smoking doobs, listening to music and playing cricket at the local park. The sun went down and we cooked a huge feast on the barbie. There’d been some jestful mentions of a stripper earlier in the day, but it didn’t seem viable in sleepy little Yanchep, especially on a weeknight. My mate Jake had kindly allowed us to use his parents’ two-storey beach shack for the bucks, and it was the perfect place for some hardcore male bonding.
After dinner we went upstairs and were about to fire up Mario Kart on the 64, when there was a knock at the door.
“That must be her,” someone said.
A few of my mates went downstairs to let the stripper in the house. I was told to sit on a chair in the middle of the room. My mate Alex came up the stairs holding an iPod and a portable speaker. He hit play and some cheesy techno started blaring. I could hear the stripper’s heels clicking on the stairs as she made her way up to the second level.
My wedding gift from the boys was a tall brunette. Big tits and strong thighs. A little rough around the edges, but definitely an attractive girl.
“Hi boys, I’m Laura.”
“Hi Laura,” we all said in unison, like schoolboys.
“So who’s the groom then?”
The question was perhaps redundant considering I was sitting by myself in the middle of the room. But no judge, it never hurts to ask.
“That’s me,” I said.
Laura proceeded to give me a lapdance. It was underwhelming and the opposite of erotic. It was also super strange to catch glances of my friends while Laura stripped and danced on top of me. Some were gawking at her, others were trying to avoid looking at anything, and some were staring at me.
Laura seemed more inclined to give my mates a few laughs rather than giving me an enjoyable experience. She straddled me, and I wasn’t exactly sure where to put my hands, so I settled on the small of her back. She promptly moved both of my hands down to her arse cheeks, smirked and then made the loser sign on her forehead, which got a big reaction from the lads. At one point she took out a bottle of oil and starting squirting it liberally down onto her bare breasts. I caught some splash-back and a bunch of oil got caught in my eyes. I decided to play it cool and let the oil fester in my eyelids rather than wipe it away.
The humiliation ended and everyone gave Laura a big hand. She picked up her clothes and paraphernalia and made her way downstairs.
“Thanks boys,” she called out. “See yas later.”
“Bye Laura,” we said, in unison.
Our party went off without a hitch on the Saturday, and then on Monday morning we flew back to New York.
Towards the end of this journey I felt the pain for the first time. There was a general tightness in my head and and a heaviness behind my right eye. After landing in New York, we immediately made our way up to Boston for a faux honeymoon. On our second day in bitterly cold Beantown my symptoms worsened, and my right eyeball started to twitch involuntarily.
A week later we were back home in New York and I was still dealing with the head and eyeball issue. Like a typical bloke I tried to tough it out and dealt with the discomfort for close to two months. But I eventually bit the bullet and made an appointment with my GP.
The GP was concerned enough to make me an appointment with a brain specialist that same day. And this was the specialist who dropped the MS bomb on me. The specialist said that he wanted to rule out anything serious as soon as possible, and the best way to do that was to check myself into a hospital and get a bunch of tests done. Fortunately I had insurance at the time, and he referred me to a private hospital in deep Queens.
Later that evening I was in a cab with K. She’d already freaked herself out by reading some online articles about MS, and was holding my hand tenderly. Just as we were pulling into the hospital, I was struck by a crazy thought. I remembered getting splashed in the eyes by Laura’s oil in Yanchep. Maybe the stripper juice had sunk deep into my eye socket and was the root cause of all my discomfort?
It took ages for me to get checked in, and the whole time I was debating whether it was worth telling anyone about my stripper juice hypothesis. After signing a whole bunch of forms me and K were led into an examination room. Five minutes later a youngish Indian doctor came in to see me.
The doc gave me a once-over and then reviewed all the notes from the specialist.
“Can you think of anything else that might be relevant?” he said.
It was now or never. Fuck it.
“Well this is probably gonna sound weird…..”
I told him about how I’d copped an eyeful of stripper juice and came up for air. K was shaking her head and the doc was grinning.
“That’s quite a tale,” he said. “Look, I think it’s highly unlikely that a bit of oil could be causing you all these problems. But I’ll keep it in mind.”
At the hospital I was tested for absolutely everything, but after three days, they were no closer to figuring out what was wrong with me. As the specialist explained, they were methodically trying to eliminate serious diagnoses one by one. But the process was infuriating and I had no way of knowing how much my hospital stay was costing me. The Indian doctor would visit me once a day, review all the test results, and then schedule more tests before dashing away to his next appointment.
On the evening of my third day I got two MRIs done - they were looking for lesions on different parts of my brain. If you’re not aware, when you get an MRI you have to lie perfectly still for an eternity in a tiny, highly sophisticated tomb. You feel claustrophobic and deal with existential paranoia of the highest order.
After the ordeal was over, I thought about the scene in Breaking Bad where Walter White looks at his chest scan, notices a huge tumor, thinks he’s about to die, but later realizes that he’s actually getting better. I started chatting with the MRI operator.
“I know you’re not a doctor, but do you ever see something and know immediately that it doesn’t look right?”
He shook his head.
“Most of the time the brain guys are looking for things that are really small. So brain stuff is impossible. But occasionally you see other things. Like check this out.” He wheeled me towards his screen which was processing my scan. “I can tell your right sinus is severely blocked. Check out all the mucus.”
He was right. My left sinus was completely clear, but there was a huge blob on the right hand side of my face. I put my fingers to my nose and realized that there was no air was coming out of my right nostril.
That night I asked the Indian doctor if my problems could be caused by a severely blocked sinus. He said yes, but his goal was remained ruling out all serious issues first.
The next day when I was told that the MRI scans had proved inconclusive and that I’d need to undergo more tests, I checked myself out of the hospital. I went straight to my local pharmacy and bought a bunch of sprays and solutions to help remedy sinus issues. A week later my sinus was unblocked, my eyeball had stopped twitching and I was back to full health.
Several months later I got a $55,000 bill for my four-night stay at the hospital. Although my insurance covered the majority, I still had to pay around five grand, which is a lot of fucking money for a blocked sinus. But I survived with my health and my wealth, and this experience got me hip to how the US healthcare system actually works, an invaluable lesson.
In the land of freely flowing stripper juice, there are so many poor souls who can’t afford to get a bad lapdance. And until this changes, I can’t see how America could be considered great again.