Financial Responsibility from Work-Related Illness

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I saw this meme on a friend’s Facebook page (no original attribution was provided), and it struck a chord with me. It reads: “Everything is super important. Until you are sick. Then you realize there was only ever one thing that was important. Your health. But nonetheless we borrow from the bank of our health, taking loans on stress and sleepless nights to pay for something that doesn’t really matter.”

This probably stuck a chord with me because here I am, recovering from a strange illness that has sidelined me from normal “life” stuff for the time being (though hopefully not for long). But let’s back up a bit.

Work Travel

I typically travel domestically for work about once or twice per year. Over the past 3 years, though, I’ve also had one major international trip per year. I just returned from one such trip – a trip to Peru. While the travel was for work, I tacked on a personal weekend at the end of the week so I could see one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World: Machu Picchu!

Strange Symptoms

The day I was to return home, I woke up to a full body rash. Odd. But I’d been extremely busy. Hadn’t been sleeping, had been traveling a ton (from Lima to Cusco to Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and back again!). I thought my immune system was run down and IDK – I just kind of ignored it. NBD.

Got home on Sunday night. By Monday morning, I started feeling additional symptoms of being unwell. Upset stomach, bad headache, general fatigue and feeling of malaise. But I’d just been gone for a whole week and even though the trip was for work, I was drowning in emails from the time away from the office. I ignored my symptoms and got busy with work.

Tuesday morning I woke up to a nosebleed. This is very unusual for me. I haven’t had a nosebleed since childhood. But this was not your normal run-of-the-mill nosebleed. This was PROFUSE bleeding that could not be controlled. It continued unabated for over an hour. Finally it subsided….only to return less than two hours later. Both these bleeds were completely unprompted (nothing hit my nose, no nose picking, etc.). At this point, I was scared enough to call my doctor and get in ASAP.

Current Epidemic

One of my colleagues urged me to read about Dengue. There is an epidemic of dengue cases right now in Peru. It’s an infection transmitted from mosquito bites of infected mosquitos (it’s not contagious from person-to-person). While most cases are relatively mild, the more dangerous aspect of dengue is that it causes low platelet count. When that happens, bleeding can be an issue. It can cause internal bleeding (appearing as bruising or pinpoint red dots on the skin) and external bleeding (such as my nosebleed) that is difficult to control. It also causes a variety of other symptoms, many consistent with the strange symptoms I was personally experiencing (headache, stomach ache, fatigue, rash, etc.)

Symptom Management

I had a blood draw to get labs run on Tuesday but was told I wouldn’t receive results for 3-4 days. Even though this still has not been officially confirmed, I am pretty positive I have dengue. While there’s no “cure” for dengue, one can treat and manage the symptoms. The most important thing to increase platelets is to have foods high in folic acid and collagen. I’ve been “self-medicating” by eating these foods, as well as taking supplements and vitamins. I also ordered a mobile IV to come give me fluids and additional vitamins like B-complex, zinc, magnesium, and more. I’ve continued to have symptoms of low platelets (like the pin point red dots on my skin), which is worrisome so I am eager to manage this, even in the absence of having the official diagnosis.

Financial Responsibility

All of this stuff comes with costs. So far, I’m out almost $500 for medical care – this is spread between the doctor’s appointment, lab work, prescription medication, and mobile IV (which is not covered by insurance, but is HSA-eligible). But this begs the question….who is financially responsible for these costs? I am so grateful to have a healthy HSA so this isn’t coming out of my normal monthly budget, it’s coming from my HSA account. However, I think this would count as a “workplace injury”, no? There’s some ambiguity, though, given that I did add on the weekend Machu Picchu trip for fun at the end of the work trip. That said, I was only in Peru for work and would not have been exposed to Dengue otherwise. Is this something I should report for Workman’s Comp?

I’d love some advice from others who may have navigated workplace injuries or claims in the past. I would not pursue anything until I’ve received a formal diagnosis. And even then, assuming I continue to improve and get better and no additional medical expenses are incurred I might just leave it as-is to avoid the hassle of whatever is involved with workman’s compensation. I honestly don’t even know if this would qualify due to the odd nature of the illness, etc.

Prognosis

From what I’ve read, it sounds like my case is relatively mild (with the low platelet count being the only true thing of concern). Most cases resolve on their own within a week and I’m already feeling better today than I was 3 days ago, so I believe I’m moving in a positive trajectory. In the absence of anything crazy happening, I think I’ll be back to normal by this time next week.

 

Any thoughts from anyone out there with more experience than me in this arena? Should I try to talk to Workman’s Comp or just leave it as-is (paid from my HSA) and call it a day?

The post Financial Responsibility from Work-Related Illness appeared first on Blogging Away Debt.

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