Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Charter Communications Complaint (and solution)

(*note: I wrote the letter below on the UMatter2Charter Facebook Page.)

Charter Communications has done it to me again. Although I love the benefits Charter Internet has provided, they have given me several problems as well. I will only mention the latest one because it may be the last straw. A few days ago, I received my new billing statement and I was surprised at the amount. My usual monthly internet bill is $19.99 for 12 to 15 mbps service. The new bill showed more than double at 47.99. Last year, a door to door salesman came to my apartment offering a back to school special of 19.99 for 24 months. I still have the pink copy of that work order which clearly shows 24 months. My billing changed just after 12 months. I called customer service and they couldn’t help me, saying that the system only shows 12 months and there is no such thing as a 24 month contract. I went to the nearest Charter office, showed them the work order and they said they couldn’t do anything about it either even though it was a mistake on Charter’s part that they inputted 12 months into their computer system. I have no other recourse but to switch to another provider if Charter cannot honor what they offered me originally. It looks so much like false advertising and I wonder if this can be addressed with the FCC or the Better Business Bureau. Any ideas on which agency I should contact?
This situation has to be frustrating. If my bill increases by one cent, I am making some phone calls myself! I would be happy to help you with this matter today! Can you please send a private message with your address, telephone number, full name, and four digit security code to my inbox? I cannot wait to hear from you!
Ashley Watson
Hi Ashley, thanks for your immediate response. My address is
Thank you for the information and your patience! I know understand your frustrations because you were promised something that you're clearly not getting. Can I make it up to you by offering you internet for the next 12 months at $29.99 per month? Please let me know if I have your permission to make these changes! 
Ashley Watson
Hi Ashley, happy to hear from you and I may be amenable to that arrangement. Is this the 30 mbps service that you have now? I already have the cable modem and router so I won't be needing any equipment. Will you also be able to adjust this months 47.99 bill down to 29.99?
You betcha! Your next months billing statement will reflect the changes and you will also see a credit of $36.00. Do you have any other questions? You internet speed will be 30Mbps. Sorry!

Ashley Watson
No further questions Ashley. You have my permission to make the changes and send me an updated bill so I can turn automatic payments back on. Thanks for taking care of my concerns and keeping me as a Charter customer.
You are welcome! Thank you for giving Charter a second chance! I will advise you to go by out local office and pickup your free internet modem. This will ensure that you are able to take advantage of your blazing new internet speed. Your modem has been updated to the newest internet speed. Do you have any questions for me today? If no, please feel free to visit the Umatter team at and we will gladly help you!
Ashley Watson
Wow, you are good! Much obliged for your help and making the customers matter, and looking forward to the next 12 months of Charter Internet.
Here's to a brand new start! Cheers ;D Have an awesome weekend and enjoy your internet! 
Ashley Watson

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Notes On My Recent Hospital Stay - Part 2

I forgot to mention that when I first got to the ER, they couldn’t find my previous medical records. The reason? They had my age as 75 years old. Damn! I look good for 75!
While wearing a hospital gown, one must be constantly aware about how one's legs are positioned. Well I lost that awareness while being pushed on a wheelchair from the telemetry unit to the cardiology department. I forgot to keep my legs together. Fortunately I was wearing shorts.
A woman was pushing me around at the hospital and I loved every minute of it. Oh, it was just a cute radiology tech transporting me on a wheelchair. The same wheelchair which I offered to two ladies in the elevator in my attempt to be a gentleman.
Before the treadmill stress test, I was hooked up to more electrodes. Thoughts of Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man) ran through my head. Another echocardiogram was done prior to mounting the treadmill. Here is how the treadmill stress test went: it started with a very slow 3 MPH walk and every three minutes the speed would increase. The second 3 minute segment was also easy. On the third 3 minute segment, the speed increased significantly. I told the technologist that it felt like a 13:30 to 13:40 pace per mile. He was surprised how right I was and confirmed that the pace was indeed 13:30. I told him that was how fast I can walk on pavement for 6  to 8 miles. I anticipated that I would have to start running on the next segment because it would no longer be a walking pace and told the tech and cardiologist so. Um, did I mention that I was only wearing hospital supplied socks on my feet? Well, that’s akin to barefoot running which I’ve never done on the street or the treadmill. But run barefoot on the treadmill I did, knowing it would only last for 3 minutes and hoping I don’t tear my bad inner ankle tendons. The pace was probably only 6 MPH but it sure felt close to 6.5. Heck I haven’t run 10 minutes per miles since I don’t know when! At least I surprised the tech about my knowledge of pace based on my perceived effort J.  Before I could catch my breath, it was back on the bed for a post walk/run echocardiogram. I jokingly asked the tech if I could do another 18 minutes on the treadmill so I can put in my minimum workout for the day. It felt so good to walk fast then run on the treadmill even though it only lasted a few minutes.
My cardiologist cleared me for discharge after the treadmill stress test. I’m glad that my labs (other than the cholesterol level), cardiac ultrasound, and treadmill stress tests indicated that my heart is ok. However, I am still having some discomfort on my chest, neck and trapezius areas which might be muscular pain or stress. And darn, that nitroglycerine headache lasted for 3 days!
Someone from the hospital called at about 1 p.m. last Monday. I thought they were just calling to follow up and ask how I was doing. Well, she identified herself as a patient account representative. That didn’t sound good. That usually means that I owe them some money and how right I was. I was informed that I indeed owed $100 for the ER visit. What I understood from my insurance coverage was that if I was admitted, the ER fee is waived. Sylvia explained to me that if I was admitted, my co-pay would have been $250 but since the doctor only ordered an “observaton”, that counted as an ER visit. So the hospital was actually billing me for a lower rate. Just to make sure, I asked if the rest of my tests, meds and treatments were covered. She said yes. I told her that when I heard the words “patient account representative”, I started having chest pain again, then I laughed with her. Well, there goes my credit card getting another workout to pay for another ER visit. And I even haven’t paid off my Korean Airlines bill yet. Oh my…, I can hardly wait for the Long Beach Fire Department ambulance bill to arrive(yes, you have to pay for those too). I don’t even know if that’s covered by insurance. And what about my traffic ticket? Still waiting for that fine too, most likely about 500 dollars.
Lastly, I don’t remember ever riding in an ambulance here in the U.S. before other than when my job requires me to escort a patient aboard. One time I was in an ambulance as a patient was in 1972 when I was being transported from the Manila domestic airport to Capitol Medical Center to have my fractured ankle treated. Ok, I just remembered something. I think it was 1983 when I got hit by a car coming out of a driveway while I was riding my bike. The paramedics might have transported me to the hospital in their ambulance at that time too.
Well, that’s it folks. I hope I don’t have to write about another hospital stay any time soon.
To read part 1 and the rest of this hospital visit click the links below:

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Notes On My Recent Hospital Stay - Part 1

If I didn't survive my recent hospital stay, my headstone might have said "Here Lies Noel. He died of boredom while in the hospital". Fortunately I was able to find things to occupy me. Finding out that wi-fi was available in the emergency room and throughout the hospital certainly helped, and to my surprise, Facebook wasn't blocked and the wi-fi didn't cut you off after a certain amount of time. At my job, a lot of websites are blocked including Facebook and the wi-fi cuts you off after half an hour. Posting on FB and getting responses certainly kept me occupied and entertained. Although being hospitalized is not an ideal bloggable moment, writing about it helped pass the time.
One of the blood tests that was done was the lipid panel. Although my triglycerides were low, my HDL cholesterol had gone down while the LDL had gone up. Total cholesterol had gone down 9 points from 229 to 220 since last February. Still, an LDL of 138 was worrisome so I asked the doctor if it was time for me to start taking a statin medication. Even modifying my diet since last February hasn't helped with the LDL. I’ve tried Niacin and Red Yeast Rice to lower my cholesterol in addition to not eating fried chicken, hamburgers and ice cream anymore, but they didn't seem to have much of an effect. Beans, barley, brown rice, and an increase in fiber intake hasn't helped either. I don't know if the decrease in my running and the subsequent increase in abdominal fat is related to the cholesterol problem. Well my cardiologist did prescribe generic Lipitor. I did some checking online about how much they cost. Generic Lipitor in the U.S. is about $130 for a month’s supply if you don’t have insurance. In the Philippines it’s about $11.25 (according to mom). Whoa! I thought that since the generic form became available late last year, the price would have dropped significantly compared to the real Lipitor. With insurance I would only have to pay $15 but that is still more than triple of what I pay for my blood pressure medications. A thought occurred to me: can an Atorvastatin pill be split? Well, it’s not scored (a line that sometimes is placed in the middle of a pill), but with a good tablet splitter, it can be done properly. I’ve been prescribed 40 mg. so next time I’m going to ask the doctor for 80 mg. pills.
When I was transferred from the  ER to the telemetry unit I noticed something that might have been a change in nursing policy. They used to automatically at least give you a pitcher of water and a glass so you can hydrate unless it’s contraindicated. I guess they don’t give those out anymore unless you ask for them. But then again I was NPO (no food or drink until after all tests are done) so that’s probably the reason. I did have to ask for a toothbrush and toothpaste. I was hooked up to a Holter monitor for the duration of my stay. I noticed that the monitor is now about 2/3rds of its previous size. From my experience of being hospitalized for a night more than 10 years ago, I vowed that next time that happens I’m going to bring earplugs. Well, I forgot to do so, thus I didn't get much sleep with all the beeping of machines and alarms on the unit.
There was a delay on my cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) and treadmill stress test. They were not done until mid afternoon. If they were done in the morning, I would have been discharged by noontime.
Part 2 to follow

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Prior To The 911 Call

While I'm waiting for the radiology people to pick me up for my echocardiogram and stress test, I might as well tell you about how this hospitalization came to be. I wasn't doing anything strenuous, I was only watching a video (Bachelorettes, I think, with Kristen Dunst, et al). The pain was initially mild, like a slight burning sensation on my chest, which I hoped would disappear in a few minutes. I didn't know what was causing the pain and as time went on without relief and with the symptoms seemingly getting worst, plus my occasional dizziness striking at the same time, I started thinking about the possibility of calling 911. I live by myself and didn't want to be found much later possibly dead just because I was trying diagnose myself. It didn't help that I was becoming more anxious as time went on. First I took an aspirin, chewed it, then called 911. Then while waiting for the paramedics to show up, I gathered what I had to bring to the hospital because I was sure that with a complaint of chest pain, I would end up in the emergency room. I got my wallet, keys, and a Men's Health magazine. Can you consider that picking that last last item ironic? Anyway I traded the magazine for this Asus tablet I'm typing on, on my way out the door. Good thing too because that magazine would not have lasted very long in the ER. Besides I've been able to keep in touch with all of you on Facebook.
Well I hope the radiology people show up soon because I'm all tapped out of things to write about and I'm getting bored too. I'd rather have a very slow one hour run than an excruciating wait here in my hospital room. Thanks for all your well wishes my friends.

p.s. My room is located in 2 East Unit which is now a telemetry unit. I used to work in this unit 10 years ago when it was still a dual diagnosis psych unit called New Beginnings. I hope when I get discharged, I will have happy endings.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Another Visit To The Emergency Room

Well here I am in the Lakewood Regional Medical Center Emergency Department and a code blue has just been called. I jokingly asked the nurse if it was for me. It is 7:53 pm now and I've been here since about 4:30. At about 2:30 p.m. today I started feeling some chest discomfort at home. I was hoping it would resolve itself thinking it was just the heat getting to me. After an hour passed, I started thinking about calling 911. When the pain intensified and I started getting dizzy and anxious, I chewed an asprin tablet and finally dialed the number. I don't know how long it took for the paramedics to get to me but it must not have been more than 5 minutes. Update on the code blue which is in the bed next to mine. They just pronounced her death.
So about 6 firemen/paramedics showed up, asked me a few questions, hooked me up to the EKG machine, and evaluated me.They said just to make sure, they were going to take me to the emergency room. I told them that the hospital that my doctor sees me is Lakewood Regional. I was able to walk myself to the gurney downstairs where the medics strapped me in. My neighbors who saw me were probably wondering what happened to this guy who exercises every day? Oh, the medics were asking me about my marathon medals and my PR and the one who was in the ambulance said he ran his first marathon [L.A.] two years ago and finished in3:25. He was trying to qualify for Boston but his BQ time is 3:10. Before he left me in the ER, I suggested that he join Runner's High club if he lives in Long Beach and wants to get faster. He said he might consider it since he trained in his own to get that 3:25 first marathon.
Here in the ER they did the usual EKG, chest x-ray, and blood tests. To pass the time I read one of the free books I downloaded from Amazon Kindle. Oh I forgot, I still had the presence of mind to ask the medics if I could bring my tablet PC because being in an ER can be very boring and they said yes. What surprised me was that the hospital wi-fi extended to the ER. Imagine, Facebooking in ER. Almost ridiculous.
Four hours after admission, the doctor notified me that there was a mild abnormality with the EKG so they are going to admit me to the telemetry unit for observation. My cardiac enzymes were ok but my red blood cell count and hemoglobin was slightly low.
My best guess or hope anyway is that the combination of muscular chest pain from lifting weights plus the heat plus the anxiety they caused is the reason for this attack and not heart disease. It doesn't help that I haven't been sleeping too well lately either.
Well that's it for now and I'll update as time goes on.