The Journey Begins

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“What the hell am I doing?”

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“Wha- . . . what the hell did I just do????”

That was me February of 2017 having just purchased the Certified Professional Coder Training Program on AAPC’s website and thus diving feet-first into my new career as a medical coder. At the time, I did not have a single clue as to what I was about to get my crazy self into.

Looking back, however, as I sat there staring at the ‘Thank You for your purchase!’ message and hearing the huge sucking sound coming from my checking account, I wish I could have whispered in my naive self’s ear that I had just made the best decision of my life.

Let me back up just a tad.

My name is Andrew. As of this posting I am 41 years old and I’ve worked as a professional photographer for most of my adult life. I’ve been shooting since a very early age, but I picked up the camera for the first time for pay in the fall of 1997 when I photographed a friend’s wedding. I eventually went pro in 2005 after graduating from Hallmark School of Photography. Needless to say, photography was my life. Heck, I practically bled film developer!

So, why the (not so) obvious change to medical coding? It’s a simple, yet complex answer.

In 2009, my husband, Chris, survived a life-changing medical event – a DVT with subsequent ‘Pulmonary Storm’. His lungs were riddled with clots. As a strictly artistic person I was lost. I had absolutely no idea what the doctors were talking about. I felt like a lost little boy in a big, scary world and I did not like that feeling one bit. ”What is a DVT?” “What do you mean they’re injecting rat poison into him?”

When the storm cleared, figuratively and medically, Chris went thru a long recovery involving different medications and treatments. Again, that lost little boy appeared. I did not feel capable enough to help in Chris’s recovery. Also, what if this happened again? What if something bad happened to someone else I loved? I’m not the type of person to rely blindly on others.

By nature I’m an autodidact. So in the years after Chris’s event I slowly taught myself anatomy, physiology, and some basic pharmacology. I wanted to be at least a little prepared should another life-changing event occur to a loved one. YouTube and Google became my BFFs.

Throughout that journey of discovery I kept encountering a curious term: medical coding. I dismissed it envisioning pimply nerds with pocket-protectors and buck-teeth furiously typing away on computers in their Mom’s basement. Boy, was I ever wrong! The more I learned about this mysterious profession, the more I was intrigued and fascinated. But, it was just that – something interesting. It wasn’t anything to give up my business of almost 20 years for.

That opportunity to switch professions came Memorial Day Weekend 2016.

The Crockerfellers (myself, Chris, and our two disgruntled tuxedo cats) packed our bags and moved from Boston to Austin. The move represented a much needed change for us – warmth and fresh opportunities New England just wasn’t providing. Austin presented itself and we accepted.

Now was the time for me to put on my floaters, hold my nose, and take the plunge feet-first into medical coding.

In the last two years I’ve grown to love the decision I made switching careers instead of starting my photography business from ground zero. I’ve graduated out of my floaters and I don’t have to hold my nose anymore! I’ve embraced many different aspects of the medical coder field from coding to risk adjustment to compliance. In November of 2017, I passed the CPC (Certified Professional Coder) with a 94%, and the following June I scored a 97% on the COSC (Certified Orthopaedic Surgery Coder).

And I’m not done yet!

So, I’m starting this blog for a couple of reasons. I hope in some way I can help those scared individuals holding their noses at the pool’s edge with their floaters on staring down into the dark abyss. It’s a scary jump, I know, but totally worth it! Perhaps if I shared a bit of my journey that plunge will not seem so daunting.

Secondly, I’m writing this blog for myself. I’ve always had a love for research and learning and this field is chock full of nuts with both. Perhaps putting out the little and big things I’ve learned will help me grow even more. And, more importantly, it’ll help fortify my psyche for the next time a life-changing event occurs. I know I won’t be that lost little boy again.

So, pop your floaters and dive in! I hope you enjoy this blog! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

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