A Case for Good Health

WritingI just saw the video of the interview Michelle Obama gave to the Rev. Al Sharpton regarding healthcare. No matter your opinion of the Reverend, it’s all about the interview. Michelle spoke about her experience as a young mom who suddenly had a sick child and how helpless a mom feels when she has a child who is sick and there’s nothing you can do to help him or her. It brought tears to my eyes because it brought back memories of my experience. Within a few minutes of my twin’s birth, when they were barely named Marcus (twin A) and Malcolm (twin B ), Marcus was literally taken from my arms and rushed by ambulance from Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati to Children’s Hospital because of an anomaly in his heart. As it turned out, besides being born eleven weeks early, Marcus was born with Pulmonary Valve Stenosis. Within the first two months of his life spent in neonatal care, he underwent two open heart surgeries. He died during one of those surgeries and was revived. Due to the lack of oxygen to his brain, he developed cerebral palsy. This left him 100 percent disabled with cortical visual impairment, meaning he was blind because of the brain damage.

I was 22 years old at the time. Since I’m a woman and women learn early the importance of annual exams, I was smart enough to have health insurance.

The bills came in. I saw what the insurance company paid to the hospital and what our portion was. Our portion wasn’t much, but I was a young mother who suddenly had to leave work. My husband at the time made just below seven dollars an hour because he was going through training at a new job. This made me the bread-winner, and I only made a little more than 20 grand a year. I stopped calculating the hospital bills after two hundred thousand. Our portion was a few thousand of that. Even that was a bit much. We had no money, twins, and one who was gravely ill.

Marcus came home and because he was insured, I was able to get Marcus lots of therapy, both physical and occupational and regular visits from a therapist from the Cincinnati Association for the Blind. We got three years with Marcus, and in those three years, because he had health insurance he was not in need of ANYTHING. Marcus was a happy baby with a brilliant, beautiful, and large smile. He had my smile.

When I read some of the opposition to the healthcare law, I get angry. It does make me sad. It leaves me speechless most times. I find it appalling when I hear and see people worth millions of dollars (lawmakers and television/radio personalities)…people who will not have to worry if they or a family member got sick convince people they don’t need/want health insurance or deny people who could get it the opportunity to have it. Do you think that if you lost your home or personal wealth due to a health crisis they would call you a responsible American? Even if you did everything they’d advised? Do you think if you went through what I went through and you didn’t have healthcare, they would care? Think hard about that.

Having a healthy child is something we sometimes take for granted. Health is something we take for granted. When I turned 40 I was diagnosed with Lupus. This disease is not the result of living a dangerous lifestyle. Rheumatoid Arthritis runs in my family, so it isn’t surprising to me that I would inherit this disease. It is very common for women (1 in 12), especially over 40 to be diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. But just as I was diagnosed with Lupus, a healthy male co-worker went to an optometrist one day and was told to go immediately to the hospital–to not even go home. He called his wife and told her to meet him there. Turned out he had a large brain tumor and needed surgery immediately. A wonderful friend of mine was, one day running marathons and kayaking, and years later confined to a wheelchair—robbed by Multiple sclerosis. These illnesses do not care what political party you pull the level for. It can happen to anyone.

The argument that people are losing their doctor of choice because of the healthcare law also infuriates me. I have insurance provided by my employer and sometimes policies and providers change. I’ve had to change doctors, hospitals–even my rheumatologist. The argument that this happens just because of the healthcare law is bogus. It happens!

We need to get over ourselves in this country. We need to find our way back to community, back to humanity. If I have to pay 40 to 100 dollars more so that my neighbor can have healthcare, then sign me up. Is our need for the biggest house, the fastest car, the largest bank account worth watching people die, needlessly in the wealthiest country, with the most innovative medical technology? Am I worried that someone less deserving will get healthcare at my expense? The day we think that is the day we become less deserving as a country. NO ONE is less deserving of good health.