Tag Archives: healthcare

This is why I believe in affordable healthcare

16 Jan

View story at Medium.com

I’ll always remember the screams in the other room and that sound marked a divide: my life before my Dad got sick and the after-life. I was 19 years old, and my greatest concern at that time was whether I should have bought those pink puma sneakers that I had encountered the day before — the coolest shoes at the time.

I ran into the laundry room and saw my Mom on her knees, “your Dad’s been fired,” she said. In disbelief, I asked why.

My Dad was a hard-working man, from a lower-middle class Jewish family. His father, my grandfather, was a vendor, selling programs and beer at concerts and Cubs games. Beloved by all, my Grandpa helped to provide for three kids, with two of them going to college.

My Dad was a teacher turned business-man, who got swept up in the 60s and believed in social reform. He believed in this country, before he turned bitter, and he believed in people’s power to impact good.

He was always disappointed that I was not more socially active, but outside of that he adored me. Being a father was the absolute, greatest joy of his life, and he devoted his life to raising me — giving me hours of his time in a way that I didn’t see replicated by anyone else’s dads.

However, at 19 I found out that he had been having seizures, “adult-epilepsy,” was what the doctors said, and he wasn’t responding to any of the drugs that they were giving him.

He had a seizure at work, while leading a meeting. A week later he was fired. When we took the company to court, his boss stood on the stand and lied.

Adult epilepsy turned into TIAs: small strokes that eroded his short-term memory, so that when he got a new job he was unable to remember anything that he had learned — and so he was fired again.

Soon he wasn’t permitted to drive, and then he had open-heart surgery, and then his blood wouldn’t clot, and then his kidneys stopped working, and then he was sitting there pen & paper in hand, doing worksheets meant for second graders — in an effort to retain anything.

Meanwhile, we had health insurance. In fact, we had some of the best health insurance available, as my Mom was a nurse. Still, the bills piled up. For every procedure there was a dollar amount attached to it.

I felt helpless — I offered to transfer colleges (to an in-state one). I got a job and started paying my own bills and buying my own books. It didn’t feel like enough.

I sat in waiting rooms with my Mom, both hospital and administrative, making sure my Dad got the care that he needed, while making sure our family didn’t go broke. All the while making sure I was able to complete school, so that I could at least have a chance at contributing to the society that held our patriotism in its fist.

And, I will never forget how many times my Dad, my Daddy said to me, “I’d be better off to you and your Mom dead,” and I would push back my tears, smile, and tell him how much I loved him — I would tell him how wrong he was.

But, he was draining the family: emotionally and financially, and there was no denying it.

Having someone you love slowly deteriorate over an eleven year period is a certain kind of hell that no one deserves. It is a constant drowning, and the only way to keep living, is to grasp onto anything, any hope, any resilience and this will keep you afloat.

To take this family, any family, and put financial stress on them is a level of cruelty I cannot understand.

Making sure my father took his 42 pills a day was hard enough on my Mom, and then she would sit there at night, with her pile of papers, and figure out how we would pay for it all.

My family is one of many families, and we were luckier than most. White, educated, insured with other family around to support us. But, in the waiting rooms around the country there are families who have less and need more through no fault of their own.

I know Obamacare, or better put, the Affordable Healthcare Act isn’t perfect; that a lot of work needs to be done there. However, right now there is nothing to replace it, and we cannot let those who are supported by it suffer and drown.

One of our unalienable rights, as citizens of The United States is, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and taking away a person’s healthcare with no replacement, takes away any hope of all three. For without health — nothing else is possible.

Experiencing the United States Social Security & Healthcare System

3 Sep

Today I went to the Social Security office with my Mom because she’s planning for her retirement. The offices open at 9:00 am and we got there at 8:45 – there was already a line.

A uniformed man shouted that, “no food or drink were allowed inside,” so I chugged my coffee.

When our number was called the woman told us that we had to go to another office nearby. “This is a problem for the State,” she said.

My Mom looked like her mouth was full of sour lemons and her grey roots were showing. She kept saying, “see no one can help us,” but the fact is they can. It’s just incredibly difficult, especially for someone who has her own things to deal with.

My Father has now been sick for eleven years and each year he gets worse. This experience has taught me a lot about the United States Health Care system, Unemployment and Disability. What I’ve seen is both frustrating and frightening.

Ill people and their families have to wade through a convoluted labyrinth of programming and often there is no one to talk to, “it’s all online,” they say, but what if you’re 65 years old and don’t have an email address?

There are three hour wait times just to be called up to window to make an appointment for the next time or to get told that, “you haven’t been unemployed long enough to receive help.”

It takes 2-3 months to get any paperwork processed because, “they’re behind,” and personally it took my Father two years to get approved for disability, even though he suffered strokes, seizures, has a greatly depleted short term memory and walks with a cane.

And my Family is lucky. My Mom still somewhat holds down her job as a nurse, there are Roth IRAs and Annuities – there are safety nets.

However, despite any savings, how long does money last with medical expenses and no income? Why should people suffer for being sick, disabled, old or laid off? These things are hard enough unto themselves.

They divide families and deplete spirits.

I look around at the Social Security office, or the State office, and I see such anger and suffering. I see people of all colors and ages attempting to understand how and why they got there and what needs to be done to get out.

On our way to the office I hear on the morning news that the United States implemented a Drone attack on Somalia, trying to kill the leader of the militant group al-Shabab.

It all seems wrong to me. It’s a cycle of Defense, Attack, Protect, and here within, ill people are trying to navigate systems that are designed to be difficult so less are served.

I do think a huge shift is slowly occurring in our society; that the generation beneath mine is looking more toward healing, and I don’t think this shift can happen fast enough.

We on both an individual, societal, national and global level need to learn how to recognize our fears, and sit with them instead of always turning against the other. We need to, even on a small scale, look at how the communities we exist within help those in need, and not just assume that everyone who is receiving help is taking advantage of the system.

We need to evaluate what our nations our investing in and hold our leaders accountable because I guarantee the cost it took to build a Drone could also pay for someone’s much-needed operation.

Of course, I hope one day to exist in a world where we don’t need Drones or Bombs, but I am not so naive. Still, we are the United States of America, and yet we so rarely united on any issue regarding the internal care of our people.

I think all teenagers should be assigned a hypothetical income and problem, and then go through the system and attempt to solve it. They’ll see how it feels to be left waiting, clutching a number and being told, “no.”

Then these children will grow up and maybe instead of investing their knowledge in weaponry or material gain, they’ll be inspired to use their brains to create systems that will help heal the many families who live within our nation.

Hospitals and Thanksgiving in Ecuador

30 Nov

Ecuador was a country that I wasn’t planning on visiting before my trip.  I had thought that I could fly straight from Colombia to Lima on the cheap.  Having done no prior research this was a somewhat delusional thought, and after weeks in Colombia I ended up on a bus crossing the border into Ecuador.

I had very low expectations of the country.  I had heard the capital, “Quito sucked,” and I didn’t know what else there was to see.  Though, looking out my bus window, I knew that I was wrong to expect so little.  The country had the immediate beauty of endless green rolling hills and Andean mountains, and so I decided to stay longer than just a few days.

It is now Thanksgiving, marking (I believe) my third week in Ecuador.  This was not part of my plan, nor was my plan to spend Thanksgiving alone in a hostal in Banos where I have also been for about a week.

I wasn’t even sure about visiting Banos.  It was in the North, and I had impulsively gone South with two Spanish guys – Felipe and Conrad.  We had spent two nights in Quito and it didn’t suck at all, though our hostals did.

The Old Colonial City of Quito had been restored to its former glory, complete with narrow, cobblestone streets that invoked Europe.  The city parks were crowded with people playing music, working out and performing, such as the comedian who made fun of The United States once he spotted me in the crowd.

After we returned to our smelly hostal full of people who seemed like they would not be allowed in other hostals we made plans to go out that evening.  Felipe invited an obese man with a scar on his forehead that wasn’t sure how he got it because he was, “so drunk,” to lead the way.

It wasn’t a complete surprise that this man lead us to a bar called Tequila and reminded me of the places my friends and I would sneak into when we were underage.

The next day we departed for Montanita, the town I  couldn’t leave,  It’s a cloudy, tiny, surf town complete with endless booths of artisans and cocktails.  There was even a street named Cocktail Alley lined with booths selling any kind of tropical cocktail one can dream of for $2.

Montanita was endlessly cloudy, and I believe I received about 50 mosquito bites while I there.   This number is not an exaggeration.

Occasionally, I wonder, “Why did I stay in Montanita for five days?”  Yes, I was frequently hungover but not every day.  Yes, I did make friends with a group of Israelis and yes one of them gave me a tour of the area on his motorcycle, and let me tell you there is nothing like zipping down a deserted beach on the back of the bike.

Of course, a boy leaned in to kiss me on a beach as the sunset and yes he was kind, but that still wasn’t it.

Truthfully, I got lazy, but on the fifth morning I couldn’t take the monotony and so I set off for Lima, or Banos, and booked hostels in both cities even though Lima was in Peru and Banos was in the complete opposite direction in Northern Ecuador.

It wasn’t until I got to the bus stain in Guayaquil that I decided Banos just seemed right, and right I was because after about five minutes of being there I heard my name being called out a window, and I looked up to see my friend Tom.

For the next two days I hiked, recovered from the hike and went to the thermal baths.  I reveled in the mountain air and lack of mosquitoes and wondered why every other store was a candy shop.

I woke up on day three with a 100 degree fever.  I thought, “oh I had too much fun in Montanita,” but then things got worse.

The extraordinarily kind Argentinan couple staying in my room said, “we’re taking you to the Doctor tomorrow,” and this is how I ended up in an Ecuadorian emergency room.  No insurance needed.

There wasn’t really a waiting room.  Just this kind of indoor/outdoor space with two chairs.  I found out it was more crowded than usual because there had been a bad accident earlier that day and some laborers got hurt.

While I wasn’t happy to hear people were hurt, I felt reassured that all the people wearing filthy, torn clothing, coming in and out of the emergency room weren’t the people who were going to treat me.

However, reassured was the last thing I should have been feeling because an hour later I am face down with my pants off and a nurse is plunging a needle into my ass – medicine unknown.

At this point I am in hysterics.  Not only did I need to be convinced by three different people to accept this shot, but at the first attempt I stop the nurse and begin trying to negotiate a way out of it.

Sobbing I feel the slight prick and then a burning.  Afterward I’m prescribed three different medicines of doom, as all three just made everything worse.

Yes, the hospital prescribed me the wrong medicine, and it wasn’t until it was clear nothing was changing that I went private.  Again the kind couple took me and again the waiting room confused me, as it managed to be both in & outdoors.  The Argentinians spoke for me, and later the character of a doctor told me had he known I was from the US he would’ve charged me triple.

Five dollars later and shot free, I finally have the proper prescriptions in hand.

So now I’ve been in beautiful Banos for over a week now, celebrating Thanksgiving with barely eaten pumpkin soup and two strangers who watched Friends reruns with me, though these strangers are now more friends.

You know, I thought I couldn’t leave Montanita, but never could I have envisioned Banos.