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First off, let me say that everything is alright.  She's OK.  Thank goodness.

But as my wife and I were sitting in the emergency room waiting to check out after my daughter's clear prognosis, we looked at each other and I said to her, "I'm glad we could come here tonight."

You see, because of my wife's job, we have health insurance.

My girls, ages 6 and 7, love to go down to the cul-de-sac and play with one of their friends when they get home from school.  Ordinarily, we have a good deal of homework to do, so they are elated when they get the chance to let their hair down and just be kids.  After they asked me in that way that I can't refuse, I let them go down to their friend's neck of the woods.  Moreover, I gave them permission to go into another kid's backyard to play.

(Let me say at this point that I still have trouble letting my kids go anywhere by themselves.  Whether it's next door or down the street, I always have a knot in my stomach when I can't reach them easily.  They are going to grow up more sheltered than I did, of this I am certain, but I am going to do everything I can to keep them from harm.  They are good enough kids so that won't be freaks or brats or whatever.)

After some time, my oldest came in slightly breathlessly and told me that my youngest was hurt and didn't want to come home.  She told me that her sister decided to go under the trampoline while the other kids were jumping on it and that another kid jumped on her head.  Furthermore, she told me that she tried to pull her sister onto the trampoline, lost her grip, and that my youngest fell down again.

I got up from what I was doing and went down there as quickly as I could to find my youngest still crying in a chair near the trampoline, her face scraped up slightly.  She had been given a bag of ice and was holding it in her lap.  I got the story from her and the owner of the house came out and gave me a somewhat nonchalant version of events gathered from what the other kids told him.  I have no idea if he was planning on sending someone to tell me anything; my oldest, good girl that she is, came on her own.  She's 7.

My youngest told me that her back was hurting, but she appeared to be able to walk.  To test how bad it was, we walked back to the house without her being carried.  She was in a bunch of pain, but she seemed to be walking OK.  Normally, she's a bit of an overreactor, so I had to compensate for that, but there was no doubt in my mind that she was in genuine pain.

I called our local Ask-A-Nurse service, who advised me to take her to the emergency room to make sure there weren't any concussion symptoms or any damage to my girl's spine or the discs in it.  After loading my kids in the car, I called my wife to come and meet us at the emergency room.  My oldest and I had to work the entire way to try and keep my youngest awake; she wanted to go to sleep.  

Upon arrival, I impressed upon the staff at the emergency room that I would like her checked for a concussion immediately, and then they could make us wait in line just like everyone else. (I have found out since that going to sleep isn't the problem, it's when they go unconscious and won't wake back up.  But hey, I'm a medical layman.)  They did so, and we began our wait.  My lovely wife got there, and I filled her in.

Sooner than I would have imagined, they called my daughter back for X-rays and a CAT scan.  She wanted Mommy, so my oldest and I waited in the lobby for our other half to come back.  A little later, she came out beaming at the cool new things she got to experience.  It was then that I knew she was going to be OK.  Shortly thereafter, the doctor confirmed my belief.

As we were waiting to be checked out, I realized how damned lucky we are to be able to take our children to an emergency room or doctor without a moment's hesitation solely in the interest of making sure.  I didn't think for a second whether or not we could afford to do it; we have had a pretty active year medically so I knew that we were unlikely to have to pay anything of consequence.  All I had to worry about was my precious angel and that her back was hurt.  Period.

We aren't rich.  My wife turned a temp job into a full-time position at a educational testing company and made herself invaluable to them.  She has survived layoffs and demotions and works her butt off to keep her job, partially because it is the only way we could possibly afford health insurance.  

I am a solo criminal defense attorney whose clients are not incredibly disciplined (for lack of a better term) about paying their bills.  In the past when I tried to find affordable health insurance, the rates were too high, so we went without.  As many of you know, having small children at the same time you are not covered by a health policy is a harrowing experience.

But tonight, we had what we needed.  Because we worked hard and had the opportunity to go to school and obtain graduate degrees, we have been able to get what so many people in our country lack: the peace of mind that we will be able to take care of our kids in the most vital of ways.

Folks, I remember the bad old days when we didn't have health insurance.  Not only did I feel helpless, I felt as though I was somehow failing my children in my duties as their father by not protecting them.  It was only through dumb luck and extreme caution that we escaped harm to our kids and ourselves.  

This is the real reason we need adequate health care in this country.  For people to be productive and happy, they have to feel like all of their ducks are in a row.  I have seen it in my day-to-day interaction with my clients; if they can't get a hold on their personal lives, they have absolutely no hope of being able to pay their case the proper attention.

Imagine if we had a nation full of people who knew that they could take their kids to the doctor when they needed to, without having to worry about also paying the rent or the electric bill!  Imagine the pride people would feel knowing that they have got this aspect of parenting covered, and that no one can get in their way!  Imagine the child who never has to see their parents get sick and have to grin and bear it because they can't do anything about it!

Imagine.

If we are really serious about providing the American Dream for each and every one of us (and even them), this is where to start.  The wave of American confidence that will roll forth if such a plan were to come to fruition will bring us much closer to repairing the crippling damage done to us and our psyches over the last seven years.  We will look to the future and be able to see promise instead of roadblocks.

And it will stem from this one thing.

My daughter might be sore tomorrow, but it's nothing that the doctor thinks Children's Motrin won't take care of.  That's what he told me when we were able to get an examination and opinion from a competent professional.  

And I am oh so thankful.

Originally posted to Zarate on Wed Sep 17, 2008 at 11:44 PM PDT.

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