I come home to find her in bed, crying. The pain is so bad she can't move. Her back had been getting better, or so we thought, but then something 'popped', and the pain became unbearable. I hold her and tell her to call me at work when it gets this bad, but she refuses. "You've missed too much work already taking care of me" she argues.
It is difficult... seeing her in so much pain, feeling this helpless. She won't go to the hospital. She was nearly bankrupted last time she went even though she had health insurance, and now she has none. With a history of cancer in the family and various preexisting conditions, she is effectively uninsurable. I plead with her to go, insisting I will pay for it, but that just makes her more certain not to. She doesn't want to be a burden.
"I had things I needed to do today, but I couldn't move." Her voice is quiet. Defeated. "I know I've been lazy sometimes in the past. Sometimes I've procrastinated when I had something to do, even when I felt fine and there was nothing stopping me." Her voice becomes a shuddering sigh. The tears are flowing more strongly now. "I regret every one of those times."
Our dog Abby begins to whine. She knows something is wrong. I scratch her ear and try to reassure her. "It's OK honey, Mama's going to be OK."
"She doesn't understand..." The words catch in her throat. She begins to sob, and the sobs bring new stabs of pain. "She doesn't understand why I don't walk her anymore!"
I can't take it. This has to stop. "Maybe you can go to England." This time she doesn't fight me, just buries her head in my chest, crying a muffled "OK".
She used to joke about it. "If things get really bad here, I'll just renew my British passport and move to England." We never thought it would really come to that. We are not even sure it is possible. She was born in the United Arab Emirates to a British father and an American mother. She has lived in the US since she was three, but as far as we know she still has dual citizenship.
I don't want to send her away, and she doesn't want to leave, but I don't know what else to do. I've been watching the hope drain out of her eyes for months now. Today I saw some of it come back. The possibility of actual medical care without the crushing worry of financial ruin. We've started the process; digging through boxes to find her old passport, looking up the renewal process on the web, contacting her father for copies of various documents. It will be a couple of months at least before we get a new passport, if she can get one at all. The process to renew a non-resident passport that has been expired more than 10 years is... well... daunting. But we have hope. That is something. Actually, right now, it is everything.
But I still find it hard to believe. In this country, with all our wealth and technical achievements, I have to send the woman I love to the other side of the planet to get medical care. Un-fucking-believable. The only thing I find more ridiculous is that some of our elected representatives actually defend our dysfunctional status quo health care system. I make this promise to those politicians: Until my girlfriend and I have access to an affordable public health care option, every penny we would be spending on insurance will instead fund your opponent in the next primary or general election.
I guess I'll close with a request for help. We don't need money (if my girlfriend won't take it from me she won't take it from strangers), but any advice on navigating the passport renewal process would be appreciated. Also, are there any limitations on using the British NHC that we should know about? Is there a reciprocal agreement with Canada that would save us a trip to England? If so, are their any Canadian Kossacks that could help us out? (we have relatives in England but none up north)
Finally, I should mention that the there are a bunch of house parties happening this weekend to plan and organize the health care fight. If you are in the Milwaukee WI area and want to attend mine, you can get details and RSVP on my.barackobama.com. To find or host a party in your area, select one of the 'Events' links on the right side of that page. I'm usually not one to pimp my own diaries, but please consider rec'ing this just so others know about the house parties; or better yet, mention it in your own diary, email to your friends, etc.
Thank you for the rec listing, if only because it will generate more well-wishing comments that my girlfriend can read while immobilized. I also want to thank everyone who posted advice. I've already read several therapy or treatment methods I had not previously heard of. If I don't get a chance to tip everyone that deserves it, I apologize. I only just got to work and I won't be able to respond to comments again until much later in the day.
(I am not responsible for the SEIU ad that will probably be tacked onto this diary)