In Keith Olbermann's Special Comment about Health Care reform this evening, he mentions running into his friend Mike. Mike's daughter is in the hospital. Mike must sell his farm and asks Keith to buy his baseball card collection, because he needs the money to pay for his daughter's medical care.
I am not literally Mike's daughter. Mike says she has Lyme Disease and that when they address one things, something else comes up. That's me. I have Lyme Disease and frightening complications. I have insurance. I am not getting care. I cannot afford it. I am facing the potential loss of my home, with no means to pay for another. I am Mike's daughter. I am Mike, too, as I have no father now and he didn't help me the way Mike is helping his daughter, even when he was alive. I am one of the millions whom we as a society have deemed not worth caring for.
Not ever having a father who cared to offer me care and protection or any peace of mind, I watched Olbermann's piece tonight practically wanting to be smothered by an embrace. Here is a privileged member of our society, able to see that he is so just by luck and willing to do what he can to fight for those less fortunate than himself. Would that my life had a layer of that embracing me throughout. The sense that no matter what came, there was a fundamental peace of mind that I would always have: that I would not have to suffer more than necessary, face a vastly increased chance of premature death, because I don't have money.
Yet, my life has not had that. Not within my family, not within my community and certainly not from my country. Not in that persistent, unwavering way that leaves you peace of mind, where you do not endure the constant stress of financial doom, homelessness, and loss of dignity because you became ill.
Certainly, there have been people who have cared. It has been amazing to me to see how strangers and near strangers are more willing to concretely help than family. I am extraordinarily lucky that my ex has been willing to provide for me best he can. But it has strained him financially beyond what he can really bear and, repeatedly, we've faced financial crisis. A problem that spirals once you pass a certain point. While I have certainly had a roof over my head, it is not without worry that this foundation to a stable life could be taken away. It has been precarious. And the stress detracts from the ability to regain health. I worry not just for myself, but for my daughter who will be 10 on Halloween. (We'll call her Zuna here.)
Yes, Zuna was born on Halloween. Just as her grandfather had been. It is both fun and symbolically dark: welcome to the nightmare of life.
From all reports, Zuna is a happy child. But she lives with worry about her mother. And I live with feeling that I am failing her. That my body has betrayed me into being so much less of a mother than I wanted to be. I had such dreams of what I would provide for my child that was never provided for me. The main things be stability and the constancy of feeling loved. I can assure she feels loved. Stability is another thing. How can she feel stable when there are days her mother can't walk. Or can't see. Or can't remember how to get to the bathroom.
I was heartbroken yesterday when she came upstairs with a glass of water and bowl with pills and said, "Mom, I think you forgot to take your medicine with your lunch."
A 10-year old child should not have to be paying attention to such things. I kick myself for putting her in that position.
I loathe the society that has let me get here. You see, I didn't have to be. If the system did not rely on a test that is 55% inaccurate and refuse to pay for further testing, even so, I would have been diagnosed 2 years earlier than I was. Had I not gone so long untreated, putting an enormous strain on my immune system, I would not have acquired the two auto-immune disorders that ensued. Even if I had been diagnosed, though, there is a chance I would not have been allowed the full treatment I needed. Still, here I am with very debilitating illnesses, a person who was damn healthy for 42 years. Who led a healthy lifestyle as an amateur athlete, a healthy eater, a non-drinker. I did not do anything that put me at greater risk than normal. I have had health insurance all my life.
Still, I am denied care. I am denied because the insurance companies will hire doctors who are willing to give them any justification for denying testing or treatment, regardless of patient need, or patient health, or patient pain or growing risk of death.
Our health care system is like a casino. You put your money on the table, hoping to be dealt a good hand. The insurance industry is the House, though. The House always wins.
Now, I'm watching our elected officials force us all to gamble at the insurance industry House. I don't see the reform here. I have insurance. Forcing everybody to ante up isn't the answer. We need an intervention. We need to pull the addicted system out of the casino. Until then, we're a heartless society that undermines its own attempts at greatness. We can only achieve greatness when people are healthy enough to achieve anything and have enough peace of mind to focus their attention on creative problem solving for things beyond staving off the creditors.
I dream of a society that uses its resources to protect the most vulnerable members. Right now, I live in my dreams. I have little ability to face the real world, because the real world, though interspersed with some kindness, is full of cruel people who care only for themselves. People who protect their multi-million dollar incomes at the expense of people who are dying due to lack of money. People who stand by and say nothing when others are cruel.
For 42 years, I fought for myself. I fought hard. I fought to rise above the abuse I grew up with. I fought for self-esteem after being told by my father for 18 years that he couldn't wait until I wasn't his obligation any more. Many, many years of therapy. Many, many years of taking care of myself. Many, many years of working hard and be self-sustaining. Not always successful. but always resourceful. And I worked with an internal mission of serving others. I wanted to be doing good. I embraced the concept of servant-leadership. I wasn't perfect. I had to face my foibles and try to do better.
Then I was struck with illness. Neurological illness. Though I have emotional support and, as I said, financial support from my ex, as far as society is concerned, I am a cast away. I'm not "productive" and I don't deserve the care that could help me regain some productivity because its more important for insurance companies to make money.
That's the bottom line: it's more important to our society for corporations to make money than it is for people to be cared for. People are disposable. Corporations aren't. The wealthy deserve to keep gathering wealth. The rest of us can just die. Who cares?
Caring isn't just about feeling compassion. Caring isn't just about thinking someone deserves better. Caring is an act of taking care. You care for a plant by watering it, not by telling it that you care. In the United States of America who cares for the people without enough money to pay for the health care they need? Who cares enough to make sure that our health care dollars are actually insuring the we get health care services? Tell me. Who cares?
UPDATE: Thank you all for the lovely comments. I do feel very embraced by the DKos community. And cared for, as all of you are the reason I was even able to get the testing to identify the auto-immune disorders. What I think is telling in these comments, though:
Not one comment mentions a national leader who is demonstrating real care and really fighting for true reform. We can't even say Obama is doing it, as his plan seems to be to feed the House. Do we have a single leader who really cares?
Update 2: Sawgrass is the first to point out a national leader who might be fighting for what is really needed: Howard Dean. Any news on what he's working on and how its going?