Perhaps it is as Aji has suggested, the time of year when ghosts walk the earth. The sky feels heavy today. Or perhaps it is the article in TPM about Mitt Romney’s insensitivity when talking about not letting the uninsured die in their apartments. Apparently we let them die in the Emergency Room instead.
Because by the time they make it to the ER it is usually too late to save them. My brother tried. He learned that the best time to visit the Emergency Room at Highland Hospital in Oakland was early Thursday or Friday morning, between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. It didn’t do him much good though, as he was repeatedly sent home with a handful of Vicodin. Which of course, has never been known to cure lung cancer.
By the time he was admitted, his life was saved on the floor of the admitting area of the ER as his heart finally gave out. He called her the “ninja nurse,” the young trauma nurse who saved him from that death on the floor.
But a ninja nurse could not save him from the price of the long neglect of his cancer. From the initial missed diagnosis to the referral for treatment that could not be filled for four long months. He was admitted, finally, and treated for atrial fibrillation first, and then cancer. It didn't take long for him to die at that point. Just a couple of pain filled months.
You see, Mitt, (hope you don’t mind if I call you Mitt, I know it may sound overly familiar and demeaning to those who don’t realize you feel so free to speak of my brother as if you were on a first name basis) Americans don’t get their health care from Emergency Rooms, because ERs are not set up to provide health care. They are geared to treat emergencies. Lung cancer is not an emergency until it is ready to kill you. And by then the ER can no longer help.
So yes, we do let people stay in their apartments and die. Not in your world, I’m sure, but in the reality that most Americans occupy, yes, we do let them die. A little over a year ago that was shocking when it was first suggested at a primary debate. Today it passes with barely a murmur.
But your words hurt me. I haven’t forgotten. And when I walked outside today and felt the first hint of winter in the air I thought of my brother and his annual Thanksgiving visit that once again, he will not make, leaving me with that much less for which to be thankful.
And I know too many of the 47% who go to work every day, praying that they will not become ill because they have no health insurance. They work hard, these waitresses, hair dressers, landscapers and construction workers, whenever work is available. It is hard physical labor for which they earn just enough to keep food on the table and clothes on the backs of their children. There is no extra money for healthcare so they must remain well.
I don’t understand a society in which healthcare is denied to its citizens by those who profess loudly and repeatedly a reverence for life and for the teachings of Jesus Christ. He healed the sick. He did not let them die in their apartments or in emergency rooms.
The anger that I felt last year is gone. It has been replaced by a soul crushing grief and sadness. I miss the anger. It gave me strength. Is that what you are counting on, Mitt? That those of us who grieve the early loss of loved ones due to unequal access to healthcare will just give up? That we will stop caring about strangers who face the same fate as those we loved?
Today is one of sadness and tears. But tomorrow or the next day, Mitt, I will find some remnant of that anger again. And I will again refuse to believe your lie, no matter how often or how loudly you repeat it. Americans die every day because they lack access to health care. Alone. In their apartments or in ERs.
And that is just wrong.