This is the final photo of my son, taken six weeks before he died. I hate to even look at it, but there it is. He weighed about 104 -- and he would lose another 15 or so pounds before he finally starved to death.
I wasn't even going to save the photo because I prefer to remember my son as a healthy, funny, hyperactive clown. But this is what I live with now -- the memory of a gaunt, pain-wracked young man.
If Mike had been able to get the colonoscopies he needed, he would still be the person I want to remember.
Instead, we as a society refuse to extend care to all human beings, and 17,000 people die each year in states that have refused to expand Medicaid to cover people in poverty. In North Carolina alone, that number is 2,800. That's seven people a day. Seven human beings who were loved by their family and friends, just as my son was.
I helped organize a die-in this last week in Raleigh, and the eulogist, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, suggested we have open-casket funerals for the people who die from lack of care so people can see the result of our state's politicians' uncaring attitude toward the lives of the people they are supposed to be serving.
When Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, his mother decided on an open-casket funeral so people could see what had been done to her boy. Well, this is what was done to mine.
These legislators who refuse to expand Medicaid call themselves pro-life, but their policies prove otherwise. They care nothing for life once it has exited the birth canal. They care only about scoring political points, and as the body count mounts, they suffer no consequences for the lives they allow to be snuffed out.
A friend of mine said she wishes she believed in hell so she could picture them there. I just want the unnecessary deaths to stop.
So, I will make this photo public. This is what was done to my son. This is what happens to people who can't get access to the care they need.
In the end, we still pay for this care. My son's surgeries, chemo and radiation cost taxpayers nearly $1 million, when we could have saved his life for about $1,000 a year. When you allow someone to go without needed preventive care and chronic disease management, they become very sick -- and very expensive.
If you live in a state that has so far refused to expand Medicaid, your insurance rates could double -- or more -- this year. Don't blame Obama; blame the anti-lifers you elected to your state legislatures and governors' mansions. They have the care they need and always will, but they deny it to others.
You have the vote. You can send them home and replace them with people who do care.
Meanwhile, consider this photo and how unnecessary his suffering -- and that of those who loved and miss him -- was and is.