This is a brief, almost (not quite) Tevye-type story, but it happened to my daughter so it’s very personal. And she experienced both great kindness and elitist indifference.
Our younger daughter was diagnosed as having asthma when she was a young teen. It was very mild — she had an inhaler and sometimes took medication, but rarely needed the inhaler, and in over a decade, she had only one asthma attack — about 8 years ago. And while that was scary as hell, nothing like it has happened since.
So it’s not surprising that now she’s in her early 20s, living in a city with a busy work/school/social life, with no recurrences of breathing problems, she let her inhaler prescription lapse.
However, in the last couple of weeks, she’s been wheezing (likely because of Canadian smoky air) and it worried her. So she decided it was time to get checked out. She found a pulmonologist, made an appointment and was on her way to her appointment yesterday afternoon. As often happens when you take public transportation, things went wrong and there were some long delays. She realized that she was going to be late, called the doctor’s office repeatedly to let them know, but got nothing but a recording. When she finally got there, they refused to take her. At this point her breathing was not good (she was audibly wheezing), she was seriously worried about getting home safely, told them she needed an inhaler, but they only offered her rescheduling the appointment to a later date and then sent her on her way with no help at all.
On her way home, she started feeling panicky. She knew being scared was making her breathing worse, but it’s hard to calm down when you’re having trouble breathing. So she called us and we all agreed she should quickly get to an urgent care center. She said there was one near her apartment.
It was a mobile health center and when she got there, they explained that they were there to offer basic health care for the homeless, that they had no equipment, including no inhalers, for her asthma attack. But unlike the private fancy doctor’s office, they were very concerned for her. They had her sit down, gave her water, and one of them sat with her, telling her that they’d call her an ambulance if needed. One of the staff also has asthma and seeing her need, sterilized their own inhaler so that she could use it. Because of that lovely human being, her breathing began to improve and within a short time she was okay and even able to finish up her day by going to her evening class.
As her parents, this was a terribly anxious situation -- trying to help our daughter over the phone, in a different city, worrying about her safety but unable to do anything. I cannot fully describe the fury I felt toward the staff at the doctor's office and the shocking contrast between the private office of an upscale doctor and the staff at a mobile health center for homeless people. She was treated cavalierly, with no consideration for her wellbeing and safety by the doctor’s office staff. And she received kindness, care, concern and practical help from people who are probably overworked, underpaid, and who see all kinds of misery on a daily basis.
Finally, we wanted to donate to the organization that was so lovely to her but apparently they’re part of a city government agency. Blue city. Blue state. Thank FSM/goddess/whoever for good government -- everyone should have the benefit of a competent government.
Update — just wanted to add this stanza from a poem in Paul Frea’s comment that so perfectly describes how the mobile homeless health care center responded:
“So was witnessed
The innate quality, or, better said, ability
In action, to aid others, when opportunity arises,
That makes us human.”
– Carl Scott Harker