Be both.

"What If We Really Love All Humanity?"

"What If We Really Love All Humanity?"
by Steve Roberts Fine Art

Health Care Should Not Be A Debate

In the fall of 1991, I was 25 and going through a painful divorce.  My husband and I had been separated only one month. One night in the cheap, little apartment I had just moved into, I was jolted from sleep by excruciating pain.  I'm no pansy, but this was the type of pain that makes you want to take a hacksaw to the body part causing the pain and cut it off.  I didn't have a hacksaw.

Fortunately, my phone was next to my bed, so grunting and hyperventilating, I reached over and called my soon-to-be-ex husband who lived only a couple blocks away from me.  At the time, any conversation between us was normally so emotionally charged, saying Boo to each other would make our eyes glow red and horns begin growing.  However, my ex-husband is a good man & an even better father (shh...don't tell him I said that!), and he agreed to pick me up and take me to the hospital.

Now I faced a dilemma.  I was in my bed in agony and my front door was locked.  Knowing that the only other option of having my door kicked in was a tad unreasonable, I slowly made my way out of bed to the floor.  It was not physically possible for me to stand up.  It is a pretty pathetic picture to imagine a grown woman literally crawling on the floor and sobbing, but that is exactly what I did.  I reached the front door about 5 seconds after my ex arrived.  Trying very hard not to hurt me anymore than I already was, my ex picked me up off the floor and carried me out to his car in a torrential downpour, and drove me to the hospital.

On a side note, I'm sure you're wondering why I didn't call 911.  It didn't exist in my city at that time, and I really didn't have the will or frame of mind to find and shuffle through the phone book to call for an ambulance.

I don't remember too much of my stay at the hospital because they had me on rather large doses of Morphine.  Ahhh... good 'ol Morphine.  My family tells me I was a source of amusement to them because of the Morphine hallucinations.  But back on track...

Needless to say, I now live with one less kidney.  I found out later from my doctor that the kidney dissolved in his hand right after he removed it.  He also informed me that if that had happened while it was still in my body, all the toxins released from it would have killed me pretty much instantaneously.  I'm sure my insurance company would have preferred that.

When I got the massive bills from the hospital, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had insurance.  I know - you're laughing hysterically at my naivete.  Hospital bill - denied.  Surgeon's bill - denied.  Anesthesiologist's bill - denied.  All medical bills relating to my stay - denied for being a preexisting condition.  What the hell?

A little back story on why it was a preexisting condition:  When I was 18, I ended up in the hospital for the same pain.  I was told I had a kidney infection, then given some antibiotics, pain medication and then sent home the next day.  Following up with my doctor, I went through a series of tests (I'll spare you the graphic details).  The doc said I needed to have my left kidney removed because I had had so many urinary tract infections throughout my life that it had ruined my kidney.  It had less than 1% function and my right kidney was 2 1/2 times normal size in order compensate.  I'd had infections?  Really?  When?  What I didn't know at that time is that my body does not feel a lot of pain internally until it's critical.  In the meantime, he gave me an antibiotic prescription with an indefinite renewal period.

Rather than jumping in to have major surgery, I talked the situation over with my mom.  We agreed the sensible thing to do would be to get a second opinion.  After doing some research, I made an appointment with a highly regarded Nephrologist in a clinic 200 miles away from my small town.  After reviewing my labs, my x-rays and completing a few tests of his own, he concluded that if I took the antibiotics for the rest of my life (with occasional adjustments for effectiveness), surgery would be unnecessary.

Another discussion with my mother ensued, and I made the decision not to have the surgery.  In hindsight, I probably should have sought a third opinion, but that makes no difference now.

Fast forward to 1991 again.  I now had massive medical bills I could not afford.  Hell, I was struggling to afford just my living expenses (I was living below the poverty line then).  With no income for the time I spent in the hospital, the six weeks afterward of home rest and then being allowed to go back to work for only half days for another month, I did the only thing I could do.  I moved back home with my mom and filed bankruptcy.  I felt defeated.

I am not proud of declaring bankruptcy.  I cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars because I could not afford to pay my medical bills.  Medical costs skyrocket because of situations like mine.  Doctors and hospitals must increase their fees to make up for people who can't pay for life saving procedures.  Some of them, like me, will go bankrupt.  Others simply won't go to the doctor and will die.  

So, I ask you this.  When we can contain costs through health care reform and eventually reduce the overall cost, why the hell are we having a debate?  Why the hell are we letting people die?

Oh, and by the way... if I forgot to say thank you for taking care of me that night R, I'm saying it now.  Thank you.
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