..”Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Based on the cheers I heard about letting the uninsured die during the Tea Party Debate, I wonder if they would have led a protest against Emma Lazarus’ poem.
I mention Dick Cheney, because I saw that he was wearing his heart in his blazer due to the failure of his own heart. I have never liked the man. Yes, we have met. He wouldn’t remember. It was briefly while I was in the Navy. It’s no secret I’m not fond of him, but I would never wish his or anyone’s death.
I also mention him because many die of heart failure every year. How many are given an opportunity to have a portable, external pump 24/7? We’ll get back to that.
Let’s talk about my health care. In 1996, I had to fight for Veteran’s health benefits and won. I started in 1994 and I am one of the lucky ones. I wrote to my Representative in Washington and magically, I was 100% service connection disabled. (Thank you Representative of La Crosse, WI in 1996. I apologize for not remembering your name) When awarded my Veteran’s benefits, I called the VA and asked if the TV show, 20/20 would be knocking at my door to do an expose or something. After the government shut down of 1995, it was crazy times. To explain my benefits, here’s my latest post on Google Plus and Facebook.
“EVERYONE deserves the medical care I get. I will be at Rheumatolgy at the VA today to pick up my records for my Rheumatologist in LA. I remember every day how lucky I am. May everyone soon have socialized healthcare like me. I’m able to see the best specialists at UCLA because of Medicare. My specialists make recommendations to the VA, who actually sent me to UCLA because they didn’t know what to do with me. At the VA all my medications are covered. I am one of the lucky ones. Because of The VA and Medicare, my diseases are stabilized after 16 years, I have a good prognosis. EVERYONE should have access to such great care. EVERYONE. I served so I could go to college and get out of “Dodge”. The truth is, not everyone can serve, and their contributions are important. My uninsured friends are priceless. They deserve great care just as much as I do.”
So, why do Dick Cheney and I have health care, when so many others don’t? I feel as though we are the “storied pomp”, in Emma Lazarus’ poem, but we are not. Everyone deserves the health care we get. I am confident that if I have heart failure, I would fight my ass off to get a portable unit. Not because I can afford that, but because VA Hospitals are teaching hospitals. You get fresh minds mixed with the brilliant experience and knowledge of the residents. I have seen many cases and experienced first hand care where money is not a factor. I would be careless to not mention they do have a medication formulary, but I have found ways around that to get what I need- and I’m happy to share how if anyone needs it.
So why does Dick Cheney get a heart pump and I get infusions without having to try two other medications and have them fail before I get my beloved Remicade?
I could speculate and make jokes, but I honestly have no idea. I have felt massive amounts of guilt watching friends and family try to make it without insurance. We are Americans- we’re supposed to be the good guys. I grew up believing we stand for and with others who can’t do it on their own. If I were Karen, the manicurist, I would’ve died in child birth because I wouldn’t have had my magic letter. That’s right, a magic letter.
When I was pregnant in 2003-04, the VA did and still does not deliver babies. I received a letter in the mail that stated something like, “The VA will pay for all medical care related to the health of this veteran regarding her current condition.” When my blood pressure had become so high that I began to see orange spots, my OB/GYN sent me to Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego. Seventy two hours later, after shots of steroids and my organs began to fail, my son was delivered by C-section.
There is too much to that story to include all the details in this entry, but two things stick out.
1. I shared a semi private room with a woman my age in the same condition. Both of us were given steroid injections. After my 1st painful injection, I asked the nurse to put it in my IV. The next round of shots came and it was done. No question asked. I told my roommate to ask for the same. She did. They told her her insurance wouldn’t allow it. (record scratch stop) Yes, a woman who needed to be kept calm because her blood pressure was dangerously high, had to be put through frequent painful injections. Imagine sitting in comfort while listening to someone cry because they are in so much pain- that could have been avoided. Did I deserve better treatment? No. I had the equivalent of a blank check. What Karen needed, Karen got. Meanwhile, my equal in the room next to me had to suffer because some asshole paper pusher decided she didn’t need to feel comfortable. She could endure that pain. Both of us had HELLP Syndrome.
2. Three years later, I was in an emergency room at a public hospital, not a VA hospital because my ex-husband and I had a business. I was in charge of picking insurance our family and employees. I heard more than one doctor call it “Golden Insurance”. It’s what got me in the door at UCLA and medicare makes it possible for me to keep going back to UCLA.
In the ER, the nurse assigned to me, shared her own experience with HELLP Syndrome. She had the exact symptoms I had, without the happy ending. Her insurance required her husband to drive her an extra hour after going completely blind because of her blood pressure while she was pregnant. The ER they were assigned was not equipped to handle her condition. She lost her baby. She continues to work as a nurse to keep her family insured. She has to, to stay alive. She needs heart medication and frequent treatment by a cardiologist. I couldn’t say it, but all I could think was how unfair it was. Life is not supposed to be fair, but no one should be denied the care they need because of money. NO ONE. She lost her baby at 32 weeks and was in the ground, while my son- also born at 32 weeks, was at home getting ready to go camping.
So, I ask again, are Dick Cheney and I of more value than those two women above? Are we worth more than my friend Chelle? Are we worth more than Steph and Jennifer, Chelle mentions in the video below? No. But if I were Karen; the manicurist and he Dick; the retired electrician we would be both be dead.
Make time to watch Chelle’s video.