Friday, September 12, 2008

Health Crisis

I had such lovely plans for my half-day off today. I got out of bed early, so that I'd be sufficiently drowsy later tonight so that I could nap before going into work; then I was to go to the gym and try to run at least four miles, then have a leisurely lunch somewhere around the quiet Wrigley Field, maybe do some window shopping on Broadway, read a bit at my favourite Caribou, etc., and watch a dvd when i got home in the late afternoon.

But those plans were led astray by a bit of a medical crisis. I won't get into all the details, but it involved blood, a bit of pain and wondering where the blood had come from and why. I called the doctor, who allayed my fears and told me to make an appointment next week if the symptoms persisted.

Then, like any good 21st century hypochondriac, I looked up some symptoms on the Internets, and what I found shocked and enraged me. I looked at dozens of posts on a couple sites/boards and in at least one-third of them, the person describing their symptoms/asking for advice, also stated he or she did not have insurance or that they did not want to go to the doctor because they couldn't afford it. In one particularly chilling post, on a craigslist board, some guy in Ohio who stated that his wife was a nurse but still, he had no insurance, said that he was actually in an emergency room and a doctor was telling him he was having s stroke, when he pulled the IV out of his arm, leaving blood in his wake, because he didn't want to be admitted because he could not afford a hospital stay! In the same post, the guy also said, "I don't want to die." But he left a hospital, where he was already being treated and diagnosed, because he was more afraid of the hospital bill! Other posts, on that and other boards, stated stories that were not quite as shocking, but terrible just the same. People asking complete strangers who are not doctors, for diagnoses of their medical maladies because they cannot afford to see a doctor or they can't take an unpaid day off work so they can be professionally treated.

This is not Calcutta, this is not Darfur. This, in the United States of America, in the year 2008. So many people, who cannot or will not, because of financial fears, go to a doctor when there is something clearly wrong, won't be seen by a doctor until their pain is so great they wind up in an emergency room, and sometimes, by the time they get there, it's just too late.

And who has a plan to stop this? Who is fighting for the people in this other America -- you know, the poor one? John Edwards is now ridiculed and pushed to the side of the road politically because of some awful decisions he made in his personal life, but what he said about there being Two Americas is absolutely correct. There is the America where people are safe, and content and comfortable, then there's the America where an unplanned medical issue or an automotive problem or a bill that comes due that is greater than what was expected, can spell financial doom for too many people. Meanwhile, all we seem to be hearing about from people who want to "change" things is how upset they are about a comment someone else made or how we need to drill for oil or how Russia better not mess around with some country that no one other than Russians have ever even been to, or how "my opponent" lies or "my opponent" is naive and thinks the American people are stupid, etc., etc., etc.

Enough. Someone needs to come up with some solutions, and quickly, before more people live in pain and die needlessly. The city of Chicago is spending billions of dollars to attract and possibly hold the Olympics in 2016. The city has even targeted hospitals which haven't done a lot of business as places that could be torn down or converted into housing for athletes. The city council bickers about banning and then unbanning certain foods or types of baseball bats, and the county of Cook, mired in political nepotism and cronyism, spends money on promotional magazines that never get distributed and cuts funding of medical facilities, while the county board president keeps adding staff to his PR crew. And hardly anyone ever dares talking about how to fix the health system in this country, lest they be labeled a "socialist" by the Republicans.

Enough. Enough, enough. Won't anyone actually do anything?

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