Sunday, January 07, 2007

Love In The Time Of Aneurisms

What a coincidence that someone posted a comment asking about my latest rant. I don’t always have something to rant about, but I actually do have something to rant about today. I just got back from L.A., where I went to visit a very good family friend who is in intensive care after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. I got a distressed call from my friend’s daughters who were having trouble securing treatment for their mother because she doesn’t have medical insurance. My friend takes care of her elderly father and aunt and receives a small stipend for this service, but she is not eligible for medical coverage and doesn’t make enough to be able to buy medical insurance. So basically, she makes just enough to screw herself out of qualifying for Medi-Cal, but not enough to be able to purchase an insurance plan.

My friend suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on New Year’s Eve and was taken to the emergency room at Glendale Memorial Hospital where she was diagnosed and stabilized. Her family was told that she must have surgery to stop the hemorrhage, but that the operation could not be performed there because my friend doesn’t have insurance. My friend’s family was put through hell trying to figure out a way to get the hospital to either release their mother so that she could seek treatment elsewhere or try to secure an acceptable method of payment so that they would perform the surgery there. I urged the daughters to do their best to not allow their mother to be thought of as just another case number. They had to make it personal to the doctors and nurses at the hospital so that their mother’s situation would become a human concern rather than simply another case to process through the system.

You won’t believe the strategy that finally worked. My friend has 11 brothers and sisters, each of whom drove to the hospital with his/her spouse and all their children. By all estimates, there were about 80 people in the waiting room. The group formed a large prayer circle, spilling out into the hospital lobby and began fervently asking Nuestro Senor Jesucristo and la Virgen de Guadalupe to intervene on my friend’s behalf. As nighttime approached, sleeping bags were brought in and an all night vigil ensued. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or the fact that the staff freaked out at having so many people jamming up the place but on the third day she was moved to a hospital where the surgery had been approved.

Today I found out that my friend was able to have solid food for the first time since New Year’s Eve. She has not had the surgery she needs because despite numerous tests they have been unable to pinpoint the location of the rupture but she is stable and her family and I feel that the team at this hospital is doing everything possible to provide her with medical attention, regardless of her financial situation.

I once felt that socialized medicine would help bridge the gap in access to medical care that exists between the haves and the have-nots, but after visiting hospitals in Nicaragua and talking to friends who have used the medical facilities in places that have socialized medicine, I wonder if I wouldn’t be writing a rant about that option if we had it here in the U.S. I don’t know what the answer is. I do believe that we should all have access to vital medical care.

It turns out that this Monday, California Governor Schwarzenegger will be proposing insurance coverage for all children in that state and would eventually like to extend it to adults as well. It’s a start and certainly worthy of discussion, no matter which party proposes it. Basic health insurance and access to medical treatment should be a human right, not a privilege nor a benefit solely for those who can afford it.

So that’s my little rant for this week. I wasn’t worried about the health care problem in this country until it personally affected my loved ones. It never occurred to me to worry because I’ve always had insurance through my employer. You might want to ask yourself how many of the people you know and care about don’t have health insurance and might not have access to proper medical treatment if they needed it. And for those of you who live in California and want to join the discussion, the Governor’s office is hosting a live web forum on Monday and they are soliciting questions now.