Today I am a Healthcare Voter: a personal rant

by , posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Originally posted at Daily Kos.

In case anyone is unaware, I want to state for the record that I worked for the Laesch for Congress campaign in ’06, I work for it now, I will work for it in future. But this diary is a personal story, not vetted by the campaign, although also an explanation of why, in fact, I started working for the election of John Laesch as my congressperson in the first place, why I’m probably going to drop in an ActBlue link in the end anyway, as well as why I am, oh, pissed off at the world today.  Again.

Today Kate’s life is in danger.  Again.

Kate is my late-twenty-something youngest daughter.  She is herself the mother of two, my only grandchildren.  Kate is smart, witty, charming, creative, funny, willful, stubborn, disorganized, proud, courageous, kind, and a free-spirit if ever there was one.  I mention these things because, like most people with a chronic illness, she hates being defined by it so I don’t want it to be the only thing I say about her here, but Kate has Type I Diabetes.

The onset in her early twenties was sudden and complete.  She thirsted.  She became irrational.  She ended up in the emergency room, where her blood sugar was found to be dangerously over 900. She was five feet tall, 100 lbs, physically fit, a disorganized free-spirit suddenly and genetically doomed to coping with a disease that requires enormous amounts of discipline to control, because let’s be really crystal clear about this: there is no cure.

Because there is no cure, Kate’s future almost certainly holds: gangrene, multiple amputations, blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and early death.

Except, maybe…there is hope, there is embryonic stem cell research.

Coincidentally, right about the time Kate was sitting in the emergency room with a blood sugar over 900 being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, Dennis Hastert, our Congressperson, was becoming Speaker of the House.  I remember this mainly because I was working in downtown Batavia, the site of Denny’s congressional office, and was pretty much working and living in a fog at the time due to the distraction of Kate’s health crisis, when it dawned on me to wonder why Peter Jennings was outside the local diner with a camera crew.

“Denny is Speaker of the House,” I think someone told me.  

“Denny Hastert?” I think I responded.  “Are you sure?”

But incredible as it seemed, so it was.  Not long after that, I, having placed myself on the American Diabetes Association e-mail list was asked to contact my Congressperson and request their support for a bill freeing up funds for embryonic stem cell research that Bush had restricted.  “Promising hope for a cure,” seemed way better than amputations, blindness, kidney failure and early death.

So, though I hadn’t voted for the guy and didn’t intend to, it seemed worth a shot. Had I been more aware of what was going on at the time, I would have realized my particular congressperson was not only not one of the Republicans who had, surprisingly, broken with the pack to support this measure, but was in fact 100% in tune with Bush, voting with him 100% of the time, and would probably not have bothered to waste the time contacting him.

But then again, as it turned out, maybe it is better I did.  Not only did I receive a form letter in response stating Denny’s implacable opposition to embryonic stem cell research, it came complete with a little lecture as to Denny’s “ethical and moral” determination to do whatever lay in his power to oppose hope for my daughter, his constituent, by ensuring we continue to throw thousands of stem cells in the garbage every year.

I think my reaction could best be described as: WTF???

My longstanding need for a new Congressperson had just become urgent…and personal.

So I started to look into the Dem primary in IL-14, started following the candidates, started reading blogs, registered on DKos, ended up reading this diary, left this comment.

By that point I was so worked up about a variety of issues, not least of them Iraq, that I was a little surprised, and a teeny bit irked, a week or so later to hear John Laesch introduce me to someone as a “health care voter.”  I cared about a lot of progressive issues and that seemed very narrow for where my head was at, at the time.

But it was certainly a top priority for me.  After years of the kind of financial drain that can only be caused by being uninsurable myself and having an adult single-mother child who is also uninsurable and chronically ill, I had little to give to the Laesch campaign but my time, along with what skills I had managed to acquire from years of community organizing and public relations work.  I gave it.

Seriously, I think we all gave it all we had, and am not displeased with what we accomplished.  We tied Denny down.  We forced him to spend here.  We shaved off his margin.  We kept him from helping other Republicans get elected.  We held our own piece of ground, and though we lost the battle, the war was won.  Or so it seemed.

Y’all know Bush vetoed stem cell research again right?  And the votes weren’t there to over-ride.  Iraq is important, FISA is important, but damn it, this is too.  And so is universal single-payer healthcare.

Couple of weeks ago Kate got a head cold – one of those summer cold things we all find annoying, only she’s a diabetic and so immune-compromised.  Soon she had a deep cough.  She should have seen the doctor, but didn’t – she’s uninsured and we are both buried in medical (and related) debt because of it.  Her doctor won’t see her unless she pays up, which she can’t.  She called the local by-appointment-only free clinic and they said they won’t see her at all–for any reason–because her diabetes means she needs more consistent and intensive care than they can provide.  She needs constant care by a specialist in that field who can be always conversant with her current medical condition, so that specialist can, for instance, immediately call in a scrip for an antibiotic in such a case.  

No kidding?  Really?  This was not exactly news to Kate.  Or to me.

But since she can’t get that, or even seen by a free-clinic, she came to my place instead, kids in tow, and went to sleep in my bed.  I fed her chicken soup and sugar-free cough medicine and when her blood sugar went haywire I took her to the ER.  She spent most of a week in intensive care, with bronchitis and diabetic ketoacidosis, missing work and falling further behind in the process.  I missed some work too, because I had the kids on my hands, falling further behind myself, but hey we’re used to that.  We do this drill several times a year.  She didn’t die.  That’s what’s important.  I’ve seen an estimate that uninsured people are more than twice as likely to die of the same illness as the insured.  I am sorry to say I have more than enough experience with this to believe it.

Three days ago Kate got a bump on her eyelid that itched and tingled and she thought it was a mosquito bite.  The next day it was very red and very swollen.  Yesterday when she woke up it looked like she had a black eye.  She called the free clinic again and they again said they wouldn’t see her.  When I saw her after work last night and it looked like she had a black eye and had been punched in the jaw, I talked her into going to the ER.

She has MRSA, a “Superbug” they told her, on her eyelid, in her eye socket and it has spread to her lymph glands.  Possibly she picked it up from her stay in the hospital (though possibly somewhere else, they’ve escaped you know, a public health consequence of people taking half of their antibiotics and hoarding the rest, because they hope to be able to treat two illnesses for the price of one) which hospital stay was in turn occasioned by the fact that she can’t get medical care when she needs it because she is chronically ill and uninsured, until it is so bad she can check in through the ER.  

They would normally treat the MRSA with sulfa drugs, but Kate is allergic to sulfa drugs.  So they put her on two other drugs and are hoping that knocks it out.  I hope to hell it does too since the prognosis otherwise is, I understand, “probably fatal.”

This is how people die from lack of insurance.  

And I have to admit John Laesch has a point on that “health care voter” thing.  I do care about Iraq and FISA.  But as any of you parents out there who have ever felt that sick crawling sensation in the pit of your stomach at the words “probably fatal” can guess, my priorities, today, are somewhat skewed toward “Health Care Voter.”

47 million uninsured

John Laesch’s self-professed Blue Dog opponent in this primary is squarely with George Bush in believing that the solution is to keep better medical records.

In an echo of my reaction to finding myself on the receiving end of a moral lecture from Denny Hastert I can only to say to that: WTF???

As nyceve requested it would be nice to have a little more info about where he stands.

While we’re waiting for that answer, if you’d send some love to John Laesch, a true progressive who understands the importance of universal single-payer, and embryonic stem cell research, you will have my undying personal gratitude.

And if you, like me, are being leached down to your last dollar by our pathetic excuse for a “healthcare system,” please do find a few hours to volunteer for the progressive nearest you who supports real health care for all Americans.  

47 million uninsured Americans – and their Moms – will thank you.


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