Recently, I spent a week in the Tyler, Texas area with my mother. On Friday, my sister arrived for the weekend, my brothers arrived from their homes and jobs, and we all headed to the movies. Sister and I remained after everyone else left with mother who thought she would be ok for the night out. We finished the movie, and walked back to the car where I began experiencing extreme pain. After trying to gain some control over the matter at hand, I started off driving through the dark streets of unfamiliar territory to find medical help. Google had shown me surprising, and disappointing information: for a region as populated as the Tyler area, the choice for 24-hour access to medical care is dismal. There are two hospitals in Tyler next door to each other. After the harrowing drive across town, I walked into the emergency room of ETMC with my sister. We made our way through the large room, overflowing with people, to the check-in desk. Sister advised me to tell them I was having chest pains so triage would see me immediately. It worked. A nurse hooked me up, and did an EKG, ruling out any cardiac issues. Another nurse asked me several questions, noted my answers, and sent me back out into the waiting room. That's where I sat with my worried sister for the next two hours. In that time, only two people were called to go back to be put into a room for the additional wait to be seen.
After we found two seats together, I glanced around the room at all the people who were experiencing some health issue they deemed troubling enough to seek emergency care. Off to the left was a young mother wrangling three small children by herself, the baby being the obvious patient. At one point, a woman around my age came in from the cold night barefooted and seemingly lost. She was clearly not drunk, so my first thought was that there was some mental issue playing a big role in her visit to the ER that night. She spoke to the nurse at the desk, and then paced the room like a caged animal. Twenty minutes later, a man, her husband, I assumed, arrived, spoke to the desk, and retrieved her, and off she went back into the night. Behind me, an elderly woman sat alone on her walker, holding a hospital barf bucket in her lap, sobbing. Occasionally, I could hear her mutter, "I'm sick." The distress she was experiencing broke my heart.
My aunt, uncle, cousins, et al, have lived in the area for twenty-five years longer than my parents, who have been there for ten. I have come to know the region well. There are sick and dying people everywhere just in the community where they all live/have lived. There's drug addiction, mental illness, cancer, heart problems, asthma and other severe respiratory illnesses, gun violence, and the list goes on. I've seen it all over the years there, it exists in the other hundreds of communities like it all around Tyler, and now I understand why: healthcare accessibility.
For the last ten years of his life, my mother took care of my ill stepfather, all the while ignoring her own health. When he passed away three years ago, we began focusing on her health issues that are beginning to crop up in old age. With each new experience I have with her, traversing the healthcare system in that region of Texas where she chose to live, I have come to dread every interaction. I have only the Austin area to compare to, and can say with complete certainty that my region of Texas has a much better healthcare infrastructure than Tyler, not to mention, the level of care is much more professional. Last year, my mom's vascular surgeon required testing. She made the trip into Tyler for the tests which left her feeling weak, and disoriented. Staff follow-up was nil, and no one noticed her state, leaving her unchecked to leave, and drive herself back home, a fifteen-mile drive. I am five hours away from her; my trust in this community's medical integrity is zero.
So, here's the question: WHY? Why do we allow ourselves to be put in the position of literally fighting for our lives? This land is your land, this land is my land. Those aren't just words in a song we sang in allegiance back in grade school. This land was made for you and me, but in case you haven't noticed, our government works nicely for the billionaires and corporations, but for the rest of us, not so much.
We really are the richest country in the world, but the rich in this country surely do not have the burden of worrying about access to healthcare. I'm not rich, but I would still like to have equal access to healthcare. I would like for all of us to have that access. Look at all the other countries around the world that have a national healthcare plan in place for their citizens. WHY? Why do we Americans not demand the same from our government? We need to start. Google how to contact your two Senators and your Congressperson, and email them if you don't want to call, but do it everyday. If enough of us are taking this one, small action, they have to acknowledge us eventually. They can't ignore the will of the people.
Right now, our Congress is working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act with no published plan of replacement. In response to one of their many attempts at repeal in 2015 (HR 3762), the CBO predicted that the number of uninsured people would rise to 18 million in the first year alone, and top off at 32 million in 2026. It's crystal clear that our Senators and Congressperson are not there in their lofty positions of power representing our interests. That's THEIR ONLY JOB, and they're doing anything but. We have to stand up to them now, and put a stop to their outrageous actions.
At the risk of being redundant, I'm going to remind you of the most important element of our democracry: your vote. Look, you know you have to vote in every election, not just the big one for president. Not only that, you have to get others to vote. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your community about the things we find unacceptable about our government. Let's fight for each other, and empower each other to do the work we must to elect representatives to send to Washington who will fulfill our wish lists. Healthcare is on the top of my wish list. I lost my job recently, which of course, means my health insurance is gone. And my state wouldn't, and never will expand Medicaid so that I might have access without going into debt, and being hounded relentlessly by credit agencies. It wasn't like this when I worked in the medical field in the early 80s. WHY have we let our government get so out of control, and corrupt. Each one of us has to come to terms with the answer, and fight like hell to regain control.
I was never seen in the ER that night; I couldn't endure the all-night wait. The lady sitting alone in her own vomit and despair, with no shred of dignity left, waited. And Jesus wept.
TELL CONGRESS WE WANT A SINGLE-PAYER HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
In Peace ~ Love ~ Solidarity