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Sunday, August 16, 2009

American Health Care Reform: For Whom the Bell Tolls?

In education you learn quickly that most students learn very quickly through visualization and actual experience. You can write forever on a blackboard, overhead, or whiteboard and you simply won't reach everyone. Some people have to feel it. Live it. Know it as it happens in front of them to understand the nuances and be empathetic for the situation or learning given.

Regardless of how words appear on paper the feeling of being powerless to describe the undercurrent of what health care means to this nation escapes me. Seething underneath the floorboards there is a struggle between whether America has become a country run for the sake of business, industry, and profit or if it will be, going into the future, a country of the people, by the people, and for the people.

My mother lies rotting, slowly, in a care home. She has dementia, Alzheimer's, and Sundowners. She spent a life trapped in an alcoholic marriage escaping it only after her children left home. In the country, had there been money for a doctor, there wasn't any doctor around for casual things. My mother came to believe that health care was something for other people. People with money. The lack of health care became a part of her identity. Her routine. By the time she was old enough to retire and her children were old enough and established enough to help her along--it was too late. The high blood pressure had taken its toll. Her brain, trying to flee from the increase in pressure, shrank.

My mother, now surviving on my father's social security and her own, is comfortable. She is being fairly well tended. But when she passes on, within the next couple of years most likely, she will have spent the final twenty years of her life in a care home. Twenty years that she could have spent laughing, loving, and sharing with her grandchildren--my children and my brother's children. This is what she dreamed of doing all those years while doing menial labor and tending my father's needs. It was her planned retirement from a life of labor, service, and strife. For the five years prior to being imprisoned in the Colorado care home my mother had three newspaper routes in our local town. She walked over ten miles each day to keep her income sufficient to pay for housing, groceries, and other small needs. She stopped and chatted with the elderly folk on her route and listened to their troubles. Kids from the local school would walk along with her and talk to her. She called a doctor more than once when she found a shut-in having trouble. While the reality of my mother's checking account may have been poor--she herself was wealthy in the way many people express a desire to possess such wealth. But this community wealth never went onto a spreadsheet anywhere even though it helped many a soul beyond my mother's.

Had my mother decent access to routine health care, blood pressure checks, she would still be contributing to her community today most likely. She would still be paying her taxes. She would still be working as a volunteer at the voting polls. And she would still know my name and her grandchildren's names.

I know this is one story out of many. But that is the point. It is only one story that belongs to too many people. It is my story. It is my brother's story. It is my mother's story. It is each of my children's story. And there are many versions with different names attached. These are the stories that aren't being heard and seen above the raving blue dog howls of the manufactured Town Halls in America.

My regret? My pen simply doesn't have enough ink or enough power to paint the picture for those who are blinded to the plight of their fellow citizen. How do you touch someone who has closed the gates of their own yard to the community around them?

I've tried ringing the bell at the gate. The same gates I've stood at an argued before. My neighbors. Some of the same people who cry for babies lost to abortion cling to the idea that America should value one human life over another as long as the distinguishing characteristic is poverty or health care or education. All of which can be almost as deadly.

Sometimes I just don't understand the world around me enough to paint it for someone else to see. So I look for others who can do the situation must more justice.

The brutal truth about America’s healthcare - Americas, World - The Independent
In the week that Britain's National Health Service was held aloft by Republicans as an "evil and Orwellian" example of everything that is wrong with free healthcare, these extraordinary scenes in Inglewood, California yesterday provided a sobering reminder of exactly why President Barack Obama is trying to reform the US system.

The LA Forum, the arena that once hosted sell-out Madonna concerts, has been transformed – for eight days only – into a vast field hospital. In America, the offer of free healthcare is so rare, that news of the magical medical kingdom spread rapidly and long lines of prospective patients snaked around the venue for the chance of getting everyday treatments that many British people take for granted.
Related articles

* Leading article: The healthcare debate comes back across the Atlantic
* Christina Patterson: The big problem with the NHS isn't funding
* Rupert Cornwell: America needs to cool down
* Second MEP defies Cameron with NHS attack
* Stephen Foley: ObamaCare is bad news for Big Pharma

In the first two days, more than 1,500 men, women and children received free treatments worth $503,000 (£304,000). Thirty dentists pulled 471 teeth; 320 people were given standard issue spectacles; 80 had mammograms; dozens more had acupuncture, or saw kidney specialists. By the time the makeshift medical centre leaves town on Tuesday, staff expect to have dispensed $2m worth of treatments to 10,000 patients.

The gritty district of Inglewood lies just a few miles from the palm-lined streets of Beverly Hills and the bright lights of Hollywood, but is a world away. And the residents who had flocked for the free medical care, courtesy of mobile charity Remote Area Medical, bore testament to the human cost of the healthcare mess that President Obama is attempting to fix.

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