Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Razor's Edge: To Have and Have Not

This is perhaps the most difficult thing I've written about, because in it I confront the reality that when it comes to healthcare, I am a Have, and someone quite like me was a Have Not. I am alive because I'm a Have, and he's dead because he was a Have Not. And I despair that America allows so many citizens to be Have Nots.

(Don't think this is a "liberal guilt" post; there's no guilt here. I got good treatment, as I should. This is about something else.)

In December 2006 I had an annual physical, which led to a shoulder x-ray that incidentally discovered a surprise tumor: kidney cancer that had spread. That x-ray saved my life, because I was near the end, even though I had no particular symptoms.

Two years later Fred Holliday entered the hospital. He'd had symptoms for a year - night sweats, fatigue, bloody urine - but his health insurance was inadequate to make tests affordable; they didn't bite the bullet until it was too late. It took months to get a diagnosis of kidney cancer (like mine) after weekly tips to the primary care doctor and two ER visits. After hospitalization, it took months to receive treatment.

For him it was too late: he's dead now.

Fred couldn't afford to get tests for his plainly evident symptoms, and it cost him his life. I had the same disease without symptoms, and it was found because I could afford to get checkups. And I'm alive today as a result.

Healthcare Haves and Have Nots:
It's a nasty reality that's got to change.

Lack of coverage costs people their lives, costs families their spouse, costs children their mother or father. We can do better than this.

And it doesn't stop here - the story continues. More in the next post.

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