Saturday, August 15, 2009

Oh, Lebanon... silly town

I was a little pensive about writing an entry about this, but, here I am, finding myself so disappointed that I must.


Earlier this week, my hometown made national news because of some unruly outbursts during a town hall meeting in which Sen. Arlen Specter was discussing health-care reform.

This is a really contentious topic for a lot of Americans, so much in fact, that there really seems to be no gray area. The topic has polarized our country, which is evident from the videos of the town hall coverage posted on CNN, Larry King, New York Times, etc.

If you need a refresher, here are some links:

In the last video, around the five minute mark, Specter is fielding a question from a woman who says that she is furious at the systematic dismantling of our country and constitution.

In his remarks to the woman, which are a little jumbled (c'mon, Specter is getting old, give him a break, he's allowed to ramble) he says this:

"In our social compact, we have a provision to see to it that we take care of people who need some help."

To which the woman replies:

"But the good hearts of the people will do that -- not the government!"

This mentality just pisses me off to no end.

The good hearts of the people will do that? Blow me.

A broken system...

Health-care reform needs to happen. It's needed to happen for quite some time. I feel--and you should, too--such a great personal investment in the outcome of health-care reform. No matter which side of the aisle you sit on.

Growing up, I've had multiple issues with my health. I've visited so many doctors and been in so many waiting rooms, I actually developed a bit of a routine which most often involved me scouring the magazine rack or pile for the latest issue of Highlights magazine. I'd find a chair, sit down and do those little "hidden picture within the picture" things until my eyes went cross.

But anyway, back to the medical stuff.

I was born with Transient erythroblastopenia of childhood. It's basically just a decrease of red blood cells that your body naturally produces. It's not a huge deal, but I had to get blood transfusions from my father (we have the same blood type, but don't ask me what type it is) and was put on a regimen of steroids and some other medicine when I was a few months old.

When I was six, I was diagnosed with Legg–CalvĂ©–Perthes Disease. It's a rare degenerative bone disease that affects the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. It affects something like, 4 out of 100,000 children. Something causes a lack of blood flow to the hip region, which leads to the bones not developing as quickly as the child. Ergo I was doing activities of a typical 6-year-old--running around on the playground, random gymnastic type crap, beating the hell out of my body--but my bones were only as developed as say, a 3-year-old.

The onset of the disease probably happened when I was four or five, and my bone specialist suspected that the TEC played a role in my bone development.

How I found out about the LCPD was by playing on the playground one afternoon with my family.

My sister and I were on the merry-go-round, and my father was spinning us around. It was one of those synergystic things where we would shout, "SPIN FASTER!!" and he'd huff and puff, turning the merry-go-round like a madman. We just fed off of each other's energy.

Well, I've always been a little clumsy, and I got brave and decided to try and move toward the outside of the merry-go-round and hang off the side (I didn't understand the delicate law of centrifugal force yet) and ended up getting thrown from the merry-go-round...because I'm awesome and have the coordination of an elephant on oxy.

I landed on my right side after I fell off, some five or six feet away from the merry-go-round. It hurt, a lot, way more than I thought it should. The only thing I can really remember was this hollow, throbbing pain.

I picked myself up, my parents checked to make sure I hadn't died, and we thought all was well.

The next day, I couldn't move. I woke up with a bruise that extended from just underneath my armpit down to the middle of my thigh. I've always been a bit of a "softy" but my parents knew this wasn't normal. Kids are meant to take a bit of a beating; I on the other hand, had bruised like a geriatric.

They took me to the family doctor, who didn't really know what to do.

Somehow along the line, we got referred to a bone specialist, Dr. Clark, at the Hershey Medical Center. We made an appointment, I went there, they ran some tests, and the doctor suspected I had LCPD.

I was scared, I didn't know what was going to happen, but that day, we made another appointment for me to come in and do some physical tests to measure my mobility and try to gauge the severity of the situation.

After a lot of poking and prodding, catscans and x-rays, the consensus was: Your hip is fucked up, kid.

I don't remember how many surgeries I went through (there are four that I can distinctly remember where I had to be 'put under') but I had a tendon cut, right hip bone repositioned, some sort of localized injections(steroids I suspect) and went through physical therapy to learn how to walk again.

I started off in a wheelchair, then moved to crutches, then moved to wearing leg braces for about 18 months. The leg braces were these ankle-to-hip length leather things, that laced up from bottom to top. There were two metal bars soldered to the inside of each leg, to keep my legs completely immobile and stretched apart. I can't really think of how else to describe them. I'll have to find photos.

But anyway, back to the health-care reform.

As a result of all this necessary--but really scary--surgery, my parents found themselves CRUSHED under a pile of medical bills. And my father had excellent insurance. He worked FOR the hospital for Christ's sake. I never once thought the treatment I was receiving was some sort of "luxury" and at the time, I thought that everybody's parents had decent jobs and could visit the doctor as often as I had.

But times got tough. My father's insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield (it used to be called something different) would only cover up to a certain amount. My medical bills exceeded $300,000, leaving my parents scratching their heads and wondering: "How in the hell...?"

Even with cutting back and switching from everything name-brand to no-brand, trimming the budget, selling one of the cars, consolidating our lives to the very essence of BARELY getting by, they ultimately had to file bankruptcy. This was in 1994.

It sucks, and I know my needs helped put them in in that "rock and a hard place" situation. And I know they don't hold any sort of resentment or anger; they're my parents, they'd move the world for me if I needed them to. But it's just a shitty situation. Especially considering we had insurance, fantastic insurance.

Even now, with no real "symptoms" still present, the disease always lingers in the back of my mind. People with LCPD are very susceptible to developing arthritis at a young age.

And now, my younger cousin Katie has been diagnosed with Lupus. She sees doctors constantly and undergoes many, many treatments. When I visit my aunt's house, sometimes her energy is so sapped that she just stays in bed. Other times, good days when her immune system isn't being a bastard, she joins us and laughs at all my stupid jokes.

But now her family is in a similar situation. And her family does quite well. And they have health insurance. But where does this end? Are they going to become so swelled with medical bills, or treatments that the insurance company doesn't deem as "necessary" and throw that burden on my aunt and uncle?

Fuck that.

And what happens if--God forbid--one of her parents dies in the next few years? Or if she would go to apply for insurance on her own? Would she get denied because she has a pre-existing condition?

Again, fuck that.

If all my cousin and I had to fall back on was the "goodness of people's hearts" I'd probably be crippled and she'd probably be dead.

Medical conditions pop up when you least expect them to. My parents were prepared to raise three children, but as the old adage goes, "Shit happens." They would have given up anything to make sure I could walk and have mobility, but going to the poor house is a bit extreme.

Anwyay, I'm really starting to ramble. I need to get showered for work.


If you're bored, and have a few minutes, READ THE BILL!! I'm tired of people bitching and misconstruing what this bill is about. Literacy is so important, and the materials are out there for you to read.

This is a link to the House version of the proposed bill.

It's a lot to take in, but if you really are concerned about this, and not just bitching because this is a "right or left," "blue or red," "democrat or republican" thing, then educate yourself and know what the bill is about before you dismiss it.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, I haven't read the bill. However, about the "let good hearts of the people take care of people" is something I don't trust, mostly because there is no accountability. I mean, where is the magic money from good hearted people at currently? And even if people did give more, where would they donate to? The "cool" causes? God, the only reason anyone cares about breast cancer is because they slap sexual innuendo onto it--"Save second base." It's a disgrace. And the money raised doesn't even go to cancer patients for treatment, but more research. Anyways, that's not really the point-what about the less popular health issues? Where is people's good graces there? It's like picking who is worthy of having good health--certainly not AIDS patients.

    I also heard the argument that health care is a privilege, not a right. My mind is so ingrained to think this is a human right that I've forgotten how to argue that it is a right. I mean, the argument that health care is privilege (in a developed, 1st world country) makes me pretty sick, really. I just don't understand how people can be comfortable saying, yes, it's okay to let people die because they can't afford medical care. But yet, the person who argues this most to me is a hardcore "Christian." Go Figure.