Laurie Toby Edison

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What Health Care System?

Debbie says:

A close friend of mine is significantly disabled. Among other things, he cannot get out of bed in the morning or back into bed at night without help. For a number of years now, he’s had a lovely woman as his morning attendant. I’ve met her a few times, and easily seen why she’s so valuable to my friend and his household.

She is almost precisely the model of what we claim we want from our citizens in this country: she is hard-working, church-going, and law-abiding. She is also warm, considerate, and thoughtful. When my friend was in the hospital last year, she brought him a Spiderman poster, even though she doesn’t give a damn about Spiderman and probably doesn’t have much of an idea of who the character is. She knows who my friend is, though, after years of getting him out of bed and doing personal tasks for him and household tasks for his family, and she got him something that mattered to him, not to her.

She has health insurance, because the disabled community lobbied so hard to get health insurance for the attendants. And, oh yes, she’s African-American.

Right about the time my friend was in the hospital, she started having very troublesome pain. She’s been in and out of the hospital a couple of times for it, always with unclear diagnoses. My friend and the people around him have continued to feel throughout that time that she wasn’t getting adequate care, and that diagnosis was perfectly possible.

Well, now she’s diagnosed. End-stage terminal cancer; hospice immediately and death to follow soon. I have no way of knowing if it would have been terminal if they’d found it last year, but I sure know that early diagnosis hugely improves cancer prognosis.

Once again. She’s employed (or was until her pain got too bad). She’s insured. She’s noticeably younger than I am. She’s responsible. But, it seems, no one has any responsibility for her.

If we throw people like her out with the trash, no one has any excuse for being surprised when the “trash” washes back up over us and drowns us.

3 Responses to “What Health Care System?”

  1. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    I don’t need to mention the huge diagnostic and treatment disparities between white Americans and African Americans, I bet.

  2. sannanina Says:

    When I worked as a volunteer in hospital back in Germany we actually had several patients like that: People who had gone to their doctor/ doctors, because they knew something was wrong, many times and who were sent away every time because nothing was found right away and nobody bothered to look a bit more carefully – until they were eventually found to have end-stage cancer. (Actually, one of my parents’ neighbors ended up in a psychiatric hospital because no one found a physical cause for her symptoms – until she diagnosed with very advanced colon cancer.)

    To be fair, I DO believe that there are some cancers and other diseases which are very hard to diagnose, and doctors, even good doctors, are just human. But I also think that doctors are often too fast in dismissing what their patients tell them. And yes, all kinds of prejudices definitely play into which patients are taken seriously.

  3. Piffle Says:

    Please give your friend best wishes for this lady, so he can pass them on to her.

    Even with excellent health care, some things are very difficult to diagnose; I know someone with Lyme disease who wasn’t properly diagnosed until arthritis set in (about ten years on). Still, I’d think cancer would be relatively easy.

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