24 Hours On the Floor

December 29, 2008 at 12:10 am 2 comments

it's easy to see the health care system spiraling out of control when you have 24 hours to lie on the floor

Pick almost any day and you can find someone who is willing to talk about the broken health care system in this country. This year it was particularly easy with several people trying to win a seat in the White House.  When we get bills that we consider excessive for tests we don’t understand or spend too much time on hold with people we find rude at insurance companies who tell us they won’t pay for tests we are sure we need, we believe the system is broken.  We have a hard time finding people who disagree with us.  And yet, we have a harder time finding anyone who can tell us how to fix it.

Like most families, our family makes numerous trips to various doctors throughout the year.  With two children in daycare we have our share of colds, ear infections, stomach bugs, and various and assorted viral infections.  Fortunately we have insurance that allows us to make a trip to the doctor for a mere $25 co-pay, even on nights or weekends.  A recent battle with the stomach flu that left our four-year old daughter dehydrated and sent us to the emergency room did cost us a$100 co-pay, but was well worth the peace of mind and the prescription that stopped the vomiting.

Contrast my family with my husband’s family one generation removed.  Last week, just three days before Christmas we got a call from his father’s aunt.  It seemed that his father’s cousin was fading fast and they were calling in the family to say their last good-byes.  It wasn’t until after his funeral that his mother filled us in on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Angel* had contracted Hepatits several years ago.  This diagnosis had caused his health to suffer. Angel moved in with his father to help take care of him, since his health was also very poor.  Over the years his health continued to deteriorate, eventually causing him to have to stop working.

Because he couldn’t work, he had no insurance.

Because he had no insurance, he couldn’t go do the doctor.

Because he couldn’t go to the doctor, he just kept getting more sick.

That brings us to the week before Christmas when Angel fell.

Angel’s dad called his ex-wife to let her know that Angel had fallen and was very sick.  She said she didn’t think she could get him out of the house and since none of them had insurance, they couldn’t afford to call an ambulance.  Angel’s dad said “Ok.” and hung up the phone.

Twenty-four hours later Angel’s mom called back to check up on her son.  He was still in the same place.  Lying on the floor of his father house.  Dying.

She called her daughter and asked her to meet  her at the house.

They met at the house and stood in the living room trying to find a way to get Angel to the hospital.  Angel’s sister tried to convince her mom that they needed to call the fire department to come help them.  Angel’s mother was still insistent that they didn’t have any money for an ambulance so they would have to find a way to get him out of the house and into the car by themselves.  The main problem was that Angel’s father was very ill and nearly blind and so he couldn’t help them move him.  Angel’s sister sent her mother into the kitchen to talk things over with her father.

While they were talking, she called 9-1-1.

When the fire department arrived, they checked Angel’s vitals and quickly determined that he needed to be transported to the hospital by ambulance immediately. Even in the midst of this stark diagnosis, Angel’s mother still hesitated to call for an ambulance, saying that none of them had insurance or the money to pay the bill.

The firemen said the cost of the ambulance would be on them.

The fireman called for an ambulance.

Angel made it to the hospital.

He died less than 24 hours later.

He was 59.

My family is only one generation removed from this cousin. And while you and I cannot even begin to imagine letting a loved one lie on the floor dying for 24 hours because we can’t afford to pay the hospital bill, I would bet that most of you have a cousin, an aunt, or a grandparent in your family that can identify with this story.  Think about this.  Not only is my husband only one generation removed from this cousin, we only live 15 miles from them and nobody called us to ask us for help.

That is how broken the system is.

I don’t know how to fix the system.

All I know is that when a mother will let her son lie on the floor dying for 24 hours because she can’t afford to call 9-1-1 fixing health care needs to be  more than talking points for an election debate.

* Names have been changed.

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Communication’s Number One Rule Communicating Recession

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dave  |  January 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Did they ask anyone for help? What neighbor would have refused a request for help in getting him to the hospital?

    Education is the key to improving all parts of society.

    Reply
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