...because we all have our motley moments!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Health Care Crisis - Guest Post by Lita

A couple of months ago, I went to see the doctor because I had been feeling tired. What spurred me to actually go was the fact that I was going to be turning 38 in July. The year my sister turned 38, she was diagnosed with a thyroid condition. One of her first symptoms was fatigue. She had encouraged me to have my bloodwork done, since there is a genetic component to thyroid issues.

So after explaining to the doctor about my sister, and my fatigue, and the fact that I have two children under the age of 5 and I just know that’s the real reason I’m so tired, but I just have to find out for sure, the doctor gave me a prescription for lab work – a complete blood analysis plus check for folic acid and B12. I went to LabCorp with my prescription in hand at 6:45 am on Friday, July 3. The sign in the window read, “CLOSED JULY 3rd DUE TO HOLIDAY.” So I went back home and spent two more tired days at home until I could go back.

I returned on Monday, again at 6:45 am, along with twenty other people! Everyone quickly formed a line to sign in and proceeded to sit down and wait. Everyone was thinking the same thing, I’m sure. “This is going to take forever.” To pass the time, I picked up a dog-eared Redbook magazine dated sometime last year. As I waited, I could hear the elderly couple a few seats away debating if they were going to stay and wait or go to breakfast. I was hungry too, since fasting was required before the blood draw.

Considering the number of people she needed to attend to, the woman behind the counter was exceptionally efficient and friendly. She called us up quickly, one at a time, and confirmed what the regulars were there for and added information about the new patients to her database. Finally, everyone was seated.

Then a man came in and approached the counter. His hair was disheveled and he was very thin. It looked like he was ready for a flood because his pant legs were much too short for his lanky frame. A thin belt held up the worn jeans he had on. I couldn’t hear what he told the woman at the counter, but I did hear her say in her commanding voice, “I need you to come around and step inside please.” She then told him that before she could do any additional lab work today, he would need to pay his balance in full. I actually could make out his quiet response. He said, “But I don’t have that kind of money.” They stood there looking at each other for several moments, and then she said, “Well, I’m sorry I can’t help you.”

The man quietly walked out of her office door into the waiting room and headed slowly, outside. I could see him sitting on the windowsill outside of Pizzano’s. He pulled out a cell phone and called someone. Then he lit a cigarette. And then he walked away.

A few things went through my mind in those short minutes. One was, I wonder how much he owes the lab? Another was, if I asked everyone in this room (which now numbered probably close to 30) to donate $5 to help this man, we could hand him $150 right here and now. If I asked for $10, there would be $300. And it didn’t look like anyone at the lab that day was hurting too much. Then another voice in my head said, “You don’t know his story. He’s got a cell phone. He must have some money, some means to handle this on his own. Let it go.” But ever since that day, I can’t stop thinking about him. I wish I wouldn’t have let it go.

Years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I lived in Seattle with my then boyfriend who was in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Our circle of friends was made up entirely of optimistic young Catholics fresh out of college looking for some real world experience to put on their resumes. One friend in particular worked at a men’s shelter in downtown Seattle where panhandling was not uncommon. Rather than hand out money, which would likely go toward the purchase of alcohol or drugs, Adam handed out resource cards he made on the computer – listing shelters, emergency food banks, counseling services and their phone numbers. This young Republican insisted that there were plenty of agencies and programs out there that could help the needy and disenfranchised.

Well, on my drive home that morning I thought about Adam and his cards and I wondered what local agency or program would handle helping this man here in Lake Wales? I wish I had known. I wish I wouldn’t have been afraid to step out of my comfort zone, sitting there reading my magazine, waiting my turn so I could go back home to my home and my family.

When I got home, my husband said he sees the same scene on a regular basis in Orlando where he works as a firefighter. People who can’t afford health insurance or who don’t have jobs that provide it or those folks who simply have no means to provide for themselves (often due to drug problems) are very often the people they have to respond to in the middle of the night. These people have no network. They often have lost family and friends. They have often lost themselves.

So here I am, finding myself awake in the middle of the night asking myself these questions, “Am I my brother’s keeper? Is it enough to donate my time or money to churches or to causes? What kind of moral imperative do I have to answer to when we see strangers in need? What will I do the next time I am confronted with an unplanned choice in my daily life? Are non-governmental organizations and faith-based programs able to provide enough care to the disenfranchised without seeking the aid of our federal government’s dollars? Is health care a right for every American? What would Jesus have done?”

What about you? What will you do?


Liz said...

This is a tough subject, Lita. I don't know what the answer is to the heath-care crisis in our country. Nor do I know if it's enough to just give money to the church and Care Center. Jesus definitely called his followers to care for the poor, but I'm not sure if that means government programs or individual giving. Sometimes I have a hard time meshing my politics with my religious beliefs. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

Sherrie said...

Thank you for this story and to remind us of what we need to ask ourselves!
I worked at a homeless shelter for two years and then with people on welfare for another two years. People often would talk to me about how "those people" are so different from us. But after working with people enough and hearing the stories of their lives, I found out fast that we all are only one unfortunate circumstance away from where they are. If I didn't have family to support me, I could easily be in their shoes.
Thanks again for your story!

Lita said...

Hi Everyone, Sorry for the lengthy post! I was up late again one night this week and just had to spill out everything on paper...thanks to Donna for posting it!
Liz: yes, it's a tough issue. I keep turning it over and over in my own head. I think that's why I felt compelled to get it out. It was driving me crazy. Now it can drive you crazy too! HA.
Sherrie: I couldn't agree with you more. I used to tutor men for their GEDs at a Salvation Army program and I came to learn that sometimes the slightest thing can send someone off track.

Karly said...

Lita, so great to hear from you. And very thought provoking! Thank you for your transparency and your willingness to tackle such a challenging topic. Caring for the poor and down-trodden is the right thing to do, but it is not always clear just how to do it in the best way. But I guess we could all start by doing something. Something is better than nothing, right? You've given us all a lot to think about!

Lindsay said...

Intersting topic. Today our church had "Compassion Sunday". We had someone come from Compassion International come and speak for us and he was amazing. He then encouraged everyone to sponser a child who needs help. The morning was full of tears for those hurting around the world.

But then tonight we were able to DO something. Their is a 9 yr old girl named Lilo living with her Great Grandparents. DHS just took her out of the home, not because her grandparents weren't doing a good job (they are), but because the house was in such poor living conditions it wasn't safe. So she is now living with a neightbor. Our church heard the story and is doing something about it. We are building them a new house. Our church has raised $25,000, plus donated supplies and we are building the house with our own labor. We have a general contractor, plumber, electrician.... (Nick is doing the yard). Hands on work for everyone.

I am so happy to be doing something (I am helping paint), rather than just giving my money.

Donna said...

That's awesome, Lindsay! It does feel good to DO something, rather than just GIVE something. Not that restricting ourselves to giving is a bad thing, it's just very gratifying when we can experience a good work.

Blessings to you and your church family!

Pam said...

Lita - great post! It is always good to be challenged to do more even though doing more spikes a fear in me as I am pulled out of my comfort zone!

Lita said...

Lindsay, I'd love to hear how your church's project is progressing! Sounds like a fantastic project. What else is on their wish list?

Donna, yes, I too enjoy the DOING. Paul has had to remind me time and again that little daily actions are the best place to start. So thanks to all of you who are doing the most important job there is - giving your children your attention, love and support!

Pam and Karly, nice being in touch with you both! Hope you are doing well!