This week marks the one year anniversary of Dave's bicycling accident and it leaves me feeling like a giant ball of emotions - weepy and grateful and angry and sad in turns.
When my mom called early in the morning to tell me Dave had been in a biking accident, we were both pretty calm. He's been an experienced cyclist for years and he knows the ways of the road. He biked over 30 miles a day year round and he had all the right gear. We figured he'd had a small accident and maybe had a broken leg or arm. I went into work as usual. When she called back to tell me it was worse than they thought, and that the doctor recommended that we all get there as soon as possible, the entire world froze for a moment. I don't remember the 45 minute drive. I was shaking so much I could barely breathe.
Dave was brought into the hospital with a broken nose, missing teeth, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a leg that was crushed and fractured in multiple places, extensive internal bleeding, and a brain injury that left him completely paralyzed on the left side for over a month. It took the doctors almost 8 hours in surgery just to stop the bleeding and stabilize him. He needed 40 units of blood during the first week alone. When they finally let us see him for the first time, he was literally unrecognizable.
Dave's first two hours in the hospital cost over $100,000. I know because we spent days attempting to organize the huge piles of medical bills and cryptic insurance statements that started flooding in. He was hospitalized for over 2 months, and we quickly lost track of the total.
We were extremely lucky - lucky that he had gifted surgeons and excellent nurses, lucky that he had worked at the same company for 30 years and had excellent health insurance that covered almost all of our costs. We were less lucky to be caught in the midst of a financial downturn, and Dave was laid off while he was still in a rehab facility, putting the health insurance into question.
Fortunately, Dave turned 65 a few months after his accident and he's now covered by Medicare. Unfortunately, my mom has several more years before she'll be eligible and she's now put in the position of being a full time caretaker, knowing that it is vital that she stay healthy enough to help Dave and also unsure of how she will get healthcare. Ironically, she's a nurse practitioner, and she's spent most of her life working to give other people the best medical care possible.
I have numerous friends who finished grad school and came out only to find they couldn't get a job, which usually means they also can't get insured (there is so much talk about young people being able to get good rates, but let me tell you, it's unbelievable how easy it is to be declared "uninsurable"). And the only thing worse than being unemployed is being unemployed and walking around knowing that one random accident could land you in debt for the rest of your life. Start asking around and you'll probably find out that you know people in this position.
During those first awful hours, when we sat in the waiting room of the surgical ICU, holding our breath every time the doors opened, there was another family sitting across from us. The father had been brought in after a heart attack and needed a triple bypass but he'd recently been laid off and the family had no health insurance - they would have to pay out of pocket. We watched their faces, stunned into immobility as they realized what an impossible position they were in. No one should have to feel so hopeless, ever.
I don't know what the answer is to all of this. I've received treatment in countries with socialized health care and I'm not going to pretend that it's all sunshine and rainbows, all the time. Healthcare is by nature complicated and expensive. It is going to take more than one bill. It could take generations to iron out a working system that ensures health care for everyone. But doesn't that make it even more important to start immediately?
House debate on the healthcare bill will start this week, and the senate is expected to follow soon. As a small act, in celebration of this year that our family didn't know we would have, I'm writing a letter to my senators and representatives, encouraging them to vote for a bill that includes a strong public option, and also signing this letter to Harry Reid and sending this one to Diane Feinstein. A letter doesn't need to be complicated and formal. You can write from the heart and share your experiences. Just make sure to spell check. (Need to look up your elected officials and their contact info? Enter your zipcode in the box on congress.org for a complete list.)
I'm taking a mini blogging break for the rest of the week, to give myself a chance to reflect and re-group. I'll be back on Friday, because I think flowers are definitely called for this week. And to all of you readers who have left sweet comments, and sent kind emails over the last year, I can't tell you how much it is appreciated. Really and truly.
A mini blogging break is a good idea. I hope this does you some good.ReplyDelete
such an important post. so glad you were brave enough to post this to your blog. courageous indeed. thinking of you and yours. xo.ReplyDelete
i can totally relate - i lost my mom to breast cancer that was untreated for three years and hidden because she didn't have health insurance. i totally support this legislation.ReplyDelete
As someone who works in the insurance industry (though not in the health field), I truly believe that something does need to be done. I personally have always had coverage through every job that I had but I realize that in this day that is not always an option and I can't imagine the fear that people feel knowing their lives could be in danger. I have mixed feelings about the US Government being involved in my health care but I do think it needs to be reformed somehow. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.ReplyDelete
Enjoy your blogging break and I hope you have a nice week!
I like that you broke away from the usual blog topics and wrote about this. Sometimes we all need a dose of reality to jolt us into the big picture. Best of luck to you and your family, and hurray for enduring as well as you all did. Enjoy your blogging break! And looking forward to Friday flowers soon :)ReplyDelete
i can only imagine the emotional state you must be in and am so moved by your strength, hope and perseverance this year. i hope this week offers you some insight and a nice time to reflect. xoReplyDelete
well said, rachel; i agree wholeheartedly.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this, it really struck home as someone who is self-employed and self-insured. And since I wasn't reading blogs a year ago, it's goodReplyDelete
to hear the full story.
My thoughts go out to you and your family.
Rachel...i think you are so great.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and making us think about taking action with our legislators. I'm one of those young uninsurables and I live in constant fear of losing my job/insurance. The one time in my life when I was uninsured was the one time I ended up in the hospital (with $15,000 in bills.) It's not $100,000 but it felt equally insurmountable for a young 20-something.ReplyDelete
My thoughts go our to your and your family on this bittersweet one year marker.
Rachel, this is such a moving post.ReplyDelete
In Canada, we're following the healthcare debate with great interest. I think that few of us are under any illusions that our system is ideal.
Still, it does give me comfort to know that fate dealing an angry blow is not going to reduce my life to a pile of bills. There has to be a better option than that...
You've been so brave throughout this. You deserve the fanciest, happiest flowers on Friday and I hope you have a relaxing and refreshing break.
Stories like this need to be shared! .. And we do need change, thanks for taking action... hopefully we all can.ReplyDelete
It's surprising how there are a good number of ignorant folks who think that having ANY type of healthcare reform is a bad idea. However, I live in a red state, so that may explain why. One of my neighbors, an older man, said to me in a very proud tone, "I have full coverage through my work. There's no need for Obama to make a mess." I had to politely tell him that not everyone gets that type of insurance, even my boyfriend who is a healthcare provider himself, does not receive any type of health coverage at work. We pay for our own, yet are scared to use it due to horror stories. That's not right.ReplyDelete
Although we have a similar story, it is very different. My healthy Mother suffered cardiac arrest 2 months ago. She had a rip in her coronary artery and was bleeding out into her body. She was/is the healthiest person I know. The doctors told us to take her off life support a week into her being at the ICU but we couldn't give up that fast, she is now at a rehabilitation center and talking- although this is going to be a long process she is still with us. We are insured with some of the "best" catastrophic insurance, but we have to cover out of pocket 30% of the bills which has already reached 1.5 million dollars and still growing!ReplyDelete
My Mother is now blind because she suffered a stroke while in coma and our insurance company won't cover her extended care at a facility that can teach her how to live with her disability.
Thank you for the idea of writing to our representatives. I am going to write a letter about my situation. Thank you for the inspirations.
Your family is in my thoughts.
I am sending a lot of hugs your way. Keep on keepin' on, friend.ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you posted this! I'm sorry that Dave had to go through so much anguish, both physically but emotionally as well. I'm such a proponent for healthcare for all!ReplyDelete
Thank you all for the wonderful comments, and for those of you who shared their own experiences! I think it's so important that we talk about this, both with each other and with our legislators.ReplyDelete
You need that break. Be with your loved ones, and continue to express how grateful you are everyday. Take care, Rachel!ReplyDelete
For all its many faults, I am still grateful to live in a country with social healthcare. It's not perfect, but at least in those hideously stressful moments, finance is never at the forefront of your mind.ReplyDelete
so well said.ReplyDelete
have a wonderful mini-break, find some joy this week, and we'll be happy to see you back on friday!
I'm so glad your family was able to pull through this crisis. And I truly hope the US can find a health care system that takes care of its people, all of its people. I don't know what position I would be in now if Canada didn't have the socialized system it does, but I know it wouldn't be a pleasant one.ReplyDelete
you and your mom are so strong! i admire you so much, and i'm so glad you've had so many triumphs, big and small, throughout this whole ordeal.ReplyDelete
I wish you and your loved ones a lot of strength. I cannot imagine how it must feel like to face the situation of huge debts because of an illness. I hope your country will find a way to make sure that what needs to be covered, will be.ReplyDelete
Very heartfelt story, I hope Dave is doing better. Despite the heartfelt story, I feel you miss represent the public plan. My sister and brother-in-law do have insurance despite both being unemployed and having two kids. I think it is much easier than people think. My sister got insurance while being unemployed and pregnant. There are problems with the system, but many people wouldn't be alive if they were on the public option, the government will get to decide if your health is important. I prefer to not have the government telling me what I can and can't do with regard to my health.ReplyDelete
I do look forward to seeing more flowers. Flowers are much better than politics.
Amen! I've seen our country's healthcare crisis from the personal finance side: 75% of bankruptcies are due to medical bills and 75% of those had insurance when they got sick - a travesty.ReplyDelete
We need a change.
Great post, thanks for sharing your story. I'm recently graduated, without a job, and without insurance. It's really scary when you actually start to think about an accident that could happen like that, changing your whole life. I agree that there isn't any easy solution and that it's a circumstance that no one should have to be in.ReplyDelete
First off: I hope your stepfather keeps getting better. As far as health care goes here is an example that it can be done (it's not perfect, but nobody has to pay for a tripple bypass themselfes):ReplyDelete
I live in Switzerland and we don't have a national healthcare but everyone has to be insured. The insurances are private but have to take everyone, no matter how sick they are, and cover their basic insurance. This insurance is not free and can be expensive (the market plays here so different insurances offer the same thing for different prices). But if you are under a certain income limit the state helps to pay for your insurance. This covers most treatments but you can have added insurances if you want to go to privat clinics or have a single room in a hospital. Insurances are not obliged to cover you for this, so if you are sick, they might say no. But these add-ons don't really offer better health care.
If you do get sick or have an accident up to a small amount of the cost (around 1000$) you have to pay yourself. After that, everything is payed by the insurance.
My husband works with American hospitals and I have to say that the prices they charge are outlandish. You will NOT find those kinds of insance prices here. So that is one of the first things I would change in the USA. Nobody can afford healthcare at those prices.
rachel...so much of your post hit home with me that i felt compelled to comment for the first time (though i've been a long-time reader).ReplyDelete
i'm 24 years old, and when it comes to medical problems, you could say i'm a bit of a late bloomer; all those things that usually happen to kids when they're young didn't happen to me until i was a young adult. i never had stitches until i was 19, and never had a broken bone--until last month.
i just finished grad school in september and i'm one of those aforementioned graduates without health care. i'm actually staying in canada with my boyfriend until i find a job here or in the states (i'm american). i also happen to be a jewelry designer. last month i fell and broke my thumb, completely severing the ligament. i had to have emergency surgery. my thumb is fixed but is immobile and will be for several more weeks; it won't be strong for several weeks past that.
i am lucky in that i had a canadian surgeon who was willing to charge me canadian resident fees for my surgery and my follow-up. the grand total for emergency surgery, 3 follow up visits, and all supplies? $753. if i were in the u.s. (and had the insurance that i was kicked off of last month because i am no longer a student), my DEDUCTIBLE alone would have been $1000.
i'm lucky that i was in a country that provides care even to non-nationals who happen to be here when they get hurt. i'm lucky i was in a country that doesn't have astronomical medical costs. as much as it pains me to say, i am lucky that i wasn't in the U.S.
health care reform isn't going to be easy, it isn't going to be quick...and i don't have the magic answer or solution (even though my master's degree is in politics). what i do know is that our country is in dire need of it. my personal experiences demonstrate that, as do countless others'. this issue is too important to let the debate surrounding it continue to be petty and simplistic.
whew. that was a book.
Yesterday I was complaining because I had to pay so much taxes, but after reading this I'm again reminded that I really shouldn't complain. Because when I go to the hospital I can concentrate on getting better, not on how I'm going to pay for everything. Our social security system is far from perfect and asks a big contribution from everybody, but then again, piece of mind is worth a lot to me. Especially when I or my loved ones are sick.ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry for everything that happened to your family. You are a brave and great woman for dealing with all that like you did. I wish you all the luck and health in the future. I totally agree that health reform is desperately needed, but I strongly oppose the public option. In an ideal world, the public option would take care of every citizen quickly and painlessly,getting the best treatments to everyone when they needed them. Unfortunately, economics always play in and make it impossible for the country to provide these things to everyone...we simply couldn't pay for it all...and there would come the denials for care and long, terrible lines. I pray every day that we can solve this quickly and with a more effective plan that won't leave my life and decisions in the hands of the government and people who hold no stake in my life and well-being. I am confident we can fix this without the public option. Let's do this.ReplyDelete
It's so interesting to hear from those in other countries - I think we have a lot to learn from all these other systems. Krista, if you had to cut your finger, I'm glad you were in Canada when it happened!ReplyDelete
Evie, you have every right to disagree and I appreciate that you did it in a respectful way. If we can't disagree respectfully, we've lost one of the best parts of this country.
I do want to stress that I haven't tried to represent the public option as being wonderful or perfect (I really haven't tried to represent it in any way, except to say that I support it). It's complicated and I'm not an expert. What I do know is that I strongly believe that we have a moral obligation, as decent humans, to provide healthcare to everyone and to make sure that no one goes without. I don't believe we're doing that right now. I know that not everyone sees healthcare as a right, so there will be people who disagree with me, and that's fine.
Thank you to everyone who has commented for keeping this respectful.
Anonymous, I think a lot of us fear those long lines that we worry might come of the public option. I'm hopeful that something can be worked out. I'm glad that we agree that something has to change, however it's done!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this. I hope that everyone who took the time to comment will also take the time to write a letter. No one should have to fear for their future if they get sick or injured, no one.
My best to you and your family,
I could feel tears starting as I read this - I'm here in Canada, and I catch myself whenever I take for granted the health care we receive. Thanks so much for the reminder of how lucky we are. I'll be thinking of you and I hope your break helps your mind find some ease.ReplyDelete
wow. thanks for this. it's hard to believe that these things happen to real people ALL THE TIME. I and my entire family have good healthcare insurance so I can't relate but I can imagine that this would be terrible and I want to thank you for opening our eyes to such things.ReplyDelete
what i really want to do right now is write you a long comment about how much i appreciate this post...but the words aren't coming. so what i'm offering is a very very sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU. really. thank you.ReplyDelete
It just amazes me that in this country- so loved and so many want to be here that our sick, elderly and disabled live under the horror of limited care and protection. After seeing a documentary a few weeks ago-I told my DH I wanted to move to Cogenhagen. You are an inspiration. Enjoy a little break darlin'- we'll be here when the time is right to return.ReplyDelete
my husband is a self-employed artist. i want to start having kids - but don't want to wait until he makes enough money to insure our whole family out of pocket.ReplyDelete
Hi Rachel, although I absolutely love posts on your 'regular' topics, I really appreciate the topic of this post. I have been following the US debate on health care with great interest. I am from Holland and feel very lucky not having to consider finances AT ALL when I feel sick or have an injury, instead I can focus on my health. I think it is definitely financially possible to provide excellent care for all if everyone pitches in.ReplyDelete
I wish you and your family all the best.
important to think about, important to take time for you. sending thoughts your way.ReplyDelete
hear hear! great post - thank you for bringing something to light that so many people are tired of hearing about. the more personal stories that are shared concerning health care, the more people will take a look at our broken system and try to find solutions.ReplyDelete
I work for a non-profit that helps clients with terminal diseases. Although I am not an expert on this subject I know some of the clients I work with have used this solution. It might not be perfect and I don’t know the details but your mom might want to look into it. There is a program where if you become a nurse (or you already are one) you can apply to be you families in home care and therefore get paid through the state as if you had someone hired to take care of the family member. I am not explaining it that well, I don’t know the jargon and I don’t know what the program is called, if it needs to be a child you are caring for, or if it is in all states or just some but I thought this might help. Good luck!ReplyDelete
My heart goes out to you and your family, it is the most difficult time to go through and the added costs doesn't make it any easier.
In New Zealand our healthcare is very good, we pay ACC as part of our taxes and if you are in an accident you don't have to pay any bills at all. Childbirth, childrens prescriptions, breast screens and xrays are basically for free also. Everything else is subsidised and you can get extra money to help you with recovery. You can also have private insurance for things such as heart attacks, hip replacement and prostate cancer etc - but this is usually just to get things done quicker or if you want private treatment.
After watching a few documentaries and reading about the US healthcare system I am shocked to see how little help you get. I really feel for the families who have struggled through a time like this. Hopefully the US system gets solved soon because right now it's not doing good for anyone.
Wow. What an incredible story. I know the feeling of health related debt weighing heavily on your shoulders, and it is not fun (over $2K - after insurance - for a short trip to the ER just to realize it was a viral infection that was causing my breathing problems??) Each successive job I've had as an adult, the coverage has gotten worse and worse and my out-of-pocket expenses have gotten bigger! Reform definitely needs to happen, and god knows private companies will go kicking and screaming all the way though it. In fact, my dad has kept his Norwegian citizenship just in case he gets really sick, because my parents know they could never afford it.ReplyDelete
i don't know what to say other than that your story is so incredibly touching. a mini-blogging break should do you good. xoxoReplyDelete
I am a public health student and thinking about these issues non-stop as of late. Thanks for taking the time to put a personal story to our health care debate.ReplyDelete
It's hard to keep up with the details of every plan that has been proposed, but I hope people will continue to stay interested in this topic regardless of how much it will affect them.
(In my opinion, at least) the public option is a vital component of reform legislation. The viable options out there will not add to our deficit (according to non-partisan CBO) and will provide one option for the more than 40 million uninsured Americans.
Thank you for this post, Rachel.ReplyDelete
My thoughts are with your family. :)ReplyDelete
Rachel, I'm glad your step father has a wonderful and loving family in his corner.ReplyDelete
Yes something does need to be done with our health care. I have been on the band wagon for the past 2 years since my day surgery that went wrong. I was one of the lucky ones to have insurance, but the story behind this ordeal upsets me. I have been trying to spread the word there are way too many people without insurance and something needs to be done. xoxo
Wishing you a very well-deserved reprieve and hoping you find some solace.ReplyDelete
Thank you for posting this links to help make a difference in this crumbling nation we call America. Let's hope there will be change - and SOON!
So nice to read this, i am sure this post is touching so many people on different personal levels, thank you. My father went through a bone marrow transplant two years ago and with the 3 and 1/2 months spent in the hospital, we were so lucky for his work experience and good health insurance. I wholeheartedly agree with your feelings and appreciate the helpful information on reform and how to be a part of it. Enjoy your break this week, you certainly deserve it!ReplyDelete
Rachel, I'm so glad that Dave is recovering though. I can't really comment, but it's the one reason I couldn't live in the US. I've always had great care from our NHS - it can be slow....(I'm currently waiting 6 months for two appointments) but if you're seriously ill they do turn it around pretty quickly. Hope you have a good break - and perhaps you should have two bunches of Friday flowers this week.ReplyDelete
Last year my son had emergency surgery and was in the hospital for 9 days. When I think of that time, I get so emotional and a little angry that the insurance had to negotiate. It was nearly 6 figures. I shudder to think where we would be without insurance. I think we have a huge challenge.ReplyDelete
Most importantly, if I were near, I would come and help you, and your family. I would journal it with sketches.
Flowers, family, friends and faith are the best!
Thank you for speaking to this, dear Rachel. Nobody should have to be fearful for themselves or their loved ones in this way. Sending lots of love across the distance today, and I wish you a particularly flowerful few days.ReplyDelete
Well said, and thank you. These days when so many people are struggling, they too easily forget that what happened to your step father could happen to them. Anyone can get into an accident. Anyone can be laid off and lose their insurance. Anyone can run up hundreds of thousands of medical bills in a matter of days. We need a better system.ReplyDelete
I've already written my congressman and senators, Reid and Pelosi and the President, but after reading this I'm going to do it again.
I hope your step father's health continues to improve, and that your mom has continued good health as she cares for him.
Great post Rachel! I am totally with you on this. I hope your step-father continues to heal and that somehow, someway, this mess will be straightened out...ReplyDelete
Thank you for your kind words Rachel, I will be sending you warm thoughts this week as well! I think flowers are definitly in order ;-)ReplyDelete
I hope your stepfather's health will continue to improve, as wel as your mother's peace of mind and comfort. Thank you for sharing your thoughts -- with which I could not agree more. When I found out I was pregnant, we could not move to Hawaii because I was "high risk" and no one would insure me. Worse, Hawaii does not even have a "high risk" pool for people who are denied insurance. Our health system is certainly broken, and while there are cons to some of the current proposals, the outcome would absolutely be better than the mess we have today.ReplyDelete
I hope you have a good week resting and rejuveanting.
I live in Quebec, Canada, where we have this kind of public insurances, in a public health system (for the moment). Sure, it is not perfect. Nevertheless, we are all equal in front of sickness or accidents. I never have to worry if i'll have the money to pay my treatments if something happens to me, or to my family. I can't believe that you, our neighbors, live without it.ReplyDelete
I deeply hope that it will works for you as well...
Have a nice week. I am now a new regular visitor of your blog... Love it!
maybe something to make you smile today...one of your headbands is featured on the main page. It was under the category of "mint"ReplyDelete
so proud of you. being proactive is so easily put on the backburner, thank you for the gentle nudge towards things that should matter to us all. there are times when i read your blog and have to remind myself that you are the same age as my kids - at times you have the wisdom, wit and interests of a sage. xo to you and all. kathiReplyDelete
Hey Rachel, I'm so glad that Dave is continuing to recover well. I guess here in the UK it is easy to complain about our health care system but we are in the lucky position of not needing to worry in an emergency situation. In times of illness or accidents things are stressful enough without having to worry about the fear of not being able to pay medical bills. The example you gave of the father with the heart attack is really poignant and it must be an unbearable situation to be in.ReplyDelete
It's ironic that your mother who has provided others with such good health care has to worry about keeping herself healthy, this really is crazy. I really hope that others respond to your call to send letters asking their representatives to vote for reform in the healthcare system so others don't need to suffer this unfair system.
A post that so touched me, having family living in the U.S.. The things they go through is shocking. The Canadian system may not be perfect, but I nor my family has to worry about bills. The crazy health system in the U.S. is one of the reasons I stayed living in Canada. All the best to you and your family.ReplyDelete
This post gave me the chills. And made me so grateful for our healthcare system in the UK.ReplyDelete
My thoughts to you and your family xx
This is such a beautiful and important post. xoxoReplyDelete
I am sorry to what happened to Dave.ReplyDelete
Watch this program on PBS.