I try not to get political, but recent events with Healthcare has fired me up to the point where I actually have written to the senators. The issue of pre-existing conditions knows no boundaries of race, creed or political leaning. The dividing line is resources to faces these issues. Life is not always neat and tidy. Divorce, job change, and the illness itself have a way of interrupting financial resources and what used to be a normal way life. My letter is an impassioned plea for love and compassion, not politics in creating this new legislature.
Dear Members of Congress,
Seven months ago, I began my 28th year teaching at a new school district. I was excited for the opportunities that awaited me. Though not a young teacher, I prided myself on having a wonderful mix of experience and enthusiasm that helped me to be successful with all the students I worked with. 7 days into my new position, my world began to change into something I would never have imagined or anticipated. It came in the form of a Transverse Myelitis diagnosis. That is a rare condition that triggers inflammation on the spinal cord causing nerve damage and often paralysis. My decision to go to a teaching hospital with smart and savvy doctors (after my local hospital released me) allowed for quick treatment and a reversal of some of the paralysis I experienced (but not all). When I didn’t get better after a few months, a follow up MRI’s were ordered. This confirmed that I also had Multiple Sclerosis. I would go on to add Optic Neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve) to my collection of Latin names.
But according to the new healthcare rules approved by 217 House Republicans on May 4, 2017, none of this really matters because I already had a pre-existing condition. I have a joint condition called Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. I’ve also had cervical cancer. In your world, those alone could have kept me from qualifying for insurance to help pay for the treatment that allowed me to at least walk out of the hospital with a walker. Without treatment it’s hard to imagine how much permanent damage would have been caused. I still don’t know what the future holds. Actually, now that I think about it, I had the joint condition before being diagnosed with my cancer, so if this were in place in the year 2002, had I not had insurance, I would not have been eligible for the cancer surgery that saved my life. But, you know what? I am now 54. Though still not old in my mind, I have lived to watch my children grow. Life hasn’t always been easy, but I have friends and memories I hold dear. I’ve had a good life. It’s not me I am so upset about.
I’d like to introduce you to a colleague’s 5 year old son. His name is Leo. He has cancer. Do any of you have kids? Or grandchildren? For once, I’d like you to see beyond yourself and your wallets and your own pristine health care. What if YOUR child got sick? Just think about it. I wish I could show you the pictures my friend has shared. The stories she has told. This little boy who has faced so much at a young age, and handles it with more grace and wisdom than you will ever know. How can you look at YOUR child and say your child matters but others don’t? How can you say that your child deserves special rules allowing you better healthcare options? Even children who beat cancer have uncharted roads ahead due to long term complications we don’t even know about yet.
Every single one of you should be forced to walk through the cancer wing of any hospital, ESPECIALLY the pediatric one. Look in their eyes and tell them they are not worth the expense. Tell their families. Put your child’s face in that picture. It is bad enough to deny the right to life and quality of life to adults, but to children? How can you look at your own family without guilt? There is death on your hands. This is not being dramatic; it is just a matter of time. Who have you killed today if this indeed passes?
What about my friend’s son who was born with a physical disability? A more charming child you will not find. At what point do we say to him, “I’m sorry, you may no longer have the surgeries you need. You have met your limit. Yes, I know your parents are both teachers and have good jobs, but there has been a lot of illness in your parents’ district. Another teacher’s son has cancer and another employee had a hip replacement and his wife got TM and MS, and that’s just for starters. The costs were just too high. We can no longer cover any of your families.” Have you even stopped to think about the people you are impacting? These are REAL people, not statistics. Good people. Families just like yours.
If someone in your family gets sick, do you want them to live by the same rules you have mandated to others? Not everyone has the financial resources you do. At what point do you start being OF THE PEOPLE? Remember Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address? It begins with “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Equal. That means the same. It was a concept I used to teach my kindergarteners. Every one of them would be able to tell you that when one group contains more of something it is no longer equal. The group that has more is considered “greater” and the group containing fewer is consider “less than”. Your policies create groups of people that are considered “Greater” and “Less than” based upon their physical characteristics. I can’t even begin to say how wrong this is on so many different levels. Just because someone has an illness, whether physical or mental does NOT make them less of a person.
Lincoln’s address ends with his assertion “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” I don’t see a government of the people, for the people. I see a government of the chosen, of the privileged and of the mighty. When you play by different rules than those you govern, you are no longer of the people! These policies will be directly responsible for causing people to suffer and perish. What if it was your parent? Your sibling? Your friend? Where do you draw the line of decency?
Looking to the Christian faith, there is a clear directive given to Jesus' followers. The story can be found in Mark 12:28-31 NIV.
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.e30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’f 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’g There is no commandment greater than these.”
As the Black Eyed Peas sang, “Where is the love?” To all the voting members, I ask you, where is the love? To the members of the Senate, I beg you to please do not allow this tragic possibility to continue.
PS: If you want to see what life is like with a life altering disease, I encourage you to check out my blog www.hope4life180.com. I refuse to let my conditions rob me of hope. Nor will I let you. But I admit, you are not making it easy...
Kristen is a former kindergarten and special education teacher with two wonderful grown children, two precious fur-baby dogs and a mischievous cat. Diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis in September of 2016 and Multiple Sclerosis in December of 2016, and Optic Neuritis in January 2017, life has changed in a big way in a short amount of time. But HOPE springs eternal as she rediscovers and reinvents life along the way.