Several months ago I came home around mid-day and as I got out of my car, I saw my neighbor standing at his door looking my way. Before I could speak, he asked me “Can you help me?” I said “sure” thinking that he wanted help moving a piece of furniture. What do you need, I asked. He answered saying, “I can’t breathe and I’ve called 911, will you show them into the house for me?” Good God! Lay down on the sofa, I will watch for them. What happened?
My neighbor, it turns out, has a heart condition. He also suffers from diabetes and is a considerably overweight 50-year-old widower whose children live out of state. His breathing seemed erratic and I was afraid that the paramedics might be too late. I asked him what prescriptions and medications he had taken, knowing that he might not be conscious when the ambulance arrived and that the medical personnel would need that information. I made him as comfortable as possible and stood at the door looking for the paramedics to make sure they came to the right house. Just then, another neighbor pulled up, it was Tracy who is a nurse. I exclaimed God sent you and quickly explained what was happening.
Tracy rushed in, checked on Kevin and then, ran upstairs to collect Kevin’s considerable prescriptions from his medicine cabinet. It turned out that the four bottles of prescriptions he had downstairs were but a fraction of his total prescriptions. At that moment, the paramedics arrived and began their work. After a methodical, but rapid assessment, they began to prepare the gurney and asked Kevin to remove his shirt so they could situate him on the gurney. Tracy prepared a bag with Kevin’s prescription medications and a few toiletries and some clothing for Kevin’s stay in the hospital. Kevin began to protest and said he did not want to be taken to the hospital.
I looked at him incredulously. One of the paramedics took his heart rate again and explained that they could not leave him at home in his condition. He explained as gently, but as firmly as possible, that Kevin’s condition was life threatening and that unassisted, Kevin might die. Finally, Kevin consented and was loaded into the ambulance. In the aftermath, I asked Tracy “Why was he so adamant about not going to the hospital?” Tracy explained in one very short and devastating sentence. “He doesn’t have health care insurance and he can’t afford the ambulance and a hospital stay.”
Six weeks ago Terry, a 48 year old unemployed cinematographer died. He died from complications of swine flu and an undiagnosed condition. Terry, unknown to him, had diabetes. Since he did not have health insurance, he had not had a physical in several years and was unaware of his condition. When he came down with the flu, he simply stopped doing his freelance work and went to bed. He tried overcoming his flu with over-the-counter drugs and when he got very seriously ill, he finally went to a doctor. The doctor immediately had Terry hospitalized and put on a ventilator, but it was too late. Terry died.
Today, the headline on the Huffington Post read “Public Option: RIP.” Over the last many months, I have followed the debates and the political process regarding health care legislation. As part of that, I have been scandalized by the fact that many of our senators and members of Congress have received obscenely huge amounts of financial “contributions” from private Heath Care Insurance companies. If this happened in a third world country, many Americans would correctly call it bribery. As if we are morally superior and somehow immune to that in this country because of our political system. Jay Leno once quipped that Congress is the only whorehouse in America that does not make money. Normally that would be funny, but it is hard to laugh when you are attending funerals of people who died needlessly, so that Senator Lieberman and many of his colleagues can live in luxury. As a clarification, I would never dream of referring to Senator Joe Lieberman as “a whore.” After all, a whore actually gives you something of value for your money and there are some things that a whore would never do for money.
I have read many comments that people have posted in response to articles on the Health Care issue. One of the most offensive was a person explaining that he had health care insurance and that he did not want to lose his great policy and be put onto a public option. Aside from the fact that this person was misinformed regarding the public option, this betrays a total disregard for the suffering a vast number of uninsured (and uninsurable) people. Dickens in his famous work “A Christmas Carol” has Scrooge state of those who would die in England due to poverty “Good! Let them reduce the surplice population!” Dickens wrote his work as a searing critique of a “Christian society” that understood “morality” as something pertaining only to the use/non-use of one’s genitalia. They seemed to have forgotten that God actually expects each of us to be our brother and sister’s keeper.
As a society, we have made wealth our national god and greed our national religion. American corporations have plundered third world countries to provide “bargains” for American consumers. When I was a boy, there was a popular ad on television with a jingle that said, “Look for the Union label.” The union label meant living wages for workers. Americans forgot that and instead looked at the price tag to determine what they bought. This national blind greed has been rewarded by American corporations that have out-sourced American jobs overseas to lower product cost and increase quarterly profit margins.
American citizens are rapidly approaching a third world standard of living. The once “middle class” is rapidly shrinking leaving an ever growing unemployed and underemployed class of poor people and a very small wealthy elite. As for our elected representatives in Washington DC, well we Americans have the best government that money can buy.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight