By Donna Smith –
Jenny Fritts was 24 years old. Jenny lived with her husband Sean for the past five years, and together they had a little girl named Kylee, 2. Jenny was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child – a beautiful, baby girl.
Jenny is dead. Jenny’s unborn baby is dead. They died because they were turned away for appropriate care at a for-profit hospital because they did not have health insurance. Sean rushed Jenny back to another hospital when her symptoms became even more severe, and he lied about having insurance to get her in the door. She was placed on a respirator in intensive care, but she didn’t make it. She died. And so did her baby.
They become two more of the more than 45,000 Americans who die preventable deaths due to our broken healthcare system every year. Two more. Mother and child.
And the tragedy doesn’t end there. Sean has been very depressed since he lost Jenny and their baby. The rest of his family and friends are worried about him. But he cannot get treatment either. He doesn’t have insurance. (You can watch their story here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td802aj-7Sc) Imagine how you might feel. Imagine.
These are our killing fields. In America. In October 2009. In Barack Obama’s America. That land full of hope and promise for those who can afford that hope and promise. Yet few in our government offices react as one might think you would when hearing of Jenny and the baby and Sean and Kylee.
I read these stories every day on the guaranteedhealthcare.org website. I read them and clean up a spelling glitch or two and then post them for the world to see. The website belongs to the nurses of the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee. Patients send their stories to the nurses in cascading waves of anger and frustration and desperation. They want someone to listen and to give a damn. And they want someone to help.
But there are so many. The nurses advocate for their own patients whenever they can. And when it’s possible, nurses take to the streets and to the phone to try to protest. But the numbers swell every day.
Many are like Jenny and Sean and have no insurance at all or have lost their insurance when they lost jobs or because an employer cannot afford to offer it.
Some are insured and fighting insurance companies for care that their doctors have ordered.
Rich Zandlo, 38, suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and is currently surviving off just 19 percent of his lungs. Rich, who lives in Phoenix, needs a lung transplant at UCLA, but his insurer will not cover the transplant if it is done out of state.
His family is looking for help raising money to get him temporary housing and care in California so he can be available to be on the operating table when the call comes. Find out more, and what you can do to help, at their website, www.helprichzandlo.com.
Amanda (Tannery) Field, 30, has thrombocytosis and doctors are also working her up for Budd Chiari syndrome which is preventing the liver from draining properly. Simply put, her liver is dying. Amanda and her husband both work full time, and she has a 13 year old son to support. Due to the illness, she has been unable to work recently, due to the hospital stays. Aetna, her insurer, has denied help due to a lapse in coverage while she was unemployed.
Amanda’s family also has a website, http://www.giveforward.org/amandafield/ where they are trying to raise the quarter million dollars necessary for a liver transplant. They have raised only 7 percent of the funds needed to be evaluated for a transplant. Doctors are currently working on a variety of interim measures to keep her alive.
So, what is our Congress waiting for? And our President? Have they so detached themselves from Sean’s reality, from Rich’s struggle for air and from Amanda’s failing health that they think this debate is about excise taxes and re-election prospects?
This is no political contest. This is very real life and death. Mothers and babies. Young and old. The profit-takers know no boundaries for their greed, and our killing fields are filling with the innocents.
We apparently do not understand that this is no different than an external enemy attacking our citizens and killing 120 of them every single day. What would we be doing? Would we repel that aggressor? Would we protect civilian lives? I don’t know that answer to that as we apparently think it acceptable to allow Jenny and her baby to die. And they were just two that day – 118 others died too just on that day alone.
The media should cover Jenny’s death and her baby’s death with as much intensity as any boy in a balloon drifting over the Rockies. When we are forced to confront what we are allowing to happen in homes and clinics and hospitals all across this land, we will perhaps find it less easy to dismiss as anomaly.
Healthcare is a basic human right. Whatever stops the human rights transgressions against our citizens – our Jenny’s and our babies — that allow this should be halted immediately and by force, if necessary, and then fixed properly so that all citizens of these great United States have equal protection under the law of their human right to healthcare. Immediately extending care through a Medicare for All like effort would be a less drastic but equally effective fix. A non-profit, single standard of high quality healthcare for all. Jenny would be alive today and so would her baby daughter.
Our government should grant, provide and protect the right to healthcare as if it meant the future of our nation or its failure. Because that is exactly what it does mean.
Donna Smith is a community organizer for the California Nurses Association and National Co-Chair for the Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign.