Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lisa, 1964 - 2006

There is so much and so little to say when someone dies abnormally young. I can start with the facts: Lisa was my sister. She would have turned 42 in three weeks. She had been in poor health for years, but her rather sudden death was unexpected.

Lisa’s adult life was a series of peaks and valleys, but, in the end, as the valleys grew deeper, the synergistic effects of health and personal problems made it increasingly difficult to climb back up to level ground. Lisa was not particularly good at taking care of herself, but what I am left with is how the state of the US healthcare system made it so hard for others to take care of her.

Many tried—most notably and nobly, our mother—to get Lisa the help she needed, but because my sister had multiple problems, she had to deal with multiple specialists in multiple places. Sometimes those doctors coordinated their approach, but many times they didn’t. Lisa would likely only have benefited from an approach that tackled most of her problems comprehensively and at the same time, but no such program existed for her. Instead, a program that could deal with one problem would only take her if she got another one under control first, and so on down the line. Finding one doctor to manage all of Lisa’s care, or one place that would keep her as an inpatient until she was back on her feet, proved virtually impossible.

I say “virtually” only because with unlimited funds, so much is possible in our healthcare system—but our family’s funds were far from unlimited. For every day spent seeking treatment, it seemed two or three were spent seeking ways to pay for it, and that isn’t so much sad as it is shameful.

Contrary to the propaganda of the insurance industry, selfish Libertarians, and greedy Republicans, Americans have actually favored national, universal healthcare since the 1980’s. On Wednesday, the day after my sister’s death, yet another study confirmed this. The Citizens Healthcare Working Group, a panel that came into being as part of the miserable Medicare drug bill, reported that it was now a national consensus that the federal government should guarantee all Americans access to basic health insurance.

I’m sure it will require several more panels and studies before we can determine that the fed’s guarantee should be backed up with a federally administered program, and a regime change in Washington before we can actually get laws that bring about such a program. Until that time, it is hard to imagine or count how many people will fall through the cracks of our current, fractured system. But I needn’t imagine, and I can start that count at one.

This remembrance has been cross-posted at Daily Kos, where my nom de blog is "Red Wind."


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