As of this moment the Senate of the United States is debating the most atrocious healthcare bill I have every seen. It is heartless, and the people debating, exempt themselves from its consequences.
A few weeks ago I was talking with a woman from another church who was working church camp in partnership with my church. Somehow in the discussion I was telling her the birth story of my eldest child. I will spare you details but essentially it goes like this: I ignored what my body was telling me and trusted the experts in front of me. After all, what did I know? I told the nurses and doctors something wasn’t right, but they told me it was fine. It wasn’t, and although we all lived there was needless suffering.
When my children were babies they would get ear infections, like babies do. But with my kids there was no fever, no rubbing of ears, no “outward” signs. You know how I knew? They wouldn’t sleep. And my kids always slept, like were sleeping “through the night” (6 hours) at 6 weeks. When they didn’t sleep they were sick.
Our pediatrician, a woman in her 50’s, told me I knew my baby better than anyone, I knew how she would react and I shouldn’t wait for a fever, if I believed she was sick, bring her in. The other doctors in her practice (yes, all of the others were men) didn’t see it the way she did. And maybe this isn’t completely fair, but here was my experience, and it happened with both my children and multiple times.
One of my kids would have an ear infections, so I would call the pediatrician and didn’t care who I saw as long as it was that day. Because when my kid is sick, they are sick and need to be seen today. I learned my lesson from my daughter’s birth and followed the advice of the doctor. I was her advocate, I knew my children best.
The male doctors of the practice, every time. Every. Damn. Time. Would look at a “young” mother (I was 27 when my first was born) and give me a lecture about how they don’t have a fever. About how they aren’t rubbing their ears. I would have to sit through a lecture on how I was over reacting.
“Just look in their ears” I would say, every time they said something stupid. You want to lecture me? Fine, but do it AFTER you have examined my sick kid. Every time. Every. Damn. Time. They would look in my kid’s ear and say “whoa!”
I had all the curse words for those guys.
My kids take after me, a fever is not our first indication, but we know when we’re sick. Whenever I have a doctor who listens to me I am truly thankful. But as a pastor, these stories are not unusual, and they’re even worse when you’re not a person our culture considers “believable”.
Last year I had two different people in my life get misdiagnosed and mistreated because the doctors and nurses weren’t listening to them, thinking they were over reacting. They had Lyme’s disease. Yes, Lyme’s is very difficult to diagnose, but as soon as they started telling me symptoms I knew they needed to be checked for Lyme’s. You know what? Just test for it if you even wonder… for realz.
One of them kept asking for the test and 3 different doctor refused to give it because the symptoms didn’t follow the checklist. A month of excruciating headaches (caused from meningitis, but they said were “migraines”) and medical leave they finally convinced a doctor to check, suprise! Positive. The second person had symptoms of Belly Palsy and when in the ER had the Lyme’s test and it was positive, but no one followed up with her to tell her so three months went by undiagnosed.
In these cases they were a middle aged white man and older white woman, living in the suburbs with good insurance. Then today I prayed with a man who’s story sounded very familiar. In 2011 he started having symptoms and as soon as he started talking I knew where this was going. He is a middle aged Hispanic immigrant who has insurance, is an american citizen and has lived in the US over half his life, he also lives in the city, but to suburbs. Guess how long he was in and out of the hospital? Guess how many doctors he complained to and no one listened? Guess how long it took him to get diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease?
For the 40 something white male it was 4-6 weeks, for the 60 something white female is was 8-12 weeks, how long did it take the Hispanic immigrant to get his diagnosis?
It took 5 years for his diagnosis. He lost his job and his house, all because of his illness that went diagnosed. After 5 years it was so bad a doctor finally caught it, but the effects are there and he will forever be altered by the consequences of the doctors and nurses not listening to him, not believing him when he was first hospitalized.
Again, I am not here to debate Lyme’s disease, I know it is difficult to catch sometimes and many people go undiagnosed, but these stories are so eerily similar. And today, of all days, all three of these people had insurance which is the reason they were diagnoced at all, but the irony is not lost on me today.
As the Senate debates this senseless bill, I have to say but one thing. Healthcare is broken, taking away options especially for the poor will make things worse, not better. Doctors need more time, more resources, and we all need better coverage, NOT LESS.
How much money, time, energy, and pain could have been saved with a little more care and attention. Let’s not just act like we care, let’s actually make a care act that cares, listens and treats people.
After all, they are our bodies, we have the right to be heard about what is happening with them.