25 March 2011

Personal Anecdote on Health-(S)care

My momma has been experiencing a few health problems lately, which has me, and I’m sure the rest of my siblings a little concerned. The health of her heart is at issue. She has had some anxious moments when her chest would hurt—my unprofessional guess is that she could be having a series of minor strokes. On the one hand, momma is a proud and capable woman for her age, 70+. She still drives her own car, she tries to be as physically active as she can, she is witty (but sometimes bitter—life can do that to a Black woman), and relatively keen on current events. There are still truly teachable moments when momma can turn me on to things I may not have considered. I love that about her and will always treasure and honor her for it. On the other, she has her physical, emotional, financial, and perhaps spiritual limitations. Since her recent health issues have evolved, I can tell that she is strained; her demeanor is deteriorating a bit because she is frustrated with the level of care and the financial burdens the health-scare system has imposed upon her.

I feel her pain. It makes me furious that she is being treated so poorly by a cash-conscious, profit over people system. She has been in the ring and her opponent has pummeled her spirit, her fight is now in flight. Rather than continue to deal with the dismissals she’s now grown accustomed to, even though it makes her temper flare (one more thing to raise her blood pressure), Momma prefers to ignore the unreliable, misdiagnosing, paternalistic men and women calling themselves healthcare professionals. Her last few episodes have left her with a sour taste and a huge dose of distrust. I can tell from our conversations, conversations where I try to convince her to give it one more try because I want her to live and be healthy for as long as possible, that she has decided to take her chances and wait it out. My heart tells me that may not be wise, but I want to respect her wishes; she hasn’t lost her mind, only her faith in finding a physician that will put her interest and health first. Also, benefits available to poor and working class folks are a joke! My momma pays more for healthcare now than she did when she was working and had employer-related benefits.
Lack of affordable healthcare has put many Americans at risk; my momma has to cough up almost a third of her very limited, fixed income. More often than not, she has to make choices between going to the doctor for what ails her, which likely would require an additional cost for any prescription or testing she’d need, and eating or paying for other basic needs. In the state of Georgia, where she [once resided], there are very few programs for seniors.  Momma spent a grip on her utilities. Electric and gas are separate entities in Georgia, and [the last winter she lived there was] exceptionally cold and wet. But not only is U.S. healthcare unaffordable, it is woefully inadequate. Momma’s most recent experience with a doctor she’d half-way trusted, has proven to be humiliating and irksome. Not only is communication an issue, but getting her provider to pay attention and give a damn about what’s going on with her has aided in her decision to say “fuck it” (my words, not hers).
This concerns me as I am thousands of miles away and can’t be there for her to give them doctors a piece of my mind, too. I also can’t convince her that it is in her best interest (or is it really?) to seek the medical care she deserves rather than allow the system to win and cause her even more pain and grief. And for some reason, my sweet, beautiful mother believes in President Obama’s healthcare plan, that it would put an end to the in-too-deep bureaucracy and increasing costs passed on to patients when I am not so sure. I’m not convinced that this will solve all of our healthcare problems. Are you?
More importantly, what Momma is going through (and maybe even yours) gives me a glimpse into what I and millions of other baby-boomers will be going through when we reach the age of retirement and social security, which is not that far away. Right now, I’m trying hard not to stress, not to ignore my aches and pains, to eat right, exercise, engage in my own preventive medicine. I honestly don’t want to subscribe to this currently flawed health-scare system. It’s scary to think about it, and would be even scarier to go through it. Not like it ain’t already a damn nightmare. But we really need to do better. There ain’t no reason why we can’t…
Currently there has been no conclusive prognosis about what’s ailing and causing my only living parent to have pain and discomfort. Nothing, in my opinion has come close (or close enough). In the meantime, I am praying that Momma’s health will not deteriorate and that she will find a doctor who will restore her faith in a failing system and her health as well. I’m sure it would put both our minds and our hearts at ease.

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