Monday, August 24, 2009

I've discovered I'm just a bunch of parts

Sometime, say in your late 40s, you discover you are made of parts. No longer do you consider your body as one whole piece, like Gumby (but graceful). No, you are more like Mr. Potato Head. With lots of different parts that fracture and break. If you have good health insurance, these parts are replaceable, as are Mr. Potato Head's.

Before 40, more likely in your 20s, you glided. Up stairs, down stairs, through halls and rooms full of other 20-year-olds. You flaunted your wholeness, especially to your elders (the 40 year olds). You felt no pain, no soreness. In the morning, you leaped from the bed and into the shower. And you never had to dry between the rolls of fat.

But, then, as you entered your 40s, and more likely toward the end of those years, parts of your body began to revolt. Your knee would hurt one day, your shoulder another. But they traded off. Never did they attack you on the same day. They still respected your youth.

Then comes your 50s. And the pains begin to orchestrate. They stop being polite, one bowing to the other. They all tune up at once: the knees, the ankles, the shoulders, the back, even the thumbs. The glide you once possessed is now a lumber. You grunt when you stand. Getting up from bed is more of a roll and tumble, then a slow unfurling as you limp toward the bathroom. Toweling off after a shower takes soooo much longer.

I am not in my 60s. Or even close. Bob is, and he's doing mostly OK. I do wonder what the 70s and 80s will bring or, I guess I should say, take away.

By then, I suppose I'll be fragile and easily toppled. Like Legos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

For the Bible tells me so

What do I know about health care reform? Not much. Probably about as much as the average American citizen. I know what my gut tells me (you could even say my heart), and that is that every U.S. citizen should have access to health care. I know that's controversial; and I know if universal health care is realized, it's going to cost me in taxes. But I also know that Jesus did not discriminate when he healed people; often they were poor, blind, a little crazy, and of a different cultural background or race. And he never once asked for an insurance card, though he did require faith.

Two years ago, I went to the doctor's office to have my routine colonoscopy. I turned 50, and I was doing what my doctor told me to do. The exam revealed I had a golf-ball size tumor. Two weeks later, I was in surgery getting seven inches of my descending colon removed. A month after that, I began a six-month regimen of chemotherapy because my tumor was at Stage III; the cancer had seeped into my lymph nodes.

OK, say I lost my job (it's been heard of in this country) and I had no health care. (In reality, I am offered excellent health care through Women of the ELCA.) I would not have known I had cancer until it was far too late because I would not have had a doctor telling me it was time for my colonoscopy. I would have waited until I was doubled over in pain, and then I would have gone to the emergency ward where the hospital would have to treat me at great expense. The financial administrators could try to force me to pay; I could go into deep debt, mortgaging my house, selling my car, forking over my children's college tuition if I had any saved. But in the end, when I just couldn't come up with the $100,000 for surgery and the $22,000 a month for chemotherapy, the hospital is going to pass the expense onto those with insurance. And they are going to pay the bills of the uninsured through higher deductibles or reduced health benefits.

Sen. Teddy Kennedy of Massachusettes, who is wealthy as we all know, wrote a recent Newsweek article about how he has been fighting for universal health care since the 60s. Battling a malignant brain tumor, Kennedy acknowledges that he enjoys the best medical care money and health insurance can buy, but he believes it should be open to everybody. "Quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to," he writes in the article.

We, those of us with insurance now, are going to pay anyway. Why not pay up front? The Christian way?

For the Bible tells me so.

(This blog was first posted on the Women of the ELCA blog site.)