So a Funny Thing Happened While I Was Watching the Health Care Summit

crossposted at

There I was, knee-deep in my element. Answering work e-mails, editing posts, watching‘s live stream of the Health Care Summit at Blair House. I was screaming at my screen, tweet cheering the Dems and tweet jeering the GOP … sitting in my pjs, loving life.

Then the phone rang.

Mrs. Vest this is N, the school nurse. Your son is in my office with an abnormal bloody nose, can you come right away?

Jack's 1st, and hopefully last, concussion

The rest is kind of a blur. The kind of blur a parent gets when you get a call you don’t exactly understand but know your child needs you NOW.

My first reaction was to grab my wallet and keys and run, and then I realized I wasn’t dressed. I threw on clothes while thinking

bloody nose?

wait … why am I rushing to school for a bloody nose?


did she say clots?

Clothes on, I grabbed my wallet and keys, typed an incoherent message to my work colleagues (I think it said something like “school called bloody nose clots jack running”) and bolted out the door.

I called my husband on the way, said I would call when I knew more, and then maybe broke several laws driving from my street to my son’s school — which I have now deemed too far away.

I might have passed a California Highway Patrol cruiser along the way, and I might have been a)on the phone and b)driving like a bat out of hell and c)thinking “Fucking Chase Me Copper — I’ll pull into the school parking lot, and you can ticket me as I run to my kid.” I swear to you I made eye contact with the officer behind the wheel, and it was the “I’m a mom on a MISSION DO NOT MESS WITH ME IN THIS MINIVAN” look. It worked. I blew past him, and he stayed right there putzing along while the drivers around me were clearly doing the “OMG is that woman insane there is a COP RIGHT THERE” thing.

I parked at the school and then did the run/walk but don’t really run walky thing to the door thinking the entire time “calm down, she said bloody nose … but what nurse calls for a bloody nose???”

And there was my boy. Ice pack on face and blood everywhere.

He seemed OK. He was chatty as hell about his day. The nurse and teacher told me of the students finding him bleeding all over his sandwich at lunch, he didn’t say he hit his head. But there were clots and blood from both nostrils, from his mouth — it was so overwhelming.

Decisions were made and off we went to lay on the couch for the day. Thinking he had a bad bloody nose and wanting him to at least be cleaned up, it seemed sane to just bring him home.

Except a funny thing happened on the way to our house. Upon reliving his harrowing tale of bloody nose horror … my first grader’s speech began to slur.

Without even contemplating I put on my left blinker, darted across two lanes, and headed straight for the local ER. I kept talking to him. He kept drifting in and out of making sense. He was telling me now he did bump heads with someone. But his story kept changing. He was confused.

My heart racing, I drove the mile to our local hospital — it seemed like 20 — and my questions to the backseat were resulting in answers like “soffa hitta hwead.”

Left turn signal. Lane change. Park. Carry child into ER. Again the look in my eyes paid off and my quick explanation and fast signature had us back and in a bed in under five minutes. The doctor was there not two minutes later.

He's not slurring anymore & thinks cat scans rock. The bump? His stuffed turtle

Eyes OK. Nose OK. CAT scan shows no bleeding. No fracture. Diagnosis = concussion.

Now here’s where I finally exhale. Not entirely, mind you. But I exhale, and I look around. Now I am actually capable of looking around.

It turns out this place is filled with people and doctors and nurses and moaning and IVs and hustle and bustle. Things you don’t see until you exhale.

Two beds down I see two Sheriff’s deputies and someone obviously in custody. Across from us, a mother and two sons. Directly to our left I hear broken English and understand enough Spanish to know a dog bit a girl and she was crying telling her mother she shouldn’t have played with the puppy without asking their neighbor first.

Then came the woman with the clipboard. Like they always do. First to my son and me. I hand over our insurance information and card, explain that I am the primary card holder, not my husband (that annoys me every damn time), and she moves to the curtain next to us.

No tengo seguro médico.

Then the next.

Nah, this gangbanger doesn’t have insurance. I bet you he doesn’t even have a real job. Hahahahaha

Then the next.

Well, I think my ex-husband might still have the boys under his insurance but he lost his job, so I’m not sure. Can I just put down his name and number?

Then to the next.

Nah, I ain’t got no insurance. I lost that when I lost my benefits, and I’m still waiting on my VA paperwork. I ain’t got no VA paperwork yet but the lady down there said she’d get it to me soon.

There we sat in the “Fast Track” area of the typical American emergency room, and I was the only one with insurance coverage.

Not an hour or two before, I was actually enjoying and cheering and jeering the political theater in Washington. I sat at my desk from 7 a.m. until the phone call I got at lunch, engrossed in every word coming out of every politician’s mouth sitting at that summit.

How they would do it. How they want to do it. Which way they should do it. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who’s been wronged? All the talk of costs and deficits and government control. The talking and talking and talking that from one room in D.C. seemed entirely out of place in this California ER.

But at least for me, sitting in that ER, health care in America — and the battle over reform — was very clear. There were no questions. Criminals and children were being treated, and bills would come due. And there I was, on the edge of my son’s bed, the only one with insurance. THE ONLY ONE.

I missed the remainder of the health care summit to be with my son in that emergency room. I’m glad I missed whatever discussion was had. Because I was sitting there in the middle of the answer, in the middle of an ER, in the middle of a crisis that MUST be fixed.

As the only one WITH insurance today as those beds were strewn with dog bites and rashes and knife wounds and heart attacks, and yes, concussions … as the ONLY ONE with the privilege of having the means to have an insurance company pick up part of today’s bill — I said loudly and I said clearly for those in that room with me: Shut Up, Washington.

I am not any more privileged than the girl in the bed next to me or the family across from us or that alleged criminal two beds down. This isn’t a political game. This isn’t what I earned.

This is a right that any civilized society provides its people. ALL of its people, not just those with money and not just those lucky enough to have a job in this economy. ALL of its people.

The bill is due, Blair House participants. Either you can pay in political gains and losses or we can pay in our lives, our homes, and our dignity. As the president said today before I ran out of my house in a panic, “I hope we have the courage to make some of these changes,” and then he called out everyone in that summit for not having the guts to do it.

It’s gut-check time.

Get it done. And get it done now.

Actual Progressive Summit Coverage Can Be Found:

Odd Time Signatures

The Mahablog

Think Progress



Pajamas Media

Pundit & Pundette


Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest also blogs at Queen of Spain Blog and is monitoring her son for the next 24-hours and hopes to NOT land back in that ER anytime soon.

Politics & News Contributing Editor Erin Kotecki Vest


  1. Wow hon between you and Keith Olbermann, you both brought tears to my eyes. You are so right and I wish the freaking GOP would just get it. I don’t think they will after seeing bits of the summit and I think Obama is right and we just need to go ahead and work without them.

    .-= Cat´s last blog ..Precincts Gathering for Annual Meeting =-.

  2. You have my ardent admiration for being able to compose such a coherent piece in the aftermath of a concussion and catastrophic nose bleed. Sadly, since all of Congress is covered by health insurance, they seem to have no real understanding of what it’s like to have none.

    Hope your son’s better soon.
    .-= feefifoto´s last blog ..Where Have I Been Hiding? =-.

  3. Fine piece. Please send to Obama (okay, he doesn’t really need it but since he mentioned the ten letters he takes to the residence each day, I’d like yours to make the cut.) and to every representative. They are so out of touch with reality. Why the hell else would the R team want us to START OVER?!! It took us forever, almost literally, to get here and even this bill doesn’t nearly do the job and doesn’t take effect soon enough. But, on the plus side, your little boy is fine and his street cred at school will go way up just for being covered in blood.
    .-= Debby Carroll´s last blog ..The Power Of Choice: Does Your Life Reflect Your Moral Compass? =-.

  4. General response to the entire post: Abso-fucking-lutely. 🙂
    .-= Alicia´s last blog ..Yep. My Kid. =-.

  5. Your post made me cry twice, first for you as a mother with a child with something not right and then for all the other mothers that can’t provide what you can. The lack of widely available health coverage makes me incredibly sad too. As do politicians saying that the government shouldn’t control health insurance, people should, like any of us have any control over the coverage we have. I take what’s given to me by my husband’s employer and am thankful I have anything.

  6. Just an update: pediatrician did a recheck this afternoon and he’s fine. No further symptoms but suggested it could be a week of him acting a bit ‘fuzzy’ … sigh

  7. AMEN! preach it…just get it done. i saw a brief bit of the toyota at congress coverage…what a waste of time! get the health care coverage done. now.
    .-= barb´s last blog ..working again =-.

  8. This made me cry, first for you, then for all of those other people, families. This sounds naive, but it is so wrong, so terribly wrong and obvious. Obvious and fixable. I am not going to tell you that what we have here in Canada is health care paradise, but i have never heard such heartbreak that isn’t about a literal broken heart in a waiting room. Best of luck my friend(s).
    .-= jenB´s last blog ..Sometimes sparkly just looks that way =-.

  9. Carolyn S. says:

    Okay, if every member of congress sat in an ER somewhere and observed for just one hour, how long would that take? Every city of any size has one and if it’s a trauma center, so much the better. Just sit and watch and learn. Be careful not to trip over that woman who has been waiting for hours and now is dying and nobody is helping her. Don’t ask that person behind the desk “how much longer?” unless you are prepared for a ration of shit. Just watch and think, how many of your constituents are one paycheck away from financial ruin if they get sick?

  10. Wow. I’m a military wife. Spent three hours in an office today waiting to get an ID CARD…and there were only two people in line before me…and we’ve been in the service for 15 years. I believe each person has a right to health care – but I do not believe that this administration – who built a huge platform ON health care – has spent a YEAR on health care – and has provided NOTHING – can do this. You might be better off moving to Canada. Or maybe we could use people like yourself, who are impassioned, and can not be bought, to move us forward. There will be no health care for our citizens until there is an end to partisan politics.

  11. Bomyaj this administration has provided a GREAT DEAL. The ideas, the support, and the backing to compromises I would never agree to- all in the name to end this partisan bickering.

    The time for talk is over. It’s time for action. And if those in the way won’t step out of the way, it’s time to just plow right on over them.

  12. Okay, my Diet Coke flew came out my nose reading….
    c)thinking “Fucking Chase Me Copper — I’ll pull into the school parking lot, and you can ticket me as I run to my kid.” I swear to you I made eye contact with the officer behind the wheel, and it was the “I’m a mom on a MISSION DO NOT MESS WITH ME IN THIS MINIVAN” look. It worked. I blew past him, and he stayed right there putzing along while the drivers around me were clearly doing the “OMG is that woman insane there is a COP RIGHT THERE” thing.

    The rest on the missing this or that but knowing what you saw and experiencing verses watching the live stream and hearing politicians…
    So frickin’ true. So frickin’ true.

    I’m glad your son is okay. I’ve had these moment and I laugh a nervous and very familiar/bonding laugh.
    .-= Sommer´s last blog ..The Evolution of Me =-.

  13. i know the horror of the phone call from the school and feel for you, glad your boy is okay. i am australian and just cannot imagine the added pressure in the er of having to wonder how you are going to pay! everything is free here (unless you have private health cover in which case you pay for elective surgeries and more for other ops, go figure). but in an emergency, everyone is free. americans must band together and DEMAND free health care…most of the rest of the western world has it and america likes to be number one don’t they?

    anyway, i love your blog, you have a very funny way with words.

  14. Thanks for saying this in such an eloquent and approachable way (I’m going to link this post on my own blog). Managed care and access to care in the US are truly a nightmare. And the scenario you described is rosy compared to the current state of mental health care….

  15. Excuse me while I give you a standing ovation for this excellent synopsis of the disaster that is our health care system!!

    As a former worker in said system, it was tragic to see so many patients wait far too long for any treatment because they do not have health care….waiting with catastrophic health care issues like cerebral vascular events (i.e. strokes) or chest pain. Things that if treated soon have a much greater incidence of successful treatment, but instead came far too late with horrible outcomes.

    Something needs to be done and soon, and I thank you for being one more voice for change!
    .-= AsKatKnits´s last blog ..To “tink” or not to “tink,” that is the question… =-.

  16. This week a friend of mine, an active duty army officer and the father of an 18-year-old and a 6-year-old will go in to find out if he’s eligible for any clinical trials for his Stage 4 liver cancer. If he is, his family will have to weigh whether they should take the risk of participating in a trial that might save his life but that the army medical insurance won’t pay for or if he should just go home and die and avoid risking bankrupting his family. Is this a choice anyone in America, much less someone who has risked his life for his country, should have to face?
    .-= LSM´s last blog ..On A Lighter Note =-.

  17. It feels wonderful to be one of the privileged few. That privilege carries with it a responsibility: to work toward getting that security in place for others.
    Thank you for your post.
    .-= Daisy´s last blog ..Creativity; the kind I’d rather avoid. =-.

  18. Hey, sorry about the whole scary nosebleed thing. Yikes. And yet it led to you writing this post and making your point – which needs to be made, more and more, by our own personal experiences, on our own personal blogs, until we steer the focus back to the ISSUE AT HAND. My site was never meant to be about healthcare reform, but again and again, that’s where it goes. I hope you had a chance to read the NY Times article yesterday (Week in Review) – “The Cost of Doing Nothing on Healthcare”. I posted it on DailyCupofJo. Think about doing the same.

    Great job on this post. Important.
    .-= Daily Cup of Jo´s last blog ..Monday morning quarterback: Chile, hiking in the rain, Girl Scout cookies, the Closing Ceremonies and health care (once more, with feeling) =-.

  19. I think this is my favorite blog post in the whole world. Ever.
    .-= Sara Lacey´s last blog ..Car Reviews: 2010 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE =-.

  20. So very glad your son is okay.
    Even if I disagree with you on this issue, I didn’t feel right not saying that I hope he’s feeling better. Along with everyone else who was there at the same time you were.
    .-= Lucretia M Pruitt´s last blog ..Living Life Out Loud =-.

  21. Are we back to the dark ages with Lords and Serfs?
    Every day this becomes more perfectly clear of a Society of the Rich vs the rest of us. No party illustrates this better than the Republican Party.

    They vote for TAX cuts for the rich, but want to deny the rest of us our day in court if we go in for a sore throat and the doctor cuts off one of our feet.
    They want to privitize Social Security and Medicare so that it will go into the Stock Market and raises the value of their stocks, but also call it a dreaded entitlement, as if that is a bad thing. People work their whole lives for these benefits and the rich want to enhance their greed and subtract our rights.
    You can go through the entire Republican Party line and realize they only help those that are already fortunate such as big corporations, insurance companies, and anyone that can afford their $5000 a plate fundraisers… They look at the rest of us as parasites and an unfortunate inconvenience.
    This is why they have outsourced all of the remaining manufacturering jobs in this country and the only jobs that are left are paper shuffles.
    We cannot survive as a nation if we no longer build anything or cannot treat our employees with dignity as an asset to our businesses, but instead treat employees as liabilities and tax deductions.
    I say we institute a 10% GROSS payroll tax immediately. Then everyone will pay their fair share… No bias or discrimination! Also institute a 3% payroll tax for Healthcare, which would more than cover everyone in America. Do we really need a middle man that keeps 35% in profits?

    There is one Word that strikes Fear and Anger into the Hearts and Minds of all Hardcore Republicans… And that word is?


  22. Wonderful post. Sorry that he was unwell, and glad things seem to be better. So scary.
    Very glad that you are continuing to showcase this epidemic.
    .-= Al_Pal´s last blog ..Sensitivity: I have it. =-.

  23. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on E7135. Regards

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