Along with many millions of others we watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics with our family last night.
I was struck to the point of near shock that among all the dancing and music and fun, the creators chose to showcase the NHS, of the UK as part of the Olympic celebrations.
It was at that moment, as the nurses danced around, I distinctly remembered one of my many hospital stays here in California. I was in horrible pain from my SLE and RA and the inflammation was running rampant throughout my body. The nurse has been buzzed to get me 2ml of dilaudid. A very powerful narcotic and usually my last resort when it feels my body just can’t take anymore.
Another woman had walked in just before the nurse. She identified herself as someone with the hospital. A patient advocate and specialist in accounting, or some odd name she gave herself. She had explained to me our insurance company was in a fight with the hospital and they weren’t sure if they were going to need to transfer me or if they would have to keep me because the closest hospital not arguing with my insurance company did not have a bed for me.
Regardless, she needed money because of this fight, because who knows when they might get paid by my insurance carrier.
I was hurting so bad. I didn’t care. All I wanted was my nurse with the drugs. I just wanted relief. And I wanted this woman with the clipboard to get the hell out.
The nurse finally came in, drugs in hand, and saw the hospital administrator at my bedside. She began to retreat.
No. No. Please… it’s ok. Come in. Please. I need my pain medication.
The nurse looked a the woman with the clipboard. Looked back at me. Looked back at the woman with the clipboard. I was begging her with my eyes to put the medication in the IV NOW and she could tell. She kindly, mercifully, walked to my port and began her work.
So did Cruella de Vil.
Mrs. Vest I can reach your purse for you if you’d like to write us a check.
Sweet relief kicks in almost instantaneously as the drugs make their way through my veins.
Mrs. Vest I’ve put your purse on your bed. Will this be check or card?
I’m trying to think. I can’t think. I shouldn’t pay her now. While I’m high. I need to think.
Maybe you should come back? I really don’t want to switch hospitals, my children are only a mile away from here. They aren’t allowed at the other hospital and it’s so far away.
And I begin to doze.
Mrs. Vest. I said will that be check or charge?
Hmmm.. .oh. Check. I guess. Check? I’m writing a check?
Yes. Here is a pen.
I can stamp the hospital name on it so you don’t’ have to write that part out.
And then I woke up. Hours later. It seems I had the presence of mind to tweet my experience while it was happening knowing it was wrong and horrible and I had a twitter stream full of people replying to me with things like ‘DO NOT GIVE THEM A CHECK ERIN’ and ‘DO NOT PAY THEM RIGHT NOW.’
But I did. I gave them a ton of money while drugged out of my mind.
In contrast, there was Great Britain, celebrating their safety net. Celebrating that no woman would ever badger a drugged patient for money while she moans in pain in one of their hospitals. Celebrating that no matter how poor, how disadvantaged, a sick person is never turned away.
Is it a perfect system? Heavens no. But it is common sense and decency and something they SHOULD be proud of across the pond. They SHOULD celebrate they are not out for profit when saving lives. They are simply out to save lives. To keep their citizens more healthy. Alive.
All the American system has done is take my money. At my weakest, it’s only wanted my checkbook. It has only leant a helping hand when forced via the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. That has been the ONLY change getting us closer to a realm of decency the British have already figured out.
There is a huge lesson to be taken away from the opening ceremonies:
Pride should be felt by a nation when they offer a healing hand to the sick. Shame should be felt by Americans who also seem to offer their hand, but only the palm-face up, waiting for it to be filled before they even consider the sick woman reaching up.