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LJ Idol Week 8: First World Problem

I hold the phone between my ear and shoulder, listening as intently as possible while still appearing to be working.

"I went to the doctor yesterday," the familiar voice is saying to me. He sounds tired, too serious, so unlike himself. "I got up and I remembered I promised you that I would go. I had to keep my promise to my girl." I smile a smile he cannot see. His promises to me are so important, he wants to keep them. I am that important.

"Thank you," I say. "I am so glad, Daddy." I am twenty-three and will forever refer to my father as "Daddy". I will also continue to nag him and look after him until the day one of us leaves the planet. It is the nature of our relationship. On a recent visit, I noticed he wasn't eating much at all. He insisted it was a stomach virus, but something about the situation wouldn't leave me alone. He dropped eighteen pounds without even trying, and found it difficult to eat a normal meal. It terrified me. I made him promise that if he still felt sick when he went to Connecticut to see my grandmother for Christmas, he would see a doctor.

Later that evening, he called me again. His doctor called that evening with the results of his blood tests and asked how soon my father could get to the emergency room. Fifteen minutes later, my father had an IV in his arm with several types of antibiotics dripping into his veins. The stomach virus he thought he had was a serious infection in his blood, which could have killed him. The doctors were especially concerned because he has a defect in one of the valves in his heart, which could have caused the infection to spread there as well. Thankfully, it didn't get that far.

My father spent over a week in the hospital being pumped full of antibiotics, going through test after test to assess his health. This would be concern enough for anyone, except there was one additional problem: my father does not have health insurance. I can't remember the last time he did. He never sees a doctor, gets blood work done, gets a check-up. He's been turned down by health care companies for his heart defect (before pre-existing conditions were eliminated), and his job in catering does not provide health care. I think my father believed he could wait until he was old enough for Medicare before he needed health insurance, but he is two years away. For most people in this country, being without health insurance does not equal an eight plus day stay in the hospital, with all necessary tests and medications provided. For most people, no health insurance at some point puts you out on your ass, blood infection or no blood infection. Yet my father is not most people: while he barely has any money, my grandmother does. Our last name wouldn't mean a thing in Fort Lauderdale, where my father lives, but it carried some weight in Greenwich Hospital.

In America, your last name and who your parents are can hold weight, if you're lucky. It can say all the things you could never say out loud, like, "We're good for it; run all the tests you need." Money and the promise of money can turn a real dilemma into a first-world problem, and in this case, I'm pretty damn glad.



( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 5th, 2011 02:51 am (UTC)
I'm very glad your dad got the care he needed! My parents are also uninsured as my dad retired young. That worries me a lot.
Jan. 5th, 2011 12:04 pm (UTC)
Yes...it has been scaring me for years, so I feel your pain. I'm hoping my dad can be accepted into the Medicaid program for now.
Jan. 5th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
I can understand why you would be happy about this, and, in your father's case, I'm glad it worked out. I can't help but think about the rest of the country though, whose last names do not carry such weight.
Jan. 5th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
That was my point. I was thinking about that as well, because if his family didn't have the money to help him out until we get things set up with Medicaid, my dad could have died or become much worse. I'm just happy that we were as lucky as we were.
Jan. 5th, 2011 05:51 am (UTC)
Well spoken. But for every man like your father who is 'good for it' 2000 more are unable to pay and cannot get insurance or cannot afford it. I'm happy for hi and hi family he was one of the lucky ones. But even if you have insurance the companies will force doctors to send a patient home before they should so they can save a dime.

Well done.
Jan. 5th, 2011 12:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much. And yes, we discussed how if he had an HMO he would have been sent home long before he actually did leave the hospital. My dad can't actually afford health insurance either...we are trying to get him into the Medicaid program at the moment. We feel very fortunate that he was in the right place at the right time and that my grandmother was able and willing to help him in his time of need.
Jan. 5th, 2011 07:10 am (UTC)
This is the core of my current situation, really. Suspicious symptoms, but I wanted to put off having them checked out until I got a job, and then until I was eligible for insurance. My parents, with the force of 'We'll pay for it' behind them, have demanded otherwise.
Jan. 5th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
Sounds like my dad, definitely. I hope you get the care you need and that you are ok!
From the right journal this time. - i_id - Jan. 6th, 2011 02:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 5th, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
Health problems are universal and so scary.
Jan. 6th, 2011 02:26 am (UTC)
Very. Thanks for reading!
Jan. 5th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC)
I've been around the Intarweb and my American friends long enough to understand that the horror of no healthcare coverage can happen to anyone across the board. It's very real, but it will likely never be something I really understand. The way I was raised, healthcare was always just There. Granted, our (Canadian) healthcare system has it's issues and problems, but nobody ever needs to think about whether or not they'll recieve care based on whether or not they're wealthy or employed with a good company.
Jan. 6th, 2011 02:29 am (UTC)
I can definitely understand what you're saying because if my dad wasn't in his situation, I would probably feel the same way you do...only because I've never been without health care, really. Only once during a brief period of going from my mom's insurance to insurance coverage with my job. My dad's situation really opened my eyes to what it's like for people who don't have health care, and recently it showed me how lucky we are to have people who have the resources to help him until he gets Medicaid. Most people aren't so lucky.

I do wish we had a system like that here, though...when no one had to worry. Everything has its problems, but it would be so nice if everyone got the care they need.
(no subject) - wyliekat - Jan. 6th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 5th, 2011 11:27 pm (UTC)
I have had health insurance in precisely one of 10 or so full time jobs I have had over the course of a lifetime. These problems are more common than most know.

Good entry.
Jan. 6th, 2011 02:33 am (UTC)
They really are...and these days most of these places are doing everything they can to avoid paying out for healthcare coverage for employees. Thanks so much for reading.
Jan. 6th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)
Wow! Really glad he got to the hospital!
Jan. 7th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
Me too! Thanks so much for reading.
Jan. 6th, 2011 08:36 am (UTC)
a blood infection?! omg that's so scary! i'm glad you pushed him to go to the hospital, and that your grandparents are in the financial position to take care of that.

i totally understand what you mean. when i was out of school for a semester, my insurance was "frozen" for lack of a better term... basic checkups were covered but things like labwork, specialty visits and the like were on a varying status--if i could prove it was an emergency, ok, but just for further followup was out of pocket. i can't imagine living daily with the idea that i can't get sick or hurt because i wouldn't be able to take care of myself with medical care.
Jan. 8th, 2011 01:47 am (UTC)
I'm glad it all worked out too. It was really terrifying. The doctors told him that he could have died if the infection went to his heart and everything. Thank goodness it didn't.

I can't imagine going through that, either. It's such a mess not to have health insurance. Paying out of pocket is so much money.
Jan. 6th, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for shedding extra light on this very real first world problem. Good for you for insisting that he get checked out!
Jan. 7th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading! And thank you...I'm just glad I nagged him and that he actually went!
Jan. 7th, 2011 06:34 am (UTC)
I find it so scary, that people who need help just aren't able to access it. I am glad that your father was able to get the treatment he needed.
Jan. 8th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
It is scary. I'm glad my father was one of the lucky ones. Thank you!
Jan. 7th, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)
I thought they had to treat you regardless of your ability to pay?

Regardless of which, I'm sure glad your dad got the care he needed!:)
Jan. 8th, 2011 01:48 am (UTC)
I think they do, but from what I understand they won't keep you for that long if you can't pay. They just can't do it. Staying in the hospital is like $5500 a day. Had they not been given some money while my dad was there, I know he wouldn't have been in there that long.

And thank you! I am too.
Jan. 8th, 2011 05:51 am (UTC)
Oh, geez, how scary! I'm glad that your father is all right.
Jan. 8th, 2011 01:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
Jan. 8th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
I'd be glad too. In fact I'm glad for both of you. Great entry.
Jan. 8th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
I am glad things worked out for your dad!
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