Biff America: Carrying a lady (column)
January 28, 2017
"I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me."
With tears in our eyes, Ellie and I swayed to the music while singing along with the local band. Like Woody Guthrie, we too had roamed and rambled across this amazing nation and feel ownership of this great country. A great country, but one whose failing health concerns us.
It was Inauguration Day. I was livid with anger and it wasn't even DJT's fault.
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To be clear, I'm devastated that Trump is now my commander in chief, but I hope he will prove me wrong. I have faith in our system of checks and balances and the commitment and energy of our citizens to remain vigilant and involved.
We woke up that morning, left the radio off and stayed off the web. I did leave my phone on and when you work as often as Kellyanne Conway's conscience, it is difficult to refuse a favor from someone to whom you owe many.
The voice on the phone asked, "Are you busy? I need some help."
I had it on speaker phone so my mate gave me serious stink-eye when I lied and said, "No plans, what's up?" (I was wearing ski clothing and the car was packed for a backcountry day.)
"I need help carrying a lady into a car." (No it wasn't Bill Cosby calling.)
"Car. What car?" I asked.
"The one that is in your garage."
"We were heading out, is it important?"
"It is a matter of life and death."
How often do you hear those words?
Now I'm going to change some names and basic circumstances to protect these people's privacy but the gist of what I'm about to write is true — and true in far too many cases.
Virginia is in her mid-80s. She worked her entire adult life either as a secretary or a mother. Her husband worked his entire life and had passed away about 10 years ago leaving Ginny alone in an empty home. She picked up occasional work into her 70s, but since then has been living on Social Security and relying on Medicare. She is fairly self-sufficient but does have a few friends and family who will periodically check in on her. She hates to be a bother, but on Inauguration Day she called one of them and whispered, "I hate to bother you, but I can't breathe."
When my pal arrived at her home a few minutes later, her lips were blue and she was in serious oxygen debt. She was literally on the brink of suffocation so she needed to get to a hospital, but became agitated when he suggested calling an ambulance.
When my friend insisted, Ginny brought up the time she fell and broke her arm and how the difference between what Medicare paid and what she owed made a huge dent in her Social Security, which she used to pay her living expenses. The expenditure of oxygen just saying that sentence alone almost caused her to pass out. Rather than upset her more, and knowing I lived less than five minutes away, my friend decided that if I left immediately, it would be faster and less upsetting to drive her the 8 miles to the emergency room.
"Ginny, this is my friend Jeffrey; he is going to help carry you to the car."
I was amazed how light Ginny was. And I do have to say I carried more than my share of the weight. To make a long story short, we got Ginny into the car, drove her to the emergency room, and she is doing much better. That is the good news.
The bad news is the reality of why a sweet old lady has to make a decision about whether she can afford the care to keep herself alive. To be clear, I don't blame our new POTUS … YET. But I do blame every other elected official past and present. We live in a wealthy nation where old people, young people and families have to balance what health care is needed with what is affordable. Affordable and attainable health care is provided successfully in many other countries. It is an embarrassment that this is not the case here. Say what you want about the failings of the Affordable Care Act, but at least the past administration tried.
I respect and support those who took to the streets to protest the day after the election. But as well as protesting our POTUS, we all would be well served to ask: In a nation that spends somewhere near $600 billion a year on defense, could we not allocate more so our most at risk citizens don't have to choose between being carried in an ambulance or carried by me? If Ginny were any heavier, I might have gotten a hernia and God knows what my copay on that would be……………
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