My Left Foot

Oops…we did it again…

While most folks had their eyes trained on Houston and Mitt Romney’s appearance before the NAACP Convention, I was paying attention to what was going on in Congress.

The Tea Party Republican House (Don’t get it twisted folks. John Boehner no more runs this place than I do) voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or as some of us call it Obamacare, or as others of us call it, Romneycare. Depends on where you are in the country and how you feel about it, I guess.

It was the 33rd time that the House had decided to vote for repeal. Granted, it probably won’t even come to the floor in the Senate, and even if it did it would probably be vetoed by the White House (and there’d be no override because the votes aren’t there…) but they felt they had to do it. This time, they had five Democrats join them in the “repeal Obamacare” fun…

You’ve gotta admire these folks. Their single-minded focus is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s also one of the best manifestations of the definition of “insanity” I’ve seen in awhile. They keep doing this whole “repeal Obamacare” thing the exact same way, yet they’re probably wondering why the result is never different.

Especially since the U.S. Supreme Court took time out of of it’s busy schedule of giving corporations personhood rights while taking away the rights of unions to politically organize to decide that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional by a vote of 5-4. While Chief Justice John Roberts did no one any favors by using the legislature’s power to tax as a means of justifying the individual mandate that’s needed to pay for much of the ACA, he voted to uphold it.

Usually, a Supreme Court ruling on something means It’s a Wrap!

But not when it comes to the ACA.

As my eloquent friend Dr. Germaine Edwards put it yesterday, the Tea Party Republicans are acting like a little kid who can’t accept no for an answer on this one. They’ve gone to Mom and Dad (voting for repeal), and they’ve said no. They’ve gone to both sets of grandparents (the Supreme Court), and they’ve said no. But they just keep asking….

And now it’s up to 33 times.

From the moment that the decision was announced, folks bandied it about. Reactions from some of my friends ranged from “This is going to bring down the republic” to “This is going to screw the Middle Class”, to “It’s an unfair tax!”

(Granted, the penalty included in the ACA is only directed to those who don’t get insurance, but I’m tired of telling that to folks…The oxygen I’ve expended on this could have gone to just about anything else…”)

But after hearing a hour or so of this shouting, renting of clothes and gnashing of teeth (Yes, it did get kind of Biblical to me after a while), I decided that I had seen and heard quite enough of this.

So I grabbed my I-Phone, went into my bathroom, hit the camera app, and took the following picture:

Yeah, I know. Kinda gross. Don’t have to tell me…

I then put the following caption on it…

“Under normal circumstances, I would never put a picture this personal on my Facebook page. But I think that it’s about time that some of you saw what happens when a person has no access to healthcare. This is my left foot. You know, the left foot that kept me in the hospital for 39 days and nearly caused me to die from an infection? My foot is gonna look like this for the rest of my life. And it could have been prevented by the simple act of allowing me to buy health insurance. Now ask yourself: Should I have to die so that you could make a friggin’ point?”

I guess that I should explain.

To say that 2011 was a monumentally bad year for me would be a cosmic understatement. I found out just what it means to be poor…but not poor enough…in the good ‘ole United States of America. Now I won’t get into all of what happened to me because I don’t really feel like returning to that place, but one of the things that happened to me is that I ended up homeless. As a freelance writer, I have to hustle a lot to get the money I need to survive. I still have $1,700 outstanding from 2011…

When you’re homeless, you sometimes find yourself sleeping in cars, at extended stay hotels, and at other places that increase your costs of day to day living because you don’t have a home base.

When you don’t have a lot of money, and yet have a lot of overhead, something has to give.

Unfortunately, that something was my diabetes medication. While I could afford one of the prescriptions because it was generic, the other was $285. So I couldn’t always get it. In fact, for three months straight, I couldn’t get it at all.

And don’t even get me started on trying to get health insurance. Whenever I’d call an insurance company trying to get help, the minute I’d say “I’m a diabetic”, the phone would go dead.

I knew that eventually it would all come to a head. And in October, around two weeks after my Mom died, it finally did.

My Significant Other and I were on our way out when I got my foot stuck in his car. I pulled it out, we went where we were going, and everything seemed fine. But when I got up the next day, something wasn’t right because my foot really started to hurt.

Then it began to swell. A lot. Eventually it got so big and so painful that the simple act of going to the bathroom required taking painkillers. But I didn’t want to go to the hospital because I didn’t have health insurance, and thus couldn’t afford it.

But once blisters showed up on my foot, and one of them burst, my Significant Other decided that I was going to the hospital, whether I liked it or not.

When the doctors and nurses in the Emergency Room looked at my foot, they looked at me as if to say “You know you’re not going anywhere, right?”

I probably would have laughed at that if it weren’t for the fact that I was rushed into the Intensive Care unit, hooked up to an insulin pump, and given some serious IV drugs. But the blood tests showed that the drugs weren’t working and the reason was that an abscess was keeping the medicine from getting through.

So they had to operate on my foot. And as you can see by the picture, the abscess must have been a real humdinger because they had to cut a big bunch of tissue out. I got to see what the inside of my foot looked like as a result, and it wasn’t pretty. Trust me on this.

I was then given more serious IV drugs with the aid of a PIC line, physical therapy to make sure my other foot didn’t atrophy, was attached to something called a WoundVac that helped get rid of excess moisture in my wound while helping new skin develop, discovered a serious new (for me) painkiller called Dilaudid, given a skin graft (you should see my left thigh), and wound up developing a new appreciation for the show Animal Cops on Animal Planet.

And I wound up getting all of this care in the hospital because if I had tried to do this at home, it would have cost me the equivalent of what it would cost to produce a small independent film…The WoundVac alone was $500 a day to rent without insurance.

I was able to go home 39 days later a now insulin-dependent diabetic who was hit with a nearly $500 bill for medication that I was able to pay thanks to an inheritance.

(Thanks Mom…)

While I was in the hospital, I was cared for by a group of really good doctors and nurses. Among those folks was a group of residents from my alma mater (Temple Owls are indeed everywhere…) who were budding podiatrists.

They were also the most honest with me. One of the residents told me as he changed my WoundVac dressing and marveled at my recovery, that he was glad that I was doing okay now, because I really wasn’t when he first saw me.

To be exact, he said, “If you had waited another day or two to come in here, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything for you. The infection would have traveled through your blood stream and you would have died. We’re glad that you’re grateful that we were able to save your foot, but that wasn’t our concern. We didn’t care as much about saving your foot as we were about saving your life.”

My life.

Over an infection?!

Ain’t that some shit?!

Now you might think that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen here, but in the good ‘ole United States of America, where there’s a difference between poor and not poor enough, it happens more than it ought to. A Cincinnati man who had lost his job and didn’t have health insurance, died last year when a abscessed tooth became infected and the infection spread through his body.


Over something that could have been cured by pulling a tooth and giving someone some antibiotics?!

In the richest nation in the world?!

Again, ain’t that some shit?!

But it happened.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand why there was so much screaming, renting of garments and gnashing of teeth on the part of my conservative friends when ACA was upheld by the Supreme Court. The beautiful thing about America is that you can be loud and wrong (or right if you agree) and no one can take away your space on the floor.

But when it comes to whether or not people have access to affordable health care, and whether or not they live or die, your philosophical bent should be put to the side in favor of compassion for your fellow man.

This became an issue during the 57-post discussion that was the result of my slapping my left foot up on my Facebook page. I had one friend suggest that I could have gotten health insurance with a $5,000 to $10,000 deductible, something that wouldn’t have helped me even a little bit. This same friend also went on to tell me that perhaps my lack of health insurance and my illness were my own fault because I haven’t abandoned journalism in favor or something more lucrative that would make me less of a drain on society.

(No, I’m not kidding. And mind you, this is a friend…)

But I also had friends who called me, of all things, brave for doing this.

But that wasn’t why I did it.

“I put my story out there not as a means of garnering sympathy or compliments or anything like that,” I said. “I did it because I felt like this discussion needed a recognizable human face, and I figured mine would be as good as any. I understand where everyone is coming from here. But the bottom line is that you’re dealing with PEOPLE. Not ideology. Not theory. People. So the next time that someone tells you that those of us without healthcare are expendable, remember who they’re talking about.”

“They’re talking about me.”

Which is why in some ways I was hurt by some of the rigamarole when ACA was upheld in the Supreme Court. You’re my friend. You think I’m an okay person. You know I need what this act provides. And you care so much about your ideology that you don’t see that if we cling to your ideological bonafides, I could die? Really?!

In my last post, I said that while I could understand why folks might think it was kind of rude on the part of the NAACP to boo Mitt Romney for saying he’d repeal the Affordable Care Act, I understood why they did it because these folks are on the front lines of the healthcare disparity issue on a daily basis. If they’re not the person in need of health insurance, they’re a relative of someone who needs it and saying that you’re gonna tear a safety net that they really need apart might make them more than a little pissed at you.

And they’re also gonna show it.

So while I don’t condone booing a speaker at a convention, in the case of the NAACP and Mitt Romney, I understand.

Now if we could only help the Tea Party Republicans understand that the ACA is law…and that they might want to apply their laser focus to bills that truly create jobs…I’m just sayin’…

Gotta have a sense of humor. Especially if you’re in the hospital, have a hole in your foot, and haven’t seen your hairdresser in weeks!

Surviving the Game

“That went well…”

Because I was trying to teach small children how to do journalistic interviews yesterday, something I would only recommend to the most patient of my fellow travelers in journalism, I missed seeing Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP as it’s better known.

Romney, in what can only be considered the equivalent of walking into Ohio Stadium in a Michigan sweatshirt before the Wolverines and Buckeyes take the field on a Saturday afternoon, came to the civil rights organization’s annual convention in Houston in an attempt to do one of three things: (a) pick off some of President Barack Obama’s supporters in the African American community (b) make the Republican Party seem like it wants to be more attractive to people of color and (c) show independents and whites turned off by the antics of such folks as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and others that the adults that ran the Republican Party prior to 2010 were still, at least marginally, in charge.

At the very least, and I know this because i’ve covered NAACP conventions, Romney could be guaranteed a respectful audience. The gathered folks might not be real fond of what he had to say, but they’d show him the courtesy of listening. One thing that we are taught almost from birth as African Americans is to be respectful.

But while we’re a respectful people, even the most genteel among us isn’t going to let you pull down your pants and take a crap in the middle of our living room floor without us pointing out to you that it’s not cool…We’re probably not only going to ask you to leave, but will send your crap out along with you in a bag that you might hope doesn’t break before it hits you in the head…

Which is something that Mitt Romney found out on Wednesday when he said that among the first things he’d do as president is get rid of every wasteful program including the repeal what he calls Obamacare, what Massachusetts residents call Romneycare, and what those of us who need it to survive call the Affordable Care Act.

(I have a blog post coming on that, but let’s stick to this for now.)

And the crowd, well, responded…

I hear tell that Romney wasn’t surprised that he got booed for this. That’s probably because of (d) which is, he goes and speaks to Black folks, gets booed, and all of the white folks who have lost their minds completely over the last four years because we dared put not only a Black man, but a Black man with an African name and a pretty Black wife and two beautiful Black children into the White House feel better about voting for him despite the fact that he’s done the equivalent of an Extreme Makeover to make himself palatable to them.

Now is there a part of me that thinks it’s rude to boo someone that you basically invited into your home? Yeah. Miss Ollie, my late mother, would be mortified if I brought someone into my home for the sole purpose of being rude to them. She would tell me that if I was going to do that, I shouldn’t have asked them over in the first place.

And on one hand, she’d be absolutely right.

But on the other hand, there’s that whole “taking a crap in my living room” thing to consider.

While I can totally understand that Romney is running as fast as his legs can carry him from President Obama’s version of the healthcare plan he put together in Massachusetts, he needs to understand that most if not all of the folks in the audience that makes up the NAACP either know someone or are someone who could benefit from affordable healthcare.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some stats from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured:

  • African Americans are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance than whites (53 percent vs. 73 percent.) This is in spite of the fact that eight out of 10 African Americans are in working families.
  • While Medicaid provides somewhat of a safety net for African Americans who have income levels at less than 200 percent of the poverty level, families that make more are uninsured at a level of 30 percent because they make too much for Medicaid, something that would be taken care of as part of the expansion of the program in the ACA.
  • Uninsured African Americans are at least three times as likely not to have a primary care doctor than uninsured whites. Much of this is because income levels in the African American community are lower than that of whites. 

I could go on, but hopefully you get my point.

Mitt Romney didn’t get booed by the NAACP because, as Rush Limbaugh says (and can someone tell me again why we’re still paying attention to this gasbag who was supposed to be in Costa Rica by now) the group is racist. He didn’t get booed because the NAACP, as some dude on Sean Hannity’s program put it, is a hate group.

He got booed because he told a room filled with people who live the whole health care disparity debate on a daily basis that he, basically, didn’t care if they lived or died.

Don’t know about you, but if you’ve been through some of the stuff that I’ve been through due to a lack of health insurance, you’d have probably booed too…and you may have used a megaphone.

So while I understand that there are folks who feel that the audience at the NAACP convention committed a faux pas by booing Mitt Romney, I can also see why they did it.

And in my next post, so will you.