Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just A Mom

As I sit here this morning sipping my coffee, watching the news and waiting for my precious daughters to awaken, a great sense of foreboding overshadows the beautiful sunrise.

1,330 miles from here, politicians gather in our nation's capitol to cast their votes on a bill which would forever change America, mortgage my children's future and, most frightening of all, give the government control over one of our most basic needs: healthcare.

While not a scholar, a politician, a pundit or a medical professional, I do have a vested interest in what happens in that Capitol Building today. I am a mother.  And I have experienced what happens when the government gets involved in health care.

Back in October, and as many of you already know, my twelve-year-old daughter contracted the H1N1 flu, which weakened her defenses and allowed all sorts of infections to run rampant throughout her body.  She fought strep, pneumonia, thrush... the most life-threatening of which was the pneumonia.  The staff at the Children's Hospital saved her life by inserting a chest tube which drained nearly two liters of fluid from her chest cavity. I am filled with profound gratitude that my daughter's life was spared, each and every day.

The problem is, she never should have fallen so ill in the first place.  A drug exists which would have saved her before the flu weakened her immune system to the point of such acute susceptibility.  Its called Tamiflu and is readily available.  From the moment my daughter spiked a fever, the very first day she was ill, I fought like a tiger to get her a prescription for Tamiflu. I called every hotline, every clinic, every emergency room around, in an attempt to acquire treatment for my daughter.  Maternal instinct drove me to pursue every possible option in a desperate effort to get the anti-viral drug my daughter needed.

What kept the Tamiflu out of my hands?  Was it a greedy, giant insurance company?  A selfish, profit-driven pharmaceutical giant?  Some rich doctor who didn't care about my child?

No.  We have excellent health insurance and skilled, compassionate doctors.  It was our own government standing in the way of my daughter's treatment.  At every single turn, I was told, "Ma'am, we need to follow CDC guidelines, and your daughter is not eligible for Tamiflu.  She is not in the right age group, and she does not have an underlying medical condition which qualifies her.  I'm sorry, but its just the flu.  Do not bring her in, we will not do anything.  Give her fluids and Tylenol."   My daughter was denied treatment because she was in the wrong demographic.  The government, in its infinite wisdom, had instructed the healthcare industry to ration the drug, for fear of a shortage.  It instructed them to tell people to stay home, for fear of hospitals being overrun.  It was the RATIONING of healthcare, and it was only the beginning.  I shudder to think of the children who died as a result.

Tamiflu is most effective in the first 48 hours.  I knew that, and therefore fought like hell as soon as my daughter fell ill to get my hands on some.  Instinct drove me nearly to the point of taking hostages.  Had there been a black market for the stuff, I'd have sold my soul to get it.  But hey... I'm just a mom.

This mom sat here four days, watching my daughter's previously vibrant health fail, bathing her with cool water to reduce the fever, pushing fluids and Tylenol and Motrin.  I spent countless hours on the phone with nurses, seeking advice.  We took her to the emergency room once, and she was sent home (with a high fever, full-body rash, deep wet cough...).  When we took her back the next day, she was in excruciating pain (a couple liters of fluid crushing your heart and lungs will do that), covered from her neck to her ankles with a bright red rash, fighting for breath, rapid heartbeat, dangerously low blood pressure.  When she was finally admitted to a local hospital, she stayed there for three days, failing further, until she was rushed by ambulance to the Children's Hospital which saved her life and where she stayed for three weeks.

We found it ironic that while in the hospital, she was finally given enough Tamiflu (and other antivirals) to choke a horse.  Ironic, too, that when my parents contracted the same flu, I went through the same fight to find Tamiflu for them... this time, calling from my daughter's hospital room, working the phone for hours.  A compassionate nurse finally put me through to my personal doctor who, knowing our story, immediately asked where he should send the prescription and for whom he should write it.  My parents, both in their 70's, were better within 48 hours of taking the drug, though their initial symptoms were every bit as serious as my daughter's.

Tamiflu, administered immediately upon the onset of her symptoms when I asked for it, would have saved my daughter three weeks in the hospital, five weeks absence from school, endless suffering, numerous painful procedures, the failure of her kidneys due to the heavy doses of antibiotics, and a serious brush with death.  Our insurance company would gladly have paid for the drug... if not out of the kindness of their hearts, then for the fact it would have saved them the nearly $60,000 in hospital bills they did pay.  Oh, and by the way... they paid immediately.  Without question.  That big, bad, horrible insurance company.  Go figure.

The government, in its desperate need for control, and its bureaucrats, in all their arrogant self-importance, nearly cost my daughter her life.  In taking away the power of doctors to make the best decision for each individual patient, and in taking away the power of parents to decide what is best for their own children, they not only complicate healthcare... they prevent the immediate and instinctive care that most medical emergencies require.  When people sit around on their hands, waiting for some bureaucrat to make a decision regarding treatment for fear that if they make their own decision, they will lose funding and good graces from the powers that be, it cripples the system... and PEOPLE DIE.

Healthcare decisions need to be made by those passionate about the well-being of the patient... that patient, her family, and her doctors. As I sit here sipping my coffee and watching what goes on in Washington, it makes me sick to hear the politicians accuse the doctors and insurance companies and pharmaceutical giants of greed and callous disregard for life, while simultaneously selling their own votes to the highest bidder.  Its an absolute freak show... and yet they want to be in control of my body?  Or, God forbid, those of my children?

For Americans to willingly hand their very lives over to bureaucracy, believing they will be coddled and their best interests guarded by people who "care", is proof positive we are victims of the biggest snow job in the history of the planet.  NO ONE is going to care more about your health and well-being than YOU.  And none of us, save the veterans who have honorably served this country, the genuinely impoverished or the truly and permanently disabled, should expect the rest of the nation to pay for the care of it.  We've adopted an embarrassing sense of entitlement in this country...  we have the best healthcare on the planet, the most compassionate, dedicated and skilled doctors, the most advanced technology, the most progressive research, and the most generous philanthropists who help to fund it all... and yet, its not enough. We think everyone should have everything all the time, on demand.  For free.

Those misguided expectations will cost us our freedom... and possibly, our lives.  Our children and grandchildren will certainly pay dearly for our selfishness in countless ways.  Their tax burden will be overwhelming, and their choices and freedoms severely restricted compared to those we've known.

As a mother, I make every attempt to teach my children responsibility, generosity, selflessness, independence and empathy.  Today's antics in Washington  fly in the face of all that.  This is not about the care of our fellow human beings, not about putting others' needs above our own.  This is not about generosity nor about philanthropy.  It is all about greed, power, corruption and control... truly, a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing.  If what those politicians are doing were right, they would not need to be usurping the very Constitution our forefathers set in place to guard against such evil.  There would not be such a desperate push to "pass the bill so we can then see what's in it".  I've heard quite a few good lines in my time, but that one takes the cake.

I teach my children that when they are pushed to make an immediate decision, before they know all the facts and ramifications of that decision... it probably is best to step back away from the situation and take deeper look. Usually, its an attempt to get us to sign on the dotted line before we realize the full impact and the negative consequences of that decision.

But hey... I'm just a mom.

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