See, Mitt believes people can get the care they need at the emergency room and that they won’t get a bill.
Wrong and wrong, Mitt.
My son’s story is proof.
Mike was born with a birth defect that left him vulnerable to colon cancer — a pre-existing condition. Since no company would sell him health insurance at any price, he was left to fend for himself. It wasn’t a matter of wrong choices as those on the Right would like to believe; it was a matter of no choices for him.
He tried the emergency room four times. But they don’t have to find the cause of your problems, they only have to address the symptoms, in Mike’s case, pain and constipation. So Mike was sent home with the wrong medications and a bill four times. By the time anyone was willing to do anything for him, the cancer had spread and it was too late to save his life.
People need to know Mitt Romney is wrong, especially since he’s been repeating the emergency room lie a lot lately.
So, I stood with other protesters across from the line of people waiting to get in. One man jeeringly asked me what emergency room had turned my son away, so I told him. It was Memorial Health Center in Savannah, Ga. He sneered at me and turned away, so I went closer to the line. A police officer started to step in front of me and I told him I had no plans to cause trouble.
“Excuse me,” I said to the man. “I see you have a son. You need to know that the emergency room only has to stabilize someone. It’s not a solution.”
He sneered at me again and turned away.
“I do what I do so your child won’t die the way mine did,” I said as he walked away.
One woman read my sign and looked me in the eye.
“Do you have children?” I asked.
“I do,” she said. “But I take care of them.”
Does she really think my son died because I failed to take care of him? I wanted to tell her how desperately I tried to get help for him and how deep into debt I went doing it. I wanted to tell her how much I loved him and how pissed off I was when his heart stopped and mine didn’t. I wanted to tell her how I still cry almost every day because my heart is still so shattered.
But I just stood there, shocked at her answer, as she walked away.
Several people laughed at me. They looked at my sign and laughed. I asked a few of them why they would laugh.
“What about this is funny?” I asked. But they walked away.
A reporter asked me how I felt as he watched it happen.
“It comes from fear, I think,” I said.
Very few of the people in line yesterday are more than six months away from poverty. What if they lost their jobs and could only find part-time work that didn’t have health benefits? Then what would happen if they got sick? If it’s true that the emergency room isn’t the solution, then what happens to them?
So, as a self-defense mechanism, they have to believe it can only happen to people who make “wrong choices.” Looking at my son’s photo and hearing his story bursts that bubble unless you dismiss it with a nervous laugh and walk away.
Then there was the woman who caused me to lose my cool.
“You need to read your Bible,” she hollered, pointing at me.
“I do read it,” I said.
“You’re a liar!” she jeered.
“Who would Jesus deny?” I yelled back. The police officer in front of me stepped away as though he was hoping I’d slap her miserable face.
“Do you think God let him die because I didn’t pray enough?” I yelled. “Tell me! Who would Jesus deny?”
I took a deep breath and stepped back in among the protesters, ashamed that I had allowed someone to get to me like that.
Getting angry at mean, spiteful, self-righteous, ignorant people doesn’t do the cause of health care for everyone and justice.
But she got to me. How dare she think that I didn’t care enough about my son to do all I could? How dare she judge my level of religious faith?
Looking back on it, though, I have to believe she is one scared, ignorant and helpless-feeling human being. I don’t believe anyone can be that mean without some fear and helplessness mixed in.
Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.