Telling the story, over and over

Speaking at a town hall to which my congressman was invited, but chose not to attend.

Three times on Friday and Saturday, I told the story of the death of my son.

It never gets easier. It’s emotionally exhausting, yet I work to find places to speak and people willing to listen because his is the face of the injustice inherent in our so-called health care system.

I stood alone outside the federal office building in Asheville Friday at noon as people at the stoplight honked their approval (this was the first time I’ve done this that no one flipped me off or said rude things). Then I packed up and went to a “listening” session sponsored by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, which is trying to put the best face possible on the legislature’s planned dismantling of Medicaid here in North Carolina.

The right-wing agenda of the legislature has been the shredding of our social safety net ever since they took power in 2010. They have refused to even consider expanding Medicaid and have chosen instead to privatize it, to farm it out to their corporate friends, who will line their pockets with some of the limited funds meant to help people in need.

I listened to a woman who is blind talk about losing her job, and with it, her access to health care, because North Carolina refuses to allow access to health care to people who live below the federal poverty level.

I listened to another woman talk about trying to recover from a horrible accident while having no access to care because, even though she has obvious disabilities related to the accident, she has been denied both Medicaid and disability. I heard her vow, tearfully, to continue her fight.

Like these two women, my son was not lazy, nor was he to blame in any way for his condition. He didn’t choose to have a birth defect that left him vulnerable to colon cancer. He didn’t choose not to buy insurance — that was decided for him by greedy corporate hacks who saw no profit in him. In fact, no one saw a profit in him until he had stage 3 colon cancer and needed chemotherapy. That’s when he became eligible for Medicaid (but only after he left his wife), and the drug companies collected more than a half million dollars while my son waited for approval for disability. He would not live to see a penny of it — his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days when his first check arrived.

This state destroyed a decent mental health system a dozen years ago when it privatized services. I know because I was the one reporter in the state who covered it from the beginning. I watched as people who needed help were denied services. I watched as the state made change after change after change to the system, never allowing it to stabilize. I watched as people died.

When I returned to work after the death of my son, I found an e-mail telling me about the deaths of three young men who died within weeks after being released from state psychiatric hospitals without follow-up plans. One of them was released and dropped off at a homeless shelter that had been closed for months. He landed in a fleabag motel, where, in utter despair, he took his own life.

No policymakers cared until the day the story ran. Then they announced a policy change: No one would be released from a state psychiatric hospital without a follow-up appointment with a psychiatrist and enough medication to carry them over to that appointment.

It took more than the three deaths — it took public outrage over those three deaths — to change policy.

Stories are powerful. Stories matter. That’s why I continue to tell my son’s story.

I told his story again on Saturday, at a Town Hall to which Mark Meadows, our member of Congress, was invited, but to which he didn’t come.

I talked about Mike’s experience not getting what he needed, even from the emergency room. I explained that the ER only has to stabilize patients, not look for or address the root cause.

Two women came up to me after I spoke and told me I was wrong. I explained again how the ER only has to stabilize patients and they insisted what my son got was treatment.

“No, he didn’t,” I said. “He left the ER with the wrong diagnosis, the wrong medications and a big bill three times. What he needed was a diagnosis of the malignant tumor that was blocking his colon.”

“I’ve studied this,” one of them said to me.

“I’ve read the laws and written about it for three decades,” I told her. “You are wrong.”

She tried again to tell me I was wrong, and I just turned and walked away. Some people refuse to hear the truth and I can’t waste my time trying to get through to them.

After that, as I stood fuming about how ignorant people can be, a woman walked up to me and said, “You’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but I have a message from your son. He’s really, really proud of you. He stands behind you as you speak, and he’s smiling.”

I decided to not think she’s crazy. I need to feel his presence whenever I can. I need for him to not be completely gone from me.

So, I tell his story. In his memory, I work for access to health care for every human being, and I won’t stop until we’re done.

They think it’s a joke; I beg to differ

These are the people who just voted to gut your health care. Remember this in 2018. They all need to be sent home. Every damn one of them.

At a town hall in Idaho’s First Congressional District, Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican, claimed no one dies from lack of access to care. The moment was broadcast on CNN.

“No one dies from lack of access to health care.”

I have news for you, you ignorant thug; you can pretend all you want that your vote to eviscerate the health care of more than 24 million people with this draconian bill won’t cause any harm, but the reality is that you will be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Americans.

I was advised to have an abortion when I was pregnant with my son, Michael, because I’d contracted a rare virus and no one knew what problems it might cause. I chose (notice I have emphasized that word) to continue the pregnancy and I adored my son, despite the birth defect that would make it impossible for him to buy insurance, and with it, access to the care he needed.

His doctors chose to deny him the treatment he needed. That choice led directly to his death. That’s the truth, Raul. My son died as a direct result of the health care system you just voted to re-break.

This is my son, Mike, a very wise young man. I continue to be influenced and informed by his compassion and love.

If you and your cronies think you won’t be held responsible, think again. You now have made us so angry, so desperate to get rid of you and your ilk, that gerrymandering won’t protect all of you.

Come Judgement Day (I stopped believing in this many years ago, but I am reviving my belief in the hope that it will happen), you will be held accountable and you will be cast into the pits of hell (another belief I am reviving in hopes you and your murdering cronies will land there).

I already have told my representative, Mark Meadows, the same thing in a fax and in a comment on his happy post on Facebook.

We are coming for you, I told him. We have an opponent who can beat him, I think, a smart, charismatic, passionate and compassionate man named Matt Coffay. I don’t donate to political candidates as a rule, but I have donated to Matt and I will work as hard as I can to get him elected.

The very soul of our nation is at stake here. Are we a nation that cares about human life and wants to alleviate human suffering, or do these murdering thugs truly represent us?

I will once again carry voter registration forms with me everywhere I go. I will register even more than the 50 or so voters I registered for the last election. I will drive people to the polls. I will speak out against this despicable attempt to steal access to health care from the 33 million people who gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act because I am pro-life.

 

 

 

 

Unbeatable? Really?

Mark Meadows is my congressman.

I say that with a deep sense of shame and frustration. He is somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun and not quite as modern.

Meadows leads the Freedom Caucus, which believes in nothing more than its freedom to take basic rights away from the rest of us.

It was Meadows who inadvertently saved us from Trumpcare by refusing to vote for it because it didn’t take away enough. It left mandates for coverage of mental illness and addiction, and Meadows objected to that.

Meadows has no respect for human life, although he calls himself “pro-life” and “Christian,” even though the only life he supports (other than his own, of course) is that of the fetus, and the last time he followed any of the teachings of Christ — well, I don’t know when that might have been.

He is an advocate of taxing the poor, not raising their wages and not giving them food, shelter or health care. He sees public education as a form of welfare, and he wants all forms of welfare abolished.

Apparently, he thinks Jesus actually said, “I got mine, get your own.”

So, why is such a despicable character still in office?

Because my party shrugs its shoulders and says, “His district is gerrymandered and the Koch Brothers fund him.”

OK, so we just give up? That’s it?

This last time we put up a pretty good candidate, a retired engineer who was born and raised here, a man whose name invokes history, Rick Bryson, of the Bryson City Brysons.

But no one would donate to his campaign. “It’s a lost cause,” people said. “We can’t beat Meadows.”

And you know what? We didn’t because we went into it believing we would lose and we were unwilling to fight.

This is why I considered leaving the party. I’m damn sick of this we-can’t-beat-them attitude.

Damn right we can’t beat them, not unless we actually try. Bryson called Meadows out on his misogyny and on keeping a sexual predator on the payroll for months after the man’s aggression was made public, but his voice was barely heard because it costs money in this climate to have any voice at all.

But that’s not enough. We have to call him out on his claims of being Christian and pro-life because he is neither.

I’m not good at raising money. It’s just not a talent I possess. But I am good at calling people out on hypocrisy, and Meadows is about as hypocritical as it gets.

Meadows claims to follow someone who told us to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit people in prison and love one another. He shows no evidence of doing any of those things.

Two years ago, I went to one of his town halls. I was the second person in the door and I was told I had to write down my question. So I asked whether he was planning on fixing the flaws in the Affordable Care Act, you know, since he was a follower of Christ, who instructed him to care for the sick.

I was told the questions would be asked in the order they were submitted, good or bad. My question was submitted second and eight questions were asked. Mine was not among them.

So I walked up to Meadows afterward to ask him why he lied, but I never got the chance. I got as far as introducing myself and he said, “Oh, I know who you are,” and he turned his back to me.

That was it. “I know who you are.”

He knows I’m the woman who lost her son to a broken health care system, but he doesn’t care about that. He cares about getting more money for himself and his cronies and the rest of us can die for all he cares.

This is my Congressman and I’m supposed to shrug and say, “Oh well, we can’t beat him.” Really?

There has to be someone in the 11th district who has the know-how to do this. Gerrymandered or not, it can be done. We ousted Tim Moffitt from the North Carolina House in 2014, even though we were told it was impossible. The district was gerrymandered and there was a ton of money behind Moffitt. He was next in line to be speaker of the House. But Brian Turner and his volunteers made calls, knocked on doors, held town hall meetings — in short, we worked our butts off. And we won.

It can be done. We don’t have to settle for such an immoral man. Meadows does not represent us; he represents the people who fund him.

We can do this. We can defeat him. We should at least try.

 

 

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