Last Friday I received some shocking news. My step-son Nathan called to let us know that our (future) daughter-in-law Lesli was in the hospital. She'd apparently collapsed and had a battery of tests run - including a spinal tap.
When Nate called she'd already been in the hospital three days and they needed to keep her for the next five to put her through the beginning of treatment. Now both Nathan and Lesli work pretty much full-time at Home Depot as well as going to school at American River College in Sacramento. Nathan is an actor, while Lesli is planning to go into medicine herself. They live basically paycheck to paycheck, with little or no real savings. A night out to have dinner is rare luxury.
Just like well over 45 million other Americans, most of whom also work, Nate and Lesli have no health insurance. So far they've been fortunate that the Emergency Medical system in Sacramento via UC Davis Medical Center is excellent. UCD took wonderful care of my wife when her gall bladder ruptured a few years back.
But generally speaking, being without Health Care fucking sucks. From Nate's Myspace blog.
Shortly before my birthday, Lesli, my girlfriend of a year and a half, started getting ill. Severe vertigo coupled with nausea, often followed by vomiting. Being the broke-ass college kids we are working in retail, we had no medical insurance. There are ways around that, though... County Medical services.Later after work he writes...
We go in, doc says "Viral inner ear infection and gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and small intestine)". Ok... cool. We have a reason. It's just going to take a little time, and she'll get better, right?
The doctors that compose CMISP are the lost dogs, the burnouts, and those who just don't really know what the fuck they're doing. All this doctor did was give her a sugar drip to get her blood sugar back up and give some meds for the dizziness and the nausea. It's viral, so no cure except time, right?
Tuesday, I wake up at 4am to be on the 5:30am bus to be at work by 6am..
Once we're home, Lesli starts with a major cough. Now, I'm used to the occasional cough out of her, but she couldn't breathe. She started vomiting... I called her best friend and we went to UC Davis medical center's ER. We got there around 8:30pm.
In the waiting room, we watched Ace Ventura 2 and part of Heart Condition on TBS (I watched all of it, good flick with Bob Hoskins and a very young Denzel Washington). They took her in the back, and I waited for word... and waited... and waited...
Around 2am or so I asked the clerks to find out for me. I get to go back to "Area 3" and visit. The night crew gets used to me coming in and out as I go out for a smoke and come back to be with Lesli. They're not so much interested in her cough anymore as they are with the vertigo. She's had it for 2 months... that ain't right. X-ray, CT... nothing... We'll have to get an MRI done... This whole time, specialists and big-wigs keep coming in and out, doing motor skill and perception tests on her. Around 8am, one of the heads of Neurology pops in like a bull in a china shop. When he leaves, I almost wish I'd kicked him in the nuts. In the end, I'm glad I didn't... but I've been awake for 26 hours with intermittent spots of bad sleep. I was ready to hurt anybody who didn't say "excuse me" if they got in my way.
MRI at 11am. I call work to give them an update. The Manager on Duty, Chad, is an inhumane corporate robot. He gives me shit about Lesli's 'attendance issues'. I almost tell him to fuck the shelves since the store matters more than the employees to him, but I manage to keep my mouth shut and give a simple "I understand". After the MRI, back to area 3... Lesli rests, I'm out of cigarettes, so I go and get more while she sleeps.
I get back in time for the results... They're going to admit her. The MRI has shown what appears to be lesions on the brain..
The result? They suspect she has Multiple Sclerosis. (MS is a degenerative nerve disease which has become far better understood thanks to Martin Sheen's portrayal of MS stricken President Jed Bartlett on NBCs The West Wing. It is fortunately treatable, but there is no cure. She'll have it the rest of her life and she's still only 21.) But they aren't sure - yet.
They have to be sure about this, however, and check the fluids. A "spinal puncture" they call it now... but it'll always be a spinal tap. They first attempt it at 7pm after they've moved her up to a room... I've been at the hospital 23 hours, watched my girlfriend become a pincushion... and Doc I want to nut-crunch is having a goddamn trainee shove a needle in my girl's spine while she screams in pain. I don't care how much 'numbing medicine' you pump in there... you hit bone, and it hurts. They stop with Lesli in tears and only 1/2 a vial of the 4 they need. I'm tired... I'm ready to kill... but I have to be sure.
This procedure has to been performed a second time before they have a decent sample, and it's not until the next day that they receive the results and I get the phone call.
With the time that Lesli is losing from work while undergoing treatment she and Nate are in some immediate danger of falling dangerously behind on critical bills like rent and utilities. Now if she'd had healthcare coverage and had regular checkups this condition might have been identified before it became chronic and debilitating without her and Nate having to spend hours in the emergency room - while missing work. Nate makes the case perfectly in this section...
I call work to give them an update. The Manager on Duty, [who shall remain nameless in this retelling], is an inhumane corporate robot. He gives me shit about Lesli's 'attendance issues'. I almost tell him to fuck the shelves since the store matters more than the employees to him, but I manage to keep my mouth shut and give a simple "I understand".
So I'm opening the door to others who wish to help including friends, family, aquiantances of course but also people passing by down the hall or even just through the various websites that I've been involved in recently (blogspot, dailykos, myspace, silencedwithin.com, truth2power radio and more). Anyone with a heart and a few spare dollars can make a difference.
As I've discussed in previous posts, since 9-11 me and my wife's financial situation has been not much better than theirs. Still, I can do a bit to help them and I have been able to keep back the wolves somewhat - but I know they'll need more at least until Lesli's treatment begins to have an effect and she's back on her feet.
Below is a paypal donate button that will send anything people are inclined to give directly to Nathan and Lesli.
Those who prefer more general MS Charities can click here to donate to the National MS Society.