Sometimes you get a call out to one of the little trailer parks, because people do live here even though no one really wants to, and it’s for chest pains, possible heart attack. It’s an older man in a uniform (you decide what kind) pale and sweaty and shaking, his face like dough. He’s got a crocheted afghan in a startling color combination covering his lap, and his wife (you guess she’s the one who made it, she’s got that look) wrings her hands nearby. She’s the one that called you. He’s as mad as he can manage when he can barely breathe. The paramedic hooks up the EKG.You don’t know how to read the bouncing lines, but even you know it’s not good. Okay, let’s go. We need to get you to the hospital.
“No.” You’re probably having a heart attack. This could kill you. You need to come with us. “No. It’s too expensive. I can’t.” He’s got kids, and grandkids, and too much debt already. That’s what he tells you. And you try to tell him that life is worth a hell of a lot more than money. Grandkids, right? You want to play with your grandkids. “I don’t want them to pay my bills.”
Your paramedic calls the hospital and has one of the ER docs talk to the man, try to scare him or cajole him into coming along. The sick man’s wife wrings her hands some more, rubs his shoulders, but she doesn’t argue with him, doesn’t help us. She’s in the shadow of that same specter. And that’s all you can do, in the end. You can argue, cajole, even threaten a little, and it doesn’t matter. The man knows who he is, where he is, when it is (that’s called AAOx3) and he has the right to refuse your help, by law.
So you pack up your things and walk, really slowly, to the door. You drive away so slowly that cars honk at you. Because you’re hoping, you’re goddamn hoping that poor man will collapse while you’re still only a couple miles from his trailer, and his wife will call you, and you can come screaming back and save his life whether he wants you to or not, like you’re some kind of goddamn hero.
This happens every goddamn day. Heart attacks and car accidents and sickness, and they won’t go because they’re so fucking scared of debt collectors harassing them, harassing their families.
I honestly can not understand, on a fundamental level, people who are opposed to single-payer healthcare. I just can not. How can you hear things like this and not feel heartache over how unnecessary all of this is?
I know this story. It’s the one my paramedic friend tells me every once in a while. It’s the one I lived (to a less dramatic degree) when I called an ambulance for a friend who fell off her bike and was bleeding from her head. It’s the one I hear every time one of my underemployed friends won’t go to the doctor when they’re sick.
Seriously. Why do we not want Americans to have access to healthcare? Why is this a ball that some people feel the need to take home? It’s ludicrous at best and cruel at worst.