Making America Sick Again? But It’s National Nurses Week!

Making America Sick Again? But It's National Nurses Week!

MASA: Making America Sick Again or as one Congressman from Idaho argued: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” Well, as a good RN would, let me EXAMINE THAT.


Once upon a time there was a kind leader who examined the number of people in his country who were sick with chronic illnesses or whose children had birth defects or whose parents could no longer work and pay the bills because of health concerns. And he worked and read, consulted and studied and called in the experts to fix the problem. And with their help, he did. Healthcare became a thing. People who could never afford to see a doctor on a regular basis were now able to. It was amazing. It was called the Affordable Care Act. 

Because consider: a friend of mine who does landscape work for a living had what is termed catastrophic insurance. It meant that before his policy paid anything on a claim, he had to pay 10,000 dollars out of pocket.

Another kind of insurance that is not user friendly involved limited networks. If you happened to be traveling and became ill or were injured, there was no guarantee you would be near a hospital or med center that accepted your insurance. Other types of health insurance products that did not qualify as major medical health insurance include: Short-Term Health Insurance and Gap Insurance (Accident, Critical Illness, Telemedicine, etc).

My friend who is a landscaper was thrilled when he could get The ACA, the Affordable Care ACT. Bye, bye catastrophic insurance.


But then a group of mostly men looked around and decided to change things. They did not take their time, they threw something together and then voted YES on it. They were all so happy to be taking the ACA away from my landscape worker friend and millions of others.

And when some of the people who also loved the ACA argued, ONE MAN IN PARTICULAR stood up and said: NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. No one dies. No one dies. (This is the guy I mentioned above, the one from Idaho. But I won’t hold that against Idaho. They’ll get rid of him. As they say, he’s toast.) Sorry, as a nurse I should not sound mean. But I am angry.


I don’t know what kind of life this Idaho guy lives or who he knows and how his heart beats when he’s by himself in the dark. But hasn’t every one of us at some time in our lives said: LIFE IS GOOD IF YOU HAVE YOUR HEALTH.

Here are some voices from friends and family:

  • I had breast cancer and I had to have surgery and chemotherapy and radiation and now I get up each day and life is good because I have my health.
  • My child was born with a heart defect and every moment of my life from his birth on was concerned with the surgeries, all the testing, how the defect would hurt his normal growth. Now all the lives in my family are good because he is doing so well.
  • My husband has a chronic form of leukemia and he has fought this battle for years and now with amazing medical research he is taking a new medication and his blood work is great, he feels good. Wow. Life is good when you have your health.

We all have a story to add to these three. Right?? I’m not being a Twinkle Fairy here. You can live a clean, perfect life where you eat well, exercise, get a lot of sleep, practice safe sex, give to charity–I mean illness, cancer, accidents, birth defects–this is vicarious stuff. You do not call it upon yourself.


But there is this cynical current of thought running under that statement: Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care. No One Dies : because it’s your fault!

Just look at me, I’m healthy and it’s because I made that happen. Oh yes, some congressmen would like to slap that on each American citizen. YOU ARE TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE for your health. So don’t ask us to help you. Healthcare is not a right. It’s your fault if you get sick .

Want to talk turkey about that?

  • water quality (government) Think Flint, Michigan.
  • air quality (government)  Think the Environmental Protection Act and how that is being harmed.
  • access to healthy fresh fruits and vegetables (income inequality works against this. How about raising the minimum wage??)
  • access to safe neighborhoods (racism affects this; how about getting rid of the NRA or at least put in some laws that control the sale of guns. My God mentally ill people can buy a gun now. ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME???))
  • ability to know what foods to eat, how to exercise — (poverty works against this)

So go ahead and rebuke my ideas. Comment. I’m waiting.

  • If you have your health you can go to school, get an education. (well, Betsy would disagree, but so far we still have public schools.)
  • If you have your health your chances of getting work and getting a paycheck are greatly improved.
  • If you have your health you can feed yourself and hopefully your family. If you have one.
  • People without good health often do not have a companion and they do not reproduce. They are lonely and depressed. GOOD HEALTH IS LIFE-GIVING.

If you don’t have good health, your entire life is affected. There might be twenty or more things YOU have to be concerned about before you can get a job. Before you can even get out the door to that job. Before people will hire you.

Ask someone who is handicapped. Has a chronic illness. Has hearing loss or is blind, lost a limb, was born with a birth defect.

NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. Are you (lots of swear words here) kidding me? PEOPLE DIE EVERY DAY because they did not get treatment for cancer or a chronic disease.

NO ONE DIES BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE HEALTHCARE. WRONG!!! So Keep calm but then get angry. Call your Congressman or Congresswoman, your State Senators. Or write to them. Maybe the White House? Hmm. Not sure they know where the mailbox is. But keep calm and resist. Your health matters and the health of those you love.


How to Combine Celebration and Sorrow

We need small miracles during the holidays

Most of us are familiar with the downside of the coming holidays: if there is sorrow in life it’s hard to get through these times when wherever you go people are wishing you happy holidays and almost insisting on joy for everyone.

People lose family members all year long—even during the holidays.  And people with chronic illness or those who care for someone who is chronically ill do not experience a sudden cure just because it’s December.  People lose jobs every day as bills pile up and the idea of buying presents creates anxiety and worry.

Our culture’s involvement in twinkling lights, carols, and endless decorations can bring smiles to many faces.  After all, it is December and bitterly cold in many parts of the globe and these traditions date back to bringing warmth and solace to a dark and frozen world.

But the opposite affect can happen when people who are dealing with sorrow or anxiety struggle to put a bright face on things.  Then holidays can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation and life becomes even more difficult.

But you knew this.  What you might not have is solutions: how to help someone in your family, or a close friend, or even yourself approach the holidays when there is struggle in your life.        

Practicing inclusion.  This is a wonderful path to follow: opening yourself up to others during this time of year can make your empty and sad heart feel full.  If finances are your problem, going to a shelter and helping others can make your inability to buy a sleigh-full of presents insignificant.  Again: if you are feeling bad about yourself—go help someone else.

Looking at reality.  Toni Bernhard’s advice for people with a chronic illness may be difficult, but it’s factual.  Because they fear others won’t understand about their illness, people in this situation often let family and friends drift away.  At the holidays “…the increase in activity exacerbates physical symptoms, while coping with sadness, frustration, and maybe even guilt about physical limitations gives rise to emotional pain.”

Bernard says if you don’t look sick, your family might need an email or a letter ahead of time making your condition visible.  You are not complaining, but giving a quick outline of your disease to insure when you arrive at a gathering, you’re not asked to frost 30 cookies or hand out drinks.

Why is this necessary?  Often people who love you want to be in denial.  If you appear to feel fine, they will go with that—it’s so much easier.  But your family needs to honor your situation and make allowances for the rest and quiet that you may need.

Finding comfort.  Though the holidays are the time of year when presents signify gifts of love and salvation, you may have to gift yourself during a particular time of your life.  Instead of buying gifts for others, you might have to gather to yourself the gift of comfort, the simple joy of another day of life.  Or you may have to pull away from past patterns, creating and enjoying a new celebration, one that offers you solace in your struggle—whatever that struggle is.  If a loved one dies, the traditions of past holidays will fall away.  Illness might limit or rework the holiday experience. Though it may be hard, go with the changes.  Life is a change artist.  Financial problems will certainly recreate the holiday experience.  You don’t want to go into debt trying to do what you have done in the past.

Making your own miracles. A recently divorced friend didn’t plan any experience with others on Christmas Day.  She suffered greatly from this decision and now will gather friends in similar situations to celebrate and be together.  She is recreating her holiday and making her own small miracle.  In a time of year when many long for warm sunshine and know that snowfall will after a time lose it luster, it’s important to bring something warm and cheerful into your life in a way that suits you.  Theologian Karl Rahner was once asked if he believed in miracles.  “I don’t believe in them, “he answered, “I rely on them to get through each day!”

Thank you to Rev. Ron Rolheiser and to Toni Bernhard, How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers

 Thank you to Ollie T Photostream