Sunday, February 5


I haven't posted in the past few days because my middle daughter is in the acute care unit of Parkland Hospital in Dallas with a double skull fracture (basilar and temporal) and assorted other injuries (blood on her brain, a broken facial cheek, broken bones behind her nose that allowed air into her brain, bleeding behind her eardrum, a severe gash to the back of her head, and more), all the result of an auto accident. Her prognosis is excellent, but her suffering is extreme. I only take these few moments to comment because I covet your prayers for her rapid recovery, and because we have had an experience I think relevant and important to us as a family and a nation.

An event like this is soul-expanding and eye-opening, to say the least. Aside from our personal spiritual and emotional turmoil and triumph, it has been a revelation to witness ordinary people facing the most devastating of injuries and battling for dignity and recovery.

For instance, Skye's roommate is a black woman paralyzed from the waist down, her head and neck screwed down to immobilize her, on one of those rotating beds you've seen in the movies. Yet she's worried about our girl because she's so young, and persistently asks about her condition. Down the hall are a young man who lost a hand in an agricultural accident and a middle-aged man suffering from burns so severe he doesn't appear to have what you would call a recognizable face. Yet I've seen them both laughing. The young man next door who lost a leg (I haven't found out how) keeps apologizing to the staff for causing them trouble.

It's time for me to explain that all these people have no medical insurance. They're tormented by the fact, not exhilarated by it. Parkland, one of the primary trauma hospitals in the country (JFK was taken there, and died, after being shot), has a remarkable program by which working people can register for retroactive insurance with them. Otherwise, it's a free hospital. The doctors here get the best trauma training in the world -- in a single hour with Skye in the emergency room, rolling past her door were persons with a stab wound in the stomach, a gunshot to the head, a broken neck from an auto accident, and who knows what else I didn't catch. I overheard a conversation of several doctors and nurses outside Skye's door that included the remark, "Someone should tell the media that George Bush is interfering with healthcare in Dallas." I wondered what that meant -- then I remembered that Dubya was passing through Dallas, and thought that maybe it meant nothing more than that the president's entourage was causing traffic difficulties interfering with ambulance service. But who knows?

There are no frills at Parkland -- the rooms are tiny, the wallpaper and amenities nonexistent, and in some ways it reminds me of the terrible scenes of the VA hospital from the film Born on the Fourth of July. In the ICU waiting room, the televisions played only Spanish-language programming. Not willing to leave our daughter alone, we tried to sleep sitting up in the waiting room (now that she's in acute care, I'm allowed to sleep on a chair in her room and attend her as needed). A huge black woman pumped up an air mattress and slept on the floor. Many there in the crowded room spread blankets and pillows on the floor just to be near their loved ones if needed. Others, like us, sat in the dark. We were the only white family there.

As a solidly upper-middle-class WASP family, we're accustomed to private hospitals, private doctors and excellent medical coverage. Skye is at Parkland because the ambulance determined that it was the best place in Dallas for a severe head trauma case (it is), not because of her economic status. But guess what. In the past few months she lost her coverage under my employer's plan because she exceeded the age for minors covered, and her employer doesn't offer medical coverage until she's been with them for a certain time she hasn't reached yet. Parkland didn't know that when she was admitted -- they didn't even ask until her second day in ICU. Yet she's receiving the best treatment in the world. In any other hospital, we'd expect to be impoverished by the costs of her treatment, or forced into a bankruptcy that is no longer an option, thanks to recent legislation.

So suddenly my tirades about the need for universal healthcare have taken on a reality I never expected. We're so very blessed to have Parkland and that Skye was taken there. But how many Parklands are there in this country? So very, very few. What does a desperate parent do when their child is injured and they have no insurance? Can you imagine, in your protected, privileged world, being faced with such a situation? For me, it was always an abstract compassion, motivated by my personal Christian faith, that moved me to align with progressive social action.

In the past few days, I've been immersed in the smells of poverty, the sights and sounds of human gallantry, the real compassion and sensitivity of dedicated healthcare workers who take no measure of a person's social or economic status, and I've been uplifted. In this hospital, there is no race for elevators or in the cafeteria line at the expense of others -- generosity, civility, helpfulness is the norm -- THIS is the picture of America I've treasured and believed in for all my life, and I'm reassured that a remnant of it still exists.

But if George Bush, Grover Norquist, and other anti-government social supremacists have their way, such outposts will be extinguished forever in a complete separation of the privileged from everybody else.

And unless you are uber-wealthy, someday you may find yourself in the category of everybody else.


Blogger LiteraryTech said...

Our thoughts are with you. This will be a long and difficult journey.

And when you are thinking about the place of universal healthcare and the current role of institutions such as Parkland, look to the proliferation of specialized hospitals. The Heart Hospital, The Spine Hospital, etc. These are ways to avoid dealing with the uninsured. These hospitals do not take such.

1:56 AM  
Blogger mikevotes said...

I'm very sorry. I'm quite glad to hear from your description that she's going to recover.

Best wishes.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

My prayers are with you, Skye and your family. Please keep us posted on her recovery.

In the meantime, the rest of us need to keep speaking out about the moral imperative of universal healthcare for ALL Americans.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Left of Center said...

I hope your daughter recovers fully and that your family remains strong during all this. OUr thoughts are with you all.

8:56 AM  
Blogger PSoTD said...

My thoughts are with you and your family as well. Please keep us apprised from time to time on the blog as to your daughter's progress. Best of hopes and wishes...

1:35 PM  
Blogger Ellie Finlay said...

That was a moving, inspiring post. How wonderful of you to give this situation (that must be so, so difficult for you) such careful, thoughtful reflection. Thank you. I so hope your daughter's suffering is eased and that she recovers as expected.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Jozet said...

Many positive thoughts and prayers for strength heading your way. I hope your daughter's recovery is swift.

10:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home