Our health care system is unhealthy. Almost everybody knows it's sick and possibly dying. My personal experience with it is far from unique, but illustrates a larger pattern that Dr. Bob explored in a recent Envision This episode. Each point he made, I wanted to tune in, "Yes, that's me, you're telling my story to a tee." So I'm going to start this article with my experience, knowing that it personalizes and tells the story of the pattern of what is happening with our health care system.
I recently had a period of time in which I was suffering horribly with my intestines. The primary symptom included diarrhea, which led to what was literally a pain in the a*s that was greater than any republican, democrat or corporate organization. Never thought I would see that day!
Since I had insurance when this began, I went to my doctor. He tried some tests which included several stool samples, and treatments that consisted of a couple of pills, none of which identified the problem nor worked. He then scratched his head and decided to send me to a specialist. "Ah, good I thought, we're on the road to recovery! An intestinal specialist is just what I need!" Health would be just a few pills away.
Thus I went happily to the specialist thinking my gut would be "fixed." I still had an insurance, even though I am now disabled from employment and my Social Security disability income, meager as it is, disqualifies me for Medicaid, except some prescription benefits. Through the hospital I was granted "Free Care". I had lost health insurance, but wouldn't become eligible for Medicare for two years after being declared disabled for being in the early stages of Alzheimer's. "This is my reward for working 40+ years and paying taxes? If I knew then what I know now I would have joined the ranks of those refusing to pay taxes," I thought self-righteously. Nor would I have worked for the Corporate Man. (If losing insurance due to having a disability and not being disabled long enough makes any common sense to any reader, please explain the logic so I can understand. If you can explain that, then also explain how paying taxes for 40+years means that the benefits I had been paying for are considered "freebies" by the conservative types.)
"What do I do?" I wondered, knowing that my medicare wasn't going to happen for another year and a half, even though I had been declared disabled due to a neurological condition. The more I stressed out about it, of course, the worse it got. In the meantime, I began to have arthritis. Terrible arthritis. At two points, the pain was so intense I was asking my wife to shoot me. She refused. So, instead, I went to the emergency room twice where I was told not to come back for they were not there to treat chronic pain (yes, I had been to doctors and none of the medications they gave worked, my trips to the ER was because I literally couldn't walk, which I thought was a legitimate reason for going....OK! So I was wrong!). The arthritis was dismissed as an unrelated issue for which I should go to a second specialist. Only, by now my free care had run out and our household income, now that my mother was staying with us for in-home hospice, was over-limit for free care as well.
Financially, I was screwed. The reader can well imagine the effect that bills in the thousands of dollars had on my mental and physical health. My story here is shared by millions. How did we ever get ourselves into a position where you had to "afford" to be well?
One day my wife shared something she was reading with me. It appeared that my arthritis was an inflammatory issue (which I knew) and that there was a diet that apparently worked well with inflammatory issues. I then recalled someone saying that my intestines were inflamed. "Mm," I thought. "My guts are inflamed as are my knees. Could these diverse symptoms be part of one systemic problem amenible to a non-medical dietary solution?" So, I thought I'd give it a try. In the meantime, I also read that Alzheimer is believed by some to be caused by inflammation!
And the doctors treating me didn't make the connections? I did and I don't have a medical degree....but then again, I am not a reductionist thinker....I think in relational patterns. The parts are in the whole and the whole is in the parts. If we went deep into the cells our your body, we would find a whole universe in each of those cells. Gaze into the nighttime skies and one sees an image of one's Self.
As I thought on all this, I began to rekindle an intuition that had been haunting me for the past couple of years, "The problem isn't just the system; the problem is our reflecting the system and being dependent upon it." For me, we were like abused wives married to an abusive husband. I was tired of my drunken spouse throwing me up against the wall for absolutely no reason at all. And, I was tired of being co-dependent on this sociopathic spouse.
The educational training, perhaps more than the individual is to blame in this dark comedy being played out in so many of our lives. It is drilled into our heads at an impressionable age to believe that no matter what happens, you can administer some chemical or slice out some chunk and everything will be all right. Is something diverging? Then just bend it back! Is there a imbalanced? Then just add some more fluid! Is there a malfunction? Then replace the part! (see Critique of Modern Medicine in reference section.)
There are countless examples of this predisposition to see the human body as a conglomeration of mechanical parts hampering the insight into medical processes. Today it is customary to scoff at the concept of philosophers guiding science. We feel that science has its own inexorable progress and its own inviolable rules. It can be trusted to determine its own path through the rigorous application of the scientific process. To the uninitiated, that basically translates to: