Last month I helped organize a protest/appeal at a Minneapolis appearance by House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers' Jr. (D-MI) at a Town Hall meeting to drum up support and educate those in attendance about his proposed United States National Health Insurance Act (HR 676) sponsored by my Representative in Minnesota's 5th District, Keith Ellison.
My perspective, as well as those of my fellow ImpeachforPeace.org members was that as troubled and ineffectual as the American health care system was, the health of our Constitution and our Democratic Republic was of far greater import and in far more urgent need of attention.
While my concern for the future of our nation and passion for defending our nation's Constitutional form of government against the domestic enemies to it now in power hasn't lessened, October's events in my personal life have certainly affected my vantage on health care.
It is with full permission from my sister that I share that she is suddenly in a fight for her life.
Having lost our mother and father in fairly rapid succession in 2001 and 2003, she and I and our brother are middle-aged orphans. We haven't been getting along all that well in dealing with the estates and all the mess of dealing with two lifetimes of possessions and properties, which is fairly common among siblings dealing together with the loss of parents.
The old adage that blood is thicker than water proves true, however, and I was at her side within days of learning that she was suddenly debilitated by a stroke that had rendered her left side paralyzed. A cancerous tumor in her abdomen that had begun to secrete coagulants into her blood is the likely cause of the stroke.
In just three short weeks, her recovery from the effects of the stroke has been remarkable, her experience as an assistant to a physical therapist and her extensive body awareness learned from years of dance and yoga practice and teaching paying off markedly. A week ago she couldn't walk and now she takes multiple daily strolls up and down the hospital ward hall, albeit "teetery" in her own word. She employs 'pranayama' breathing techniques as well as Reiki and Feldenkrais methods to stimulate both sides of her brain and body. Her face shows no remaining signs of the left-side droop of her first few days following this catastrophic medical affliction.
Her left arm has been slower to wake up; her fingers and wrist not yet reactivated, but her bicep started working again about ten days ago and she does regular curls as well as stirring motions with both arms by interlocking her fingers along with other exercises.
Like approximately 50 million Americans, she is without insurance, having allowed her coverage to expire recently as she traveled from job to job in moving from California back to the Seattle area where we grew up.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of payments are impending. Without insurance, she will spend the rest of her life indebted to hopitals, doctors, drug companies and the rest of the for-profit network that defines America's capitalistic Medicine-for-Profit system so well exposed in Michael Moore's latest documentary film: Sicko.
Except my sister has no bills so far. None. Not one. Everything so far is paid for.
She was visiting Italy when hit by the stroke.
In 1978 Italy changed over to a socialized medicine system. Overnight the governmental medical service SSN (Servicio Sanitaris Nazionale) was introduced on the basis that "Everyone has to be treated with the same dignity, regardless of his social position. Everyone in need has to receive medical treatment."
Moreover, this system works because Italy has deep roots in the kind of "family values" that Dr. Dobson can only dream about. Nearly every patient at Ospedale Rieti as well as Ospedale Magliano Sabina where I first was greeted with a tearful, one-armed, bedridden hug and a "Welcome to Italy" by my sister has someone visiting as often as needed to support the nursing staff and serve as an advocate in communicating with the medical staff concerning their loved one's treatment. Those families whose loved one is in need of personal care moment-to-moment hire a personal attendant as an adjunct to the medical professionals in the hospital if a family member cannot break away full-time.
It was in this spirit that Anna, the Italian mother-in-law of an American friend of my sister's took charge when it came time for me to officially sign my sister in at the hospital. I handed over her passport and answered a short list of questions with the help of the latest in a string of Italian people who have extended themselves to help me out in a nation where I suddenly found myself in need of everything and knowing nothing.
When asked if my sister had insurance, I answered "Non". The admissions administrator gave me a bit of a stare and a raised eyebrow smirk, as if to say: "Coming over here to get free medical help, are we?".
Anna stepped forward with all of her four-foot-ten inches of machisma and explained very clearly that my sister had been stricken with illness while visiting Italy and was in need of help. Imagine a female Danny DeVito with a bee in her bonnet and you're on the right track.
Shortly thereafter, I was handed a small blue folded card, much like the paper trail I would leave my neighborhood bank with as a child after deposting my lawn mowing earnings to my 5.4% interest savings account with the handwritten entry of the transaction faithfully recorded by the teller.
My sister was instantly not just a visitor to Italy, she was an honored, respected and cared for guest of the Italian people. She was not an illegal alien, she was not a suspected terrorist, she was S.T.P. 110 No 000000397.
Her medical expenses and care were suddenly and simply 100% covered anywhere she would need to be taken care of in Italy for six full months.
Single Payer Health Care works. Italy got it in place virtually seamlessly about 45 years after their dance with the fascism that Mussolini himself defined as "Corporatism".
Let's hope we don't have to wait that long after we recover from our dance with Bush.