Monday, March 22, 2010
A Mother’s Thank You
On November 4, 2008, family and friends broke bread at Casa Tracie to watch the election returns and, most importantly, to celebrate Jacob’s return home after his second surgery at Children’s Hospital. Most of my family and friends didn't know Jacob's treatment was made possible by the Emir of Qatar.
See, I was not insured in 2008, and nor was Jacob. After the NAACP Gulf Coast Advocacy Center (my former employer) closed its New Orleans Office in 2007, I was left without health insurance. “No problem,” I thought. “I can just purchase health insurance for me and Jacob.” Unfortunately, I learned I had a “pre-existing condition” strangely discovered only after my employment and insurance ended, which left it all but impossible for me to obtain health coverage.
While not having health insurance was annoying, I wasn’t bothered so much. I’ve always been very healthy, and Jacob’s pain was only in my tush. So I never expected October 2, 2008. I cannot begin to express in words the sheer terror I felt when I learned Jacob had a golf ball sized tumor growing in his back, compressing his spinal cord and literally paralyzing him, that he would need extensive surgery and some rehabilitation, and there was absolutely no way on earth I could pay for it all. I inhaled so deeply I nearly fainted.
The Children’s Hospital administrator must have thought I was crazy when she asked me how I would pay and I responded “Cash.” She said, “You know the first day of tests alone cost almost $8,000?” I couldn’t understand how 2 hours in the hospital for tests could cost $8k, but I really didn’t care. I just said I’d figure it out. That was a Friday and Jacob was scheduled for his first surgery the following Thursday. He was having that surgery. About an hour later that same administrator called me back and told me about this program at the hospital, funded by the Emir of Qatar. Through his substantial grant, Children’s Hospital was able to provide care free of charge to children without insurance.
You have to shake your head in bewilderment. I live in the richest country in the world, but healthcare is a privilege. It was Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Emir of Qatar – a small Arab emirate in the Middle East, absolute monarchy, with a population of about 1.4million people - who paid for the surgeries that saved my son from paralysis. He walks today, quite well, and is an even bigger pain in the tush.
I thanked Emir Hamad bin Khalif in November 2008. Today, I thank President Barak Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and all the brave men and women in our U.S. House of Representatives who listened to thousands of stories like mine, and are, indeed, Profiles in Courage, because they did not allow their fears to hold this country back from the hope of a nation where healthcare is a right. I thank them because once President Obama signs the healthcare reform bill to law, the discriminatory effect of having been cast as someone with a “pre-existing condition” will no longer exist.
I thank them because this week, I will exhale.