Everyone Has a Health Care Story

Lona’s health care story

June 16th, 2009

I find it ironic that as a student studying health promotion and education that I cannot do as I teach because I lack health insurance coverage. I figured that as a young health person with my knowledge level, I could forgo health insurance until I graduated and obtained a real job. Well, I was wrong. Two weeks ago I was rushed to the emergency room because I lost mobility from my chest down.The paramedics and doctors attributed my symptoms to “stress”. As my symptoms worsened while I laid in the hospital bed, no one was able to give me a definite answer.While in the hospital, I had every lab imaginable done. I also had a cat scan, an MRI, an EKG, an EEG, a chest x-ray, and a spinal tap. I was also seen by five separate doctors. With every test coming back normal the doctors (except for one) attributed my symptoms to “stress”.

During my four day hospital stay, I was scarcely seen by the attending physician. And when I did see him, he simply said to my husband and I that I was not going to die from my symptoms. I was bathed only once. I was pushed down on a bed and told to “calm down” while I was having an uncontrollable muscle spasm. I was asked if I spoke English. I was mimicked and laughed at. I was put on a diabetic meal (though not allowed to eat) and had my blood sugar tested four times a day even after I told the nurses I was not diabetic. I pulled my own ivy line out of my arm because the pain was unbearable after waiting over 10 minutes and telling two nurses and the tech. The excuse that was given was that my nurse had to see other patients. My bladder was bloated from the pressure of the catheter because no one had come to check on me for a long period of time.

My husband took better care of me during my hospital stay than the nurses. He took care of my bag. He fed me. He moved me into different positions on the bed to prevent bed sores. He exercised my legs.

I was eventually discharged from the hospital, but without seeing my case worker. I was sent home with nothing. Absolutely no resources. The nurse expected me to get up and walk out of the hospital even though I had only regained slight mobility in my arms and even less in my legs. She did not believe that I needed a wheel chair or a shower seat. The nurse sent an occupational therapist in to make recommendations for me, because, perhaps I was not trying hard enough.

Needless to say, my husband and I are looking into purchasing health insurance coverage and with the help of family we may be able to afford it. I have never felt less like a human being than during this experience. I hope no one else has to go through this type of treatment. It really tears at your soul. And even I at some points doubted my worth as a person in that hospital bed. I do not have to imagine how something like this can make a negative and lasting impression on someone’s life.

– Lona Loudon

The need for culturally and linguistically sensitive care

June 15th, 2009

I came home to Portland, Oregon for winter break from graduate studies at the University of Chicago. It was nice to go home during this time because both of my younger sisters also were away for college.  A couple days before Christmas we went shopping, buying presents at the last minute and catching up as sisters do. When we got home, the house was empty and there was a message on our answering machine from our aunt. She said that our dad was in the hospital and that he suffered a heart attack. We went numb and rushed to the hospital. We were wondering what happened and how bad was this.

At the hospital, the doctor told us how bad it was. There were three blocked arteries, two at 90% and Dad would have to go into emergency surgery early tomorrow for bypass. I think one of my sisters was sobbing. I could barely hear the doctor, but he said something like my dad should have followed his primary doctor’s orders and taken his medications. I thought this was odd that he was blaming my parents because knowing my very traditional Asian parents, they would do pretty much what their doctors said. It was just as likely that the primary doctor had misdiagnosed my dad’s level of risk. Being distraught and distracted, I put my frustrating thoughts aside. We had to go visit my dad before his surgery and I had to be brave.

He looked so much more frail than I had ever seen him as he laid between the railings of the hospital bed with his gown. He had needles and wires around him. I think some of us sobbed. I tried to keep it together for him. The doctor started to explain more about the surgery and what would happen with the bypass. There was an interpreter there in the corner and the doctor looked towards her and then she’d talk to us. As the doctor continued to talk, I noticed that he never really talked to us, only the interpreter as if she was a member of our family. Actually, I felt as if we were secondary, an after thought to the doctor. Again, I was so out of it that I all I can do was hear what the doctor was saying let alone advocate for my family and myself. I felt like saying to the doctor, “Excuse me, but we’re over here. Actually, if you tried to find anything about us, you’d find that this man on the hospital bed has three college educated daughters who can understand everything that you are saying. We can even translate for our mom as we have done all our lives, too.” But I was exhausted and the discussion was over very fast.

After my dad recovered, I wanted to write to the hospital and doctors to tell them thank you for everything they did for him, but I also wanted to tell them how much more painful it was for me to go through it when the ignored or failed to understand me or my family.

A tragic lack of health insurance

June 11th, 2009

A story of a single Hmong man in Fresno, June 2008, a 21 years old had appendicitis with no private and medical health insurance.  He and his parent believed that it was a stomach flue or typical stomach after eating some unusual foods.  Because the young man does not have medical or private health insurance and have no access to any medical care resources, they kept treating him with herbal medicine such as traditional herbs and stomach massage.  This had been going one for over two weeks.  Due to very serious pain, they took him to the emergency room.  ER doctor checked and found that the appendix was ruptured and the messes already poisoned his blood system.  He finally died at age 21.

– Anonymous

Diana’s health care story

June 10th, 2009

i’m a research consultant for a foundation and work pt as a professor in ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. (got my PhD in 2006) Nope, no health care, just two part time jobs. 35 years old, make good money, but can’t keep up with the paperwork, or the expense, of health care.

in terms of affordability, i remember clearly when i was a student, the only options for me to get an abortion would have been to go to clinic nearly 2 hours by public transit from here.  and pay $500+. As a graduate student, i had no money to pay for these services nor did i have access to a car. i broke into tears at the doctor’s office. a nice chinese lady too. there was so much fear and shame around the abortion, i didn’t know who i could talk to, and i definitely did not have any money to pay for the operation. luckily there was a local community-based women’s clinic that charged me less than $100, but that was clearly not covered by my student health insurance. i managed to put together the money for that payment, but … it was already a hard enough decision, a hard enough situation, that having to worry about money and while having health coverage of some sort … i can’t imagine that situation now that i don’t have health insurance and that women’s clinic has closed because the state won’t pay the bills they owe to the clinic …

~ diana