Now I've come upon one of my own personal hot-button issues -- the state of health care in the United States. Unlike many other people, I firmly believe that there should be universal health care in the U.S., even if it has to be administered by the government like Canada's or the U.K.'s systems. Excuse me while I get my handy-dandy portable soapbox out so I can rant properly for a while.
Medical care for poor adults, and for the working poor, is virtually unattainable in most of the U.S.. I know this because I have been one of those effected for much of my adult life. In fact, the lack of a comprehensive medical care system almost cost me my life. Let me explain.
I suffered from severe earaches and headaches from an early age. Some of my earliest memories are of screaming earaches in my left ear -- the kind that cause a child to cry uncontrollably. Mama and Daddy treated them as best they could. I went to the doctor every time I was ill, with the money coming directly out of my parents' meager income. I took enough antibiotics to kill a horse. My parents also used a number of home remedies like warm olive oil in my ear and dry, heated towels on it. The pain always came back and even got worse. Over time the pain expanded to become blinding migraines.
As an uninsured adult, the cycle of pain continued throughout my teen years and twenties, and well into my thirties. In 1988, at the age of 32, I enrolled in the University of North Texas. Fortunately for me, my tuition entitled me to free doctor's visits at the UNT clinic and cheap prescriptions at the UNT pharmacy. I was lucky enough to make a connection with a Physician's Assistant who took more than a passing interest in my health. After treating me for ear aches, sinus infections, and blinding headaches, he realized the pattern to my problems. He referred me to Texas Rehab for my hearing problems -- hearing problems I now know I had from an early age.
Texas Rehab did an IQ test and asked me why I wasn't doing better in my classes, then they did a hearing test and asked me how I kept my grades up as well as I did. They sent me to an audiologist who took one look in my ears and sent me back saying that he wouldn't touch me until I saw an otolaryngologist, so off I went to the ear specialist. Dr. Dunn, my ear doctor, ordered tests then explained that the mastoid bone behind my ear was infected and I needed surgery to remove it and to improve my hearing. This was in December of 1990, He suggested that I wait until after the spring 1991 semester to have the surgery but I told him to do it ASAP because I'd chicken out if I thought about it too long.
I won't go into the gory details about the surgery, but I had it done a week before the spring semester began. The doctor quickly found that the mastoid infection had spread to the base of my skull. Instead of a short surgery. I was under for four times as long as they had predicted because they had to scrape the base of my skull and reconstruct my inner and middle ear. I ended up with a PORP (Partial Ossicular Reconstructive Prosthesis) and a rebuilt eardrum.
When I woke I was told that I would never hear from that ear again, but the surgery had saved my life. If a mastoid infection goes to the lining of the brain there is nothing they can do. Their conclusion was that, if I had not had the surgery when I did I would have had between six months and two years to live. I would have died when my daughter was the same age as I was when my mother died.
I started the semester with a bandage on my head and a new lease on life. Within twenty-four hours I was headache-free for the most part. Within a week I knew that, had I been given the choice, I would have happily traded the hearing in that ear for the relief from pain.
I have subsequently had a second surgery on my left ear. Amazingly, I have nearly as much hearing in it as in my right ear now. Unfortunately that isn't much.
Looking back, I honestly believe that universal health care in the U.S. would have provided the medical care I so desperately needed. My health today would be much better if the problem had been taken care when it should have been. I also wouldn't have had as many emergency room bills I couldn't pay.
I'll put away my soapbox now. Enough ranting for today.