Monday, September 22, 2008

One person's account: Rural Access Medical Care

My Sorenson classmate Aryana Khalid works for the Governor as a Deputy Secretary in the Health & Human Services Agency. Our class has a listserv where we randomly diss each other or have interesting policy discussions. A Newsweek article from about two months ago on health care led to a dialogue on the listserv. I asked if I could use her comment so here goes (Aryana represents herself in the following views):

"We [her husband and her] volunteered at the RAM clinic in Wise this year and I can personally tell you of the joy and tremendous sadness I felt. How wonderful to see so many people give of themselves so willingly and with so much kindness; how sad to see something that I thought would only exist in the Third World. My husband, who isn't necessarily the biggest health person (which is why I took him, I wanted him to see what healthcare is really like in the US), said to me, I can't believe this happens in the United States. I thought we were the most powerful nation in the world, but we don't even begin to take care of our citizens.

I am so very troubled as he is. Most of these people work for a living. They suffer tremendously until something like this comes along. Appalachia is one of the most depressed areas in the country. If you all have seen in the paper recently, life expectancy in this area is going in the wrong direction. Everyone keeps talking about it, but what do we actually DO.

The Governor came out, as did some staff. Dominic came out with Delegate Moran, which was a great. And Delegate Bowling came out as well. But that's it (well I should say, that is all I saw and anyone I spoke to saw), for the entire House and Senate of Virginia. I am scheming ways for how to get more State Reps to come and see this…smile.

There are 6 Mission of Mercy RAM clinics across the Commonwealth each year. Wise is the biggest. There are just so many needs. It seems that whatever side of the aisle you are one, we can all probably agree (I hope) that we shouldn't be treating our working citizenry this way. Their should be options out there. This would include Medicaid and Medicare, but also public-private options to create new and innovative types of health insurance products (like the one coming out from Riverside Hospital System Foundation in Tidewater/Northern Neck). You just cannot fathom how bad it is until you see it with your own eyes.

Finally, there were numerous stories that touched me during my weekend adventure. I will share just one. There was a women who used her brother's frequent flyer miles to fly from NY to Bristol, then hitchhiked to Wise to have what was remaining of her teeth all pulled out. She was going to hitchhike back to Bristol to catch her flight back. Her mouth filled with bloody gauze and in tremendous amounts of pain after having numerous teeth pulled. I worry for her…I hope she made it back ok. And it makes me wonder an even bigger question, how did she get in a situation where the RAM Mission of Mercy Project in Wise, VA was the only place she could get the services she needs. I wonder what that says about our society."

When I asked if I could use her comments, she replied yes and followed w/ this:

"I was OUTRAGED to see what I saw. My husband was horrified. You just don’t expect it in this country. It’s not right, no matter what side of the aisle you are on. And if you think it is right, then I just don’t have words…I just hope that those folks never experience what these people go through day in and day out. I have felt so guilty the since that weekend anytime I complain about my life. I have no idea what it’s like to have a difficult life. One day, I truly believe, things will change. We will make healthcare a priority in this country…it may not be in my lifetime…all I know is there are a lot of health advocates out there, including me, who will die trying. We should not leave people on the outskirts of society alone…we should help them."

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