I was tremendously moved earlier this summer when Michael and I first went to see the new Michael Moore documentary "Sicko". I typed up my review of "Sicko" in July, but if you want to read it again, click here.
When protesting the war a couple of weekends ago, I was given a flier that talked about a rally and vigil for health care which was being organized by some of the people who were in the movie. I wanted to go, speak with them, talk to them, get updates. And I decided to take my mom with me, so she could see me get politically active and share that part of my life with me.
We knew the vigil would be at the Lincoln Memorial, and so we got there early, not knowing exactly when the vigil would start (the website only said "sunset"). After a while, I caught sight of 3 bright pink shirts, and I figured it must be the people starting to organize for the vigil, so I went over to find out.
What a nice surprise to find Donna and Larry Smith and Adrian Campbell wearing those shirts! I introduced myself, Joe, and my mom, and asked Donna and Larry how they were doing. They reported that they were doing fine, back out on their own, and things were looking up. Adrian looked just the same as in the film and was also doing great. We posed for some pictures before the vigil, and they were just the nicest, most enthusiastic people--it was amazing to meet them!
(L -> R: Me, Adrian Campbell, Joe)
(Me and Donna Smith)
(Me and Larry Smith)
Then the vigil began.
I got way more than I bargained for. The vigil was in honor of Tracy Pierce, a young man, husband, and father whose life was cut tragically short when his hospital-backed health insurance plan refused to pay for a life-saving bone marrow transplant, calling the procedure "experimental."
It was so moving. Tracy's wife and son got up in front of everyone and spoke, as did the Smiths and Adrian Campbell. Another man got up and spoke about his wife, whose lump was misdiagnosed and not biopsied. After switching health insurance providers, the lump was diagnosed as breast cancer and her new insurance company dropped her. Sickening. Absolutely sickening. Her two young sons were left motherless and her husband is on a crusade now to ensure she did not die in vain.
Additionally, Dawnelle Keys spoke of her daughter, Mychelle, who died from an ear infection which caused a major fever, yet she was denied treatment because Kaiser Permanente wouldn't agree to pay the charges at the hospital the ambulance took her to.
The real dynamo for me was hearing from John Graham, one of the 9/11 rescue workers who went to Cuba to see doctors with Michael Moore. He attended with his two daughters, and in person is such an amazing figure of strength. I had to meet him. Fortunately, he was tremendously gracious in chatting about how his health is today, and he agreed to take a picture with me. I said some inane things about how his story made me cry for the last hour of the film and what an honor it was to meet him. Like most of the rescue workers, he was tremendously modest and humble. I'm in tears just writing this.
When all was said and done, both my mom and Joe were moved to talk about the health care system and how sad it was that our lives have come to this. I think it was a great experience for all of us. To meet and talk with people whose lives have been disrupted by the denial of the most basic need--good health care--something that should be a basic human right, it's horrifying. I reflect on the past year and a half in our own lives and the bills we've paid out of pocket and how grateful I am that our situations weren't worse, and I think of the people I've met, talked to, read about, people struggling to get by on minimum wage, on pensions, and I feel so irate on their behalf.
So, if you want to know what you can do, please call or write your senators or representatives today and tell them you support HRH 676, which provides health insurance coverage to all American citizens--old, young, rich, poor, black, white. It's not perfect, but it's a start. See "Sicko". Get informed. Call the White House talk back number at 202-456-1111 and tell them you don't support a veto on the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Maybe if we all do one little something, it'll turn into a great big something down the line.
So, obviously it was an amazing and moving experience, one I hope I'll never forget. It was a night of hope and inspiration and peace. One person's life (and death) can make a difference.