• 50°

John Howell Column

John Howell Sr.

Health care discussed in quiet, desperate, real-time voices

He said he was there for some test of his liver function, something wasn’t right, he had come for tests. He said he had no insurance and he didn’t have a doctor.

She said they had found another spot. She did not say where.

We shared space in the hospital’s outpatient registration waiting area. I shamelessly eavesdropped while the elderly patient I had accompanied there filled out forms. Always forms.

She said it had been the worst month of her life. She had no insurance since her full-time job had ended. She said that she had not been born with a silver spoon in her mouth and that she had never wanted one. She said that she had always worked and now that she is unable and needs medical care she hoped her government would take care of her.

He said that in Canada, the government makes sure that everybody can get medical care.

She asked why can’t they do that here.

He said they should.

She said it had been the worst month of her life. She said that several times. She did not say that it was both the dread of the finding out what the spot they had found means and the uncertainty of whether any doctor or hospital would treat her for it. She did not have to.

She named off the people close to her she had buried in recent years and months who had died from cancer.

The big C.

She said that it was not just old people who need the government to make sure they can get health care. Lots of children that don’t have insurance get sick too, she said.

The nurse called him back for his test, ending a poignant discussion of health care conducted in quiet, desperate voices drowned out by the shout and yelling  that have hijacked the attempt at national discussion of the issue.