Wednesday, October 21, 2009

US Healthcare History: Our Very Own Killing Fields

by Donna Smith

Jenny Fritts was 24 years old. Jenny lived with her husband Sean for the past five years, and together they had a little girl named Kylee, 2. Jenny was seven-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child - a beautiful, baby girl.

Jenny is dead. Jenny's unborn baby is dead. They died because they were turned away for appropriate care at a for-profit hospital because they did not have health insurance. Sean rushed Jenny back to another hospital when her symptoms became even more severe, and he lied about having insurance to get her in the door. She was placed on a respirator in intensive care, but she didn't make it. She died. And so did her baby.

They become two more of the more than 45,000 Americans who die preventable deaths due to our broken healthcare system every year. Two more. Mother and child.

And the tragedy doesn't end there. Sean has been very depressed since he lost Jenny and their baby. The rest of his family and friends are worried about him. But he cannot get treatment either. He doesn't have insurance. (You can watch their story here: Imagine how you might feel. Imagine.

These are our killing fields. In America. In October 2009. In Barack Obama's America. That land full of hope and promise for those who can afford that hope and promise. Yet few in our government offices react as one might think you would when hearing of Jenny and the baby and Sean and Kylee.

I read these stories every day on the website. I read them and clean up a spelling glitch or two and then post them for the world to see. The website belongs to the nurses of the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee. Patients send their stories to the nurses in cascading waves of anger and frustration and desperation. They want someone to listen and to give a damn. And they want someone to help.

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