Ruminant With A View
by Elizabeth Boleman-Herring
TEANECK, NJ—(Weekly Hubris)—3/8/10—One thing my European friends always remark upon when they visit me here on the East Coast of the United States, is how self-reliant my fellow-countrymen seem. Do-It-Yourself—DIY—is one of our national mantras.
“Seem” is the operative word there. American women attempt to cut their and their families’ hair (with predictably startling results). American men (and many women) undertake major plumbing and electrical “projects” in their own homes (and then call in the professionals before the whole block floods/goes up in smoke). Half the folks south of the Mason-Dixon line regularly pull maintenance on their own vehicles (which sit, in varying states of disrepair, on their front or side lawns—they’re not eyesores; they’re works in progress).
Ah, yes: we’re a hardy, self-reliant bunch.
Conforming to the trend, I tried, just this morning, to dye the snow-white mustache and goatee of the man I live with, affectionately known as “The Devil Bat.” (Dean does pitch-perfect Bela Lugosi imitations.)
How far wrong could one go with something called Just For Men, Light Brown, Mustache & Beard Brush-In Gel, touted as “Can’t-Miss Color”? Well, suffice it to say The Devil Bat now resembles Groucho, and Groucho’s facial hair was anything but “light” brown.
Ah, Americans. A trusting, gullible, long-suffering and, currently, stone-broke lot of folks.
In related news, The Devil Bat and I spent New Year’s Eve with a bunch of drunks.
It wasn’t a bunch of drunks we’d hand-picked, mind you. In fact, I was wedged between two roaringly inebriated New Jerseyians, for eight interminable hours, in Hackensack University Hospital’s Emergency Room.
My back (not created according to any Intelligent Design that I can identify) decided to “go out” in a big, big way on 12/31/09, and, unable to stand, sit or roll over and play dead, I was left with the all-American-health-care plan: get thee to the nearest Emergency Room.
As I scuttled, crab-like, up to the Triage Desk, a 20-year-old, who’d obviously never experienced anything like a root canal or an exploding ovarian cyst (it’s understandable that so many dimwitted young people in this country are Tea-Party-ers or Republicans: they haven’t needed Health Care, yet), asked me if I were suicidal. I said, evenly, that if someone didn’t do something about my &^%#$ lumbar spine ASAP, I would be. . .and, Reader, this twerp slapped me on Suicide Watch.
. . .which is how I ended up between Drunks A and B back in the bowels of the Hackensack ER: someone had to keep a close watch on them, as one (the Vietnam Vet) kept trying to flee, naked, into the night, and the other (the All Sheets To The Wind DUI Soccer Mom) wasn’t behaving well at all, either, despite her thousand-dollar hair and nails. Between them, I went into a longsuffering fetal curl, and rode out the hours till a physician finally saw me, shot me full of something approximating morphine and sent me home with a week’s Rx of steroids (picked up, for a price, at an all-night pharmacy).
I was taken off Suicide Watch shortly after I got past Triage, I must admit, as the young medical student tasked with observing me, along with Drunks A and B, was no dummy. We actually had a very civil, if protracted, discussion about American health care over the long, wee hours, and I helped him distract A and B till they dozed off, at long, long last.
The Soccer Mom must have got a helluva surprise the next day when she sobered up, as she’d ploughed into a tree with some force, and her face, which hit the windshield of her car very shortly thereafter, had taken a real beating: she felt nothing, however, while snoring next to me. Alcohol’s an amazing analgesic. I may have to take it up. . .
. . .because Health Care, in my native land, is destined to be a Do-It-Yourself Affair, I am convinced, for the span of my particular lifetime. At 58, I haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of living long enough to see Single Payer come into effect for me and The Devil Bat.
I, with my $5,000. insurance deductible (The Devil Bat’s is $10,000.—for each condition reported!!!), are doomed to wait for whatever Medicare will resemble by the time we shuffle into our mid-60’s. And, given our pre-existing conditions, our status among the ranks of the self-employed, and the prices of prescription drugs in these parts. . .we might as well be cobbling together health care at Home Depot or Lowe’s.
Just for example, I need an MRI, but MRI’s in this neck of the woods run between $4,000. and $6,000., and my co-pay, IF I’d met my $5,000. deductible tis year, would be close to $3,000. Since my deductible just did its annual “rollover,” I’m back to Square One, insurance-wise, and would have to foot the entire MRI bill out of pocket. Not this pocket.
The catch is: no one will give me the shot of cortisone in the spine that I so desperately need right now unless I have an MRI first.
Whatever Health Care bill makes its way through the demolition derby affectionately known as the US Congress will not save the thousands of us currently suffering and dying each year in this country because we cannot afford simple, humane medical care. Nor will our elected officials be required, along with us, to run the cruel gauntlet established by Big Pharma and Big Insurance: from the President on down, the Washington bigwigs have the best health care the lobbyists can provide.
The rest of us? We might as well be shopping at Home Depot for syringes and Kenalog, trying to administer our own epidurals in our own front parlors, solo. Hell, we can do it! We’re a self-reliant nation!