NS August 10th, 2009
I got this email from a family member yesterday, who was passing it on from a friend of a friend. As I sat there reading the forwarded message, which was written by an American woman who’d received health care while visiting Scotland last month, I found myself growing very angry and depressingly sad. This woman used her story to “prove” that socialized medicine doesn’t work, is inhumane and utterly inferior to the system in the USA. I almost couldn’t make it to the end of the email and had to stop myself from Replying All and letting loose with a detailed response. Instead, I’m posting it here.
This is what was contained in the email:
I, Karen Sparks, found myself in need of hospitalization and surgery while I was visiting Scotland in July 2009. I had a critical health issue and had emergency surgery within 7 hours of admittance to the UK National Health Care system at the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary for a septic knee.
My first stop was a dingy ward room to speak to a doctor to evaluate me. There were people there waiting to get a bed in the hospital for treatment, but no beds were available to them until someone else left. I had some tests done and then i was sent to my bed upstairs. I was fortunate to get one. It was a shock to me to be put in a ward room with 6 other women. I had not saw that since I was a child. I was being told I would soon have my surgery by a doctor who was not going to be my surgeon. I never ever saw the person who operated on me. I only saw doctors and interns who had been in a general meeting about the surgerys of that night. That is not any way to get any clear answers to your questions or fears. You really don't know anything when you are there.
My husband was beside himself and followed the gurney to wait to talk to the surgeon. As we got to the elevator the nurse told my husband he could not come down to surgery and there are no provisions for waiting during surgery. He could see me the next day at 2pm visiting hours! It was now 10:30PM. You do not get public relations in government health care systems.
Now he had to call home and tell my mother ,who was worried sick, he did not know a thing about how I made it through surgery and wouldn't until the next afternoon. He did hide out in the hospital during my surgery but did not know anything about how I did, all he saw was me going back to my ward. Actually you never see any doctors as a family member unless you get lucky and they come speak to them at visiting hours, but you have to ask. It makes you feel totally at their mercy without much say in your own life or treatment.
I was assigned to a womens orthopedic ward with 6 beds, all full, three whose ages were 93, 87,and 85, all of which had broken hips. Those elderly women laid in their beds NO LESS than five, yes I said 5 days, before they took them to surgery to fix those hips. The doctors would come in most every day and tell them that they were not an emergency situation and maybe tomorrow we will have time.
I had an IV port in my arm from surgery and it was used to main line my antibiotics by syringes. You took oral pain pills, no drip Iv's to sustain you. If you couldn't eat and drink on your own to sustain yourself you got weaker which I saw the elderly do. I don't know if my 93 year old roommate made it through her surgery. I never saw her again after they took her to "theater".
The pain of those aged women lying with badly broken bones, in bed getting joustled about all week in the name of cleanliness was cruel and depressing. I am sure they did not care to get a bath or clean sheets by the sounds of their protests and crys. They wanted medical help! As sick as I was I knew I was the lucky one.
Remember we are are closer to the United Kingdom than any other country in the world by the way we live and have compassion. They are living with this horrible health system and we could be next if the powers in Washington force it upon us.
I don't believe any of us are going to want a national socialized health care. Everyone will suffer except those in control who set it up for the masses.Do you want your family member lying in a bed suffering for days because they aren't precieved as an emergency? Yes it is expensive to have health insurance in the United States but we do have health care that far outweighs what I saw in the United Kingdom.
God bless and help us to keep our leading doctors, specialists and research doctors. We will loose all of that with the new reform and the rest of the world depends on us to be leaders in health care and prevention. They come here to our doctors and hospitals when they
can not get a life saving procedure in a timely fashion in their socialized country of health care.We are the United States of America and we need to start protecting our valuable human resourses, the citizens of The United States of America. Wake up before it is too late America!
Karen T Sparks
Well, Karen, let me tell you something: you are a propaganda pusher. You are ignorant, arrogant beyond belief and your “concern” for the “citizens of the United States of America” is a facade. What you *really* care about is covering your own ass. You, as a fully insured person with enough material wealth to be traveling abroad, don’t want things to change FOR YOU. You don’t give a rat’s ass about the 40 million Americans without any health insurance, or the millions more who are underinsured. You speak only to those fortunate enough to have jobs or pensions with good health benefits attached; those middle class and educated enough to have access to the state-of-the-art facilities your pampered ass is used to being in. You consider health care a business and you are a customer whose needs and demands must be met and satisfied at all times. And as long as that happens, you’re happy.
How DARE you take your one isolated experience of socialised health care and use it to make direct comparisons and predictions for what health care reform would mean for America? How DARE you tell me, an American citizen who went uninsured for several years because I couldn’t afford it and now, as a UK resident with instant and unlimited access to health care based on my status as a HUMAN BEING instead of as PAYING CUSTOMER, that I’m the one missing out? How DARE you tell the people who arent insured, or who don’t have adequate insurance, that they don’t matter, so long as you get your clean, private room and your husband gets his own personal PR agent to hold his hand while he waits for news of your progress?
You say you were confused, your questions unanswered. Do you think that perhaps it had more to do with the fact that you were already in an unfamiliar environment, in an unfamiliar system in a foreign country, than with the system itself? That perhaps because of that, you were too scared and unsure of yourselves to ask the proper questions? That perhaps you were too arrogant to bother asking them at all, too shocked that someone wasn’t spoon feeding it to you through an IV drip so you didn’t have to do any work at all? Because that’s what you want, right? To lie back and let the doctors do their work on your behalf, sure that they have your best interests at heart since you’re a goddamn American citizen and therefore the best, most worthy patient in the world?
Karen T. Sparks, socialised medicine isn’t sick…you are. And I’ll tell you why.
I have two children and don’t work outside the home. I take care of them while my husband works to pay our mortgage and bills. We are very fortunate to be able to do this, and we know it. Many people need two incomes to even make their basic payments. We are blessed, and lucky. My husband likes his job but if he didn’t, he would be free to go out and look for another where he’d be happier. He can change jobs without endangering his family’s ability to access health care. He could even lose his job and we’d be okay. If worse came to worst and we had to sell our house and move in with family, at least we’d know that our health wasn’t compromised or that we’d be bankrupted in the process of making sure it wasn’t. We wouldn’t have to sit up at night with a sick and feverish child, agonising over whether to see how it goes a little longer or rush her into the hospital, thinking about what it’s going to cost us instead of focusing on getting our daughter well again.
When I went into the hospital to have my first baby, I didn’t have to fill out a bunch of insurance forms while I was in labour or sign a consent form allowing the doctors to perform a zillion procedures and interventions so that they could guarantee a perfect outcome and reduce the chance that I’d sue them. Because that’s what Americans do, right? If something goes wrong, they sue. If their hospital “experience” wasnt’ what they feel they paid for, they get a lawyer and they sue the shit out of the doctor, the nurse, the hospital, the janitor…whoever they can cut down with their merciless need to blame someone for all of life’s ills. You pride yourselves on your work ethic and bootstraps mentality, don’t you? You think you’re the greatest nation in the world and that you can do anything if you set your minds to it or are paying top dollar for it. You, and others like you, have gotten so above yourselves and stuck your heads so far up our own self-congratulatory asses that you have no time for things like Nature, or Death or Human Fallibility. You want only Service, Results and Accountability. Having a health care system based on ability to pay has turned you into clients, not patients, and your health care practitioners into business owners concerned only with the bottom line.
When I had my second child, I had a choice in where and how I gave birth. I wasn’t treated as a pod carrying a precious “pre-born person” who had more rights than me. Since I was healthy and having a baby is a natural process, I was given the option to give birth at home. I had two midwives in attendance and no drugs. No IV drip, no scalpel, no monitors or wires strapped to me, no paperwork to fill out. I birthed a baby and they were there in case anything went wrong. It didn’t.
I got one-to-one care and they even came back every couple day for the next few weeks to check on me and the baby so I didn’t have to get myself together and take a newborn baby into a doctor’s office full of sick people. Not once was I asked how I was paying or for proof that I had a right to receive their care. I was treated as a person, not a “customer.” Me and my baby were the bottom line, not what procedures and length of stay my insurance would cover.
Don’t get me wrong, the national health service here is not perfect. There are longer waiting times for non-life-threatening procedures and cleanliness and understaffing can be a problem. These problems are transparent because they are government run and therefore constantly in the public eye, up for scrutiny, as they should be. Though an imperfect system, the NHS is always striving to improve. The American system is not perfect either, though. There are mistakes and long waits and dirty hospitals and not enough staff to go around and aged women are left in pain on gurneys and alone on hospital beds. You just don’t know about it because you don’t have to frequent the facilities where these problems are more prevalent. You don’t see this because you have insurance, and good coverage at that. You are blind to the inadequate care that millions and millions of Americans receive (or don’t receive at all) because they aren’t valued top-paying customers. You are in the VIP room of health care; you are so blind to your privilege that you don’t know any other room even exists.
You may have noticed that I keep using the pronoun ‘they’ when talking about Americans, and that I must not identify as one. Well, I was born and raised in America. I will always be American. I love my country. But I hate the mentalities of many of its citizens and how it is run. This resistance to change is a resistance to criticise yourselves. And a society that cannot criticise itself and work to change for the better — to evolve and grow as a nation — is not a healthy one, nor one that I want to be a part of. Callous disregard for such as basic human right as the right to health care is not something I want to be a part of anymore. As much as I miss my family and the land of my childhood, and as many good qualities as America has, I can never go back. I can never go back because it is not the country I thought it was. It is so sick that it doesn’t even KNOW it’s sick and refuses to take any medicine. All the pleading and cajoling in the world won’t make that bitter pill go down, as sad as that is. So like any sane person who can’t take anymore, I proclaim to wash my hands of it. Let them get sick and die in their millions then! I won’t be witness to it anymore. I’m finished.
Except, I can’t turn away. My family and my friends still live there, and my children are American citizens, too. One day we’d like to move back and allow them to experience that part of their heritage — MY heritage — but I refuse to take them to a place that doesn’t value their health as a right, but a privilege. It would be like taking a step backwards in time after having seen the future. I won’t make them feel like second-class citizens if they are not fortunate enough to have good jobs with good insurance, or force them to stay in jobs they hate so they can go to the doctor when they need to. I’d rather never see my homeland again then expose them to a system that disregards its most vulnerable citizens in such a callous way. I’d want them to know the beauty and the aching kindnesses that I know are somewhere underneath all the layers of fear and hate, but I don’t think Iv’e got the strength, or enough shovels, to dig them out.
So, Karen T. Sparks, I will take my socialised health care over the American system any day of the week. I am saddened and angered that people such as yourself , who I’m sure are caring and kind, can be taken in by the propaganda and be blind to the changes that are needed. It takes courage and humanity to move from a hierarchical system to a more equitable one and I guess in that department, America is sorely lacking. The land of the free and the home of the brave, indeed. You’re so shackled by the IDEA of freedom that you don’t even know what it is anymore. Those of us living under socialised health care don’t need or want your pity. It is us who pity you.
God bless America? God save America.