I haven’t had health insurance for three years and Slasher in almost nine. When strep throat blew through and knocked us painfully on our asses, I went to the CVS Minute Clinic and he went to my old family doctor. Total cost: $300 for the two of us.
But more so then strep throat, here’s what I did that could have killed you and even myself because I didn’t have health insurance.
During the summer months of 2009, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. Unlike my previous pregnancies, I was not bedridden with sickness or discomfort. With the Kid, a trip to the ER was necessary because I was so ill I needed to be hydrated through an IV. As this was an unplanned pregnancy, I was panic stricken. I didn’t have health insurance and I was almost certain I could not continue the pregnancy. But on the upside, I wasn’t debilitatingly sick.
I was, however, immobilized with what to do: what kind of life would this be for the child I already had and the one I was considering?
If I planned to continue the pregnancy, I would certainly apply for state-funded pre-natal care that, in Pennsylvania, is called Healthy Beginnings.
But I never got that far.
I do not remember the cramping or the pain, but I do remember the clots that looked like I had opened a can of jellied cranberry and cut thick slices for a stadium’s full of eager football fans. Even now, I can still feel slice after thick slice pouring out of me, just like I did then. I couldn’t make it stop, couldn’t control my body, and to me it was humiliating. All I wanted to do was get clean, make it stop, have control.
But I couldn’t.
The previous day, when the light bleeding came, I went to the emergency room where I was told there was no fetal heat beat. Nothing. The doctors sent me on my way to miscarry at home. I was 11 weeks pregnant.
I wasn’t sad, I was humbled that the Powers That Be made my decision for me. But as I soaked each pad with blood in less than a minute, I knew something was horribly wrong. And that I had no health insurance.
I was hemoragging. As if my lady bits were the double doors in The Shining; with enough rushing blood and powerful force to light all of Philadelphia. It was with this realization that I could be dead in the very near future that I set out, in my car, and drove myself the ten or so miles to the emergency room.
I sat on a plastic bag, a soaked pad, and black fleece plants. I had tremendous focus around each curve as if my mind could, without a doubt, will my body to stop. I made small goals as I went: this stop sign, that red light, the next intersection, the final left turn. I only saw up head, not behind or the cars next to me. There was no “if” I could make it, I WOULD make it.
And I did.
I made it to the emergency room and to the little plexi-glass window with the stainless steal venetian blind opening and all I could get out was my first name. Then, I collapsed. Once I had reached the ultimate goal, I let the tunnel of unconsciousness engulf me.
The doctor told me, later, that I had arrived with no blood pressure. A blood transfusion was necessary and I had a choice: a surgical abortion or a manual. I chose the latter.
Which is exactly how it sounds: insert, pump with hands and contraption, life saved.
My life that is.
But before I got there, I needed an IV and tests and, my memory is a little fuzzy, another ultrasound. There was a team that helped me, who held my hand, who told me they had never seen anyone be this tough.
All I could think about was the bill.
The doctor, the residents, and the nurses all told me how driving myself to the hospital had been a poor choice, but I knew that I would do it again. If I had to. An ambulance ride, at the very least, was $1,000.
During the Republican debates, a few dip shits hooted and hollered when Ron Paul was asked if Americans should be left to die if they didn’t have insurance. Yes, let them die the claps and hollers meant.
Let me die.
Everyday in this country, Americans make non-choices to save their lives. I didn’t have a choice, I had one option and I took it. Now that the Affordable Care Act has been largely upheld, I’m the closest I’ve been in a long time to a foreseeable future with health insurance.
The examples of what happens without health insurance do not have to be lofty. You can use me: one American, one mother, one miscarriage, almost killed. Because I didn’t have health insurance.