Sunday, 22 February 2015 00:00

How Government Healthcare Saved My Daughter’s Life

Written by  Claire Surovell

My daughter, Kate, was born at Johns Hopkins hospital in 1994.  I had a private room for three days.  Most mothers are sent home after a day, even if the baby is required to remain in the hospital.  Kate was low birth weight, and a bit jaundiced.  The doctors wanted to keep here there, so they found a way to keep me there.  It cost me something like $27.  For everything, all the pre-natal care, labor and delivery.  Everything.  My husband was in the army and his benefits covered all of it.  I don’t recall even filling out any forms.

Kate was a healthy, happy baby and toddler.  But there were a few scares over the first few years.  Pneumonia and lazy eye early on.  Later, tonsils and adenoids had to come out.  These were mostly routine concerns, and all of them were diagnosed and taken care of immediately.  Then the axe fell.

In 1999, when Kate was in kindergarten, my husband was posted to Hawaii.  During Thanksgiving vacation, my parents, her grandmother and grandfather, visited for the first time.  Although she’d been excited to see them, she was just not herself.  She was tired, lethargic and had no appetite.  When there was no improvement, we took her to the doctor.  He thought she had a sinus infection and put her on antibiotics.  But it didn’t do any good.

By the second week of December, my parents had gone home, assuming that there was nothing seriously wrong with their granddaughter.  But there was still no improvement.  Kate didn’t want to see Santa at a staff party at Fort Shafter, so we went back to the doctor.  While in the waiting room, sitting in my lap with her head listlessly against my shoulder, someone came out and clapped an oxygen sensor on Kate’s finger, took a reading and left abruptly.  She returned with urgency and placed an oxygen mask over Kate’s face.  She then had a chest x-ray, after which we were told to take her to the ER at Tripler Army Medical Center without delay.  After extensive blood work, several doctors came in and the curtain was closed.  Our daughter had ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and it was very bad.

A liter and a half of fluid was drained from her lungs, and a massive program of chemotherapy begun immediately.  There was a laundry list of drugs, whose odd scary names I will never forget.  Vincristine, doxorubicin, mercaptopurine, prednisone, methotrexate, L-asparaginase, zinecard.

Kate was transferred from Tripler to Kapiolani, a women’s and children’s hospital, so she could have immediate kidney dialysis.  She was in the number one bed in the ICU, closest to the nurses’ station, which was reserved for the most critical patient in the room.  We were told that she had a non-functioning immune system, and her electrolyte levels were “incompatible with life.”  After forty-eight hours, she returned to Tripler.  

We were terrified.  Kate was dying.  Her oncologist told us that she was the sickest patient he’d ever had at the point of diagnosis.  Children usually just don’t walk in the door looking that bad.  If we had come in even one day later, or if treatment had been delayed by twenty-four hours, her heart would’ve stopped or she’d no longer be able to breathe.  Kate would’ve been dead.      

There are established protocols of treatment for ALL.  Very quickly, we were handed a folder; a roadmap of her expected treatments over the next two years.  This began with weekly IV’s for chemotherapy and blood work, which lasted six months.  The visits became monthly, and then quarterly.  Kate took pills every single day for two years.  At one point, I dropped an entire bottle of Zofran, prescribed to control nausea, into the toilet.  Without hesitation, I called the doctor, who told me to just come in and get an immediate re-fill.  I later learned that Zofran retails for $70 a tablet.  At fifteen to twenty pills a bottle, this was an enormous amount of money down the drain.  But the cost was neither mentioned nor an issue.              

Kate spent twelve days in the hospital and then came home.  She endured 105 weeks of treatment.  She had cranial radiation.  Her long beautiful honey blond hair fell out.  She vomited after every trip to the hospital and lost weight.  Her face puffed up from steroids, which also made her restless and cranky.  She endured a series of spinal taps, and had an external catheter implanted in her shoulder.  She missed school and suffered mild brain damage, resulting in some fuzzy and frustrating learning disabilities.

But she survived.  She was cured.  Childhood leukemia is the cancer you want your kid to have.  It’s the one with the highest survival rate, over 80%.

As traumatic and nightmarish as all this was, we were spared one fundamental aspect of having to face a life threatening disease.  We did NOT have to fight an insurance company every step of the way.  We didn’t have to fill out dozens of forms, or get company approval for every medical decision.  Her treatment wasn’t determined by cost or whether a doctor was in or out of a network.

Kate had the most excellent care imaginable.  Her doctors were wonderful, even providing me with their home phone numbers.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if we’d had to figure out where to go or how to pay for it.  She was five years old and dying.  I didn’t have any prior understanding of the treatments or options, and I didn’t have the time or energy to research them.  I slept in a chair in the hospital for two weeks, only going home occasionally to shower and change clothes.  

Our military health coverage allowed me to be a mother and her doctors to make decisions based on her immediate needs, not how much a procedure cost as compared to whether it might be effective.

I have no doubt that she’s alive now because of that health coverage.  I don’t know the details of the Affordable Care Act.  But I do know that everyone in this county needs, and should have, what my family had.  The simple, complete, easily accessible and effective coverage that saved my daughter’s life.  If this is a single payer system, and that’s the best alternative, then isn’t that what we should have? 


Claire Surovell works for a bank in NYC, and is no longer entitled to military benefits.  Kate retains them until age twenty-one, along with commissary privileges.  After that, she can keep them only by paying an additional monthly premium.                 

Read 1291 times Last modified on Sunday, 22 February 2015 18:30

Latest Economic and Social Justice News

  • Snowden Document Reveals Huge Scope of Canada's Domestic Surveillance

    Canada's spy agency collects and stores millions of citizens' emails each year Canada's electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), collects millions of emails and other information from its citizens and stores them for "days to months," according to a document leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and revealed by CBC News in

    Read More
  • What Is Right-To-Work? Wisconsin SB 44 Part Of Much Larger Battle

    Wisconsin lawmakers this week are considering what’s known as a right-to-work bill. It’s a deeply divisive subject in the Badger State: Republicans love it; unions hate it. In some circles, there’s even talk of a general strike, a kind of mass walkout that the U.S. hasn’t seen in almost 70

    Read More
  • IL Governor Rauner Gets $750,000 Tax Break – Proposes Slashing Services to Middle Class and Poor

    Illinois' new GOP Governor, Bruce Rauner, will personally receive a $750,000 per year tax cut as a result of his decision not to continue the state's temporary 1.25% income tax surcharge that expired last year.

    Read More
  • Republicans Eye Changes to Food-Stamp Program

    House Republicans are laying the groundwork for a revision of the food-stamps program after its sharp expansion during the recession. The effort kicks off Feb. 25 when the House Agriculture Committee holds the first of several hearings scheduled this year on food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

    Read More
  • GOP Assault on Social Security Could be 'Death Sentence' for Nation's Disabled

    The claim that either the old-age or disability trust funds has run dry is 'one of the hoariest lies in the conservatives' playbook.' Republican opposition to a plan that would shore up a critical government safety-net program amounts to a new front in the GOP's class war and could equal

    Read More
  • Amid Lopsided Recovery, Republicans Plan Cuts to Food Stamp Program

    'We cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor people,' said Rep.Jim McGovern House Republicans are reportedly renewing efforts to cut the federal food stamp program, increasing restrictions on benefits and who may qualify for them.  

    Read More
  • Public employee unions under fire again

    Public-sector workers are under fire again — and not just from Republicans. Three years after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker curtailed collective bargaining and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie cut pension benefits for public employees in the name of budget austerity, state and local politicians once again are moving to curtail public-sector

    Read More
  • How Texas could give up on its DREAM

    Is this check-mate? With Gov.-elect Greg Abbott poised to take over the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State later this month, the Texas legislature will be in prime position to attack and ultimately dismantle one of the state’s most successful pro-immigrant initiatives on the books: the Texas DREAM Act.

    Read More
  • Amid Time of Soaring Inequality, Rich Say: The Poor Have It Easy

    Oxfam International's Winnie Byanyima says political leaders will ignore inequality at their own peril. According to the nation's richest people, the poor have it easy. Fifty-four percent of survey respondents categorized as the most financially secure said "poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without

    Read More
  • Yep, That's Right... "Free": Obama Plan Would Cover Community College Tuition

    Proposal put forth by White House would see federal and state governments pay for two years of college for all those able to maintain 2.5 GPA A new proposal unveiled by President Obama would make two years of a community college education "free" for all those who maintain a certain

    Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6

Featured News

  • How the Movement to Unseat Rahm Emanuel Is Challenging ‘1 Percent’ Urbanism +

    As Chuy Garcia gains momentum, another city seems possible. As the gears of federal government have ground to a halt, Read More
  • TPP Media March +

    Join our TPP Twitter Storm. Everyone with a Twitter account can participate. The Twitter storm begins on Tuesday at 9pm Read More
  • What Is Right-To-Work? Wisconsin SB 44 Part Of Much Larger Battle +

    Wisconsin lawmakers this week are considering what’s known as a right-to-work bill. It’s a deeply divisive subject in the Badger Read More
  • Historic Win for Internet as FCC announces strong new rules to save Net Neutrality after over 5 million Internet users spoke out +

    February 26, 2015 – The Federal Communications Commission has just announced strong new Net Neutrality rules. Experts say the new rules Read More
  • Obama Vetoes Keystone XL Pipeline Bill +

    WASHINGTON — President Obama on Tuesday vetoed a bill to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, rejecting an effort by Republicans Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • 31
  • 32
  • 33

ESJ Calls

Featured Economic and Social Justice News

  • What Is Right-To-Work? Wisconsin SB 44 Part Of Much Larger Battle +

    Wisconsin lawmakers this week are considering what’s known as a right-to-work bill. It’s a deeply divisive subject in the Badger Read More
  • GOP Assault on Social Security Could be 'Death Sentence' for Nation's Disabled +

    The claim that either the old-age or disability trust funds has run dry is 'one of the hoariest lies in Read More
  • Amid Lopsided Recovery, Republicans Plan Cuts to Food Stamp Program +

    'We cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor people,' said Rep.Jim McGovern House Republicans are reportedly renewing efforts Read More
  • How Texas could give up on its DREAM +

    Is this check-mate? With Gov.-elect Greg Abbott poised to take over the governor’s mansion in the Lone Star State later Read More
  • Amid Time of Soaring Inequality, Rich Say: The Poor Have It Easy +

    Oxfam International's Winnie Byanyima says political leaders will ignore inequality at their own peril. According to the nation's richest people, Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6

Does Your Legislator Support the ERA

 

ERAMap