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 3733 times Last modified on Sunday, 22 February 2015 18:30

Latest Economic and Social Justice News

  • Sen. Graham Joins 2016 GOPers' Call For Social Security Cuts

    Lindsey Graham(R-SC) not only became the latest Republican to jump into the 2016 presidential race, he also became the latest Republican to signal strong support for deep Social Security cuts. "Washington's failure to do the hard but right thing has put Social Security and Medicare in jeopardy," Graham said during

    Read More
  • The Republican campaign to destroy the poor stoops to a new low

    The party of the rich is now doing everything in its power to make sure those without money live in misery Last week my colleague Simon Maloy caught us up with the latest on Kanses Gov. Sam Brownback’s famous Arthur Laffer “petri dish” experiment, in which he slashed taxes and government programs in order to

    Read More
  • The Cost of an Adjunct

    The plight of non-tenured professors is widely known, but what about the impact they have on the students they’re hired to instruct? Imagine meeting your English professor by the trunk of her car for office hours, where she doles out information like a taco vendor in a food truck. Or

    Read More
  • After Rand Paul’s Sort-of Filibuster, What’s Next for Surveillance Reform?

    While technically Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) stand against the NSA yesterday wasn't a filibuster, any time a member of Congress talks for over ten hours without a bathroom break, it's close enough in our book.

    Read More
  • As Patriot Act Expiration Looms, Critics Hope for Sunset on Mass Surveillance

    'Together we will end the Patriot Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.' With the fate of the USA Patriot Act still hanging in the balance late afternoon Friday—and lawmakers eager to leave Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day barbecues and

    Read More
  • Entitlements are Bankrupting America. But the Rich Keep Taking Them.

    Because of irresponsible reporting by conservative sources, many Americans have been led to believe that social programs are bankrupting our nation. The mainstream media fawningly concurs, with statements like this from USA Today: "The massive deficits...[and] chronic underfunding...are largely the result of Washington's habit of committing too much money to

    Read More
  • It’s time to make college debt free

    When I graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990, students were graduating from college with an average of about $12,000 in debt. Today, the average student debt for undergraduates in Minnesota is more than $31,000 — the fifth-highest in the nation. 

    Read More
  • The 99% Isn’t Enough

    We can’t fight the rich without fighting our own privileges. Last night, I asked my mom if she’d heard ever heard the term, “We are the 99%.” After we spent a frustrating few minutes of her repeatedly asking, “But 99% of what?” she admitted that she’d heard tell of Occupy

    Read More
  • Why Don’t the American People Want to Tax the Rich? Oh Wait, They Do.

    Despite what the New York Times would have you believe, Americans have said over and over that they want the wealthy to pay more. The New York Times has a post by Neil Irwin headlined “Why Americans Don’t Want to Soak the Rich.” Irwin suggests a couple of different answers to this question, depending on your ideological point of view:

    Read More
  • 5 Ways It's Become a Crime to Be Poor in America, Punishable by Further Impoverishment

    New report details perverse policies that are driving more people into hopeless, inescapable poverty.

    Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9

Featured News

  • Hague climate change judgement could inspire a global civil movement +

    Dutch ruling could trigger similar cases worldwide with citizens taking their governments to courts to make them act on climate Read More
  • Supreme Court Rejects Obamacare Lawsuit, Preserving Insurance For Millions +

    WASHINGTON -- The latest and possibly the last serious effort to cripple Obamacare through the courts has just failed. On Thursday, 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
  • Why We 'Ordinary People' Should Oppose Fast Track of the TPP Right Up To the Final Vote in Congress +

    During his campaigning days back in 2008, President Obama promised to rewrite NAFTA. Even Hillary at the time modestly admitted that there were mistakes Read More
  • Left raises pressure on Pelosi to oppose Obama's fast-track +

    Liberal groups are upping their pressure this week on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to take a stand against President Obama's 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
  • 34
  • 35
  • 36
  • 37
  • 38
  • 39
  • 40
  • 41
  • 42
  • 43

ESJ Calls

Featured Economic and Social Justice News

  • Sen. Graham Joins 2016 GOPers' Call For Social Security Cuts +

    Lindsey Graham(R-SC) not only became the latest Republican to jump into the 2016 presidential race, he also became the latest Read More
  • Populism Is Helping to Define and Build the Progressive Movement +

    While a self-serving and bought-off Conservative majority in Congress -- along with its DINO ("Democrat In Name, Only") enablers -- remains mired Read More
  • Bystander Who Filmed Horrifying Footage: 'Officer Just Shot Him in the Back' +

    Speaking with news outlets for the first time, witness says victim did not have possession of Taser as officer initially claimed Read More
  • Obama Promises Rare Veto As House Votes to Slow Down Union Elections, Curb NLRB +

    In a show of electoral strength by anti-union Republicans in Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives easily passed legislation Thursday Read More
  • GOP Budget Slashes Tax Rates for the 1 Percent, Safety Net for Everyone Else +

    Proposal, columnist writes, 'is based on an economic philosophy that has failed the country and its people savagely in the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Does Your Legislator Support the ERA