It’s someone you know….

Marty Omoto is an warrior for people with disabilities, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with him over the years. He is also of the “send E-mail constantly” school of advocacy, trying to put out as much information so people can be the most effective in their efforts in trying to influence the sometimes opaque world of Sacramento.

For those who don’t have the pleasure of getting his E-mail updates, I wanted to post a selection from what he sent recently, explaining his absence.

I am writing this note to let people know that I have been out of action for the past week and half due to my health (though avidly keeping track of the major news events of the world as covered by CNN and all the major news media, which of course means only what happens next to Britney Spears).

About a week and half ago I was hospitalized in Sacramento due to major internal bleeding that began – unknown to me at the time – the previous Wednesday (September 26). The doctors said it probably was happening over the past year, but reached a critical point at that time. In the next few days I lost nearly 50% of my blood volume (or, for those optimists who always see life as “half full”, I retained half of my blood volume). At that point I was, according to the ER, very close to going into shock that could have led to cardiac arrest and a visit to the “other side”. Well, I guess not a visit.

I was rushed in time to the hospital on Sunday (September 30), where I was given a lot of blood transfusions, and IVs that pumped all sorts of things into me, though apparently not the good sense that so many people think I still need. Some things can’t be corrected….

They later did several procedures to successfully stop the bleeding related to extreme hypertension (high blood pressure) that was, before this happened, over 250/140. Well, that just goes to show you that a person can walk around with all sorts of bad things going on inside.

I am fine now – getting back my strength each day – and I am resuming work this week…

Health Care and No Insurance

I do not have medical insurance – but it is not by my choice. I don’t have medical insurance – like so many others in this country and in California, because it is simply not affordable. And that makes health care and prescription drugs out of reach. I am living proof of that – as so many others are in this country and in this state.
Every doctor and nurse that treated me, asked me all sorts of questions, including, over and over, why I wasn’t taking any medication for high blood pressure. They seem perplexed why I didn’t. They were all wonderful and good people. But they seemed not to understand why a person with a health problem that might be solved by medication would end up at the ER.

Sometimes showing up at a hospital ER without medical insurance feels like going to church once a year all dressed up – with the pastor or priest or rabbi sort of staring and shaking their heads, with that look of “if you only would show up more often…” life would be so much better.

In the intensive care unit, most of the time I was too out of it to explain and would simply say “I don’t have health insurance”. That would generally stop any further questions on that topic, though I did wonder, upon hearing that news, if the nurses and doctors would start yanking out the tubes and somehow pump the blood transfusions back out of me. They were however, cool about it – but I just wondered if they understood. It just sometimes depends where one’s life experience happens to come from.

You can get pretty emotional after lying in ICU for awhile. I couldn’t help think about what happened to my family and what happened to me and what could have happened. My family was pretty upset, including my dad who had lost his only two daughters in the last four years.

I finally, in a very emotional quiet voice, told one doctor who seemed not to understand that “I didn’t choose not to have health insurance. I can’t afford it. My sister couldn’t afford medication for her heart – and she died. My sisters died. Do you understand that we didn’t choose for any of this to happen? Can you understand that? It’s not that we didn’t want to choose something better. We didn’t have a choice.”

I said it very gently, because this particular doctor was so compassionate and simply seemed perplexed – like that devoted church person or pastor who doesn’t understand why a person would only show up to church once a year. The doctor actually had tears in his eyes, and held my hand and just said softly “I am so sorry. I understand. I am so sorry.”

California has the best hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health professionals in the world – if you are lucky enough to have access to them. This time, I was very, very lucky enough to get tremendously good and compassionate care. I was lucky to get any health care. Next time I may not. Too many other Californians share this same experience. If you are lucky, you might get health care. But luck should have nothing to do with it. Somehow, that needs to change.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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