My father fears what I’m about to say will make me unable to find a job in the future. He may be right. My whole family worries about my health, as do I, and we have good reason to do so. I feel now more than ever that I must speak up regardless of consequence or retribution because to remain silent about this truly and uniquely American experience would be wrong.
I did all the right things according to conventional wisdom, I got my degree, I worked nights while obtaining it, I moved up the ladder, I was promoted quickly and taught myself new skills. Then one day in April 2020 my knee was shattered in such a way that I am now permanently disabled. As in if a building was on fire and I had to use the stairs to escape I would be in some serious trouble.
It would turn out I would break that knee again in about two months in physical therapy, I would have a second surgery. After teaching myself to walk again about 10 months after my second surgery I broke my other knee and my right shoulder. I now had to teach myself to walk for a third time and how to use my right arm again. This included a long stretch of not being able to write, use the restroom, bathe or function in any capacity other than still working full time from my bed on my back.
Of course, I could not resign as I desperately needed to and heal, as my insurance was tied to my job. Insurance I must add that has ended up denying and not covering most of what I needed through this entire process. Vanderbilt Hospital, one of the most respected medical institutions in the world, wrote three letters and treatment was still denied thanks to corporate money saving cut outs like prescription coverage among other things.
I’m not here to cry and tell you how bad my life is, I’m here to tell you this is happening to thousands of Americans every single day. We share an experience where we realize that because our health is tied to work, we can lay there as I did with a broken femur and still be in the Teams meeting. Because we have too, not because it is medically or psychologically advisable.
The case must be made for universal health care for two undeniable reasons. Firstly, it divorces health care from work freeing the employee to heal, be with family during hard times or look for a better job. That last one is why corporations fight it. Secondly, it is the moral thing to do.
I was paid fairly, but after all of my ER visits and surgeries, without my family's support I would have filed bankruptcy and quite frankly if something else happens I may have to. I’m privileged to be able to even take the time off, as such, I feel a responsibility to use it wisely by volunteering on days I’m physically able and writing on behalf of those who have two jobs and children to care for. They have no time for this battle, but I’m eager to take on the challenge.
One of my favorite authors Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing.” Since my hands are shaking and my hearth is thumping, I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to explain that none of the individuals I worked with are to blame. In fact, I miss every single one of them. The work was fun and meaningful, it gave me great joy, in fact they allowed me to teach myself and learn gaining certifications in programming. My former employer was actually really good, this is a policy issue we must tackle as individuals. We’re the only ones who stand to gain anything from reform.
The inertia of old corporate habits and a deeply entrenched insurance industry will surely be hard to take on, but I believe we can move this mountain together. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other despite pain, towards progress. I can promise from experience the first step is the hardest, once you get moving, it gets easier and less painful.