I’ve often wondered if we were actually ever meant to hear the stream of consciousness of hundreds of people on a daily basis. Is it really beneficial for us to know every opinion people around us have? I’ve found myself struggling to like people and view them in the same light after we became friends on Facebook. The Internet creates a barrier between us and those we are talking to, so for many, it seems that the barrier emboldens them and makes them say things they would never say while looking into someone’s eyes. Don’t get me wrong. Social media can be a beautiful thing that brings people together. I love seeing photos of my friends’ kids. I love seeing countless messages of encouragement sent to someone who is struggling or suffering a loss. Social media had a huge part in raising the money we needed to pay for Mike’s transplant, so it’s obvious I’m not against it, but if I’m being honest, there are days that the Internet hurts.
Lately the debate over health care has heated up yet again, and it seems that every day I see posts and comments and videos from my “friends” talking about the Affordable Care Act. I don’t mind a bit of debate, and I certainly don’t mind varying opinions on such a big topic, but what I struggle with is the lack of compassion and understanding that seems to permeate these conversations. It’s funny how the people who have only used our health care system to have babies and maybe for an occasional virus during flu season seem to be the ones who feel they are experts on the subject of health care in America, while those of us who have lived through the nightmare sit quietly. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read online that people with preexisting conditions, “sick people” as they’re often referred to in these debates, are a drain on the system and how “healthy” people don’t want to have to pay for them. That always strikes me as a funny way to word it since these people with preexisting conditions just want to be able to buy their own insurance instead of being rejected by insurance companies because they will actually cost them something. (Isn’t that what insurance is for? To help with paying for treatment?) I see an us versus them mentality and I definitely see a condescending attitude towards those who have been unfortunate enough to have struggles with their health. The best is when these people are called lazy, entitled leeches simply because there was a time in their lives they didn’t have insurance, and they were the unlucky ones who got sick during that time. I read these words and I wonder.
I wonder if they know how as young, self-employed newlyweds, health insurance was going to cost as much as our mortgage every month. We knew we’d be able to afford it once our businesses were a little more successful and established, but it felt out of our reach the first few years. I wonder if they know that once we tried to buy health insurance, we got a rejection letter saying that I had a preexisting condition, even though I was in perfect health and still in my early twenties. We were told to try applying again a year or two later. (We had no idea the things that would transpire in our lives while waiting for that year or two to be up.) I wonder if they know what it’s like to find out that your husband in his twenties is sick, and to no fault of his own. I wonder if they know what it’s like to struggle and to devote years of your life to fighting for his life. I wonder if they know that you can’t just walk into an ER like so many think you can if you don’t have health insurance and get treatment for cancer or kidney disease or any long-term illness. You can’t even apply for an organ transplant without insurance. I wonder if they know the relief I felt when new legislation meant Mike could get insurance through a Pre Existing Conditions Insurance Program sponsored by the government, and that meant he could start the process of getting his transplant. (Not for free. We paid a monthly premium just like everyone else.)
I wonder when they call people that have found themselves in these tough situations lazy if they have ever met my husband. I wonder if they know how people tried to talk him into collecting disability when he was sick and he flat out refused. I wonder if they know that everyone we met who had sickness like his slept most the day and didn’t work because of the extreme fatigue, but my husband literally dragged himself to work every single day of his ordeal. Every single day. I wonder if they know that he stopped to take breaks to throw up on his way to work and hid in backyards when the urge came again so that his clients wouldn’t know he was sick. I wonder if they know that he often had to pull off on the side of the road to take a 10 minute nap because the fatigue was so extreme he couldn’t keep his eyes open to drive. I wonder if they know that he was back to work barely a month after having an organ transplant because that’s just the kind of work ethic he has. I wonder if they’d look him in the eyes and tell him he’s lazy and that he doesn’t deserve to be able to purchase insurance because of his preexisting condition.
I wonder if they’d look into my eyes and into Lincoln’s eyes and tell us that Mike’s life isn’t worth the “drain” he is on the insurance and health care industry. It’s tough to feel the sting of judgement from people you thought were your friends. It’s tough to see them complain about legislation that helps my husband and millions like him. It’s tough to realize that many have the attitude that they have what they need and they’re currently healthy, so who cares about anyone else? Yes, these days the Internet definitely hurts.