The Least Among Us
*NOTE: Wonderful and generous readers have been writing to us all day asking how they can help, especially with Melissa's orphaned dog, Daisy. May we suggest in the most gentle way that those inclined make a donation to their local animal shelters because, unfortunately, there are many more Daisies out there who have lost their owners due to a crappy economy, financially strapped owners and death.
Daisy aside, Melissa's story is a call to arms - or, like Millenia Black says below - to the streets, "Egypt style." If you feel injustice, act. Here is a link to your U.S. Representative. Call him or her, email this blog and ask them what they plan to do to insure that no more Americans die because they couldn't afford to see a doctor.
Thank you. The response has been overwhelming
Over the weekend, we Tarts learned the shocking news that one of our most loyal backbloggers and friends, Melissa Mia Hall, aka MMH, had died suddenly and somewhat mysteriously.
Sad stories quickly spread. A writer, artist and longtime reviewer for such esteemed publications as Publishers Weekly, Melissa had been depressed over finances and the death of her sister years before. Most recently, her beloved dog, Daisy, had been sick and she had strained herself lifting her. It had been a bleak winter of worries and frustrations and fear.
And then we learned the truth which turned out to be far worse, far more humbling, than our conjecture. Melissa died because she couldn't afford to see a doctor.
In light of a federal court judge's decision yesterday to overrule the Obama healthcare law, it's hard not to turn our thoughts to Melissa who, like most self-employed Americans, was responsible for acquiring and paying for her own health insurance - a luxury she simply couldn't afford. She knew she needed medical care, but feared a visit would result in a lengthy hospital stay that would "ruin her credit rating."
Just a week ago, Melissa wrote Harley the following:
Right now really hurting. Hurt my chest/back last night lifting Daisy wrong...she's too heavy and I pulled muscles I guess. I thought at first I was having a heart attack it was so awful.
Tonight I'm really hurting still. Ibuprofen's not helping much. Using heating pad. It's been a long painful day and hard to concentrate on much. Why now?
The pain worsened and last Wednesday, just a few days before she would be found dead, she wrote in another email:
This has been the worst day of my life for pain for the past two years, that's for sure.
Thanks for caring! Again, I felt pretty terrible all day but did three reviews. It was hard but it distracted me a little from the pain.
She was scared, not only for herself, but for Daisy, too. The best she could do was call the doctor and beg him for painkillers. This was a work around Melissa had used before. Diagnosed with glaucoma, she had long stopped taking the expensive medication. She'd given up on new glasses which she also couldn't afford. And when she contracted strep last fall, she begged a doctor to call in a prescription for antibiotics over the phone, which he did - as he did with pain killers last week when she thought she'd hurt her back.
If she had seen the doctor, most likely he would have suspected more than a pulled muscle and would have ordered a life-saving EKG.
As Texas lawyer, writer and Melissa's friend, Laurie Moore, wrote to me, "She would've had a huge doctor bill she couldn't pay, and would probably have lost her house over it, but she would be alive instead of taking pain pills and dying in the night. "
In the end, Melissa didn't die from an overdose, not even an accidental one; Melissa died of the very heart attack she feared.
She was found in her house, alone except for Daisy who was whisked away to animal control for euthanasia. Daisy, whom Melissa would have fed before she fed herself, would have been killed if it hadn't been for Laurie's chance encounter with an animal control officer. Now, Daisy is waiting to be treated for mange, but is considered adoptable. So her life will be saved.
*NOTE: Apparently, after factoring in Daisy's age, poor eyesight, underlying health issues and mange, Melissa's family decided to put her down. At least, she is out of pain, too.*
Melissa worked hard. She owned a home. She paid her taxes (late, but paid). She was trying to live a dream - the American Dream - that supposedly we as citizens are promised - the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. For her, that couldn't be achieved in a traditional job that came with the perks of health care.
But does that mean she had to die?
How much would it cost us as a society to simply make preventative care available? We cannot, after all, pursue the lofty American dream without healthy bodies.
And, in a week when some talentless idiot like Charlie Sheen blows his $2 million/week salary on coke and hookers and ends up in the hospital, is it fair that Melissa Hall should lie suffering and in pain in the home she was afraid of losing by risking a trip to the emergency room?
It's worse than a Dickens novel.
Don't think we can afford to take care of those like Melissa? Then check out Vermont's Dr. Dynasaur program which provides affordable health care to those who need it most for a reasonable fee. And we're a relatively tax poor state, too.
Universal health care can be done. It must be done. Every one of us should have access to the same top-notch medical treatment enjoyed by those elected to represent us. John Boehner wouldn't think twice about seeing a doctor for chest pains, why not Melissa?
Today, in memory of Melissa or someone you know like her, please email or call your representatives and tell them not to back down in this fight. Tell them you want what he or she has, a quality health plan.
Because who the hell do you think's paying their premiums?