Sunday, October 7, 2007

"The Courage to Think Anew"

Political history doesn't turn on the amount of money you spend, but the courage to think anew. (The Argument, Matt Bai)

A year ago tonight-about right now-Daryl and I were at the Ritz Carlton in Montego Bay-an idyllic, perfectly calm setting for some badly needed rest. Little did we know, that was all about to change. About the time we were having dinner, my brother-in-law, Larry walked into his living room to find my sister, Ava, who had been just fine moments before, slumped over, unresponsive. I didn't find out until the next morning, but a large aneurysm had ruptured in Ava's brain. She was in ICU, on a respirator, clinging to life, against the odds.

In the days that followed, I traded a hammock by the beach in Jamaica for a chair in the ICU waiting room in Charlotte where I learned about things like "grade five bleeds" and "vasospasms." After three weeks in ICU, two surgeries (one that caught the aneurysm just before it "blew" again), weeks on the neuro floor, a month in the rehab hospital and months more of recovery at home, she didn't just survive an event that most do not-she survived with little residual impairment. She still plays the organ at her church and still serves on the planning and zoning board in her community. Amazing really. People, including her doctor, readily use the word "miracle" when they talk about her. She believes that it just wasn't her time to die. God's hand was with us, but there were other more earthly things at work as well.

For, example, Ava was close to a major medical center (Charlotte) with a specialized neuro ICU. She had excellent doctors. And, because Larry is one of those now-rare individuals who has worked for the same large company most of his adult life, she had excellent health insurance, and he had the leave he needed to be with her-especially after she came home.

Anyone can be just fine one moment and in need of state of the art medical care the next. When I talk about access to health care being a fundamental, civil right, it's because I believe everyone deserves the same shot at life that she had. To make that happen, in this new economy will certainly require that we have the courage to "think anew."

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