In November of 2005, my family moved for the first time in 26 years. I use a ventilator and it needs to b monitored by someone who is able-bodied in case it becomes disconnected. This would not normally be a problem but, since my grandmother died in 1996, it has just been my mom, my uncle, and me. My uncle cannot drive but my mom can. My mom can drive but cannot unload a U-Haul moving truck by herself. This creates a dilemma because you need them both to drive and unload the truck because I cannot be left alone. I know, most people have friends who can help out in situations like this but my family is very close-knit and has few friends. I have a few but none who will help out much due to the inconvenience. Money is tight and we do not trust moving crews.
I asked two of my friends (acquaintances really) from online to help with the move. They agreed to help out but they could only help out for one day. We had about three days worth of moving and had to be out of our apartment within a week. With all of these factors at play, we had to move everything in two days.
My uncle was 56 years old at the time, is only 5’1″ tall, and has asthma. He did a majority of the moving, passing boxes to my friends. At the time, we thought the moving would only take one day but we needed four truckloads. On top of that, one of my friends and his fiancée had to leave after a few hours to visit his mother, who was in the hospital at the time. My other friend arrived late.
After about four hours, we moved about 60% of our possessions. About one hour into moving, my uncle started coughing. We thought he was just catching a cold or something insignificant. The coughing did not end for the duration. The moving day ended and so did my friends’ help.
Plan B, we called my other uncle and asked him and his girlfriend for help. Why did we wait to call them? Because, though he said he would help for free, he gives a mean look meaning that he wants money. Stuck in a rut, we paid him $50 to help out for one day.
My uncle’s coughing continued on non-stop. We got about 95% of our boxes moved that day. The third day only took one last trip over for an hour.
Before my ride arrived on the second day, the phone company called to tell us that our new house was not within their jurisdiction. It took them three weeks to tell us. I’ll get back to this in a bit.
So, we finally moved in. My uncle’s cough kept going. He rested for most of the next week. The cough did not end. He looked sick with pale skin, always tired, and had a loss of appetite. He couldn’t keep food down.
About a week later, my uncle was still stick. That night, at around 11 PM, he went upstairs and my mother was outside. I heard a bang upstairs and then another. I yelled for my mother to check what happened.
My uncle had fallen down in the bathroom at the sink because he had a hot flash and tried to apply cold water to his head. But he had a shortness of breath and had fainted briefly. Near unconsciousness, his breathing was ragged. We needed to call 911 but as you recall, we had no phone service because it would take a few weeks to be installed by another phone company.
Frantically, my mother searched until she found a neighbor with a phone. The neighbor’s wife was a nurse, so she checked on my uncle while the ambulance was on its way. Firefighters arrived as well to carry him out.
My uncle was in the hospital for two and a half days. They failed to determine what caused his illness. They only took blood tests and fed him a liquid diet. That’s all the doctors did for him. Hating hospitals, he signed himself out and returned home.
I researched his symptoms and discovered that he, most likely, had a bleeding ulcer in his stomach that was aggravated by the strenuous move. It took me a few minutes to find it out. I told my uncle not to drink coffee, or any caffeine, no aspirin, and I gave him my heartburn medication. A few days later, he was all better.
My uncle did not have a job or health insurance, so we awaited the hospital bill. Considering how little the hospital did for him, we expected a bill for a few thousand dollars. What we really received was a bill over $20,000! $20k for a glorified hotel room. There is no way that he could afford it.
The hospital began the process of getting my uncle government benefits. He applied for SSI and the paperwork was mailed. He was scheduled to visit a doctor chosen by the SSI to see if he qualified for benefits. In the meantime, he was given a temporary welfare card for health insurance to help pay some of his bill. They only covered about $2,000 of the $20,000 bill.
The doctor appointment arrived. The only thing the doctor did was rotate my uncle’s arms and legs and reflex tests. After only five minutes, the checkup was over and that was the end of his SSI application. He was determined ineligible.
The debt collectors began calling all hours of the day and night. How can they collect money from someone without a job? If my uncle paid $5 a month, it would take him decades. I will not say how but the calls have stopped.
The argument here is two-fold. Firstly, we have the lack of insurance for the unfortunate. The U.S. has no free health insurance like other countries. While those countries give everyone health insurance, our own poor population gets nothing, except making people really feel poor and lazy, even if truly unable to work. But we can afford billions of dollars to fight in other people’s countries.
Secondly, we have the insanely, out-of-control medical costs. $20,000 for food and blood tests is reprehensible! Who can afford that for a two-day hotel? The actual cost would be under $1,000. The doctors did not even tell us what his illness was. If my bill was that high, I would sue the hospital and let them explain why their bill is so high.