Losing 20 lbs has made getting a mammogram more challenging – one extra view added to get the side-boob. “Hold still now, and take a tiny breath in and hooooollllllddddd it…OK!” The nurses are pretty awesome. I am glad they are women. They get really close up and handle you a lot to get the best images possible. And you wear a huge pink gown. What more could you ask for. Not some Larry Nassar shit. No thank you.
Good healthcare is something to be thankful for. I was looking into the urban development stuff. A friend sent me an initiative tackling the health and well-being of African-Americans in my city (and why it matters). The report went over the goals – addressing education, chronic diseases, lifestyle risks, health insurance and access to doctors, maternal and child healthcare, mental health, violence and injury, and HIV/AIDS & other STDs.
Having access to healthcare early on in life and then having routine and good healthcare throughout life adds to the quality of the person significantly. The report had a financial slant to it (the why it matters). It does matter to the person because education, chronic diseases, mental health issues, violence, incarceration, sexually transmitted diseases and early death all go hand in hand and cost any economy dearly. It also fucks the lives of the people – not just the primary person, but their children, their families, the people they live around – the wider community. There’s a huge psychological ripple. That is quantifiably costly.
My parents did not go to college. My brother did not go to college. On my father’s side, my cousins did not go to college. But everyone went to and finished high school (except my grandparents, they stopped at 8th grade).
What all of them had was a good infrastructure – family, friends, church, a place to live, a job, an awareness of how not having any of these things could derail their quality of life. It makes a difference to have role models to guide you along – looking among your peers, family members to see what you could be doing. It becomes unacceptable – with the usefulness of peer pressure – to let the utilities lapse and get the lights shut off.
A lot of kids go home to a cold house in the winter. It sucks to be poor. It sucks when there is not enough to go around at home and the adults cannot get it together enough to make things better. When my parents became disconnected from their support system their shit fell apart.
My great aunt died this week – she had a long life. Longevity is also a product of good healthcare, the decreased exposure to chronic disease, violence, etc.
Yes, the mamm-o-van leaves red marks all over your chest, and it is weird to disrobe in the presence of a complete stranger and have them twirl you around like a baton to take x-rays, but it is something to have the privilege of health screenings and good health. Free flu shots are definitely more prevalent these days. Some antibiotics are free of charge. I get a physical at no cost from my health insurance annually, and I take advantage of it. Good dental health also increases physical health tremendously.
I remember meeting this older woman when I worked in healthcare. I went to her house to open her case, to get her home health services. I drove to a relatively nice neighborhood and knocked for a long time until she finally answered. She was blind and in her late 80’s so that was why she couldn’t make it to the door fast (something I did not know going into the situation, her granddaughter said, “She’s hard of hearing, so knock hard.”)
She was also living in a house packed full of stuff from other relatives, everything dumped in every room. She had a little trail between the rooms she used to guide herself around the house. The fridge was empty.
I asked what she had eaten that day. Just a cup of coffee and a piece of dry toast, she said, in a tiny whisper. And the day before? The same thing.
“Wait right here,” I told her. I came back with groceries. I know most people doing this type of work end up stumbling upon the demise of others, and when you can do something, it is good to be able to do it. I made her some lunch and she perked up considerably. I canceled all of my appointments for the rest of the day and we talked for hours. She was a person deeply connected to the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. She was with Dr. King marching for her freedom. She was history, right there in that little condo!
I remember being in a skirt that day (that was probably the last time I was in a skirt before the most recent kilt) and I rolled up my sleeves and reorganized the whole house while she directed me to put things here and there. She told me stories while I plugged away, and later, I made her dinner, and she finally stopped me to ask what was next – for her. A woman who just met me was asking me, a total stranger, what was next for her. This is how much need is in the world around us! If we can rise to meet the need, it is ours to address. I haven’t always done this, either. I drove past a guy laying in a sleeping bag under an overpass for an entire winter vacillating around what in the world I could to do increase his quality of life. Almost anything, girl, just go do it. But, I did not.
I assured her I would follow up with her family and took down their names and phone numbers. And I did reach out to each of them, and was met with a lot of resistance and suspicion for my inquiries and I backed off a little in order to gain their trust. Their grandmother needed a knee replacement – it was the only reason she could not walk, the inward bending in of her knee was terribly painful. I went over her health insurance with them, but they just thanked me and wished me on my way.
Before I departed, I took the granddaughter with the power of attorney to the side and insisted on a home health aide to ensure food, meals, hygiene – small quality of life things were taken care of. Nothing pisses me off more than old people and kids getting abused.
I went back to check on her all the time. No one ever called the police on me, and I did not need to call social services on them because they made good with their promises. And she answered the door just as happy as could be, giving me a hug and a big smile.
I followed up a few years later. She had been moved downtown to a big hotel – considered an old folks place, the Jefferson Arms. The hotel has long been closed and she has passed on, too. I have never forgotten our time together.
If you have a support system, if you are able, or if you are a capable support to others, life is so much better. There are times when we are without and it hurts, but it makes the times when our needs are met so much sweeter.
Thich Nhat Hanh said when he has a bowl of rice or a piece of bread to eat he pauses and thinks how lucky he is to have something to eat when so many do not have anything at all.
You do not need to be feeling guilty about all you have. It is enough for us to start off with thankfulness.