Home > Family, Health > Dead Moms Can’t Care

Dead Moms Can’t Care

Nearly twenty years ago, I awakened screaming in pain in the middle of the night.

I was the stoic one. Bust my head doing flips off the bed? Greet it with a grimace. Fall from a stand off my moving bike? Greet it with a grimace. What good would crying do me anyway?

It was my customary stoicism that made my mom anxious. It made her so anxious, in fact, that she decided to take me to the hospital. She did this despite the fact her deadbeat ex-husband as seldom paid child support as medical bills.

A trip to the emergency room? That would put her out months of garage sale money, which was frequently all the money she had to get by.

During uninsured periods, my mom grappled with the same horrific decision every time one of her children got sick: a trip to the hospital and even worse financial instability than she already faced daily (including potential loss of home) or riding it out at home and risking—if worse came to worst—the loss of a child.

Of course, it’s not only a child’s own health care that determines her personal well being.

Once my mom fell through flimsy wooden paneling covering an air conditioning vent many years defunct. A rusty nail left over from those long-distant days buried itself in my mom’s thigh, leaving it so infected almost her entire leg was blue and green for several fevered days. Moving or any kind of touch caused her pain so intense she could barely restrain tears, but she rode out the fevered infection with nothing more than Epsom salt to heal her.

Epsom salt. Marvel at that.

She survived, but her survival wasn’t a given.

Think the cost of helping her through that minor infection is high? Imagine the costs of caring for her four motherless children.

Two and a half years ago, I told my mom I was pregnant. She was delighted, if ongoing struggles with mental illness made expression of her delight more complicated. Her joy was also overshadowed by physical hurt. She was in a great deal of pain related to something my siblings and I decided was probably uterine prolapse. Its cause? We couldn’t be too sure, but it probably wasn’t anything to worry about if it went away quickly.

The thing was, it didn’t.

In July 2009, one of my sisters discovered that the symptoms my mom had described in March had actually worsened. She was able to coax my mom into availing herself of County health care, but my mom’s wariness of health care’s cost and long term financial consequences lingered. If she was getting something now, it had to be at great cost in the long term, didn’t it?

The cost, in the end, was her life.

I don’t want to get too political on this blog. I believe that the human spirit will triumph in the end, if given the tools to do so. I believe that is so regardless of political or religious affiliation.

But I also believe it’s important to share the details. I believe it’s essential to share the snapshots of moments that demonstrate that health care discussions shouldn’t be framed in terms of “lazy people” versus “hard workers.”

The costs of providing health care to those who can’t afford it themselves may not be miniscule. But the costs of not providing it? Those are even worse. Those costs include children left to literally live out their childhood in boxes. I tutored those children my final year of law school. They include the children left to foster care, which is sadly often more full of villains than heroes. They include two grown daughters holding their mom tight as she breathes her pained last breaths at 52–in part because she rightfully feared the consequences of the cost of health care–and the grandchildren who will never feel her love firsthand as a result.

Are there people who milk the system? Undoubtedly so. But for each person who does so, either lacking the tools to become or unable to see the merits of being self sufficient, there is another who is trying her damndest just to make it by. Just to be there for her kids, and to see her kids healthy and whole no matter the obstacles.

Imagine what my mom might have done with all the energy she spent worrying about paying the bills to ensure she and her children were healthy. Envision her energy going toward continued pursuit of higher education, and a job that paid more than being the school photo assistant lady, just to get by for one more day. There’s so much more that she could have accomplished.

As I type this through tears, it is one of my greatest wishes that we might better be led by our love and hope for what others might with support become than by our condemnation for what they were or may have been before.

This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.
Reposted 6/21/15

  1. June 21, 2015 at 5:01 am

    The post no longer appears. I hope the comment gets through. I agree with you… even here in Britain with ‘free’ health care and a damned good welfare system, many milk it and live for free whilst others struggle, work,, do anything to make ends meet and still cannot afford the right lifestyle for health. It is a criminal waste.
    I am so sorry your mother was one of its victims… it sounds as if ‘victim’ was the last label that should have been applied to her.

    • June 21, 2015 at 5:06 am

      I think changing each post’s date back to the original date is messing it up somehow. Hmm.

      Your concluding thought makes me smile. I think she wavered between seeing herself as a victim and a survivor, but–especially in later life–I saw a warrior. So tall and fierce in her love was she, I remain apt to describe her as an Amazon more than five years after her death.

      • June 21, 2015 at 5:08 am

        I can see why, even from the little I read of her. ‘Fierce’ in love seems an apt description.

  2. June 21, 2015 at 5:03 am

    Amazing post. Thanks so much for all of it.

  3. June 21, 2015 at 5:46 am

    So sorry to read what your family has been through. You Mum was such a fighter but also human.
    I live in Australia and have had intensive medical treatments for 9 years for free. I have never taken this for granted and do actually have private health insurance but here, when you have a rare severe disease, the public system can be best because you have access to equipment and treatments for free.
    I send you my heart felt condolences xx Rowena

    • June 21, 2015 at 5:49 am

      Thank you, Rowena! I’m glad you’re taken care of, and also glad things are somewhat less dire here than they were as of writing this four years ago. I hope this remains the case despite many challenges to universal health care. Oh, how it pains to think of how many lives have been lost to ailments readily cured … if only finances and/or insurance had enabled it.

  4. June 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    I can’t imagine how difficult that must’ve been for you all, and I agree with every word you say regarding healthcare.

    • June 21, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      It’s a little easier with time, and knowing more people have coverage now.

      I hope that’s a trend that continues.

  5. August 1, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    This is why I’m so determined to go to school, and become a nurse. I not only want to better my children’s futures, but dangit I’d like to be able to see a doctor without the fear of the collections offices calling me due to non payment of medical bills. Our kids have health insurance, but to afford for all four of us is astronomical. To pay for the roof over our head, food in the fridge and clothes on our backs is hard enough. Yet we make too much for food stamps or medical assistance. It angers me, but I try so hard to keep positive and count my blessings.

  1. June 21, 2015 at 5:17 am
  2. January 13, 2017 at 7:01 am
  3. September 24, 2017 at 8:27 am
  4. September 24, 2017 at 8:41 am

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