When I was 10 years old, I wanted to run away from home. I don’t remember why I wanted to run away. I was a young, very young, and probably upset at something my Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me do or maybe it something they made me do. Like clean my room or something, because what 10-year-old wants to clean their room?
Anyway, I remember drawing up a map of my house and deciding I should leave in the middle of the night with a backpack. I could hitchhike and start a new life somewhere fresh, like Wyoming (I’ve always had a fantasy of living in a town of 200 people, working a roadstop diner. Strange dreams for a girl who lives in the largest city in the country).
But I also remember realizing that if I ran away from home, I probably wouldn’t be able to get a job, because I was a kid. And if I didn’t have a job, I wouldn’t have insurance. And without insurance, I would have my insulin or test strips.
And I would die.
I couldn’t afford to keep myself alive.
Seriously, what kind of kid considers insulin and test strips when devising a plan to run away?
But that’s what growing up was like. That’s what it has always been like. I remember when I first noticed on my Minimed insulin pump that when I had a LOW RESERVOIR alarm that it would actually count down the time until the reservoir would be empty, based on the amount of insulin you take per hour in your basal rate. I remember thinking it was a bit like a countdown to death, because without insulin, I would start to die.
Not that we’re not all dying. I mean, that’s a given. Everyday you are getting closer and closer to the day you die. But that’s just because we’re mortal and all things die. No one knows when that will happen, but we know it will. (Wow. I am morbid.) A couple of years ago, I asked my friend Christine how long a person could live without insulin. If I just suddenly decided to stop taking it and did absolutely nothing at all to help myself. She said about three days.
That’s a much more specific timeline.
This morning, on Twitter, there’s an article floating around from a man named Robert Steinback (at first, I thought it was Steinbeck and I wondered by the author of Grapes of Wrath who has been dead for 40 years was writing about diabetes in a Florida newspaper, but I digress). He has had diabetes just a bit longer than I have and like me, has been relatively healthy with diabetes – as healthy as one can be with a chronic condition such as this.
And he lost his job a year and a half ago. So now he’s on COBRA. Except COBRA is going to run out in February. And no one wants to give him a job so he can have insurance, and no insurance company wants to give him insurance because he’s expensive.
I mean, what the hell kind of society do we have set up where people are like NO ONE WE DON’T WANT TO KEEP YOU ALIVE BECAUSE WE LIKE OUR SUMMER HOMES IN THE HAMPTONS MORE THAN YOU!
Sometimes I think the people who came up with these policies are so evil that not even the Devil would want them.
We all know someone who is struggling in this economy. For me, it’s Lee Ann Thill, who is also almost up with her COBRA coverage. But for her, she is married and has the option, at least, to buy into very expensive insurance.
Robert doesn’t even have that option, because he isn’t married.
A long time ago, I remember watching a movie about a French man who married a woman to get a Green Card to stay in the United States and have a better life here. Now there are people talking about marrying so they can get an Insurance Card so they can simply have a life.
Living should not be something I need to ask someone for permission. A healthy life is a right, not a privilege.
When I was getting ready to graduate from college, a lot of my friends were discussing their options for post-grad work. Some people were going to grad school. Other people were packing up and heading to Europe for backpacking. It was the 22-year-old’s version of running away. One girl I know just quit her job 3 months ago to backpack around Europe. When my mother was 22 years old, she also graduated from college and spent a few months in Europe. I wanted to do this too. Financially, I would have been able to do it. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t have had insurance anymore – because I would have been kicked off my parent’s policy for not being in school anymore – and I need insulin. Throughout high school and college, my mom always told me, “You need to get a good job. You need to get health insurance.”
Instead, I got a job. With health insurance. I managed to make things pretty fantastic for myself, living and working in one of the greatest cities in the world and generally being really happy with things. Because that’s what I do: make lemons out of lemonade. But I never forget that I gave up Europe for my diabetes, and that my existence is primarily reliant on my employer, my health insurance that I receive through being employed, and those tiny bottles of clear liquid that have taken up residence in my butter compartment.