Friday, August 31, 2007

From Sacramento to Hell... And Finally Back Home

Wow. How could I have ever known how crazy this week would be? How could I have ever known that I would be lobbying for universal health care on Monday, finding my mother on Tuesday and Wednesday, preparing for my grandmother's passing away on Thursday, and dealing with my computer's total meltdown today? Ah, the wonders of life!

Well, I guess none of us really knows what will happen to us next. We never know when our grandmother becomes deathly ill, or when our mother is in desperate need of mental health services, or when our family finances become so tight that we can't afford that monthly HMO premium. These were all reasons why I joined the Orange County chapter of It's OUR Healthcare on their lobbying trip to Sacramento on Monday. I just didn't know that over the next few days, I would truly come to realize why my lobby trip was so important.

Follow me after the flip for more...

On Monday, I did something that I had never done before in my life. I went inside the State Capitol to lobby members of the State Legislature. And on Monday, I had a very special message for them. I joined with other local Orange County health care activists to ask them to do something about our broken health care system.

We first stopped inside Assembly Member Jose Solorio's office, just to thank him for the great work he's doing on making health care more accessible and affordable for Orange County's working families. We could not actually thank him in person, as he wasn't in the office, but we were able to speak with one of his staffers. We then went on to talk to other area legislators about Orange County's health care needs, and in all cases we spoke with staffers.

And then, there was Lou Correa's office. Now we know that Senator Correa cares about working families in Orange County. It's just that he hasn't yet committed to supporting legislation that would make health care more accessible and affordable to Orange County's working families, so we wanted to talk to him about the real need for health care reform this year. Unfortunately the Senator wasn't in the office, but we did have a chance to speak with a staffer.

Oh yes, and we came bearing gifts. Too bad we couldn't give these directly to Senator Correa. Whatever, I hope he got the message.

Well, after this week, I think I got the message. Let's see, where do I begin? As soon as I retuned home, my dad had some important news to share with me. After several months of not knowing what happened to my mother, we finally heard that she had recently moved to an assisted living home. Now to make a very long and sorted story short and understandable, my mother has been suffering from mental illness for the past few years, but she refuses to admit it. And as just about everyone who loves her and cares for her comes forward to tell her this, she turns each one away. So now, we find out that she's been excommunicated from the one thing in her life she cared about most after they realized her true condition, and we must find out that she's all alone.

But then, we soon found out that my mother had recently moved away from her assisted living home. OK, so where is she now? My dad and I searched, but finally one of my mother's former church friends gave us the answer. She moved to another assisted living home in Westminster. We tried to visit her, but she didn't want to see us. Yesterday, I just had to leave a gift fro her at the front desk, as I was afraid to provoke her anger. Yesterday was my mother's birthday, but I couldn't even see her at risk of causing a total nervous breakdown for me and for her.

So at least now, I know that my mohter is being taken care of. But still, I don't know how she can afford it. I don't know if she is losing her entire life savings over this assisted living. And of course, I don't know if she's truly receiving all the mental health care she truly needs. It's scary, it truly is.

And yet, my mother isn't the only woman I'm worrying about. After all, my grandmother (my dad's mom) may very well be dying as we speak. Now my family has been on high alert ever since my grandmother's recent hospital stay, so I guess I should have seen this coming. Not only is her dementia worsening, but her liver is also failing her now. We don't know how much more time she has left.

So what can my family do now? We're hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. We're already planning for future medicine expenses... And hospital expenses... And funeral expenses. It's saddening, and maddening, and very frustrating.

And now, on top of all that, my dad must still worry about when he'll be getting his own prescription medicines. The pharamcy had been giving him a run around, and he must always grapple with the HMO over co-pays. And then to make things worse, we have house repairs to take care of. And now, to make things even worse, my laptop broke down today. And now, I wonder if my own sanity will break down as my computer fails me and the health insurance industry fails my dad and my grandmother's health fails her and my mom fails to recognize she needs help.

I guess this is why I went to Sacramento on Monday. After thinking about my fanily's own troubling experience with health care and all the costs realted to it, I know my family can't be the only one with these types of worries. There must be millions more families throughout California worrying about a relative who can't get mental health care, and a grandparent who's facing extremely high health care costs and a parent who's having difficulty paying for all the necessary prescription drugs for survival. There must be millions more in need of help, and this year may be our one chance to get these people some help.

We know that there's something wrong with this system. There's something wrong with people not accessing the care that they need. So why can't we do something NOW to right this wrong? Now, more than ever before, I understand this. After dealing with all my family problems, I know that my family problems aren't that different from the health care problems facing so many other families throughout Orange County, and thorughout California. And now, I want to do whatever I can to ensure that these health care problems are solved.

So can YOU join me and all the others who want to make our health care more accessible and more affordable? Go tell your own story here, and find out how to take action here. We know it's time to fix our broken health care system. Now, we need to get our elected leaders to wake up, smell the reality, and do something to change it.

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