Opinion

Health care is a necessary condition of freedom for all

Author: Paula Noonan - July 24, 2017 - Updated: July 24, 2017

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Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

The yoke of bad health is a freedom killer.  Not only does disease limit opportunity, it eliminates choices available only to the healthy.

These facts begin for me in 1934 when my mother, a bright and lively girl, was struck out of nowhere by the auto immune disease juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.  At 13 she had a stuck left elbow and right wrist.

In 1950, the new pharmaceutical prednisone came on the market.  My mother needed it.  Our grandparents and aunts kicked in enough money to buy the pills.

In 1959 on her 13th birthday, my sister, a bright and lively girl, was struck by the auto immune disease juvenile diabetes.  Every item of every meal was weighed for grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  She used a big, thick needle for her daily shot of insulin.

In the early 60s, the impact of large doses of prednisone taken over many years dissolved my mother’s tissues.  She had three operations that included a temporary colostomy.  Her bones were fragile and broke easily.  Her tendons and ligaments tore and snapped.  Many operations.  Her hospital bills, even then, were way beyond our family’s income.  My father, a World War 2 POW, couldn’t change jobs because he needed health insurance to cover the catastrophe.

In the late 60s, my father lost his job due to the high costs of my mother’s health care to the small company he worked for.  He wanted to join a group of guys who were starting a new enterprise but decided he couldn’t.  No health insurance.  He went to work for less pay to make sure he had insurance for my mother and sister.

In 1975, my mother died at 54 after three months in a hospital for a flu that turned into a massive staph infection that overwhelmed her.  In 1980 my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a result of years as a textile chemist working with dyes and bleaches.  In 1986, my sister was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in addition to her diabetes, a double auto immune whammy.

My father’s Parkinson’s got progressively worse and he ended up in a wheel chair with a catheter and lots of pills.  He was thankfully on Medicare with Kaiser and eventually got help with his medications through the VA.  He finally told us to tell doctors to “knock it off” when they said he needed a feeding tube.  He passed in 2002.

My sister worked hard as a teacher in low income schools in San Jose, CA.  She had health insurance and needed it.   Her diabetes care progressed. On her Kaiser plan, she got a new finger pricker device to test her blood sugar levels and an automated injector for her insulin.

Meanwhile, her arthritis hit her left shoulder and elbow, fingers, toes and ankles. In 2010, she broke her right leg on a visit in Nebraska.  She spent two months away from home in physical and occupational therapy in Lincoln, then another two months in Denver. She couldn’t fly to California due to the risk of blood clots.  She went on Embrel and is now out of a wheel chair, working out with a trainer, and getting some strength and mobility back.

Everyone, unfortunately, is susceptible to chronic disease and consequent disaster. It’s harsh nature removing freedom from life. Health care goes part way to restoring that freedom.  Life is tyranny without it.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.


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