Serving New York’s Hudson Valley and the Catskills
September 21, 2007
Imagine health care that is compassionate and real
By Christopher Balchin
In early March I got the call every child of an elderly parent dreads: My mother, Kathy Balchin, age 80, had fallen, breaking her left wrist and right leg. Coming home was out of the question. She needed hospitalization, nursing home care, then physical therapy. She was in a state of shock. My father, Robin, 83, was in crisis.
Imagine this scenario:
- She and my father do not fill out a single insurance form. They don’t have to worry about money. Every minute in the hospital and nursing home, and transportation, is free of charge. Is this even conceivable?
- While Kathy convalesces at the nursing home, her care manager comes to see Robin at home. She asks many questions — warm, sympathetic, respectful — about their lifestyle. She makes notes, is thoughtful, has a sense of humor and plenty of time. She wants to know how the accident is affecting them and my father’s concerns.
- A carpenter comes. He installs an extra wooden banister on the inside wall of the stairs. He builds a step outside their front door. He installs rails in the bathroom downstairs and raises her easy chair several inches so she can sit even with the full leg cast.
- When my mother comes home, a physical therapist visits three times a week. A nurse comes daily to give her an injection for a chronic circulatory problem that has been aggravated by her immobility.
- But this is not a dream. These are facts.
This happened this spring in England. Kathy and Robin Balchin live in England. They have the National Health Service, and every single thing — what I’ve described and much more — was provided for them.
You can call it socialized medicine, you can call it what you like. But I’m sure glad they have it, and you would be, too, in my place.
It would be SO EASY to have a similar system here. The most amazing medical equipment is on hand today. Our technology is tremendously advanced, but our ethics are lagging.
American philosopher Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, said that contempt, thinking we’ll be more by making other people less, is the greatest interference in people’s lives, including in economics.
One of the most foul instances of contempt today is the exploitation by a few people of the sickness, pain and worry of millions of others, including the elderly. Ellen Reiss, the class chairman of Aesthetic Realism, explained why for-profit companies and decent health care are like oil and water when she wrote: “Once you are after profit, you can’t be too interested in what people deserve. … It will cramp your ability to make money from them.” The most pressing needs of Americans today are seen as an opportunity for profit. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In order for every American to get the health care they deserve, this question, which Eli Siegel asked, must be addressed: “What does a person deserve by being a person?” The other day, my mother’s cast was removed after more than four months. The physical therapists will be coming more often now that she is learning to walk again. My parents are not bankrupt, they are in their home, they have no health-care debts and will be able to continue the same modest lifestyle they’ve had these past years. They are even planning a bus trip to Scotland!
Kathy Balchin said, “You wouldn’t believe the treatment I’ve received. Everyone has been so good to me. I’m so grateful to the National Health Service!”
So am I.