Thursday, August 18, 2011

Overheard at Table 2: Galveston Hospital Kicks out the Poor and the Dying

At table #2 at the Zen and Tao Acoustic Cafe, Herman Malvell sits slumped over his coffee mug. He is a worn man in a worn tweed jacket, looking like an ancient professor who would be more at home in front of a blackboard filled with chalk scribblings than with an iPad. He is not a professor, nor does he own either a chalkboard or an iPad. What he is, however, is a construct: a wan-faced man with sallow eyes and unkempt dishwater blond hair, thinning skin flecked with liverspots on the backs of his hands as they reach for the mug and, trembling slightly, hold it to his lips. His breath is bad and dandruff showers the shoulders of his worn tweed jacket, and you, dear reader, can tell from that first half of this sentence how magnificently I tied in the dandruff with the chalk dust, see? Quite nice, actually: it presents this image of the ancient and the old and the aging and the dying.

You see, dear reader, Herman represents The Dying: those who can not defend themselves against this world that is marching ever so onward toward the cliff whose precipice, once breached, will leave behind us every single last shred of decency we have as a nation, a country, in fact, as a human race.

Right now, Herman is thinking of Maria Sanchez. In February of this year, six months ago now, this 24 year old woman with a banana size tumor on her spine was admitted to the John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, Texas. The tumor was described as not malignant, but potentially life-threatening; however, it had cut off the use of her right hand and she was beginning to lose the use of her legs. Neither Maria Sanchez nor her husband had health insurance; they would not be able to pay the medical bills. Because of this, and this is the distinction, dear reader, so pay attention, because of this inability to pay, the hospital inquired as to her legal status and whether she had documents to prove that she had a legal right to be in the United States. Because she could not provide them, a doctor went to her room and told her in Spanish that she must leave the hospital immediately and that she should have the surgery in Mexico.

The important point is that the hospital did not care about her status; they only cared about her inability to pay, and it is this point that was lost in the ensuing rhetoric that lasted for the usual handful of days: the calamatous uproar about whether illegal immigrants should have access to medical care.

You can envision (if you have not yet heard this story) the great emotional debate, with the people who profess to be Christians (but really who worship Satan) saying that illegals have no right to OUR medical care because this is OUR country and THEY are criminals just for crossing a border. For the opposing view, we had the same tired arguments about decency and respect for all human life, kindness, mercy, all those qualities which are true and which follow the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ, but which, frankly, ring hollow on deaf ears, because the human race is now immune to such emotional appeals. Let's face the fact: nobody really any longer gives a damn.

Because if we did, we would have made sure that hospital was shut down. Right now. We as a people would have made sure that every employee was dismissed, starting with the CEO and the Chairperson of the Board and going through every single employee down to the very last janitor or cafeteria attendant. Then, decent caring individuals who believe in the sanctity of life and in the dignity of the medical profession would be in there right now, re-staffing the hospital with like-minded health care professionals (and yes, they would probably re-hire those with no culpability in this torrid mess - so your innocent janitors and blameless cafeteria staff would be re-hired. They might even be given raises!).

However, today the John Sealy Hospital is still going strong, and I am quite certain that the professionals who work there still perform their tasks as they always have done, the students still learn their trade, the technicians still run their equipment, the administrators still have headaches and drink heavily, and the rich fat men who run the place still have great gobs of cash deposited into their personal coffers while they lounge around the country club and make business deals with their buddies.

But nobody, nobody, knows just where Maria Sanchez is today.

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