Sunday, February 6, 2011

Lifeboat Stewardship

Within the past year or two, I read somewhere that the Titanic had lifeboat capacity enough to have saved everybody on the ship but that the people in the lifeboats were ordering the ones doing the rowing to hurry up and move away from the ship before too many people got on board and sank everybody.

Because of this ungrounded panic, lifeboats were pulling out that weren't even half-full.

Another one of the "facts" about the Titanic was debunked around the same time--perhaps, even in the same article.

I'd always heard that the lifeboat rule was that priority would be given to women and children with the men staying behind.

The actual order was that women and children in the upper class would have dibs on the lifeboats followed by the men who were in upper class.  After that, women and children in steerage class could board the lifeboats.  Men in steerage would be the last in line for this.

Of course, the captain would go down with his ship (though I'm sure that he would have been on a lifeboat, too, had the lifeboats been managed properly--and so would everybody in steerage).

There seems to be something similar going on when it comes to health care these days in the United States.

Some of us--due to such things as having enough insurance coverage or being taken care of by private foundations in their chosen hospitals--are fortunate enough never to feel the brokenness of health care firsthand.

However, there are others who have personally felt the effects of this in a very intense way.

Take this one 74 year old woman who recently held her first great-grandchild in her arms--and, at her age, should have been able to have seen him go off to school for the first time, if not actually see him graduate from high school.

There are times when doctors do all that they can and still lose their patients--some of those patients even younger than Mary's new great-grandson.  That's just one of the cold, hard facts of life, and I can accept it.  This doesn't mean that it's not sad, but it's acceptable, because all medical options have honestly been exhausted.

What sticks in my craw is when those options HAVEN'T been exhausted--and that the only reason(s) that they haven't been exhausted can be traced back to mismanagement of health care expenses and downright GREED!!!

This is what has happened in the case of Mary in the form of what I would consider to be major patient dumping due to a combination of age and poverty on her part.

Mary never set out to be poor.

She was a divorced mother of two who worked at a post office in Indianapolis for many years.  When she was younger, she had been able to lift heavy bags of mail whenever necessary.  

However, her main job for most of those years had been that of a postal clerk.  This meant spending most of the workday standing on her feet.

When she was in her late fifties (too young to actually retire with full benefits), she was given a choice:  to either go back to lifting heavy bags again or else take an early retirement.  By that time, she really wasn't up to doing this, so she had no choice but to retire--either that, or else stay on and TRY to do the job with the likelihood of ending up getting outright fired.

As a result of this, she ended up with a very small pension compared to what she would have received had she been allowed to continue working until the normal age for retirement.

She had been born and raised in a little community not far from Nashville, Tennessee, and, as her widowed dad was getting up in years, he suggested that she move back home, help care for him, and always have a place to live. Already, both of her sons had moved down there, and she also had a younger sister living in the area.

There is, likely, a certain amount of brokenness in the health care system no matter in which state you live, but there are some states that are worse than others for living when you're both sick and poor, and Tennessee is among those for many reasons.

It was in Tennessee where Mary found herself to not only be too old to be added to a transplant list but, also, to find that kidney dialysis wasn't an option for her--that is, it won't be an option if some cages aren't rattled in a mighty big hurry! 

It's my personal belief that Mary can still get the treatment that she needs if the right people learn of her situation.

Because she and her family value privacy when it comes to their presence on the Internet, I'm acting as a go-between.

For this reason, I have developed a blog-format website called Mary's Place.

Mary's Place will have a mission of not only keeping you up with Mary's progress and giving you the opportunity to help her, but it will also be a place where I'll share other stories of people falling through society's cracks (and, hopefully, many inspirational stories of help being provided).

I won't be set up to receive donations, so please don't send any to me.  However, whenever it applies, I'll be providing information on how to donate to this or that cause.

Remember that good stewardship when it comes to lifeboats (both literal ones (as in the case of the Titanic) and symbolic ones (as in the case of health, education, welfare, etc.) is when nobody is denied access to any lifeboat that will safely hold him/her and take him/her to a more hopeful shore!