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Aback I acquaint the adventure of my illness, I generally acquaint it in agreement of miracles. In 2007, at age 26, I was accustomed a analysis of astute myelogenous leukemia and told that afterwards analysis I would animate six added weeks. The ache accepted aggressive to chemotherapy, but a displace of claret axis beef was successful. A miracle. Six weeks afterwards the transplant, I came bottomward with viral meningitis, and admitting it larboard me ashen and almost able to airing for a while, it did not annihilate me. A miracle.



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But conceivably the greatest phenomenon of all was that anon afore I begin out I was sick, I had confused to Cape Cod, Mass., to intern at a radio base and assignment as a coffee boutique barista. I had no medical allowance aback I accustomed my diagnosis, but miraculously the state’s watershed accepted health-care law had afresh gone into effect. And aback I was not authoritative abundant money, I able for the state’s accessible option.

I bethink sitting abandoned in a allowance at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, shell-shocked. In 36 hours I had captivated a nightmare’s account of advancing advice about my bones, my claret and my future. And I was debilitated by the abridgement of privacy. Doctors, nurses and technicians would circle through the aperture and either booty article from me, like a claret sample, or bandy article at me, like added advice about myself.

Then, a woman absolved in. She put a cardboard in advanced of me, had me assurance in three places, asked for a few months’ account of paycheck stubs, and I was insured. A miracle.



Some $913,425.15 later, I am alive. That’s how abundant two years of analysis for me cost. I attempt with abounding things because of my illness, but one affair I do not attempt with is medical debt.

Others are not as lucky. This summer I batten with a 35-year-old American alleged Ruben Garza. Ruben lives in Austin and works allotment time at Planet Cancer, an advancement accumulation for adolescent adults with cancer. In February 1999, at age 24, afterwards what Ruben alleged a “relay” of doctor visits — from a accepted practitioner to a accepted surgeon to a neurosurgeon — a bump was begin on his spine. The bump was malignant, and Ruben was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Ruben, like me, was uninsured at the time. He said that up until afresh he had been acceptable about advantageous off his academy loans and added bills. He had advised analysis at the University of Texas and had capital to be a pharmacist. But he was batty by his analysis and his medical bills.

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Actuality ailing angry out to be a action on two fronts.

“One actuality the bloom and the added the advantageous for it,” Ruben said.

With the advice of a amusing worker, Ruben wrote belletrist to biologic companies gluttonous a bargain amount for his chemotherapy treatment. He filed applications for added assistance. A year afterwards his analysis and treatment, Ruben went aback to assignment for a analytic analysis company, but the job did not action him insurance.

And afresh he relapsed.

Ruben activated for Medicaid. He said he remembered sitting in the bounded Medicaid office, in an accustomed government building, cat-and-mouse for a caseworker. Admitting he was “ragingly ailing inside,” he said he did not attending it and was afraid he would not be able to argue his caseworker.

“It angry out to be a absolutely base experience,” he said. “You accept to acknowledge so abundant of your life.” In the end, he was approved.

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Ruben underwent a axis corpuscle transplant, as I did. Eventually he was able to alpha alive again, with a altered analytic analysis company. This one offered insurance. But aback he relapsed a additional time in 2002, he had to stop working. Ruben purchased COBRA, a assiduity insurance, for as continued as he could allow it, and afresh was uninsured and affected to seek alms again. He fell added into debt and at times as abounding as 20 bill collectors would alarm in a day.

“Eventually you aloof about-face the ringer off for canicule at a time and hit annul whenever you apprehend the bulletin machine,” Ruben said. “I had to apply on not puking and on aggravating to eat or accepting blow or not activity affliction or whatever.”

Eventually, Ruben begin a job with the Catholic Diocese of Austin and afresh was insured. For six years, he formed there, including through chemotherapy treatments. In May, though, because of the recession, his job was terminated. Ruben now pays $440 per ages for acting coverage, but it will expire in two months.

Ruben’s activity has been shaped as abundant by his attempt to pay for his analysis as by his disease. “There is a black absorbed to all of this already you animate through it,” he said.

I accept apparent and talked about that black with abounding added people, including a man from Washington accompaniment who told me he had advised abutting the army for medical advantage so that his adolescent son could get a axis corpuscle displace immediately. A woman bottomward the anteroom from me in that Boston hospital — she was not that abundant earlier than I was and not a citizen of Massachusetts — died from the aforementioned ache I had. I bethink my ancestor talking about how he had apparent posters aggravating to accession money for her medical bills and it afflicted me to anticipate of that burdening her in the aftermost canicule of her life.

It is a phenomenon that I never had to expend activity annoying about whether my bills would be paid. I don’t anticipate I’m as able as Ruben. If I had to anguish about money, I don’t apperceive if I would accept survived.

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All of the miracles I accomplished accept accomplished me one affair for sure: A lot of things charge to go appropriate to action for life. Actuality able to accept medical affliction is key. To me, the affirmation that accepting a accessible advantage would accomplish it adamantine for clandestine allowance companies to attempt seems inhumane. Is amount antagonism added important than my life? Or Ruben’s life? Or the activity of any congressman’s child, spouse, acquaintance or constituent?

I apperceive some ability attending at the amount of my affliction — the amount tag of my activity — and say it should not accept been the taxpayers’ burden, but there is not one being amid us who will not one day get sick. It is as assured as force and as assertive as death. In this acceptable nation, shouldn’t anybody who gets ailing accept the befalling to get able-bodied again? How abroad can an American accomplish his or her basic appropriate to life?

This affair is not important aloof for the ailing or the poor or the unlucky. It is important for every American. I abhorrence it may booty a phenomenon to canyon a government-sponsored affairs that ensures all Americans accept admission to affection bloom care.

I am praying for that miracle.

Comments: health@washpost.com.

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