Everyone gives insurance an importance that correlates to how much a person needs this coverage. Someone without financial problems, for example, would not give their insurance the importance it deserves, if they have the assets to pay any bill at the tip of their bank account. However, as soon as a member of these uncovered family suffers a devastating accident, and medical bills are now pouring in, I bet that the previously stocked bank accounts will not be able to sustain the strain. On the other hand, people with financial problems, as myself, crave the safety net that a health insurance provides. However, even if not everyone can afford medical care, the importance of it is clear to anyone who has ever needed it.
I went off to attend med-school in Guadalajara, Mexico when I was only 17 years old. This medical school’s system for teaching was very practical and hands on, so I ended up spending a lot of time in the public clinics and hospitals from the city. My experience with the importance of health care comes from the time spent there, and how I witnessed the toll the lack of medical coverage caused the patients.
The first time that this serious issue came to my knowledge was when I was rotating in the emergency room in a clinic. This clinic was situated in a very low-income neighborhood, and the majority of the patients that were received were covered by public healthcare, which I prejudicially thought was very affordable, as it was supposed to be available to all public.
One afternoon, it was particularly busy, and between another student, the attending doctor, and me, we were expecting about 60 patients in the waiting room. I was sent out to fetch the next in line, when a girl, about 19 years old (my same age at the time), approached me at the door with a 6-year-old boy in her arms. She was crying, and as I looked at the boy, I noticed his difficulty breathing, and how his skin was even starting to change color because of this. She told me how her baby was asthmatic, and she just needed an inhaler as soon as possible. Understanding the urgency of the situation, I rushed back to the doctor in charge and told her about the desperate girl that approached me, and how I just needed to hand her an inhaler for her boy. The doctor told me to ask her to go to a pharmacy and get it herself, because we had an order of patients to be followed, and it would take too long for us to get to her. So I went back to the full waiting room, looked for the girl, and told her what I was told. I also noticed the boy’s breathing was only getting worse, but I followed my orders and continued my work.
About four hours later, I call on the patient who is next in line, and I see the same sobbing girl getting up from the floor carrying her dazed son. As start asking the basic history questions, and she tells me her son had been struggling with his breathing since 4 am; it was now 8 pm. After asking her why she would wait this long, she told me about how she had been to many doctors that day, but no one would admit her as she could not afford the consult. Desperate, she had begged the people at the pharmacy to give her an inhaler without a prescription, but even if they had said yes she couldn’t even afford the medication. She tried asking for money, but that didn’t work and the little boy was getting worse. This was a girl, same age as me, carrying a 6-year-old boy, in public transportation all across town, trying to find a way to keep her son alive. That’s when she gave up and came to the clinic as her last hope, as she knew it would take hours before someone would be able to see her.
As soon as the mother and her boy came in the examination room, the little boy, who had not cried yet, started crying with every breath he could. He managed to get out a “gracias” or thank you, as he could, with I don’t know what strength. We quickly gave him the medication he needed and he began to feel better, still crying tears of joy.
After this happened, the importance of health care has never been so important to me. I keep thinking that if only this unfortunate girl had been so lucky as to have a respectable medical coverage for her son, they wouldn’t have struggled all night and all day, just to keep a little boy breathing. Every little boy should have access to the medications they deserve, and nobody should go through what this girl went through. I will never understand what makes some people so lucky as to have the financial stability to have any insurance, and others have to struggle the way this girl did. I feel it is really important to send out a message to people in every financial state, that having health care is something that can save your life, or your families’ life, at some point, and should never be taken for granted.
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