Insurance. To a little girl, the word seems immense and confusing, something only adults use in conversation. I can remember my parents quietly arguing using “that word”, struggling to keep their voices down. It was as if “the word” loomed over their shoulders, patiently waiting to strike if “the word” was shouted aloud. I knew insurance was somehow important, yet my young mind limited my comprehension. It wasn’t until I turned eighteen that I would fully understand the importance of insurance.
A would later learn my parents struggled to keep their insurance plan for the whole family. A family of five, with only our absent father working full-time and our mother enduring a permanent undocumented disability and doubled as a housewife. I watched my father slave away working overtime, and as a result I never obtained a healthy relationship with him. My mother attempted to play both parent roles, yet her disability clouded her motherly duties. Seeing my parents suffering to keep our family healthy led me to question the importance of insurance.
As I grew, I defined my own definition of insurance as something providing protection against a possible casualty of some sort. Even though I finally placed a definition to the word, I still couldn’t grasp the idea of the importance of insurance. Yes, my family did make doctors appointments to say healthy, yet I couldn’t fathom how my parents sacrificed their lives just to have insurance. Yet, that was until I got sick.
I can barely recall myself at eighteen; a foggy haze of suffering clouded my memory. I remember waking up at 4:45am each morning, trekking a two-hour commute to class. Not only was I commuting two hours to college, I was also a full-time student athlete. I had 6:00am weights before class, managed to eat lunch on the bumpy bus to a three-hour practice, and sometimes even another class after the workout. I would get home around 8:00pm each day, and somehow I forced myself to squeeze in homework and scarfed down dinner simultaneously. I kept up this outrageous routine for a full six months, and I’m amazed I lasted that long. I solemnly shake my head now as I realize I ran my body into the ground, mentally and physically.
Even through my murky memory, I can pinpoint exactly the moment I got sick. I was at practice running hills on the beach. I was extremely tired; with permanent bags under my eyes that confirmed my exhaustion. It was painstakingly hard to breathe, and I instantly noticed the difference between labored breathing and shortness of breath when exercising. As soon as I noticed my breathing pattern changed, I collapsed. And I didn’t wake up.
When I finally woke up the next day, I screamed. I was in the utmost extreme pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I wasn’t concerned about where I was or the time of day– I just kept screaming. The pain was unbearable; I couldn’t stop screaming to even tell the nurses where the pain was located. Then I realized the screaming pained me more, and I remained deathly silent. My screams rang in the hollows of my eardrums, and the echoes carried into the hallway. I focused on my breathing, which was painfully difficult to fill my lungs with the precious air they needed. Each breath wallowed in pain located on my chest, back, and ribcage. I had to sit up so I wouldn’t feel like the air was trying to drown me. It felt like something very heavy was weighing down on my chest with each breath. I barely allowed a whisper to escape my mouth to communicate with the doctor and nurses, in fear of the pain becoming more intense.
When I finally calmed down, I realized I was in the hospital. My grandmother was at my feet, since my mother couldn’t travel far and my father was working. The doctor diagnosed me with costchondritis, which is an extreme inflammation of the chest wall lining and rib cartilage caused from over exhaustion. My inflammation was so severe that my lungs couldn’t fully expand.
My grandmother gave my insurance cards to one of the nurses. She entered the information on a mobile computer with a worried look on her face. My grandmother and I both noticed it, and a deep empathy of worry formed at the pit of my stomach. The nurses congregated outside of my room and spoke in whispers– the very same quiet whispers my parents used when talking about “the word” when I was a little girl. The nurses came over to my bedside and “the word” was finally ready to strike– my insurance did not cover the full amount of my medical bills. With all the morphine pumping into my body, this pit of worry in my stomach remained prominent.
It took me three months to finally get rid of the pain. And within those three months, I’ve endured many painkillers and breathing treatments, all which my insurance didn’t cover. My parents dipped into their savings to cover my medical costs. To this day, I still have inflammation “attacks” when I become too physically or mentally stressed, constantly looming as a reminder of my parents’ struggles.
It took an immense amount of pain, exhaustion, stress, and worry to understand the importance of insurance. I am grateful my parents sacrificed so much in order to provide insurance for the family, yet the unimaginable hard work still didn’t fully pay off. We still were forced to pay out-of-pocket for most of the medical prescriptions. This fact alone pains me more than any of the pain I’ve experienced in my medical emergency. I strive to obtain the best medical insurance possible when I graduate college to provide for my family. “That word”, insurance, merely introduced itself when I was a little girl and patiently waited to strike in my weakened health state. From now on, insurance is something I desperately want to tackle and tame in order to provide for my family.
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