I put this up on Facebook a few days ago and invited people to share. It was shared about 700 times and wound up as a lead story on MoveOn's Facebook page.
Most of the reactions were positive, but there were some that were mean-spirited and a few that just about knocked me over with their lack of compassion and mean-spiritedness.
One man claimed he knew Mike and Mike wasn't dead.
A woman who claimed to work in the medical field said she was sick of the lazy people on "Medicade" and proceeded to say my son must have been a moocher if he was on "Medicade."
I corrected her spelling and assured her there are many people on Medicaid who would much rather be healthy and working, but she was having none of it. Poor people don't deserve help, she said, because they're all lazy.
I wished her luck on Judgment Day.
Others were less kind, even after people posted about their own efforts to find jobs with health benefits.
I just don't understand how people can believe that everyone who is poor chooses to live in poverty, as though that were some kind of paradise for them.
I posted this on Facebook because of all the nasty remarks about how Mitt Romney was right about the 47 percent. There are tens of thousands of people who die the way Mike did every year. People with diabetes who can't afford the testing supplies; people with psychiatric illness who can't get the help they need and wind up homeless; people with high blood pressure who die from strokes; people with cancer who can't get the screening tests they need to catch it early enough to cure.
People who truly believe that Mike and others like him deserve to die are not people with whom I want to interact. I tell his story and others in hopes that some of them will hear it and understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. If people don't want to see the truth and have a little compassion, I have better things to do than to argue with them. I will, however, continue to advocate for them and their loved ones to have access to quality health care no matter what their situation because I don't think anyone deserves to die the way Mike did.
I almost choked when I heard Mitt Romney is using the emergency room lie.
You see, that's what George Bush said after my son had been diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.
People can go to the emergency room.
Indeed they can, but they won't get what they need unless they have a simple infection that responds to common antibiotic, or a simple fracture that can be put in a cast and pretty much heal on its own, or a heart attack.
Emergency rooms are for emergencies. That's why they're called emergency rooms.
By law, emergency rooms have to accept everyone who comes in, but they don't have to offer expensive tests, like colonoscopies; they only have to address the symptoms and stabilize the patient.
So, when Mike went to the ER with abdominal pain, they told him he had gastroenteritis, billed him for the visit and sent him home.
When he went the second time, it was diagnosed as an ulcer. He went home and was billed for the visit and the medicine.
The third time, they said it was severe constipation, sold him some super-laxative and sent him home with the bill.
The fourth time, they said it must be diverticulitis. He was sent home with the bill.
He didn't get the colonoscopy he needed because the emergency room isn't there to do that. They exist to address the immediate problem and move along to the next patient.
So, do I blame the doctors in the ER that tried to address Mike's symptoms?
I blame the people who perpetuate the myth that the emergency room is access to quality care.
I remember when George Bush said it, and now Mitt Romney. Neither has ever needed care and not been able to get it. Neither understands what it's like to be sick and be denied care.
I understand because I watched my son die from it. I wouldn't wish the same on them, although I might like to have them live with their only access to care being the emergency room, just for a little while.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said he doesn't worry about the 47 percent of Americans whose incomes are so low they can't afford the basic necessities.
Perhaps it isn't his job, but it is mine.
I worry about "those people" who can't get decent health care or decent nutrition because health care advocacy is what I do.
The problem here is that Mitt Romney isn't the only one who feels that way; millions of Americans blame the poor for their plight, and they don't think the government should help "those people."
It isn't until they lose their job or need surgery and discover their deductibles and co-pays will add up to tens of thousands of dollars that they realize that they have just been luckier than "those people" all along.
Talk to a homeless person and ask how he or she came to be that way. You'll discover that you're just a few months away from walking in those same shoes.
People in need are not bums.
Our access to health care in this country is tied to employment, and many small businesses can't afford to offer health care benefits to their employees. Even people who work for bigger companies are seeing their health benefits shrink. More of the costs are being shifted to the employees and the benefits offered cost more and cover less every year.
In addition, wages are dropping for most Americans. The jobs that have been shipped overseas in the last three decades are being replaced by low-paying jobs that offer crappy -- or no -- health benefits. People who once asked nothing of the government now need food stamps to keep food on the table for their children, even though the work 40 hours a week. My friends in the nonprofit sector are seeing clients who used to be donors, and most of them don't have access to health care.
Most of the rest of the world sees health care as a basic human right. Until we in the United States see it the same way, "those people" will continue to go unnoticed as they sicken and die.
As of yesterday, we are WNC Health Advocates.
It's a big step, but a lot of people have told me this was the right thing to do.
Nobody wanted to say anything before I brought it up. Mike was my baby and Life o' Mike was my vision.
But it is not solely my accomplishment. I have had a ton of help along the way.
Mike's wife, Janet, designed our first web site and logo, and she and Christian Lamar have made themselves available to answer my questions as I learned to maintain the site; Mike's brother, Danny, had his input as a founding board member and worked tirelessly on our health care rallies. Bill Jamieson offered his expertise on our board during our first year or so, as did Gary Kovach and Morgan Daven.
Anne Doucette has been a consultant and a friend as we wrote our volunteer training manual for Patient Pals & Family Friends. Mike's cousin, Shannon Frechette also helped write the training manual and was on our board until she moved back to New England.
Many, many friends in the nonprofit world have helped me with advice gleaned from their own experiences.
Chefs and restaurants, artists and business owners have offered food and auction items for Eat at Mike's and Dance like there's Nobody Watching.
And, of course, we couldn't do anything without our volunteers, who befriend people with illness and disability or help first-time moms have and bond with their babies.
Thanks also go to the people who have shared their stories to illustrate the sad state of our health care system.
So, we're off on the next leg of our journey. I'm eager to go.
I'm migrating my blog entries over to our new site, www.wnchealthadvocates.org,
reading some of them as I go along. It's a long process, but it's interesting to see how we have evolved from when we started by putting up this web site just six weeks after Mike died.
We have educated, we have helped people who are sick or disabled, isolated and lonely, we have helped mothers give birth to healthy babies with fewer complication, and then we have helped them bond.
I have traveled to Raleigh and Washington to speak to legislators about the importance of health care. Thanks to The Ed Show and ABC World News tonight, millions of people have heard Mike's story, and some of them have come to understand that people in need of health care aren't bums.
Reading those entries has made me miss Mike even more, but I am convinced I have turned his death into something positive.
Without this organization, I would have no reason to get out of bed in the morning. My grief would have immobilized me.
When a new client says, "You are a member of our family," I remember why I do this.
When a client calls late at night because she's scared of what the future holds and just wants to talk about it, I know why I do this.
When someone has a question about the Affordable Care Act and I can answer it, when I can offer someone a solution to a health care problem, when a young mother gives birth to a healthy baby and bonds successfully, when I can reach out and embrace someone no one else wants to touch, I remember Mike and hope he is proud of what I am doing in his memory.
As we move forward with a new name, I hold my son's spirit in my heart. It is the reason for everything we at WNC Health Advocates do.
I'm heading to Charlotte tomorrow with my friend Sarah Skinner.
Sarah and I have a lot in common -- we're a couple of old hippies who think access to health care is the most important issue of the day. We have been to Washington, DC, together four times, and now we will take the issue to Charlotte and the Democratic Convention.
We both went to Planned Parenthood for affordable health care when we were young, although neither of us went there for the reason most conservatives think we did.
I went from 1977 to 1982 because I had no health insurance and I needed my annual checkup and my contraceptives. I had two children and that was enough for me. I was barely scraping by financially, and if I'd not had Planned Parenthood, I wouldn't have had access to any health care. I was able to get a checkup, complete with cervical cancer screening and a year's worth of birth control pills for between $25 and $35. It was a fraction of the actual cost.
I don't know what I would have done for health care if it hadn't been for Planned Parenthood. There were no other options for me.
Today, I'm beyond the need for birth control, and I have health insurance, so I don't go to Planned Parenthood anymore. But I know millions of women are in the same situation I was in 30 years ago, and Planned Parenthood is helping them get the care they need.
But Planned Parenthood and other low-cost and free women's clinics are under fire from conservatives right now. Many are people who are anti-abortion and some are even anti-contraception. What they don't understand is that abortion is a tiny fraction of what Planned Parenthood does. Planned Parenthood and other clinics help low-income women stay healthy. They offer cancer screenings, which often catches cancer early and saves lives. They help women choose the size of their families by preventing unwanted pregnancies.
In reality, women's clinics help prevent abortions, and they lower health care costs overall by helping women stay healthy.
This should not be a political issue, but it has been made one by people whose motives I don't understand.
Why would anyone want to put women's health in jeopardy? Don't they think about the children of young women who need their mothers? How can people say they are pro-life when they want to rob women of access to basic health care?
This shouldn't be political. Sarah and I shouldn't have to go to a political convention in our pink T-shirts to beg for access to care for millions of women.
This should be about the morality of providing health care to women in need, and that's exactly what it is for us.