Thursday, January 08, 2009

ABC News Echo Clinic Eureka Springs, Arkansas

After a lifetime of working hard to provide for themselves and their five children, my parents are on a fixed income and uninsured. Missouri proclaimed that they make too much to qualify for the new Medicaid program and they're not quite old enough for Medicare so they've fallen through the cracks. I find this sad considering how little Social Security is paying them every month (It's barely enough to eat, pay rent and utilities, and put gas in their car). My stepfather is bipolar with a borderline personality disorder. He's also diabetic and suffers from many of the health related issues. This means he needs regular access to medical services to monitor his responses to the cocktail of medications that keep him stable and in good health. He benefits from having my mother home for multiple reasons as anxiety attacks are a common problem.

The woman you see at the sewing machine is my mother making Christmas presents for her grandchildren. Those same hands you see pushing fabric through the presser-foot helped support our family for years by working as a zoo keeper at a city zoo, as an in home health care aid, a housekeeper, and by making and selling baked goods, dolls, jewelry, fishing poles, even fishing lures. She's a talented singer in much demand for church programs, weddings, and funerals. Mom also volunteers and helps runs the local Methodist Church thrift store. She's a true live wire, and the only person in the family who can almost best me in conversation (though it's a tight contest). Like myself, she was a homeschooler.

The man with the braid is my stepfather. He's a tool-and-die machinist who got caught in the same factory lay-offs that my own husband did two years ago. He'd worked his whole life, was considered valuable and good what he did, and was suddenly unable to find work in his field. Shortly after this, his meds stopped working (this is common--no med works forever), and for a while, things went from bad to worse for them. Echo was part of the solution to a very difficult problem.

I know the idea of socialized medicine is abhorrent to many people here in the US, but to those of us who live on a blue collar income, who make large payments to insurance companies who then demand high deductibles (so high that their own contribution is minimal) and limited access to medical help, and drop us when we become too expensive, or change what they cover from year to year and which doctors, the idea of being able to go to the doctor before health problems become too great a burden, without worrying about how we're going to pay for it (or not going because there's no money to pay toward the deductible), sounds like a fairytale.

To people like my parents (and there are millions), who are suddenly faced with having to seek out free services, places like Echo are a godsend. They make the patients feel good about coming to them, welcoming them, and making them feel like they matter, like they deserve good health care. This is a huge, huge thing. Doctor Bell was able to help my stepfather find just the right meds to help him manage his swings and his blood sugar. He also encouraged him to consider filing for social security a few years early.

I am so grateful for ABC's coverage and am delighted that they chose my parents. The woman from the clinic who contacted Mom and asked her if she'd do it, explained that they needed educated well-spoken people as representatives. Mom and Jim definitely fit this bill. (Having a news crew in her livingroom just made Mom's day!)


jeanie said...

Oh wow - what truly fantastic people. Nice one - getting me all teary before breakfast - but so more heartening than only half the story that is happening to many.

Debby said...

I love to hear people complain about socialized medicine. The biggest complainers are the ones who have insurance. Socialized insurance beats no insurance hands down. We're in the same shoes here. I get free insurance because I'm 'lucky' enough to have cancer. We'll have to buy insurance for Tim and Cara. Huge expense, over $300 a month.

Pencil Writer said...

Oh, that we all could see and do as the Echo Clinic folks! To care for each other w/o looking to make a million bucks. What a tremendously Christ-like group of people!

Scotty said...

Great post and video, Mary.


Mary Paddock said...

Thanks guys. I got a lot of site hits on this one, which was fun.

Debby--I've noticed that too. People with money and insurance are the quickest to point out how socialized medicine isn't working in other countries. I don't imagine socialized medicine is perfect either, but it's far better than not having any access or limited access to health care. I was so pleased to see that there was a program in your area that helps women without insurance. We need that here.

PW--So true. I love the fact that they pray at the beginning of every session.