My friend died last night. I found him early this morning.
Todd Matthew Williams was just 51. He suffered from congestive heart failure — at least that’s what we guessed. Despite a life of work — six years in the U.S. Army, several years teaching Native American children on a reservation in South Dakota, several years working for a nonprofit in Albuquerque, driving trucks in Portland — Todd had no health insurance. He never went to the doctor and so he died. Young.
Wait! Wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to eliminate all that?
Todd was fired from his last trucking job for getting into some fender benders and had been healthy his whole adult life until relatively recently. Looking back, I suspect he was simply beginning to show symptoms of his heart condition a year ago. But he was a private man and in some ways all too typical of many men, who, as Dave Barry once wrote, usually wait to see a doctor until something serious happens, like decapitation.
When will we finally decide as a nation that we should learn to follow the example of every other advanced nation on Earth from Canada to Japan to all of Europe to Australia and on and on — universal health care? We endure more than 26,000 premature adult deaths annually in America because millions still have no real access to a health care system that is advanced and can prevent early mortalities? My friend Kent was diagnosed with a congestive heart condition when he was 60. He was, and is, insured. He is 74 and going strong, with proper care and medication.
Todd finally told me on Sunday that he was having trouble walking. He showed me his legs, swollen and with the bruises typical of edema often produced by congestive heart failure. A routine check-up a year ago may well have treated and largely corrected this.
But of course health care is a privilege in the USA. It is your right, as a U.S. citizen, to have more than 7,000 expensive nuclear weapons on obscenely costly Trident submarines and Stealth bombers, all prepped all the time to destroy life on Earth. It is your right, as an American, to project power and dominance from approximately 1,000 military bases on the sovereign soil of other people’s lands, costing far more than universal health care would ever cost. No other country does this. Find me the Chinese bases in Europe; find me the Russian bases in Oceana or Africa. Look in 153 of the 193 nation-states on Earth and you’ll find only U.S. bases. Look in Todd’s room and you won’t find him. He and thousands of others are sacrificed on the altar of militarism every year.
Can we change this? Can we replace elected officials until they finally fix it? Please?
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice