This is not an uncommon sight in Half Moon Bay. Young migrating sea lions battle El Niño currents to exhaustion. When they arrive at what appears to be a safe harbor, they become entangled in the kelp beds as they search for food. The lucky ones get out. The less fortunate fight their way to shore where they lay exhausted, the focus of concerned humans and hungry predatory birds. Luck determines their fate.
In my time spent walking Half Moon Bay beaches this summer, I didn’t see one sea lion who survived the predatory birds. This young one was still alive, but had no will or energy to fight the rising tide or the circling birds. When I returned to the beach later that day, he was gone, either washed out to sea with the tide or possibly rescued by caring humans.
When I saw him, I didn’t know what to do. I asked people in the area if there was a number to call, some group who rescued young sea lions in distress, some agency that had the will, knowledge and tools to care for him. Imagine for a moment that there actually was such a group, and that a phone call to that group guaranteed some sort of positive action on the situation. Imagine that in the context of what you are paid to do.
My son is on the beach, Mr. Gallegly. He’s 20 years old and through no fault of his own has the misfortune to have ulcerative colitis and diabetes all at once, diagnosed at the one single time of his entire life that his parents also don’t have health insurance to cover him.
So far, we’ve spent about $5,000 in diagnostic and pharmaceutical costs. The insulin injections alone carry a hefty price tag, especially when we don’t have the benefit of negotiated prices. We do get some benefit from the pharmaceuticals’ programs for the uninsured, but it’s still very expensive.
Here’s the problem, sir. These two conditions are both autoimmune disorders which work against each other. The foods he should be eating to help heal his ulcers are the foods that drive his blood glucose levels wild. The foods he can eat to control his blood glucose aggravate his ulcers.
He needs to see an endocrinologist and a qualified dietician who has the ability to put together a plan that fits his lifestyle and his conditions.
He needs to be using a constantly monitored glucose system that cues him to rising levels before they’re out of control until he can taper the medications for his UC that are known to cause glucose levels to rise rapidly.
He needs these things, because learning to deal with these conditions now will make him healthier and more productive in the future. This isn’t a question of convenience. It’s a practical solution to a difficult problem.
However, for the moment he does not have access to them. The monitor alone is too expensive. When combined with the other needs, we simply cannot afford it. The best we can do is to maintain a somewhat decent balance which gives him some good days against bad ones. Some days he’s not in pain and can go to school and work. Other days, he’s in too much pain to do either. On the days where he’s not in pain, he has to guess at how to eat so that he doesn’t end up sluggish and miserable from the diabetes.
Tomorrow, when the House of Representatives convenes, you will vote against all health care reform. You will deride it as “PelosiCare”. I know this, because of the less-than-enthusiastic reception I received when I called and posted on your Facebook wall. I know because you are a lockstep Republican who thinks the elderly and Anthem Blue Cross are your only constituents.
When you cast that vote, I want you to see this dying sea lion in your mind’s eye. The young one, the one who had the bright future, the one who was healthy until he wasn’t.
I want you to remember that you don’t just represent the elderly or those already entitled to at least a modicum of decent care, and then I want you to have an explanation ready for me about why you think my son is not as important as they are.
When you come back here after that vote, I will make an appointment with you. I will sit down calmly, ask you to look into the ‘whites of my eyes’ as I gaze into yours, and listen to why you thought you needed to deny my son access to the right to PAY for health insurance and gain access to adequate health care in the process.
I suspect you will have no reply, or you will give me the standard reply that we’ve heard a zillion times about how expensive it will be. I might believe you if your voting record didn’t indicate that cost was far from your mind when you voted to authorize trillion-dollar wars and fat-cat Medicare privatization measures.
I will leave your office, and I will continue to work for my son and for every other young person and uninsured voter in your district. The first task? Working to elect someone who will actually represent ME in those hallowed chambers.
Be well, Mr. Gallegly. At least your government-sponsored health care plan is accessible. Think of those who aren’t so privileged despite working all their lives. Think of us on the beach, right alongside that dying sea lion.
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