Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Brother Paul...

My brother Paul was born blind, he attended Tennessee School for the Blind where, at the age of 15, he collapsed and had a seizure, something that had never happened before. We took him to the doctor where the cause of the siezure was determined to be renal failure. Paul had to be put on dialysis several times a week for several hours at a time. This is of course very expensive. Luckily our Father had a great job that came with great insurance. We were quite lucky.

Paul was able to get a kidney transplant and it changed his life. No more dialysis, and much more freedom. Of course it mean that he had to take huge amounts of medication to prevent his body from rejecting the new kidney, and this medication and the transplant proceedure itself were extraordinarily expensive, but we were lucky. We had great insurance.

A few years later Paul's body rejected the kidney and he had to go back on dialysis, he was also put back on the transplant list and just in time, dialisys can be very hard on a body, a new kidney was found and he received his second transplant. Again we thanked God for being so fortunate as to have great medical insurance.

Paul started college, he had dreamed of working in the radio business for a long time and so he went after a degree in communications. While he was in college his legs started giving out on him. Medication he took to keep from rejecting his first kidney had eaten away all of the bones in his knees and Paul was forced to go into a wheelchair. Imagine being blind and in a wheelchair for a second. Imagine having to traverse a college campus being blind and in a wheelchair. Would this stop you? It didn't stop Paul, he worked hard, overcame his physical difficulties with the help of friends and got his Bachelors degree in communications.

Things took a turn for the worse when Paul's helath started to decline. We found out that he had contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion and it was dstroying his liver, complications from this also caused him to lose his second kidney transplant. Things looked pretty bleak. Paul and my parents had to spend several months in Dallas, TX for Paul to get a liver/kidney transplant as no hospital in Nashville would do them at the time. The cost was unimaginable, for many people it would be out of the range of possibility, but since Paul was blind and he was still considered a dependant child by law he was able to keep our father's insurance, we knew how lucky we were and we were grateful.

Paul did well with the liver/kidney transplant, his health was better than could be expected, everything might seem to be going his way, but it wasn't. You see, as I said before, Paul had always dreamed of working in radio, he had shown that he could manage any number of positions while working at his college radio station. He had a degree in mass communications. He was driven, talented, smart, and had a bit of experience. Finding a job should have been a breeze, but it wasn't. You see it isn't that no one would hire Paul because of his health problems or blindness, no Paul couldn't even try to get a job because finding emplyment would have meant the loss of his insurance.

Paul was equipped with everything he needed to make his life long dream come true. But Paul found himself being trapped in a world where he couldn't work, where he had to live with my parents even though he was in his 40's. They lived in a suburb of Nashville with no public transportation and so he had to rely on them to take him to the doctor, to take him out to eat, to take him out to the store, all simple excursions but ones that meant the world to Paul as it was the only way he could experience the world outside of my parent's home. He had many friends but they were scattered around the country keeping in contact with each other via the internet. He couldn't go out for a cup of coffee with his buddies, he couldn't drive out to see a friend if they were sick, he had to rely on others for almost everything, and this was a man who had made it through college living on campus and got his degree while overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. But he had great insurance and we counted ourselve lucky, or as lucky as we could be.

The current healthcare debate has focused on the government's ability to provide decent service for its citizens. Some say the private sector can always outperform the government, well my family has seen just how well the private sector can work when it comes to health care. My brother received the best health care available in our country. My brother was not denied care for anything. My brother is an example of private health insurance at its best. Its best isn't good enough. You see private health care has kept my brother alive, but it also took his chance at making a living, at having a life, away from him. If this is the best the private sector can do, and I believe it is, then it is time to look for another solution.

My brother, Paul Oeser, died yesterday morning at the age of 46. His life may not have played out as he, or any of us hoped, his chances of living the life he dreamed of may have been taken away by health insurance company rules and beurocracy, but his life wasn't in vain. He touched more people than he could have possibly have imagined, he made the world a better place, and he loved to call his senators and representatives and remind them of who they were working for and what they should be doing. I am writing this because I know Paul would want me to since he no longer can. He would want you to read it and think seriously about what the health insurance industry in this country has done to people in order to keep their  profit margins high. He would want you to know that this debate is not about profits, it is about people. It isn't about socialism, it is about survival. It isn't about right or left, it is about the right to live a decent life. Paul would want you all to think about this and I do as well.