Thursday, May 11, 2017

Taking a Deep Breath

I am taking a deep breath before I hit "publish" because I know this will not be the kind of eyebrow-obsessing fluff you have come to expect in this space. I have dear, dear friends and loved ones who will be disappointed in the opinion I am about to express. But after I saw the monologue by Jimmy Kimmel last week, I knew that I would be saying something.

Did you see it? If you didn't, please click on the video and come back after you've watched it. If, for some reason, the link isn't working, go to YouTube and search 'Jimmy Kimmel baby monologue.'

Seriously, watch it. I'll wait.


Are you back? Could I offer you a tissue? Because if you are not in tears after watching that raw, emotional, tender heart being poured out, you have stronger emotional control than I do.

Or maybe I found myself sobbing deep sobs as I watched because I know exactly what Jimmy and his wife were feeling. Exactly.

Boy#3 was born with a congenital heart defect. We didn't know this until his well-child check when he was turning two. That's when his wonderful, wonderful pediatrician was tipped off by Three's abnormal blood pressure (measuring sky-high in his tiny arms, drastically low in his legs) that he had a coarctation of the aorta.

I know. I'd never heard of it before, either. If you don't want to click on that link, a coarctation basically is a drastic narrowing of the big artery that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the body. Three's heart pumped blood as far as the narrowing, then because it couldn't get through, the blood backed up and found other ways to travel. His tiny chest was criss-crossed with blue veins that were doing the job of that defective artery. So a few weeks later our baby was wheeled into an operating room where skilled doctors threaded a catheter from his groin into his heart and a tiny balloon was expanded into that narrowing. His blood pressure suddenly normalized, and although he sees a cardiologist every year, he has lived a normal, active life.

We were still celebrating this miracle of modern medicine when his pediatric cardiologist looked Husband and me straight in the eyes, to make sure we were listening:

"Don't ever lose your job," she said soberly. "This child is uninsurable."

Say that out loud, and think of your baby. Think of knowing that you might have to choose between the heart catheterization that will save your child's life, and selling your house to pay for that procedure. Think of how much it cost last time you had an emergency room visit for a kid who needed stitches, and multiply that by the cost of a cardiac ICU stay, then find the money from your savings to pay for that stay.

We had insurance. Three got the treatment he needed, and oh, he is such a fine man today. You just can't imagine.

But what if we hadn't had insurance? What if we had lost our jobs and couldn't find positions that came with benefits? What if we had been forced to find insurance that was not part of group coverage? How could we have lived with having three of our four sons insured?

The thought of being forced into that Sophie's choice makes me shudder now, a quarter century later.

And for everyone who thinks I'm some kind of fairy-dust pink-o, I know there is no such thing as a free lunch. We pay a healthy percentage of our income for our medical insurance, and everyone with an income should pay at least something toward their medical security. But I can't help but agree with Jimmy Kimmel:

"If your baby is going to die, and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make. Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we can all agree on that, right?"


  1. Very well said. I so worry about our kids and their access to health care.

  2. Thank you Sarah! We all need to know that in this great country we can always count on access to health care. I can't think of anything I would rather pay taxes for.