For ten years I struggled with anemia: ten years of periods that kept me at home. I couldn’t drive to the store without leaking blood on my clothes and car seat. I never had a good mattress for more than twenty-eight days. After that they all looked like crime scene evidence. I lost my job. I had to drop out of school because I couldn’t sit through a class without leaking blood.
I called doctor after doctor pleading for help. I was developing severe anemia. I started taking iron pills and coping with the side effects from that. Still no help. There were leg cramps, headaches, depression, and finally, I fell asleep at the wheel of my car because I was in such a weakened state.
My family suffered, my finances suffered, my ability to be productive in this society suffered.
But ironically, I have another preexisting condition. Lifelong asthma and allergies conspired to land me in the ER with hypoxia. I spent two nights there. I got breathing treatments, and inhalers, and they sent me home scared to death about how I would pay for it all. But at least I could breathe.
I was advised to call social services. I did. Suddenly, after twenty-seven years without any kind of regular health care, I had a Medicaid card. It changed my life.
I was able to have a procedure that eliminated my periods and I am now no longer anemic. I got much needed inhalers when I needed them. My overall health has begun to improve which has inspired me to improve other areas of my life.
My husband built me a little greenhouse and I started a small plant business. For the first time in a decade, I could work hard without landing in bed for days. I could work my plants all day and still feel good. I began to see possibilities in life that seemed like farfetched notions just a year before. I learned how to grow mushrooms to expand my business, and began a small-scale poultry project. I was starting to dream big.
The biggest conflict was that if I became successful, I would lose my health care and be unable to work again. So I called about Obamacare. For the first time in my adult life, I got an affordable health insurance quote. My husband and I designed a business plan that would make us eligible for the Affordable Care Act. It would be step one on our path to the American dreams of entrepreneurship and financial security.
It made the sky the limit. I could work hard, make money, have health care, and feel proud.
Yesterday, a big part of that dream was ripped away. Now I have an unprotected preexisting condition. I have several, actually: asthma, C-sections, depression, and endometriosis.
The Affordable Care Act is no longer waiting for me. And Medicaid was gutted too. In a few minutes I will head out to my greenhouse to begin work. If I do too well, I will lose my Medicaid healthcare. Just starting out, I am not in a place where I can afford an expensive insurance policy to protect me, and I can’t afford to pay out of pocket for my inhalers.
I will keep working as long as I am able. I have been skipping doses of medicine to try to make it last longer. I still hope for success, but I live in a state of limbo, since I haven’t achieved that success yet. I am in the constant predicament of being viewed by so many of my elected representatives as having no actual value in my community. So they don’t see a valid reason to facilitate my right to life. But my husband and children experience my value every day. They need me. To them I am as important as the President.