Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Through the Looking Glass

When all of our running candidates talk about healthcare, they are determined in their own ways to save the world, to revamp and overhaul the system, and furthermore, a little vague on how they are going to do it. When you've been exposed to the healthcare system as long as I have, in a multitude of ways, especially delivering it as a service, it is hard to imagine how a candidate, however well intentioned, is going untangle this massive slinky that is healthcare - the pit that is paperwork and red tape, the endless vortex that is Medicare/Medicaid, or the worm hole that is insurance. All of this, and yet, we all work, day in and day out, and still somehow function. One can't help but stop and think about the world, and the ways it can come crashing down around us, when you see and hear a story like this.

A child born to a poor family in a small Indian village, this little girl is being seen as the second coming of a Hindu goddess, a beautiful representation of the world and the wonders that can be given to those pure of heart, open to the experience, and worthy of the blessing. I cannot help but wonder what the reaction would have been here in the United States.

According to various websites and news sites, this little girl is able to blink all her eyes, eat from both mouths through a joined esophagus, and move all four extremities like any other child. Here in the US, she would have undergone massive testing and surgeries already, much of it exploratory, to find out "what went wrong", and the parents would be wondering how they would foot the bill for all the medical care this "poor child" would need. The social worker would be pouring over red tape paperwork to figure out services, while the parents are manipulated by those claiming the best interest of the child, all the while taking advantage of them, being poor and uneducated. I use the earlier terms in quotes for the simple fact that her parents in real life are anything but upset; they are overjoyed to have been chosen to recieve this wonderful gift, whose town is already erecting a temple in her honor.

As an individual who works in the healthcare system very closely, in pediatrics no less, I have seen children born with massive deformities; as simple and painless as extra fingers and toes, to children born with pieces of their faces missing, and orthopedic abnormalities that cause a horrific array of displays. Therefore, it was shocking to read this article; when children like this enter our healthcare system, many times the response is "well, maybe they will be shown mercy, and not survive" or worse yet, every doctor in the world looks to sink their practice into them, poking and prodding the child until many reach their early departure. That, or every person turns their back, deeming it too risky, too pricey, just too much.

Many parents would drop to their knees and sob, saddened at the loss of an opportunity to have a "perfect child". This girl, however, is different; her father is said to have refused further testing or examinations, or any other forms of intervention. In his words, she eats, drinks, and reacts normally, and you only need a doctor when things go wrong. And she is not something that went wrong.

Some might argue that her parents are being neglectful, because more could be wrong if she were examined closer. Others argue she is perfection. While I don't know the answer to that question, I have seen enough imperfection to know that maybe, just maybe, the United States doesn't have all the answers, and might want to look to others from time to time.

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