The privilege of being sick

Last week my allergies conspired and pegged me with an upper respiratory infection. It was bad enough to make me run a fever each afternoon and feel puny, so I went to the doctor on Tuesday.

He prescribed some antibiotics and over the counter meds and sent me home with a tidy sheet of instructions. I’ve done this before and know the drill: wait approximately 24 hours for the antibiotics to kick in and resume full speed.

But Thursday morning when I got up I said I felt really bad, and logically my husband asked if I was going to rest. Stunning both of us, I said, “Yes” and got back into bed.

Day One of The Big Rest consisted of actual bed rest. That night I turned off the light next to the bed and fully expected to leap out the next morning ready to go. 

Instead I woke up holding my head in my hands with a raging headache. And so began  Day Two of The Big Rest. Day Two was a slight variation on Day One because I did actually read some.

Amazingly, The Big Rest lasted through Saturday, which consisted of more reading, public radio, and half-listening to  Braves games.

On Sunday I got out of bed and commenced The Ease Back In.

Those four days were really unremarkable, except that on Friday I began to think about how privileged I was. I have a great doctor in town, reliable transportation to get there, and insurance to cover my office visit and  prescriptions. We work hard but neither of us need second jobs to support ourselves. Bills get paid and food gets bought.

Sure, it would have been a harder on us if this had happened when our daughters were young and at home, but there wasn’t added stress over getting to the doctor, or paying for the visit or meds.  The point remains the same: for some of us being sick and taking care of ourselves is a privilege. For over 17 percent of Americans without insurance, there are no privileges.

Dark days for Georgia’s women

The chase to Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly (when bills must be voted out of one side of the legislature or die) allows our elected officials to be seen at their worst and their best. Women and men across the state who value the ability of women, and their doctors, to make responsible decisions about their health care, have opposed HB 954 and SB 438.

SB 438, which passed yesterday, is stunning in its interference in the decision-making process for women’s health. The bill removes any state employee insurance coverage for a legal abortion unless the mother’s health is at serious risk. The AJC reports that the lead sponsor of SB 438, Sen Mike Crane, R-Newnan, drew gasps when refusing to add exceptions for rape and incest victims.

The 33-18 vote so angered Democratic women in the Senate that they linked arms and left the floor. Valenica Seay, D-Riverdale, said,  “This is not a good day for women in Georgia. “Come on, guys. We are not your property.”

  

The House has also been hard at work reducing health care options for women. HB 954 shortened the window of time for a legal abortion from 26 weeks to 20. Again, the question bears asking: Do state legislators in Georgia think their wives, daughters, aunts, nieces, granddaughters, friends, and doctors, are really incapable of making good decisions about abortions (which are still legal despite Conservative efforts).

Well, Rep Terry England, R-Auburn, seems to think that the women in our state can fairly be compared to cows, pigs, and chickens. England thinks that stillborn pigs and calves make for good comparisons when talking about the difficult decisions involving abortion. I don’t think I can give his comments from the House floor their due, but fortunately Bryan Long at Better Georgia posted video footage of England explaining his thoughts before voting on HB 945.

What is next Rep. England? Giving farm animals the right to vote? Or stripping away a woman’s right to do that too?

This is no time to sit on the sidelines

To my two adult daughters in their 20s-

I hope you know what is a stake with all this shouting about birth control and access to safe and legal abortion. It hasn’t really been that long since the pill was introduced in 1960 as a safe and effective means not only of planning for/avoiding pregnancy, but as a prescription treatment for certain cancers, endometriosis, acne, and cysts involving the ovaries.

Before 1965, married couples didn’t have legal and private access to birth control. Can you imagine anyone telling you, responsible adults, that? Listen to the Conservatives now. They aren’t just telling you, they are it.

The Comstock Act, a holdover from 1873, made it illegal to even mail information about birth control because it was “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious.” Ditto for actual birth control devices. Comstock hasn’t been wiped from the books, but the definition of obscene has changed (can you imagine television without Sex and the City or movies that even hint at sex?)

And please be aware that while your may think your parents are older than Methuselah, some of my friends remember when Roe v Wade made abortion safe and legal (1973 isn’t that long ago, really. We even had color television then.)

Which brings me to the tirades which have exploded over women’s reproductive rights since Susan G. Komen pulled its support of Planned Parenthood. That opened the door for more of us to see how threatened those rights are now. Access to safe and reliable birth control isn’t just for women. It is for their male partners/husbands/one night stand guys/boyfriends. It is for you, your sister, your nieces and nephews, your friends, and the children you have now or may want to have later.

Last Thursday Rep Darrell Issa (R-California) convened at panel of “experts” to discuss the mandated coverage of birth control. You may notice that all of the “experts” are men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This expert was shut out making comments before the panel.

Sandra Fluke is young, healthy, bright (a third year law student at Georgetown) and like you, has plans, dreams and ambitions for her career and personal life. She made her way to Congress last week to comment, but was shut out so that five men, five “experts,” none of whom will ever be pregnant, could tell Rep Issa’s panel what needs to be done about requiring access to birth control for all women.

Sandra Fluke left the Congressional hearing room with Democratic leaders last Thursday when they learned who Rep Issa deemed worthy of testifying. Yesterday she returned to testify to a room filled with people who value what women have to say about their health and access to care.

Rep Issa insists that his hearing was about health care reform and religious freedom. His hearing was certainly about freedom: it was about the freedom of women to choose the type of birth control they want so they can plan when and if they want to have children.

You don’t have to testify before a Congressional panel to make your thoughts known. But you have to speak up and you need to do it now. Call or email your Congressional Representative. Tell both of your Senators too. Stand side by side with the people who worked tooth and nail for birth control to be legal and available today. Too much is at stake to sit on the sidelines.

 

What is missing from all the noise about breast cancer funding?

Last week when the country erupted over Susan G. Komen’s decision to yank funding for Planned Parenthood, one key element was missing from all the shouting: how many cancer organizations are talking about the very real dangers and causes of cancer resulting from how our food is produced, and what is in the air and water we rely on?

Genes play a part in one’s proclivity for disease in many cases, but what we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink play a large part in our health. Exercise does too, but if you have asthma or respiratory problems, being outside on a bad air quality day isn’t an option.

Why aren’t more health and disease focused groups insisting that these contributors to poor health status be addressed? Before quitting my job as the Executive Director of the Georgia Rural Health Associaction (GRHA), I made mention of my volunteer work, more than once, with the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE). My “hobby” fighting coal was just that, a volunteer thing I did on my own time and dime.

I would go to meetings with state partners fighting three proposed coal plants in Georgia and folks would ask why, if GRHA was working on behalf of better health for rural Georgians, wasn’t the organization speaking up to protect the air and water sheds in the threatened communities? That remains a mystery to this day.

Standing up to new coal, AND talking about the problems already plaguing rural communities from existing coal plants, would have been appropriate and right. I couldn’t make my personal agenda GRHA’s, but it still begs the question: why aren’t more health care advocacy organizations speaking up for what lies at the root of so many health problems? The silence from the Department of Community Health in Georgia is stunning.

While so many of us focus on how Komen let politics get in the way of delivering preventive      health screenings to undeserved women, we shouldn’t forget that our environment and access to healthy foods play a part in good health too. When you consider where to donate, think about what isn’t being said publicly. Better yet, ask them why before you sign the check.

 

(Read a 2011 post asking if any state agency in Georgia is protecting citizen health here:  http://ruralandprogressive.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-isnt-department-of-public-health.html)