My family has cost the healthcare system a lot of money.
My mum has asthma and thyroid issues. She’s been on medication for over twenty years. My stepdad’s diabetic. Every day, he checks his blood sugar and takes insulin. I needed therapy and antidepressants in order to stay alive. My sister has a chronic neurological condition that she was diagnosed with at age eleven. She had to have brain surgery, and a device inserted into her hip that costs thousands.
I was lucky to grow up in a country where healthcare is universal, where health is a right and where life itself isn’t expensive. My family isn’t wealthy. My dad spent most of my childhood out of a job. In fact, he’d just become unemployed when my sister first got sick.
It terrifies me to think what might have happened if we weren’t as lucky as we were to have been born on a particular landmass on this planet. For us, it would have been a matter of choosing between food and medication. Which is more pressing? Without food, we’d be starving. Without our medications, my mum would struggle to breathe every day. My stepdad could die. I’d probably have killed myself. Even if we were financially stable, we wouldn’t have been able to afford my sister’s surgery. It would require a loan. It would require debt.
We all know we have to make choices when it comes to money. Most of us aren’t so fortunate to be able to buy everything we want. So we might have to choose between buying new clothes and going to the new cinema. Sometimes we might have to choose between rent and keeping the car. These choices are unpleasant but manageable.
Having to choose between two things that are necessary for survival is impossible. Choosing between insulin and groceries is like being allowed to choose a death sentence; do I want to die of starvation or diabetes?
My family’s cost the healthcare system a lot of money: money that we didn’t have. But money that we all, collectively, can afford to contribute to. The taxes will be higher, yes, but not as high as they’d be if you were by yourself in that hospital bed. An inconvenience, but not as difficult as choosing between your medication and petrol to get to work.
I shouldn’t have to say this. It shouldn’t have to concern you for you to care about it. Even if it’s never going to be you needing that surgery, it should be enough that other people will be.
My sister was eleven years old when she became ill. A hormone imbalance caused the muscles in her neck to go into overdrive. She was developing speech issues and struggling to walk. She was in constant pain. She took pills and she got botox injections, but it was never enough. This was a pain she’d have to live with for the rest of her life. Starting at eleven years old.
But that didn’t happen, because she could have her surgery. My parents didn’t have to choose between that surgery and our home. Instead, everyone in the country had to contribute a tiny fraction to make this child’s life bearable.
My sister’s case isn’t even that bad. There are people who could die without certain treatments and surgeries – and they do, all the time. These are lives that can be saved just by paying a bit more in tax. Yeah, you’d have to skip eating out every month. But that’s a small price to pay for a life.
You’d have to choose between shopping and the cinema, but someone else no longer needs to choose between insulin and groceries.
My family’s cost the healthcare system a lot of money. And we deserved it, because we deserve to live.
Photo courtesy of Edward Howell