Please Know...

As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

30 Minutes

30 Minutes 

Dear Glen Mills Pa., 

30 minutes away from you, a man stands at an intersection addicted and homeless and bearded and bent and smelly and begging for money to fund his addiction to the street level pain killer that will kill his emotional pain.  He is haunted by that night his wife and children burned to death when a drunk driver slammed into his car that she was driving.  He was at work in his full-time job to be the breadwinner for his treasured family. 

30 Minutes 

Dear Garnet Valley Pa., 

30 minutes away, a woman enters homelessness under a bridge known as "Emerald City."  We laugh together about her unusual street name.  She goes on one of her first "dates" the next day where she prostitutes herself as her only available income. He rapes her, slices her throat, and leaves her dead 24 hours later. 

30 Minutes 

Dear Radnor Pa., 

30 minutes away a woman is getting into an Uber paid for by her next date.  She will soon arrive in your neighborhood and lay in your neighbor's ill-fated marriage bed where she will provide him with the "relief" his marriage no longer does.  She will return to Kensington with her income, buy her medicine, and continue in her life of addiction. 

30 Minutes 

Dear Bensalem Pa., 

30 Minutes away, as Natalie Grant Sang "Clean" at the Christian Life Center, the Kensington version of the lady in her song longs for the day when a random guy doesn't see her as a "hole to stick himself in." 

30 Minutes


Friday, May 22, 2020

sewer pipes and fluffy beds, the differences in insurance

Not all that long ago, I was driving through South Philadelphia in a fully loaded Ford Explorer, my mobile office as a driver for a five star detox/rehab.  I saw a very dark skinned man with long dreads crossing the street at my red light.  His clothes and the condition of those clothes made it clear that the street was his home.  

He had a deep smile and why shouldn’t he?  He was walking with a long time trusted friend, a woman whose clothes and general appearance suggested that her home was that of the street as well.  Her smile radiated back that she too felt good about the companion beside her.

I’ve come to know these two people  over the past couple of years as I do what I do in Kensington, a section of Philadelphia which from where this scene played out, is a very healthy walk.   

He’s a great bass guitar player.  They are both kind hearted and trapped on the streets by the barbaric procedures required of them within their Medicaid reliance to find healing if they ever hope to be free of their substance use…

And here I was, just a few blocks away from picking up a person who, about four hours earlier, had decided to enter detox and rehab so as to free himself of his substance use.

My light turned green.  I drove through the intersection, pulled over and jumped out of my five star black car.  With an atypical boldness for a suburban white guy, I shouted loud enough to be heard across the busy City street and down the half city block that was already separating this caring couple from me.  The man must have heard me right away.  He turned and saw me waving.  He immediately waved back with his dreads blowing a bit in the breeze.  She realized quickly thereafter what was happening and waved as well.

This was an inspiring and sad moment.  We waved back and forth in seeming delight at seeing each other for the first time since Covid moved to town.  The traffic pattern and our individual agendas made crossing the street for a closer greeting one to the other not practical.  

As I hopped back into my five star black car, the unfairness of the moment really hit me.  Here are three different people, all equally human and worthy of the highest dignity, honor, respect and love.  Two are heading for their favorite yet to be buried in a construction project sewer pipe or back ally to settle into and sleep for the night.  The third person who I was about to meet for the first time ever is  now in his earliest stages of a month of five star rehab being shown his room that has a large flat screen tv and firm yet fluffy bed.

The only difference between this couple on the street and this man in his room – the quality of their insurance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Allison at Episcopal: "Get Out of My Emergency Room!" A Story of Medicaid Vs. Private Insurance

I will never forget the day as long as I live.  Allison (not her actual name) had come up to me saying that she wanted to talk to me but had to go do her shot first.  I said okay and please be careful.  She said she would be right over there on the steps that lead to the El (elevated train line) on Somerset Street. 

A few minutes later there was a commotion on those steps.  I looked up that direction and there lying at a 45-degree angle on the steps was the same winter coat from which Allison had said she will be right back.  People were yelling:  "Does anybody have Narcan?"  I had two units in my pocket.  I dashed up those steps asking people to get out of my way.  A face growing increasingly blue with ears to match told me that Allison was in serious trouble.  I gave her one Narcan as two police officers looked on in support and crowd control.  I checked Allison for breathing.  At first, there was some, not much but some.  I tried gently shaking her hoping that the Narcan would quickly take its effect and revive her failing body.  Monitoring her vitals, I was aware that she was maintaining a pulse.  Her body was starting to slip down those elevated rail line steps.  I tried my best to hold her up and to keep her head protected as she drifted toward Kensington Avenue. 

Continuing to monitor her breathing I realized she was not and so I gave her some very light mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  As I held her I was almost yelling "Allison, do not do this to your children!  Come back to us now!"

A few minutes after a second Narcan, Allison began to revive and appeared very confused.  By this time the ambulance had arrived and she was able to walk to it and was transported to Episcopal Hospital.  In a moment in which I was not in the room, the nurse told her to 

"Get out of my emergency room!"  

I could not find Allison for the rest of the night.  I did not learn of these details until the following day when Allison explained to me why she left the emergency room. I reported that nurse to the administration at Episcopal Hospital and supposedly the issue was addressed very firmly and included safeguards to assure such a thing would never happen again.

In my work with men and women, as they come into detox, I’ve had the privilege of hearing many stories.  I will never forget the story of another young woman who overdosed in the privacy of her own house and just happened to be discovered by a family friend who walked in and saw her on the brink of death.  This family member provided Narcan and CPR. This particular young lady was transported to a local hospital where she was treated and transferred to a detox facility that helped her address her situation and guided her to move on in a healthy way.

Allison lives in a world of substance use and addiction and homelessness and is reliant on the Medicaid system to cover her medical expenses to help her move on in a healthy way with her life.  Months after this story that I have just shared with you she remains on the streets of Kensington suffering to a staggering degree that breaks my heart every time I see her.  She is a good and fine and wonderful person. She is a mother of several.  She is worthy of dignity and honor and respect and love.  She is victimized time and time again by the obvious aspects of living on the street.  She is also victimized time and time again by the barbaric Medicaid system that cannot or will not provide the care that she desperately needs and wants.

The second young lady who I have described in this story is fortunate enough to have private insurance. Upon entering this acute stage of her substance use disorder and addiction, the processes that exist within the private insurance realm of healthcare kicked right in.  She immediately began receiving the health care that she needed and wanted so that she could move on with her life in a healthy way. 

Both of these women are worthy of dignity and honor and respect and love. One received it thanks to private insurance.  Allison did not.  It is high time that we level the playing field and make it possible for all human beings to receive the same quality care that is available to people who have private insurance.