August 20, 2009

One American Family

Grandma, son Gunny, and grandpa, 1907.

We needed health care reform when I was a baby.

My grandma Maudie, an artist, and grandpa, a distinguished college professor and zoologist, spent every dime of their retirement money on grandpa’s health care despite having Blue Cross. The early high blood pressure meds drove him insane. After discovering gangrene in one leg, the only place for surgery was the Navy hospital. By the time he died, grandma had $85.00 a month to live on when her rent was $62.50.

Left: Grandpa, Grandma Maudie, their son Gunny, and Gunny’s first car…Gooberita. 1926. Right: Grandma Maudie and Grandpa in San Diego, 1939.

We needed health care reform when I was a kid.

My other grandfather worked hard and made a little money for the time. Mother would have died in 1948 from colon cancer. Grandfather’s money paid for surgery in 1948. His money paid for my appendectomy at age 13 in the 1950’s. It paid for his own prostate cancer surgery in the fifties. It twice paid for mother’s breast cancer surgery once in the 1960’s and once in the 1970’s. There was still enough to pay for my father’s jaw cancer surgery in the 1966.

That money also provided a nurse so grandfather, father,and mother could be cared for at home as long as possible. Imagine where this family would have been without those monetary gifts from grandfather. Imagine too, how good medical care would have helped grandma with a terribly ill husband at home, screaming in the bed next to her, at night.

Grandma Maudie and grandpa on the back porch of their last apartment, 1948.

I needed health care reform as a young adult.

Although office visits were only $14.00 in the sixties, I couldn’t’ afford them. Having a baby was $125.00. I couldn’t afford the doctor much less another $125.00 hospital those in pre-birth control pill days. When a child was ill, only in the direst of conditions did we call the doctor. Again, my grandfather’s money paid for a week of hospital observation when a child’s fall led to seizures. His money paid for my gallbladder removal too….the bill was $5,000.00.

In the 1960’s, we had Free Clinics in our city. Anyone could go. No longer. Today at colleges, there are student health services. There were none when I was in college the first time with two small children. They are a gift from the gods to young folks in school now such as my daughter.

Grandma Maudie at the dining room table of her apartment in 1956.

I need health care reform now that I am an elder American.

I was attempting to be an economically functional citizen with all my assorted ills. I didn’t sign up for Medicare when I became eligible because my husband had excellent medical coverage through his work. My husband was laid off his job June 30, and thanks to a mid-1990’s program, COBRA, we were told we would have medical insurance at $400.00 a month…later $1300.00. It finally began this week. I was down to one high blood pressure pill by the time it became effective.

Grandma Maudie at her daughter-in-law’s breakfast table with her great granddaughter Lessa, 1965.

It’s time we find another solution. We need to follow the better medical models now available like that of France or Canada. Arguing at forums, urged on by PAC’s and insurance companies, is not the solution. Taking action is. I wish everyone could live in physical comfort getting the medical care they need at a price they can afford. This needn’t be a dream for American families today.

What would have happened to my grandma and grandpa’s lives if they could have afforded better medical care.

Check these links out: Information to help guide your Health Care Reform thinking. Stir up those little grey cells.

Compare medical bills by country

10 Awesome Things that would Happen if Health Reform Passes.

Health Care Reform: An online guide.


  1. Dear Mage,

    I ended up reading your post with tears in my eyes. Thank God your family had Grandpa to help you pay for some of your medical care.But, think what Grandma and Grandpa could have done with that money that would have made their life together easier or more pleasant.

    That is why we need a new Health Care Plan in our Country. Too many Grandpas and Grandmas sacrificed their own pleasures to make sure that their families were cared for.

    Let's take care of each other; that's the way it should be.

  2. Amen Mage! I've never had problems with blood pressure, but by the time this issue is resolved--if resolved--I might have. My blood boils at some of the stupidity I see out there at town hall meetings and so forth. Hubby and I visited and argued with Jim Matheson, the congressman of our district here in Utah, and we might just as well have talked to the walls. Great post and pictures too!

  3. Isn't that awful?!?!?!? And wonderful at the same time.

    In Australia we do have our problems...but nothing like your medical system, I think ours is quite similar to Canada.

    Thank you God.

  4. Thanks for this, Maggie. I hope we can keep Medicare. I think the insurance companies have ideas about weakening it. They already have with this Medicare Advantage thing.

  5. So clearly described...thank you. We really have to get something better.

  6. A very compelling argument, Maggie. I like it because it shows the fact that the US has been in need of medical reform for decades, but it just hasn't happened. I only hope that you and G. manage to continue to get coverage in the next while. Great piece.

  7. That is why we need a new Health Care Plan in our Country. Too many Grandpas and Grandmas sacrificed their own pleasures to make sure that their families were cared for.High blood pressure cure supplement, natural herbal remedy to lower & control high blood pressure. Use Alistrol everyday to help maintain healthy circulation and support cardio-vascular health.

  8. Wonderful photos of your lovely grandmother and good arguments for change in health care.

  9. Thanks for posting this moving story and excellent account of why we need health care reform.

    Glad you shared the lovely pictures, too!

  10. Thanks for this entry. Your Grandpa and Grandma helped your family, but they needed the money for themselves. It is such a beautiful story you told, and very sad too. I really loved looking at the photos.
    I have not been coming to your blog as often as I like because I have friends staying with us. These African friends we have not seen in 30 years, so as you can imagine, I spend my days taking them around, cooking and entertaining them. It is a joy to carry on as if 30 years have not passed seen we saw each other.

  11. Thank you all for your comments on this Ronnie Bennett inspired piece. As I began writing I thought I'd rather write about those affected by the health care. That story I described should should tell the tale of our need for health care as well as a flat listing of the needs.

    Yes, now we have Medicare.....that is a giant leap forward. And too medicine has come such a long way too. But they are just drops in the bucket.

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