When Will We Ever Learn?

For the most part I live, by choice, in a small world. I have always been a very private person. Of course that changed quite a bit 12 years ago when I became a quadriplegic. I have a nurse that comes in every morning for 2 ½ to 3 hours. She helps me with my morning hygiene, gets me dressed and in my chair ready for the day. I retired seven months prior to my accident and the greater majority of my time was spent pursuing my love of the outdoors. I still find time to continue the recreation activities that I love. But almost anything I do now has to involve others and it’s still hard for me, at times, to ask for help. Much of my time now is spent on the computer writing blogs and placing information on my website. My wife calls me a “mouse potato”.

Last week I got an e-mail that awakened me to a harsh reality. The sister of a friend had given my name to a friend of hers, who had a friend, who in turn had a friend whose husband had broken his neck while in the water off a beach in Hawaii. He had been stabilized and they were looking for information about rehabilitation hospitals on the mainland. I did all I could, giving information, sending information and offering myself as a resource. I was shocked to find out their insurance did not cover an air ambulance flight to return them to the mainland. If she could secure a large amount of money the plane would come then. His wife was overwhelmed, struggling to try and get the money together and make the decision of selecting the best rehabilitation hospital.

This event awakened some frustrating and painful memories for me. I also broke my neck while standing in waist deep water. I had to be transported by boat from the island of St. John which had no hospital, to the island of St. Thomas. As I fought for my life in the hospital my wife was in shock trying to make arrangement for my return to the US mainland. The air ambulance refused to leave Florida until my wife had $15,000 in hand. We had a Visa card with a line of credit of $5000. We always paid our entire monthly bill on time and saw no reason for a higher line of credit. Even though she contacted the emergency number on the card, they were unwilling to increase our line of credit after hours. If we had had a platinum or gold card the plane would have come right away. If you get nothing more from this blog, know that you should not leave the US mainland without a platinum or gold credit card. Thirty-six hours later I finally arrived at the hospital in Syracuse New York. The next six months until we returned home remain like a foggy dream to me.

Shore Break Sign

Unknown to most vacationers there is a condition that exists on many islands and some mainland beaches called Shore Break. This hazard is created by the configuration of the ocean bottom leading up to the beach. When conditions are right, such as wind direction and wave speed etc. waves can break very close to the shore and in a vertical (straight up and straight down) direction. Anyone caught in that type of wave risks the possibility of serious injury. This condition exists on many of the beaches in Hawaii and a law in Hawaii requires warning signage be posted on all beaches where Shore Break exists. One of the dangerous things about Shore Break is that it is undetectable by the untrained eye. There are several beaches in the Virgin Islands where no signage warnings exist. If you were going to be in the surf make sure you research your beach before you go.

The terrible experience of this husband and wife I’d never met was a gut wrenching reality check for me. Scenarios like this are taking place a umber of times every day. Why must all these additional demands be placed on somebody who is already facing a catastrophic challenge? We live in the United States of America. Why must anyone want for assistance at a time like this? Members of our government would never find themselves in this situation. Why should anyone else? Why shouldn’t every person in America have the same care available to them that is available to our members of Congress? Why should anyone far away from their home who has suffered a catastrophic accident have such additional demands placed on their shoulders? What are we missing here?

2 responses to “When Will We Ever Learn?

  1. Deborah Gregson

    This just makes me mad. It was nine years ago when we were faced with a similar situation, though not so critical. Mom had to be returned to CA from CO where she had been when she had her SCI. The trip would cost more than $20,000.

    Within the US STATES it should be easier to get a ride home or to the selected rehab for SCI/TBI. Even if it’s an immediate loan through a medical emergency transport program funded by money put in jointly by all insurance companies or banks or both, something should change. When the family is dealing with the immediate injury and all the critical decisions that need to be made they should not ever have to think about how they are going to pay a huge bill to transport the person home.

    One problem is most people don’t understand their insurance coverage until they use it, and they rarely have to use the part about “transport” from one state or country to another. It’s really important to read your coverage information or talk to your benefit coordinator before you travel to be sure you have coverage, especially if you travel outside the US. I doubt most people know that Medicare does NOT cover costs if they are OUTSIDE the US, and often supplemental coverage only pays what is approved by Medicare first. It’s important to check into getting some type of travel insurance before going out of the country (no, I’m not an insurance agent, I listen to Clark Howard a lot!).

    I think there has to be a much better way to provide medical, rehab, and in-home help care for families with chronic, difficult care issues. We’re willing to knock ourselves out doing whatever is necessary to care for the person. We know the catastrophic event changes everything, requires great sacrifice, demands constant tweaking of every facet of life.

    But the money issues shouldn’t scare the bejeezus out of everyone like it does, with the worry that they need to take out huge loans they may never be able to repay, or that they have to get the money by asking others and having fund raising events, or that they need to forgo hopeful treatment and therapy because of the cost. There could be a better way, and I believe that if enough of the people affected by the situation got together to vocally share their frustration with the situation, it would change. The problem is they don’t have the time, or money, to do that because they are trying to figure out how to deal with the next care issue that isn’t paid for by insurance.


  2. Richard Wyatt

    Amen brother. Thanks for sharing your time and wisdom. Even a tragic accident can’t diminish a generous spirt.

    Your friend Richard

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