A few years back, I wound up on the lucky end. Sort of.
It started with a weird pain around my shoulder I thought was a judo injury from trying to throw a guy who was built like a pyramid.
My hobbies have included martial arts and endurance sports where pain is part of the deal and you just go through it.
But this was unlike most aches and pains I had before. It shut me down. I would have to stop mowing or jogging after a few minutes.
A sharp therapist told me I should get a stress test. I thought he was nuts.
By then, I’d limped my way through three marathons, three triathlons and seven Charleston Distance Runs. I hadn’t smoked for years and only drank as much alcohol as absolutely necessary.
That may not sound all that lucky, but I had good health insurance. I took the stress test.
It turned out that my heart was pretty much totally blocked. I was a candidate for quadruple bypass surgery.
One doctor used the term “widow maker.”
The universe has a warped sense of humor. It seemed that I inherited bad genes and/or took some stuff way too seriously.
A lot of things run through your mind at a time like that. This will probably sound strange, but my self esteem immediately went up.
I’d been getting slower and slower in my running and such but didn’t know why. Now I figured anybody can go 15 miles with a good heart, but it takes a real man to do it with a dead one.
I also realized I’d have to confront one of my deepest fears. Not death, but something that seemed much worse: a catheter.
But I digress ...
Because I had health insurance, I was able to get it diagnosed and get the surgery done, a step that entailed getting my sternum cracked open like a clamshell and one leg unzipped to strip mine for arteries.
It made me want to apologize to every bug I'd ever squished, accidentally or otherwise.
Recovery took some time, but it was all downhill after the catheter came out.
I'm still obviously in the land of the living and doing all the stuff I did before, including some I probably shouldn't.
Chalk it up to luck.
More than 45 million Americans aren’t that lucky. The Urban Institute estimates that 22,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 died in 2006 due to lack of health coverage.
According to Families USA, that’s about four West Virginians a week.
And, more than three and a half million Americans have lost insurance coverage since January and nobody knows who will be next.
Here’s one way of thinking about health care reform: To paraphrase Dirty Harry, do you feel lucky today?
Essayist Rick Wilson lives in Milton.
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