Health and Wealth…In the U.S

 

It’s a Saturday night, and I find myself sitting in the ER lobby of a local hospital waiting for service as if it was a 5-star hotel.  The “service” is for my partner who has not been feeling well and thought it best to make a quick stop to get things checked out.

From the double doors that open automatically to the security guard eager to greet you at the front desk, I find myself almost waiting for a red carpet moment and for the flashing of camera lights from paparazzi to temporarily blind me. I momentarily felt underdressed in my yoga pants and sweatshirt as I get my picture taken by security. 

As I sit and wait, I look around and get shivers down my back as I recall my visits to hospitals in Haiti as a child. The poverty and standards of service were short of what anyone would consider acceptable and “sterile” took on a whole different meaning in this country.  The IV’s in the arms of patients, scalpels that laid upon stainless steel trays were all quick reminders of the images and flashbacks of many years ago, and despite all the politics, bureaucracy, and red tape we may complain about in this country, I am forever grateful to be patiently waiting in the lobby of a U.S hospital. 

The security, medical advances, and technology has advanced over the years, but still the quality of services available to those in need around the world falls short of what is desperately needed.

When you consider Haiti has the worst health care record in the Western Hemisphere with the infant mortality rate at nine times that of the United States and the maternal mortality being 50 times higher, as reported by The New York Times, it is no surprise that there is a lot of pain and suffering in many parts of the world.  

According to a New Delhi, India, physician, Ashish Jha, to wait outside a hospital ER in a line with 100 people all waiting to get the rabies shot is normal protocol.  The outpatient department can easily have 7000 people show up every day, many lining up the night before, to get a ticket by 11 a.m, and when registration closes those who haven’t gotten a ticket are out of luck. 

For the less fortunate living in third world countries, the dirt coated floors and paint-chipped walls is standard and it becomes secondary to getting the medical attention when the life of a loved one is hanging on by a thread.  The term “health and wealth” takes on a whole new meaning.

So whether you are a middle-class American with “good” medical coverage, confident that you will be safe should you have a medical emergency, or be a single-mom living paycheck to paycheck praying you don’t have an unexpected crisis, take a moment, take a breath, and be grateful if you live in this country.

The next time you visit your local hospital for yourself or a loved one, notice the clean floors, the vending machines, (including clean drinking water) and the crisp white linens.  Take a deep inhale of gratitude and exhale any complaining you may have for the wait-time being a little longer then you think was acceptable.  Instead, just sit quietly in gratitude.