Along with every other pediatrician I know, I have seen far too often the unconscionable consequences of children not having healthcare coverage. One case still haunts me.
In the middle of one night during my training at a county hospital outside of Los Angeles, a 12-year-old boy arrived at the emergency room. He was having a seizure. From a brain scan, we made the terrible diagnosis: He had suffered a massive stroke. At best, he would be severely disabled for the rest of his life.
When I sat down with his mother to tell her the bad news, she told me that he had been a happy, healthy child through most of grade school. But there had been one other trip to the hospital. When he was 7, he'd had a stroke from which he recovered quickly and completely. His mother had been instructed to take him to a specialist to find out what was wrong so he would not have another stroke. But she was the family's sole provider and simply could not afford the expensive out-of-pocket bills.
At first I was shocked and angry to learn she ignored a physician's advice that could have prevented this tragedy. I quickly realized, though, that the true culprit was our broken healthcare system. Because this system denies millions of Americans access to care, my patient's mother was forced to take a gamble on her child's health. The result was a debilitating stroke that should have been prevented.